On a cold, bitter day in the doldrums of winter, our sweet dog Cloe crossed the rainbow bridge. She held on through the holidays, giving us one last big dose of her love before she physically checked out on Jan. 28.
Cloe had an old soul from the start.
My husband and I adopted her in December of 2008 because we moved into an apartment in Chicago where we were allowed to have a dog. She was with a litter of dogs that looked identical at Anti-Cruelty Chicago. Cloe was actually named Holly. She was the one dog in the bunch who shied away. We knew she needed a home where she could be loved – so she became our first baby, even before we were married.
Cloe lived to be at least 14-years-old and I am proud to say she died with all of her teeth. She was a black mixed breed, somewhere between a fluffy chow and a friendly flat-coated retriever. She had a healthy coat up until the last two weeks of her life when she stopped eating. Her tail was this perfect curl of long black kinky hair. Her mild temperament was one of her best qualities. Cloe was the opposite of aggressive. She was a timid dog who had to learn to walk without us tripping over her. She didn’t know how to go up and down the stairs to our second-floor apartment, so we carried her for months.
She loved being with us but didn’t care for us to be too close to her. Cloe would sit and wait for you to notice her, pet her, love her. She had the best smile. When we lived in the city, she’d perch on the armrest of the sofa to look out the second-story window and watch the squirrels. When we were looking for our first house, we choose one with low windows so she could look out while sitting on the floor.
Cloe wasn’t completely innocent. She once ate our Comcast remote. She chewed on the corner of my wooden wedding chest. One day while we were away, Cloe pooped on our sofa and then stepped in it and walked over every pillow we owned. But in the end, she was the best dog.
As Leigh come into our family and grew up, Cloe would lay still while he crawled all over her. He would pull her ears, stick his hand inside her mouth, poke at her eyes. She would just let him, knowing we’d be there soon to stop him. We trusted her with his life. Leigh would walk Cloe around the block with us because she never pulled. He would gladly feed her treats because she took them from him so gingerly. She taught him how to be a real dog owner and I’m forever grateful Leigh will remember his days with Cloe.
I’ve never known a loss like the one I experienced this past week. The waves of overwhelming grief while comprehending the absence of a beloved pet are unimaginable. Everywhere I look at home, I see her footprints. Her empty dog beds, the dirty marks she left when she laid down against the walls, her hair gathering in corners on the floor. And while I’ve struggled with keeping the floors clean of black balls of hair her whole life, I haven’t been able to bring myself to pick up these last few remaining pieces of her (although I doubt I’ll ever be able to get rid of every Cloe hair in this house).
My yoga teacher didn’t even know she was speaking to my soul when she said during class this week, “Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.” I’ve taken to this mantra during my morning meditation: inhaling while thinking “holding on” and exhaling “letting go.”
I will always hold on to Cloe, but it was time to let go. And I think every pet owner would agree, it’s always too soon.