That strangely bittersweet early morning dream

I dreamt of Zack early this morning.

Ever since he passed away, I’ve only dreamt of him once – I cleaned his face, but somehow couldn’t see it clearly. Then he walked far from me, then turned his back and walked on towards some destination I knew not of. This morning’s dream was clearer. So clear, it stayed with me the whole day up till now. I’m posting it here because I don’t want to forget.

In my dream this morning, hubby and I plus some other people were supposed to go back somewhere (not sure where “back” was), so we packed our stuff and were waiting in line to check in our luggage. Then from a distance, I saw Zack running up the stairs with at least two other shih tzus. The face was clearly him and he looked happy. So happy that I felt happy for him. Especially since he was running, something he enjoyed doing when he was alive. We locked eyes briefly, and I nodded and smiled in acknowledgment. Then he turned around with his friends and ran off again. His body no longer had the black markings; it was all white. But his face remained the same cute black and white color. Then I woke up.

Somehow, I understand the meaning of the dream. After Zack passed away, I’ve been thinking that maybe things would’ve been different if we were back in the U.S. That maybe being here was a mistake because we lost him here. That if I can turn back time knowing what I know now, then we wouldn’t be here. But then in the dream, he appeared to show me that he was fine. He was having fun. Like he was telling me, “there’s no reason to question your decision, Mommy. I’m happy. I’m with friends.”

Hubby wondered if the other two shih tzus with Zack in my dream were Zack’s biological parents. That would be nice, right? If that’s the case, I hope they know how well-loved Zack is. I hope they know how we tried our best to give him a good life. I hope they know how big of a difference he made, not just to us, but to the entire family who overcame their fear of dogs because of Zack. I hope they know how sorry we are that his last days got so tough. But if they’re all together now, then that’s very comforting indeed.

Oh, and in addition to the dream, I thought I heard Zack’s little whine yesterday while I was watching TV. It was his whine when he wanted a little attention. But silly me, I thought it wasn’t possible…that maybe it was the electric air freshener that made the sound. When that darn thing finally sprayed, it sounded different. Then I realized the whine was Zack. My baby was around.

His 40th day is coming up this Monday. We think that he’s saying his goodbyes now. My little baby is finally ready to go and have fun in heaven. Still very thoughtful, that little one. Don’t worry, we won’t hold you back with our grief. You deserve heaven – all that and more. Just remember that you’ll always be my little baby, the best little boy ever.



Grief at night is the worst

After losing Zack, evenings have turned into my private hell.

He used to sleep beside me on his own pillow. He also loved to sleep with his head on my right shoulder. Otherwise, he’d sleep on my feet, in between my feet, or on the crook of my arm. Some nights, my arms or feet would go to sleep/numb (“nangangalay”) because of his weight, so I’d tell Zack to please move and he would. Lately, I’ve been thinking that I’d bear the “pangangalay” of my arms and feet just to have him back. But it’s all too late for that.

I read an article two nights ago on pet loss and pet grief that mentioned the term “heart dog” – “the companions we love as much as life itself”. Zack definitely falls into that category.

I grew up in a household with my dad’s German Shepherds, but Zack was the first one I tended to from puppyhood to senior citizenry. I still remember vividly the first time we saw him and his reaction when we finally brought him home. I remember my hesitation and discomfort because I didn’t really know how to deal with him. But when he got sick, I sat outside his crate to make sure he was alright. That’s when he became my baby. The bond was born. When he died, he died while he was looking at me. I’d like to think our bond stayed intact until the end.

Those who say pets are practice babies are so mistaken. With human babies, you tend to them until they reach a level of independence with the expectation that they will outlive you. With fur babies, they depend on you until their old age and most often than not, you will outlive them. You will feel the pain of seeing them die. It’s very heartbreaking.

The house is too quiet. Even if he was a quiet little guy, his absence and the silence is too deafening.

(By the way, I can only speak of my pain, but I’m definitely certain that my husband is suffering as much or even more at our loss. The two of them had a different sort of bond – Zack was his little boy, while Zack was my little baby.)

It’s been one month

We still miss Zack so much. Every single day.

I keep expecting to see him coming out from under the dining table. He usually hung out there while Mommy’s sitting there.

I wake up early morning, half expecting to feel him lying down on my leg. Or leaning against me. Or feeling his tiny head lying on my shoulder, asleep and snoring loudly.

I enter my parents’ house expecting Zack will meet me at the door.

I see the rug outside the bathroom and I’m frazzled that he’s not there.

I come out of the shower and I remember that I even dried him off when he had his final bath.

I walk up the stairs and I remember how we chased him every time he goes upstairs on his own. Yet he still kept going up the stairs…which somehow gave us hope that he was feeling better. Remember last year when he lost mobility on his hind legs? That’s why his efforts to walk and climb the stairs – his hard-won efforts – I read as a good sign. But I was proven wrong.

I sit on the bed and I expect him to suddenly push the bedroom door open as he enters the room. Or sometimes, he’d push the door enough to sneak a peek inside without actually entering.

I lie down on the bed and remember how he’d lie down and sleep beside me.

I remember how I used to carry him – like a baby – and he was so used to it. People who’d see him carried that way were delighted that he was like a baby.

I close my eyes and I remember how his face and his little body felt when I massaged it (so very relaxed to the point of falling asleep), how he smelled like vanilla (and I love the smell of vanilla) and how he was okay with my displays of affection (especially when I’d say, “pillow!” and he’d lie down, so I can lie my head on his back).

One month later and I still end up aghast that he’s not there. The horror of his absence strikes me at the oddest of times. That realization that I’m not going to see him again…or at least not in this lifetime. Some days, I wake up forgetting that he’s gone and the pain of losing him hits me hard all over again.