Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Dog Without Her Tail

This is our Bess.

Bess came into our lives by a grand stroke of good fortune in September 2007, only a month or two after we said goodbye to two other beloved dogs, Franklin and Eleanor. She won us over so quickly with her loving demeanor, her laid-back manner, and her enthusiastic tail. Seriously, her tail is so much a part of her personality that when we were naming our “zoo” in our clever blog post announcing our pregnancy with Hudson, we called Bess “Princess Windmill de Rotten,” because her tail could practically generate power. She always wears it proudly, up high and curled back over her body, and waves it excitedly just about all the time. Her tail was often the unfortunate victim of an innocent grab by an unknowing little Hudson, but Bess just calmly walked out of reach whenever that happened. She was such a good friend to our sweet girl.

About a month ago, I took Bess for a walk and noticed that her tail was down, almost tucked under her bottom. When she crouched to poop, she yelped in pain. I was immediately concerned. We took her to the vet, who diagnosed a soft tissue trauma of some sort, and put her on anti-inflammatories. These worked for a while, but then she got worse again. So I took her to the vet again earlier this week. This time, she got a full work-up with x-rays and the whole nine yards and still, it looks like she only has soft tissue trauma, and perhaps re-injured her tail before it had fully recovered last time. So she’s back on anti-inflammatories and pain medication. I can’t tell you how sad it makes me to see her little tail tucked under like that. She just doesn’t seem like our Bess without her signature tail wag. But all we can do is wait and see if it gets better.

Why am I telling you all this on a blog about my grief? Because I looked at Bess the other day and she reminded me of myself. She’s still our Bess. She still loves to go for walks and curl up on our laps and prop her paws up on our knees for a scratch when we walk in the door, but she just doesn’t seem like herself. Without her tail to express herself, she seems fundamentally altered from the dog she is with it. Even she seems to know this, I think.

And that is how I feel. Like a dog without her tail. I am still me, but I am fundamentally altered. When Hudson died, I lost one of the most important parts of who I am—it is not my heart or lungs, or my arms or legs, or any of those other practical things that allow me to keep breathing and moving about in the world. But it is also something so essential to my being that one can’t help but notice how very different I am without it. I am just not myself, even though I am also still wholly myself. And while time and the love and support of so many people in our lives will eventually take away some of the rawness of the pain, I don’t have the hopes of a full recovery like our Bess does. No matter how much time goes by or how much I write or what I do or what happens to me, a part of me is fundamentally, irrevocably, and conspicuously changed forever.

No matter what, I will never again be the me I was before I lost my daughter.


  1. This is true Mandy, you won't ever be the person you were before you lost Hudson. You'll never be the person you were before she came into your life, either. It's a good thing. It's important to let the events of our lives shape us and make us the people that we will ultimately be. I look at it this way too...because you are irrevocably changed, it means you will never really truly "lose" her. You will never lose the essence of her, the goodness of her, the happiness of her. Those are things you can carry with you, even though you cannot carry her with you physically anymore. Love you mama, thinking about you on this cold, snowy night in Colorado.

  2. Yes, you have hit the nail right on the head, Mandy. You are fundamentally changed. I do hope Bess's tail recovers. Be careful with the anti-inflammatories. My dog had surgery recently and the vet extended the anti-inflammatories. She started vomiting so I discontinued them right away.Bess will not have problems the first few weeks taking them, but be wary of going much longer. She and Hudson look so sweet together. Hudson was such a loving little girl, so well-loved.

  3. Mandy - a truly beautifully written piece.
    Thank you.


  4. So lovely, so true, and so heart-wrenching.
    Love to you,

  5. 'No matter how much time goes by or how much I write or what I do or what happens to me, a part of me is fundamentally, irrevocably, and conspicuously changed forever.'

    I could not have said this better Mandy... thank you.. for everything....

  6. What a wonderful description, Mandy. As always, thank you for sharing.


  7. Of course you are changed, just as you were changed when that beautiful baby came into your life. Unfortunately, some changes suck. Really bad too. I know from experience, I'm not the same as when I also lost my baby. It was painful for a long, long time. Time does heal and the scar does fade. But the scar is there forever. What I did gain from this change, is good though. It just took some time to realize it. I can honestly say I'm glad for that change in me, but I wish I never had to go through it to get there.

  8. Not in the same why that you have been, but we(your village) is forever changed as well. Nothing will ever be the same given the deep, profound loss and the unyielding missing of Hudson. Renee P.