Resilience? Not so much.

Today has been such a sad day.

My friend suffered a tragedy, and I can’t get it out of my head. He had to put his 10-year-old dog down a couple of months ago because she had cancer (stupid fucking cancer, can’t even leave our beloved dogs alone). Lady, his 3-year-old dog, was moping and lost without her companion, so my friend decided to get a puppy.

He did everything right: researched breeds and breeders, readied their home for the new arrival, and began training the pup the very day he arrived. My favorite girl and I had the honor of driving to the airport to pick up the new puppy while my friend worked (we have puppy fever…bad!). We bonded with that little darling in the car, and my girl picked out a squeaky toy a few days later for the pup. My friend and I discussed the pup at length, every day. We oohed and aahed over puppy pics and laughed at his antics. I’ve never seen my friend so elated and so happy.

When he got home from work yesterday, he noticed that Lady and the pup didn’t greet him at the gate. He went into the house and noticed that Lady and the pup weren’t wiggling in anticipation at the back door. When my friend went into the back yard, he found out why: the pup had drowned in their pool. He was floating belly-up in the cold, unforgiving water.

I’m so sad. My friend is devastated. Crushed. Beyond sad.

He and I texted back and forth 100 times today. He vented, and I murmured words, worthless and meaningless words. He expressed his anguish, and I texted back trite blobs of nothing. He admitted his guilt at having stayed late at work instead of rushing home to check on the pup, and I sent blah-blah-blah back to him. He confessed that he couldn’t stop crying, and I texted back virtual hugs. He raged at the unfairness of the situation, and I replied with “life’s not fair/there’s no meaning/nothing makes sense/it’s so cruel, etc etc etc.”

This man lost his father — to cancer, of course — nearly 25 years ago. He and I have an understanding about hard times and grief and the random cruelty of life. We can talk to each other in that way of members of the same club: stripped away, raw, honest, and brutal. We are both shameless animal lovers who have been accused, more than once, of liking critters more than humans. This is a terrible, terrible blow.

Beyond the text-a-thon, I felt helpless. My brain won’t stop returning to the terror that was the pup’s last moments of life. The startling plunge into the pool. The cold water. The frantic flailing. The fear and the struggle. The pain and the terror. The image of that lifeless pup floating in the pool has haunted me all day, and knowing just how anguished my friend is adds insult to injury. I did the only thing I know to do in the midst of loss and tragedy: I got in the kitchen and cooked. Chicken noodle soup, jalapeno cornbread, fruit salad, Greek-style green beans, and insanely fudgey brownies for the family, and sweet-potato dog biscuits for Lady. She needs a treat, too, after the senseless death of  her new best friend.

Recently I wrote about the idea that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I’ve been thinking about this, too, today. As I drove to my friend’s house to deliver the food, I was struck by something: I would expect that having traveled down some rocky roads (my mom’s death 8 years ago, my own cancer “journey”), I would be steeled to tragedy. I would expect to be hardened to the shitty things life throws at us. I would expect to be stronger. Tougher. Better-equipped. But I’m not.

If anything, just the opposite is true. Hard times, ugly challenges, and crushing loss are harder, not easier, to handle.

Rest peacefully, sweet pup. We didn’t know you very long, but we loved you gigantic paws, your piercing blue eyes, your high-pitched howls, your feisty spirit, your stubborn streak, your easy-going personality, and your sweet, sweet self.

9 Comments on “Resilience? Not so much.”

  1. Eddie says:

    Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is a lie. It’s trite BS meant to comfort the bystanders to our pain and to motivate the simple-minded who need things to clear and un-nuanced. More accurate would by something along the lines of whatever doesn’t kill your forces you to learn how to live with it. I too had the image of that puppy in my head from the moment I heard. I was torn as well. Torn because I wanted to look away from the pain and get on with my day. Yet I also felt that it would be a betrayal to turn my back on that pup, and on your friend and his family. I am not sure where I am going with this, but I do know watching my dad die did not make it easier to handle such loss and pain. It’s as if having experienced such pain I am more receptive to others’ pain. Now I don’t just feel my own pain but that of others as well. Is that better? I’m not sure.

  2. Susan says:

    Oh, how very, very sad! Makes my heart ache for your friend. I’m sorry.

  3. Tamara Kay says:

    Oh, Nancy! So sorry. Oh, the guilt, and, yet, it was obvious that your friend tried to do everything “just right”. He needs to forgive himself; His late, great puppy already has.

  4. oh, Nancy,

    I am so heartsick for your friend, his family, including poor Lady, and for you. what a caring and compassionate friend you are to be so present and attentive, then to cook that beautiful meal. I know you must be so overwhelmed by feelings of helplessness – but I am sure your friend feels you are a treasure to him. I am sending my deepest sympathy and wishes for comfort to all who loved that little puppy.

    much love and light,

    Karen, xoxoxo

  5. Christy says:

    Oh gosh. This makes me so sad. I’m so sorry for your friend. Cannot imagine the grief. 😦

  6. Elizabeth says:

    So sorry for your friend,Nancy. And I agree that what doesn’t kill us, does not make us stronger. If anything, it beats us down more and makes us realize how tough and unfair this life is.

  7. […] Reflections on the nature of resilience, suffering and grief by The Pink Underbelly. […]

  8. nancyspoint says:

    Hi Nancy, I’m so sorry to hear about this. And just for the record, I don’t put much stock in that idea that ‘whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger ‘ either. You hurt so much about this little pup’s misfortune because you have a big heart and you’re a good friend. Both of these things (among others) make you feel the pain more deeply, not less. Big hugs.

  9. Renn says:

    Nancy, I am just now catching up on your blog and just today reading this post. I’m sorry about your friend’s dog. I can relate. Just last night, my dog was out by the pool after he did his business in the dark before bed. His eyesight has been deteriorating the past 2 months (he has diabetes now) and instead of turning to walk back towards the back door, he got confused and turned the wrong way and walked right into the pool. It was dark, and I was in my robe, but I saw him fall in and I scrambled to the pool’s edge and grabbed the hair on his tail and pulled all 28 pounds of him out of the water. We were very lucky; he is fine. I scraped up my foot and my knee. Today husband and I bought some fencing and created a nice dog run for him on the grass that doesn’t put him anywhere near the pool. He will have to adjust to not having the run of the backyard anymore. Had I not been standing there last night watching him, I know the outcome would have been disastrous. I’m so sorry this happened to your friend. Thank you for sharing.

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