My first day without my friend

I stayed home from work yesterday following the death of my dog, Kaleigh. At first I wondered if I I really needed to stay at home, but it turns out that I was a bit of a mess for much of the day.

More than I ever expected, to be honest. 

I return to work today, but even now, as I type these words, I'm wondering how I will get through the day. I loved that dog so much.  

Yesterday I spent the day at home, slowly clearing out the beds and crates and food bowls that Kaleigh once used on a daily basis. I couldn't stand looking at them anymore. Kaleigh loved her doggy treats, so to see three uneaten treats in the bottom of her crate, untouched because she had stopped eating before her death, was like a punch in the gut. 

Later, Elysha and I went to one of our favorite restaurants for lunch, The Corner Pug, forgetting that every inch of the restaurant is covered in framed photographs of pugs. I ate my lunch surrounded by the images of beloved family dogs.

We're so dumb.

Then, because I collect and tell stories, I sat down and began listing all of the stories about Kaleigh from her 16 years of life, beginning with our final moments together and ending with a rainy day at an airport, almost two decades ago, when I took her crate from a man who had unloaded it from an airplane. She was tiny and frightened and so incredibly sweet.

There are so many stories.  

Less than a month ago, I took a stage in New York and told my first story about Kaleigh. As I finished that story, I was able to tell that audience that Kaleigh is still alive today, older but still chugging along and just as cute. They sighed. Smiled. I did, too. 

No more. 

Still, I will tell more stories about Kaleigh. Good stories.

The story about our car accident and my unexpectedly violent response to the driver of the truck that sideswiped us. 

The story about the time both Kaleigh and I acquired canine scabies (and I ended up featured in a medical journal).

The story about the time she and I defeated a French poodle and her rotten, overconfident, despicable owner during our final puppy training competition.

The story about the day in the park when I lifted Kaleigh off the ground to protect her from a pit bull that immediately redirected its assault on me.  

The story about how I took her for a walk around the block in my boxer shorts (and nothing more) in the middle of the night and ended up standing on Main Street in Newington in the pouring rain. 

So many more. 

These stories will be so much harder to tell now that my little friend is gone. But they are good stories that I want to tell about the friend I miss so much. 

When Clara arrived home from school yesterday, I emptied her backpack and found this note from her friend, Ava. I know it was meant for Clara, but they touched my heart, too. I'm a person who struggles with faith. A reluctant atheist who wishes he could believe in a heaven. 

I try, but so far, I have been unsuccessful. Still, I like the picture that Ava paints with this simple message of consolation and love. I'm trying to hold it in my head and heart as long as possible.