A Funny Kind of Line
When we brought Zlina down to the Elysium Fields (the new name of her new residence), we knew that it was going to be difficult, but frankly it’s been harder than we expected.
Dogs take up a lot of space – much more than our cats do. Being more social than our cats, Zlina demands attention in a different way than the Bug (cat #1), whose incessant cries can be halted by picking her up. Zlina, on the other hand, isn’t so much about being petted. She wants to play. She wants to walk. She wants to sniff and chase balls and play tug-of-war.
So to have her absent means there’s a big sort of HOLE in the house that follows us from room to room, a hole that is just as active as the dog is – only where the dog demands that we do something, this hole actively demands that we do nothing. Her absence is a primer on grief.
The line that we have discovered is that we care for the dog more than we love her – in a way. We love her and want her to be with us – not only because we love her but because her absence causes us pain. But she is happier where she is, surrounded by fields and smells and the near-constant attention of my father-in-law. We can’t provide the amount of attention that he does. We can’t provide the fields or the space or the smells (or the other animals: dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits…). We can’t take her off lead in Chicago. Having her here and making us happy is an exercise in keeping the dog visibly unhappy. She rejoices when we play with her, but that’s not what our day is made of. Our days are made of work, and the dog that takes up a lot of space wants more interaction.
The problem with this kind of love, the unselfish kind, is that while it fits a sort of Platonic ideal of love (noble, sharing, Sting, blah blah blah), and it looks really good on paper, it doesn’t actually feel very good in the moment. Because we still miss her.
It’ll be better with time. Of course, it will be better with time. Then again, most things are, and that’s not much of a consolation when what you want to do is go out on a walk on a surprisingly temperate day with a furry beast ambling beside you.