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Friday, March 22, 2013

Please Remember: I Miss Her Too

Ellie and Kiva had a funny relationship.  Ellie was Alpha Female.  That's it.  Kiva bounced around her, vying for her attention, while Ellie simply tolerated Kiva's presence.  I always wished that Ellie would take on more of the Mama Nurterer role with Kiva, since Kiva came into our lives when she was a mere palmful in Wes' hand and Ellie was four.  But no.  Ellie had her own idea of the way things would be.  She was the Alpha Female.  That's it.  Kiva always tried, rolling over in front of Ellie, bearing her tummy to her, begging for some morsel of kindness.  Ellie would just give her a compulsory sniff, turn her nose up, and walk away.  Kiva took it all with a grain of salt and quickly switched her attention to the closest shiny thing.  I always laughed and told her she was just like her Daddy.  I never could get Wes to stay focussed at the tiki shop either.  Things were different, however, whenever we'd go outside.  A ride in the car or a walk in the park quickly turned Ellie into the most joyful, friendly, "Hey c'mon Kiva!  Let's play!" girl in the world.  She couldn't wrassle, tackle, chase, taunt, or play with Kiva enough.  The entire park became their playground.  Watching them chase each other was one of the great happy memories I will always cherish.  As soon as we came home though, roles would return to "Her Royal Majesty" and "Loyal Subject".  The house was Ellie's Queendom.  No more, no less. 

Since I've been home from staying with my sister, Kiva has now made her second visit to the house since Ellie's passing.  The first visit was bittersweet.  We watched as Kiva ran in the house in her usual Hurricane Kiva way, barking and crying, announcing her arrival.  She ran from room to room, barking all the way.  She ran out into the backyard, calling her friend.  She began to slow down after checking all the places she always knew Ellie to be, then she quietly walked over and looked up at me.  There was no doubt about the confusion.  "Where's my friend?"  It didn't take her long to realize that things were different, and it seemed to me that she just resolved to go about the business of helping US through our grief.  She just poured on the Kiva love that we have always cherished.  I was the one who sopped it up the most.  I didn't move much from the couch as she layed her head on my lap and let me hold her.  I thought of MYSELF as the mourner.  That was two weeks ago.

On Tuesday, when Wes arrived with Kiva, she went through her usual routine.  Running into the house, barking all the way, checking every room.  She figured it out faster, but she still looked.  I thought she moved through it pretty quickly and then generously slathered her attention on Caris and myself.  Her arrival is always joyful.  But something is a little different.

As the days have passed, I have noticed some little things.  Being a slow human, it took a full two days before I got my head out of my backside to realize...Kiva was grieving.  Yes, she was very attentive to all of us, like she always is, but I began to notice that she had her head lowered a lot.  A few times I found her looking longingly into the backyard and whining.  A squirrel walked along the fence and she didn't budge.  That just wasn't Kiva's regular MO.  At night, she came to the end of our bed and waited for an invite to jump up, which was granted.  She would always stay right at the foot of the bed because Ellie got to sleep further up by us.  So Kiva just waited, sitting down at the end of the bed between Charlie and I and stared at us.  When I told her to come, she SLOWLY moved up, with her head bowed down, and slid her long body the length of mine and spooned in, in an almost genuflective kind of way. 

At mealtimes, I had been putting her dish down and walking away.  Usually, Kiva WOOFED her food.  The past few meals, she just weirdly approached her dish and sniffed it, then she layed down, never touching it.  I told Wes that I thought she was missing her own kibble, or maybe she was missing her dad.  She ate eventually, but it took her a long, long time.  So unlike the ravenous girl we know.  Wes stopped by to visit her and she was happy.  He brought a new supply of Kiva's kibble.  When I went to feed her, she still approached the dish with trepidation, sniffed it, and layed down.  I was confused, and she looked at me with her sad eyes.  Then it hit me.  I had been putting Kiva's dish down in Ellie's place.  Kiva's place was over on the other side of the dining room.  Could it be?  I picked up Kiva's dish and moved it to her "regular" place.  She stuck her nose so far into that dish that I couldn't see it, woofing it happily, tail wagging as she ate.

