My Dog Died But I’m Still Going to Try and Finish NaNoWriMo

Most people who read this and already know me know very well what I’m about to talk about: Czar died on the morning of November 5.

I don’t know if his death was peaceful; I was asleep. I do believe that I woke up the moment he passed or just after as it had been a long night of illness and we were both light sleepers. His vet assured me that it most likely was, but the fact is I don’t know. I’ve had a long draft of a death announcement sitting around since then that talks much more about his health details and the reality of what was going on in his final days and how he suddenly tanked. However, much of the shock has worn off and many things are hitting me like a ton of bricks right now and so at present it’s too much to talk about.

I am wracked with guilt; all loving pet parents are when their beloved animals die regardless if it was euthanasia, old age, or a tragic accident. Once I resolve that or get to a better place, I will talk about it more for others who need it. Just not today.

The death notice isn’t even his eulogy; something else I am working on. I’m not even close to done memorializing him; I have only just begun. In the “…Dying Pets” series I last wrote about, one of the notes I took was about ritualizing their deaths, and the long draft I have sitting right now without a home will likely go there when the time comes to talk about it. My beliefs and spirituality are complex and sometimes contradictory at first glance, but I never had any particular practice before. However, I see myself essentially creating a shrine for him, or an altar if you will. Lots of things I cannot do at present but will want to do and create when the time comes and money flows better and my heart is less heavy (it’s strange just how heavy it is when it’s broken into a million pieces, though).

Czar was absolutely incredible, just incredible, and I am equally as overjoyed that I was lucky enough to be his mom for fifteen and a half years as I am heartbroken that he is gone and the way he died. I am trying not to think about it at present. All of our pets are unique and special in their own way, but Czar was majestic. He truly was a little (big?) emperor.

The night before he died I was, of course, working on NaNoWriMo stuff. I was acutely aware he may not have made it through the whole month, but truly grasping that reality didn’t hit until, of course, he was gone the next morning. However, I had failed to finish outlining what is currently a working title as Packed in Itasca and so decided to write the synopsis a few times to get the juice flowing after the first chapter. This book, while not directly autobiographical, tells a story based on some major events in my adult life. There is a constant theme of the medium and long term effects of grief and how it reshapes our lives like rivers cutting through a valley, how it can break things apart but weave new things into our lives.

Czar was more or less the last scion of pretty much everything in my life through young adulthood. There is a poignancy to the timing of his death, just after I had jotted down the entirety of what takes place in this novel that is, essentially, about adults in their thirties coming to terms with the end of their young adulthood but not their youth. Czar was the last constant in my life that connected me to everything I have loved and lost and everything between. With a fresh grief wound so profound and deep, I can’t imagine a better way to begin processing this loss.

I will have quite a bit of work ahead of me, but it’s doable. With the holiday coming and the fact I only work half-time currently, as well as my current word count (I have given up on using the new NaNoWriMo site until winning-time comes around, what even were they thinking) I think I have to do fewer than three thousand words a day to win, which is easy-peasy for me even though I will have to live like a hermit to do it.

There is a lot more that I am processing. As I began outlining Czar’s eulogy and life story, I took the time to download and sync EVERY photo and video I had of him. Some of them I knew I had backed up on OneDrive before I switched to Android two years ago, only to discover that some from a critical period in his life are completely gone because of the way I viewed data backups at the time. I have a few dead and old hard drives that I’ve hung on to for when I can afford professional data extraction and recovery and I know for a fact his puppy pictures are on one of them, but losing the photos and video from what comes to less than twelve weeks total of his life is jarring and really throwing me for a loop. I could have sworn I had seen them recently, in the past year or two. Time flies in all the wrong ways.

Upon reviewing much of the media I have of him before and after that time, I realized just how much before the advent of a smartphone in my life is truly lost, because of old phones I had hung onto but did not take data from that are now gone permanently due to another tragic event in my life.

It’s this reminder that really, material things are just things and even if in our life they seem permanent, in the fabric of time and existence they’re nothing. So I know that truly in the long run they don’t matter, but right now in this moment they do. I recall earlier this year learning a psychological fact that stuck with me: every time we experience a loss or trauma, we re-live every other loss or trauma before it that we have not healed.

In this case, with the missing and inaccessible media of Czar, I am hyper-aware of that fact and so I am taking the time to acknowledge the other baggage I’m carrying with it (another reason to really zero in on finishing this book draft with NaNo).

I want to take a moment to address the header image. It’s a screenshot from Google Maps Street View. When the cremationist, Gabriel, arrived to pick up his remains, he asked about Czar’s appearance before he stepped into the house and saw the body. I presumed he was just taking notes for later at the crematory, a sort of triple-double-quadruple check to avoid identifying the wrong remains. Turns out, he simply had plugged in my address to the map service to preview the house and simply had already seen photos of us walking on the street view.

To say I was touched is an understatement. I gasped and cried when I looked it up later and saw for myself. The photos were from a sunny April day. My hair was down, I was standing tall, and Czar was healthy and walking independently. Not every capture is flattering, but it’s so unusual that it caught me without my hair up (I seldom wear my hair down in public to protect it). Of course, I have thousands of photos and videos of Czar, but it’s something special to see it so candidly and without any pretense; my hair flowing in the wind and my best friend at my side, us just enjoying the sunshine, the fresh morning, and each others’ company. Our walks are collectively my favorite memories for this very reason, even the days I was a bad mom and impatient with him I would still pause and collect myself because I treasured them so.

It’s moments like those I will want to remember when I am ready to let the hard ones go.

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