I met a new person this week who asked me about my license plate as we walked to our vehicles. My license plate is DANEMOM.
Most people think that I have a little boy whose name is Dane. You know better. I drive a 3/4 ton Suburban, and I bought it to haul three Danes and a horse trailer.
Anyway, so this new person in my life squealed and asked, "Oh, so you have great Danes?"
"Yes, we have four in our family," I replied. I was thrilled that she was excited about it.
Usually when people ask me if I have any dogs, I say no. When I go home, there is no parade of enormous nostrils mashed against the window, fogging it with steamy anticipation. No one barks to announce my arrival. I have less laundry to wash because I don't have to launder dog beds and blankets twice each week. There is no gigantic stock pot of food cooking on the stove that will feed 500 pounds of dog for four days. When I pick up my keys, no one comes running. There is plenty of room on the sofa now, and I haven't wiped slobber off the floor, walls, and ceiling (yes, really) in more than a year.
There is no dog in our home and there are four dogs in our home.
I thought about all the times I've worked with families that have buried children and how they answer the awkward question of "So, how many kids do you have?" They always count their dead children. Always. Death doesn't remove them from their families. They don't always say that number out loud because they get tired of the awkward silences, but they count all of their children.
In no way do I compare the animals in our family to children, and I also do not compare our losses with anyone else's. I realized, though, when I told this person that we had four Danes in our family that I was being completely honest. That it was okay for me to count them. Out loud. Because they are family, because they have shaped me, and because I carry them forward with me every day.
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.