That was it.  All of her weird little quirks, where she would lie down, where she would sit, toys she would and would not touch, where her dish would be placed.  In all of these things, she was paying homage to her lost friend.  Not wanting to replace, or ignore, or forget.  She was grieving too.  In my selfishness, I had forgotten that she had lost someone too.  I felt like an ass.  I got down on the floor and held her and she licked my face and wagged her tail.  I told her that I understood and that I loved her for caring SO much.  We missed Ellie together.  I could almost feel the release of tension in her body.  Yes, she needed us, ME, to see that she hurt too.  I had begged Wes to bring her here for ME, but I was lax in seeing that she needed me to comfort HER as well.  This little girl had spent her whole life playing a lesser canine role and being quite fine with it.  She never minded the way Ellie lorded over her.  She relished her time here and whatever understanding they had, they both found an easy peace with it.  Kiva just needed her pain to be recognized, and she needed someone here, someone in this second home of hers, to know that she missed her friend, her park partner, her sister.

When Charlie got home, we took her to the park and let her play fetch a few dozen times.  It seemed that once HER pain was acknowledged, she moved on.  She's still Kiva.  She's still a bundle of muscled energy.  She still loves all the lovies and she loves getting away with things at Auntie Pua's house that she doesn't get to do at home.  Yeah, we spoil her rotten.  But she still won't eat her food in Ellie's place, and she still won't come sleep between us.  There are some things that must remain sacred.  At least in Kiva's mind.

Blog Update I (3/22/13): Took Kiva to the park. We saw a guy jogging with his dog. His dog was an exact twin of Ellie. I've NEVER seen a dog that looked as much like Ellie as this dog, and I've never seen these two at the park. Neither has Kiva. She kept wagging her tail, crying, and trying to pull me over to them. When I wouldn't budge and kept telling her that it wasn't Ellie, she kept looking at me ...and tilting her head in that "I don't get it" way. I tried to get the man to stop and let them "meet", but he wouldn't. I felt bad for both of us, but I mostly felt bad for Kiva. She just didn't understand why we weren't going to get our Ellie and take her home with us. It wasn't a very fun trip to the park. She didn't even want to chase her ball. Sucks.  There were other dogs at the park, including our neighbor with his dog. Kiva wanted nothing to do with them. When it was time to leave, she just kept pulling at the leash toward the "Ellie" dog and I kept telling her that it wasn't our girl. I felt like a heel. Charlie says I'm projecting, and I know that, but honestly, if you saw her face and her very, very intense reaction to the situation. It was hard. For both of us. Haunted my sleep last night.
Blog Update II (3/23/13): Charlie and I picked up Ellie's ashes today. When we got home, we put the box up on the mantle next to her picture. Kiva came right over and stood up on her hind legs sniffing and whining. She paced back and forth under ...the mantle. She hadn't eaten today, so Charlie took the box, and put it in Ellie's usual place. As soon as Kiva went over and saw that "Ellie" was in her place, she FINALLY went over and ate. If there was ever a testament to an animal's grief, this has spoken volumes to me. This has been a week of soulful lessons. I hurt, but my heart is full of overwhelming love.


Blogger Patrick said...

Break my heart yet again! Yes, animals grieve more than they get credit for. Several years back when I was visiting my family, I heard the neighbor's cat yowling every evening, sounding devastated. My said the cat had been doing that ever since his friend the dog had died. I'm glad you and Kiva are comforting each other now. Much love to you.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

"My SISTER" is how that fourth sentence should start. :)

10:29 AM  
Blogger Pua; Bakin' and Tendin' Bar said...

:) Thank you, sweet friend.

7:39 PM  

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