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The Coexistence of Grief & Joy

It's taken me months to write this. I've been putting it off because I just can't seem to articulate my complicated emotions. I think a lot of people who've lost "that" pet, their soulmate pet, then go on to love another, will understand.

The guilt. The joy.

The ongoing grief that somehow accompanies the present joy.

My best girl's last day with us

We lost Mia to cancer 1.5 years ago. She was my best friend. I adopted her when I was 27 and still trying to figure out life. I took so much joy in training her. She joined me on countless adventures. She went on road trips, and flew in planes as an emotional support animal. She wakeboarded, and chased balls until she about died of exhaustion. She immediately fell in love with Alex when we started dating. And while she wasn't super excited to become a big sister, she was completely tolerant of her human baby brother when he arrived. I had dreams of them growing up together. And just when he was finally old enough to throw a ball for her, and she saw some value in him, she started to get sick. We got less than a year with her once her cancer was diagnosed, and I still cry when I think about it (like right now as I type). There was just something special about our bond, that I know can never be replaced.

Then enter Annie. Just 1 month after Mia died, we decided to rescue a puppy. We're both animal people, and our home just felt really empty. We adopted Annie as a teeny little puppy. They said she was 12 weeks, but I think she was younger. It didn't take me long to realize I was over my head and NOT equipped to deal with a puppy and a 2 year old. I felt horrible, but I resented her and saw her as a nuisance. I remember telling Alex many times "after 8pm I want NOTHING to do with her!". I was still grieving, while also so overwhelmed with the responsibility a puppy requires. I truly forgot how much work they are, and extremely underestimated how difficult having a puppy and a toddler would be. Sometimes looking back I think maybe we rushed into getting a new dog too quickly and I needed more time to grieve, however I'm not sure there ever would have been enough time. I think these feelings would have come out regardless.

Annie was the cutest little pup, but she (like all puppies) was a handful!

Flash forward to now. Annie is about 1.5 years old and is an absolute dream of a family dog. She's completely obsessed with her human brother, and not only tolerates his shenanigans, she almost seems to welcome them. She's not as adventurous as Mia was. She's very timid with new people. She digs holes in the backyard. And I've trained her almost nothing. Otherwise, she's dang near perfect. She loves any dog she meets. She is so affectionate and cuddly. She's a champ at being house trained, and doesn't even need a crate. It took time, but I have fallen so in love with her. I am completely in love with her, and I cannot imagine her not being a part of our family.

This is where the guilt enters. I am so thankful for this dog, but I know the only reason we have her is because Mia died. In so many ways, Annie fits into this stage of our lives better than I think Mia could, and while I'm so thankful and happy to have and love Annie, this truth absolutely tears me apart. I miss Mia so much, but I'm also so thankful for Annie. I can't imagine not having Annie, but I would give anything to have Mia back. Allowing yourself to fully love another after a loss is a very confusing and painful coexistence. I just have to keep reminding myself to allow all the feels - allow myself to grieve and miss Mia, while also allowing myself to love Annie guilt-free. I'm not sure which is harder.

I love you Mia.

I love you Annie.

*I tried to find artist credit, but was unsuccessful. If you know the artist, please let me know so I can credit them.


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