We dance every day.
I offer his medication, wrapped in meat. He sometimes accepts the invitation to less pain. He sometimes rolls the meat around in his mouth until the pill falls to the floor (or he keeps it tucked in his cheek and deposits it in his blanket for me to find later. We dance.
We walk. I slow to his pace. He sniffs. He pees. He blinks slowly, maybe taking in things that he sees differently than he used to. We dance.
He slips going up the two stairs out of the sunken living room. I rush to his side, giving him a safe place to rest while I steady his wobbly back end. He licks his lips in apology for requiring extra care. We dance.
Sometimes our steps are coordinated, sure, strong, and graceful. Sometimes it’s all we can do to stumble.
We always move forward. We always move together. We are partners.
We move forward even during a setback. In fact, the setback advances us more steps than anything. We move together toward his transition. We step closer to the day his body retires from its work and his spirit carries on.
When he doesn’t eat, we lurch forward. When he slips and falls, we rocket into a place much closer to the collection of lasts.
The last prescription. The last brushing. The last accident. The last morning massage. The last walk. The last meal. The last snuggle. The last goodbye.
And then comes the new world of firsts.
The first morning without his grunts coming from beneath his blanket. The first time I brush by his leash hanging in the hall without his ears rotating forward to interpret my intention. The first meal with an empty bowl. The first time we receive a package delivery without ample warning barks. The first walk alone. The first night without tucking him in. The first license renewal he doesn’t need. The first birthday after. The first anniversary.
While we move together, and we move forward, our dance is circular rather than linear. We can go far together and return to a familiar place. Everything comes back. On the days we stumble through our steps, this idea helps me.
I dance with him because he is my partner. I dance because he asks me to dance. I will dance with him until he says it is time to change partners, and then I’ll learn to dance with someone new.
I'm Shannon, and I love and am loved by four Great Danes, four cats, and one horse (four Danes, one cat, and one horse are no longer walking this earth). Here I'll share stories of my adventures in grief photography for companion animals, my own grief journey, and thoughts on caregiving.