Life

The Silence – Saying Goodbye and Learning How to Live without my Best Friend

I don’t want to write this. I don’t want to write another goodbye. I’ve been avoiding this for multiple reasons, those mainly being I still don’t know how to properly put into words how I feel, and writing this just feels too real and too final. If you choose to read this you may think I’m being dramatic (who knows, maybe not, maybe it will be dry and dull, I warned you I’m not sure how to put this all into words), but for those of you who know me well, you’ll understand how much my Tickle meant to me. She was my baby, my best friend, and my world.

I’ve written and erased. Written and erased. And I can’t get this right. I’ve tried explaining my bond with Tickle. Our history and life together. I’ve tried to explain why she meant the world to me. But I can’t. Unless you’ve had a dog like Tickle, shared the kind of experiences I did with Tickle, you can’t understand. To so many of you reading this, you’ll say, “she was just a dog” and you couldn’t be more wrong. For those of you reading this that have been blessed enough to have a bond like I did with my baby girl, you’ll understand my pain without the back story.

So I’m going to try something different. I’m going to stop trying to make this make sense and just write what I feel, Write to get it out.

Tickle was my best friend. My entire world. And my reason to keep going when things got really tough.

I had her by my side for nearly half my life.

She got me through the hardest times.

She was with me through my dad’s illness and death. In fact, it was like she was sent to me just for that. She was born April 2009, my dad for sick June 2009 and died October 2009.

Brown Pit/Lab Mix Puppy staring at the camera
Tickle July 2009

She was with me through the chaos that was the aftermath of my dad’s death. She laid with me for countless nights, when my panic and anxiety got so bad that I couldn’t breathe and I thought the tears would never stop. She laid on me and kept me warm and safe. She let me cry myself to sleep while she slept in my arms.

She listened to my hopes and fears. And I promised her night after night that we would run away someday. That I would take her far away from all the chaos and would repay her for taking care of me. I promised her that someday she would have her own home, far away with me, with her own yard and her own bed.

When I had to leave her with my mom while I went to Hawaii, it killed me. I would Skype her and leave her voicemails (my mom too, but Tickle had her own messages and Skype time too). And I would cry myself to sleep countless nights on that island over her. I missed her and felt so much guilt that I couldn’t have her with me. I panicked that she would leave me before I ever got to fulfill my promise.

Moving back wasn’t under the ideal circumstances. I don’t want to get off track, but you can read a little about it here.

Brown pit/lab mix resting on the floor

Despite it being chaotic and rough, I made it back, I got to have my Tickle back with me. First at my in-laws and shortly after at my own place (kind of). I couldn’t get her, her own house, we moved in with my sister-in-law, and she did get her own yard (most of her yard was pavement), but I had her back with me and I gave her my husband who became her rock.

Tickle still had to take care of me, even after we moved back. I’d gotten a lot stronger in Hawaii, thanks to some internal work and a little therapy, but I still needed my best friend. And on top of that, the last few years were rough! Unemployment, COVID, lots of loss, and Tickle got me through it all. I sometimes feel guilty that she had to still help me manage my anxiety and when I lost Steven, she was the one I cried with, but I have some relief knowing she got to have my husband in her life.

He only got to have her for a few short years, but he loved her as if she was his own. They bonded a lot over the last few years. He played with her when I had to take care of my mom and he always took the time to tell her good morning and goodnight, and hello whenever he got home from work.

She took care of me the best way she knew how and he took care of her the way she deserved.

Tickle was with me for nearly half of my life and she has gotten me through nearly every hard thing I have had to face. Losing my dad, losing my house, losing my job, losing friends, and practically losing my mind. She was always with me, by my side. My reason to keep going.

Tickle was with me through my dad’s death, John’s death, and Steven’s death…and now I don’t know how to get through her death without her.

Monday, June, 6 after the sudden and unexplainable onset of seizures the night before, I had to make the impossible decision and say goodbye to my baby girl. You’d think after losing so many people, so many close people, that I could handle this, but this has been a pain that I can’t explain.

Tomorrow will be two weeks and although I now have my good days (and still some bad), I’m still struggling and hurting in a way I never expected. I’ve cried practically between every paragraph I’ve written today. I knew she was my world and that losing her would be hard. I knew she would leave a hole in my heart and a void in my world, but I didn’t expect it to feel like this.

Girl and her dog sleeping on a couch

I titled this “The Silence” and that is because that was the biggest shock. One of the hardest parts of this. Since losing my Tickle, the silence at home is deafening. I never realized how much sound she filled my home with. From the click-clack of her nails on our tile to her deep breaths and her snores (and over the last few months her farts). Without her here the house feels empty – empty and uncomfortably quiet.

I also never thought about how involved she was in everything. I started every morning with a “good morning Tickle” and ended every night with a “goodnight Tickle.” She was my watering partner in the garden and ate every meal with us. I’d cuddle on the floor with her when we’d watch movies and I’d talk to her throughout the day (especially since I started working from home). On my breaks (since working from home) Tickle would take slow laps around the house with me. And every day when my husband would get home from work, she’d walk with me out to the gate.

We’d discuss what was for lunch and what I should make for dinner.

We’d sit in the sun together and watch the birds.

We’d take afternoon naps together and binge-watch crime documentaries.

I’m writing this from my desk and it’s the first time I’ve even sat at my desk since I had to say goodbye. For the first three days, I couldn’t even be in the house alone. I worked out in our backyard. Eventually, I was able to start working in the living room, but this is the first time I’ve sat at my desk.

We built a floating desk that wraps around one side of our bedroom and it created a little cave-like space in the corner, right under where I work, where Tickle would sleep. Every day, since I left my retail job, Tickle sat right under my desk, directly to the right of me as I worked. I would work out problems and writer’s block with her. On cold mornings I would stick my feet under her to stay warm and throughout the day I would pet her fluffy butt with my foot.

Even now as I sit here and write this, without even thinking about it my foot keeps searching for her fur.

I miss you Tickle. I love you Tickle. You were the best girl.

Brown and Black Lab/Pit Mix sitting in the back of a car on a NASCAR blanket

Today is Father’s Day, a tough day in general for me. I didn’t want to publish this today, but this day is now hard for two reasons. One because I miss my dad, but two because this is the first “sad” holiday I have to get through without Tickle. Tickle not only got me through the hardest times, but she also got me through the reminders of the hard times, birthdays, and special holidays for loved ones who passed. Not only am I having to learn how to get through death without Tickle, I’m also going to have to learn to get through the hard days without her.

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