I felt Death knocking.
I felt Death knocking and I bolted the door against her advances. I covered the cracks in the door frame, piled the furniture high and steadied myself against her pounding.
And all the while holding vigilant against her overtures, I scolded myself for my loss of optimism. I deemed myself cynical and paranoid and told myself to ignore my gut.
I felt Death knocking.
I hoped I was wrong.
And then she came in.
She pushed away our barricades as if they were nothing and in one fell swoop confirmed my worst fears in a swell of sadness that swept me away.
I lost my best friend.
On Wednesday after the worst week of all three of our lives, we made the hardest decision we have yet to make together:
We bid farewell to our Cinda.
Together we held her as she took her last breaths and together we wrapped her body in a blanket. Together we secured her onto the backboard her Dad had made for her. Together we said our goodbyes to those whom had kindly housed us in Town in our worst time.
Together the three of us went home.
It felt like a cruel joke.
The last time we had gone to Town, I had brought Cinda with me because I was concerned about her health. She and my Mom and I had piled into the truck that too was having issues. The ride there was quiet as a feeling of panic spread over me. I was paranoid about her health. Our town had already lost two dogs this Summer, I couldn’t handle her being next. And so I said a prayer over and over in my mind:
“If something has to fail, make it be the truck. Anything but my girl.”
And my prayers were answered.
Two days later Cinda and I had made it home with the help of a girlfriend and her trusty steed. Our truck hadn’t made it back but Lou? She was fine. The picture of health. It had been superstition after all. I had been paranoid and I had been wrong. I shook off the feeling of Death. We were together and she was healthy.
And that was all that mattered.
There would be more trucks.
And then there was a new truck and The Chief went into Town to get it.
A few hours later Lou and I followed, catching a ride with a friend when I realized that her condition was worsening.
The whole way I again prayed to anyone and anything that would listen. I told myself Death was just taunting us, knocking louder now but that she could be quelled like the last time. She would stop. Cinda was at the top of her game. Svelte and happy and healthy. The Vet had told me so only weeks before.
Still I prayed over and over along the drive and in the week that followed. I offered up my own health, our home, money. Anything. Everything. “Please, take what you want. Anything but my baby. Please let her make it through.”
One week later, The Chief and I drove home together hand in hand in a new truck with our baby’s body in the bed.
We returned home to an oppressive feeling of emptiness and to the most painful full circle experience I’ve ever had.
When we walked in the door we were greeted by a dinner left for us by our neighbors and to a beautiful note of condolence. Those were the same kindnesses and love we had bestowed upon them only a few months before when they had to make the transition of walking through their doorway for the first time without their baby.
Life is cruel and beautiful all in one.
In the morning we awoke for the first time in our house without our baby.
You never realize the quiet until it comes.
We spent the day digging her grave. The spot where she and her Dad had slept together in a tent the first Summer they had lived on the property was where we laid her to rest. As we walked the property earlier that morning to find where she would rest, the spot had called us in and put its arms around us the way only the Earth can.
We dug until we were up to our shoulders in an earthen grave, until we had to help one another out, until we were sure she would be safe from the wilds of the woods.
All the while, her Brother watched over us. He had come over from next door and had greeted us with his head down and without so much as the twitch of his tail. He was solemn and stoic as he let us bury our faces in his fur. We sobbed into him. He slept beside the ever-growing hole that would be her grave and as I dug my heart was broken again and again as I would look up and catch a glimpse of his tail and think that it was hers.
But it wasn’t.
And then as we left to prepare her body, her Brother left too.
We cleaned her and dried her and cried into her fur and then wrapped her again in one of her Dad’s blankets from their early days. Slowly we lowered her into the grave and said our final goodbyes. In the hours that followed we filled her grave with dirt and covered the top in moss and rocks and flowers.
Cinda was our first baby.
And she was my very best friend.
She was the reason I made it through my first Winter when The Chief worked all the dark day long and I was left in an unfamiliar place all alone. In the cold and the vast darkness she was my light and I was no longer alone. I talked to her more than anyone else. She waited patiently as I learned to ski and made me feel safe in the big white world I had found myself in.
She showed me around and taught me to navigate the place I called home. At every turn she would wait for me to make sure I wouldn’t miss it.
She was my best friend and I lost her.
I lost her and still, she is everywhere.
