It’s been a little over a year since our dog, whom we ironically called Poema, passed away. The first couple of days after his death were really hard for our family. I successfully repressed my grief by pushing away any positive or negative thoughts about him and by avoiding the conversations my family had about Poema. It was my first time losing someone, human or dog, so I had never experienced grief before and now, over a year later, I certainly haven’t moved on. Now, I’m trying to find out whether moving on is even real or a myth. I know moving on doesn’t feel real the first few days after a loss – for me, moving on certainly didn’t feel real at the time. Even now, it still doesn’t seem real. And how does moving on tie in with the grieving process? Let me try to find the answers to this by starting at the beginning.
After a day of crying my eyes out I picked myself up and moved forward, or so I thought. That was until one of my sisters talked about wanting a new dog. “No. Absolutely not. Are you crazy? Have you forgotten about what happened to Poema, the pain we felt after we lost him? I don’t want to go through that again, so no, absolutely not,” I said fiercely. I still live with my parents and I have no say in this, so of course my protests fell on deaf ears. Cue to the day my dad surprised us with a new puppy: same breed, same colour. He had dark grey and fluffy fur which would grow very fast after he got groomed. We gave him the nickname Appa, after the bison from The Last Airbender, because of the way his hair hung in front of his eyes. He always looked so cute and I wanted to hug him so bad. I promised myself, however, that I would never love another dog. This was an impossible promise to keep. I didn’t want to go through that pain ever again, so I built walls around my heart and actually managed to stay away from Toni (that’s what we called the new little rascal) the first few weeks. Obviously, I couldn’t stay away from a puppy for too long and the little guy melted my heart.
I realise now that getting a new dog helped me start the grieving process. In some ways Toni is the same as Poema, but in other ways he’s the complete opposite. It was this mixture of old and new characteristics that helped me realise and acknowledge that it’s okay to love a new dog. Loving a new dog didn’t mean erasing the memory of Poema, but rather that my memories live on in Toni. Acknowledging this was the first step; a hard step, but a step nonetheless. I wish I had the ability to quickly grieve and move on, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. At first, I was still hesitant to fully embrace our new pup; the difference between Toni and Poema was so stark that it made me feel like all my memories of Poema were suddenly gone. Moving on, for me, involved processing my grief in the form of dear memories I tried to hold on to, but with the sudden loss of my memories of Poema I felt like grieving was not even an option anymore. I thought that skipping the grief meant I was finally ready to move on, not realising that I needed to press pause and let in the memories. At that point, however, moving on seemed like a myth. Losing Poema was so sudden. Maybe that’s what has hurt me the most—the fact that I expected him to be there for another day, month or even a year. He was a dog you could rely on, someone who was always happy to see me when I came home. But these memories were all tainted by his last days. After the surgery he was so weak, but everything was going to be okay. And this was all I remembered. Rather than dealing with the tainted memories I allowed the presence of the new dog to delete the entirety of my memories of Poema. We got our second puppy, Bella, shortly after we got Toni. And let me tell you one thing, humans are not made to resist two puppies. I caved and I’m really glad I did because step two initiated. I made new memories, but old memories started to come back to the surface. The moment I knew I had really come to love our dogs wasn’t until a little while ago; In Iran it is very common to massage someone’s back by walking on it. My dad, who is Iranian, was cracking my mom’s back by doing this. Toni, who was not accustomed to this practise, thought that my dad was hurting my mom and started to defend her by attacking my dad. Seeing my tiny dog going up against my tall father made me realise that dogs love unconditionally. My dad could have easily swatted Toni away but that didn’t stop him from protecting my mother. I wanted to hug Toni and ask him where he had been all those years when my dad was abusive towards my mom. I no longer rejected the unconditional love from my dog but instead returned it wholeheartedly.
Writing this article has broken down some emotional barriers I’d rather have kept up. I’m not good at expressing my emotions, especially the negative ones. However, I do believe I can finally answer my question: moving on is a grey area. It’s between reality and myth. The grieving process will eventually stop, but moving on never stops. The memories and emotions involving grief will always be present and that means Poema will always be in my heart. There might be days when I can happily think back on him and there might be days where I feel a dull pain. It’s up to me to decide which of these will take precedence on any given day. I do belief the pain will fade with time, but it never truly goes away. And maybe that’s okay. I think part of what makes me human is the overwhelming love I feel for people and animals. I could never part from love, and I cannot part from my memories. I have to embrace every emotion that’s coming my way and never stop writing about them.