I hear her though she’s not there. I smell the way her paws smelled in fleeting moments and it taunts me. I find her fur at every turn. I see her footprints in the soft landings of the river’s shore.
I still look for her in her bed under the house every time I walk up the stairs and I wait for her to peek up at me over the table in our living room. My heart breaks in expectant surprise when I turn around in the kitchen and she isn’t there to sample what I’m making. I feel as if I’m just waiting to turn the corner and see her again, as though I’ve simply lost her and not that she’s lost her life.
She visits us in our dreams and in the memories of our Friend Family who have been there every step of the way to kneel at her grave and cry, to wrap us in their arms, to feed us and to tell stories that make us able to laugh again.
It’s a constant up and down whirlybird of a rollercoaster on a ride I never wanted to go on that I never paid admittance for. It feels as if we are here by accident, by a terrible joke.
But we aren’t.
This is our new life. Just us and the quiet.
Despite the despair and the pain that feel infinite it was worth it. I wouldn’t take back getting to love her in order to avoid this but I would do anything for more time together.
I love you, Cinda, dog of unflinching personality and infinite nicknames and lessons and love. There will never be another like you. Thank you for letting me be your Mom, for as one of your Grandmas said with a laugh: you didn’t have to let me be your Mom but you did.
Thank you. We will see you on the other side.
We miss you. So much.
What a beautiful tribute Julia. I just learned of this and my heart aches for you and Chris. What a wonderful, special, friend. Until you meet again.. Cheers to Cinda!
Thank you, Denise. She truly was a special lady. Cheers to the Lou.
I am so sorry that you have lost such a wonderful friend. I still think of my “Peaches”… it’s been over twenty years now but she is still in my thoughts. I know she’ll be waiting for me when it is my time to leave this earth. My heart goes out to you in your grief.
Thank you, kerisgranny. Love to you and Peaches.
I am soooo sorry for your loss. I lost my best bud, Rocky, last Dec and my heart goes out to you. The only thing that truly brings comfort is the passage of time and my gratitudw for the 13.5 yr ‘worldwide-run’ Rocky and I shared together. I hope you’ll feel Cinda in the quiet…she’ll be there with you in spirit and yes, faithfully awaiting you ‘on the other side!’ I am really sorry for your guys’ loss…
Ps I moved to Anchorage from Santa Rosa in June…if you ever need help when you’re ‘in town’…pls keep me in mind! 707-481-4211
Thank you, Rachel. I’m sorry for your loss as well ❤️
And…oh wow! How is Alaska treating you?
We are so sorry for your loss, Sweetie!
With love, Aunt Janie and Uncle Peter in Ferguson, MO
Thank you, Aunt Janie & Uncle Peter ❤️ Hope all is well with you two.
Found out yesterday so sorry for you guys and us all she used to follow me home to kennicott with diesel then turn towards home. I cried by kenai river while watching a grizzly on the other side, and an eagle take a bright red Salmon she will forever be loved and missed, hang tough you guys love you two see you soon
Oh Orion, thank you. That memory made us cry. We love you too. Come home soon.
My heart goes out to you…I feel your pain. Cinda will watch over you, and make sure you can always find your way. So sorry for your loss.
Thank you, so much ❤️
I’m so sorry Julia. I’m sitting here sobbing because I’m saying goodbye to my baby next week to college, I know that doesn’t even compare to what your going through but they are both our babies. Love you girl
Change is change – it’s always hard. ❤️ Your baby is lucky to have you. Love to you.
Julia- This a terrbile loss for your family. Cinda was a wonderful dog, and she will be missed by many. Your blog post was a lovely tribute to all that she was.Take care.The grieving process is perhaps one of the most painful things we do. You have many loved ones nearby to help you. Which is one of the truly awesome things about McCarthy.
Thank you, Maria. And yes, thank goodness for the goodness of MXY ❤️
OH, I am soooo sorry…..I just feel the lost and emptiness……sending you courage and a big hug.
Thank you, Cece ❤️
I am so, so sorry you lost your girl.
Thank you, Keely. Snuggle the furry ones for me tonight ❤️
I gave Daazhraii some extra hugs and kisses already.
Awe baby girl. Im so sorry. This is such a beautiful eulogy for your best friend. I love you.
Thank you, love. I love you too.