On Friday, July 31, 2015, my beloved dog, Captain Basco, died at home at 9:15 a.m. Since that moment, when I held him as he died and watched the light leave his eyes, I’ve been thrown into something that feels like an existential crisis. I dare not leave the house, except to walk or run, for fear that any slight trigger will remind me painfully of our loss and turn me into an uncontrollable, sobbing mess. Furthermore, I want to stay close to my husband, Chuck, for whom the loss is even more excruciating. Basco and Rosie, our female Chihuahua/Jack Russel mix, defined every moment of Chuck’s life: literally. Basco usually woke us between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. with a loud, “get the hell up and feed me” howl. From there, Chuck’s days were punctuated by meds for Basco in the morning, treats for both dogs at noon, meds at dinner time, and treats and meds before bed. Basco had to be assisted with steps higher than three inches and tottered everywhere he went, which wasn’t far. Basco needed Chuck and gave him purpose, especially during the school year when I’m gone most of the week.
Some people won’t understand this: “It’s a damn dog,” they’ll say. “Get over it already.” They will never understand. Others absolutely do understand, and for them, we don’t even have to explain. My sister, Julie, was so upset she couldn’t eat her lunch on Friday, and both my sisters tried to send flowers, ones that never came due to an irresponsible florist. Our good friend, Ron, still has his “Charlie” in the freezer, after he died a couple years ago. Seems odd, to me, but I will never second guess the grief of losing a companion animal. Other pet-loving friends just nod and say, “I know. It’s the worst.”
Thinking about why this is so painful, I realized that our animals are different from our human relationships for three reasons: they can’t talk and tell us what is happening; they spend all their time with us, every moment that we allow it; and they need us in a way that no one else does, offering unconditional love despite any reason we might not deserve it, and for most of us, there are many times we have not earned that devotion.
What does all this have to do with Facebook? As I’ve tried to work through my grief—surprised as anyone by the magnitude and viciousness—I realized that I waste a lot of time, much of it through social media. While I love that I can stay virtually close to distant friends and relatives, I resent that I am subjected to constant marketing, that I have to wade through all forms of political garbage and urban legends (that some poor fools believe), and that I let myself get distracted by inane quizzes or celebrity news or other vacuous junk. My time should be more valued and more thoughtfully disbursed; I should read more books, write more of anything, study more pedagogy, play more, and spend more time with live humans and animals.
I value my Facebook friends because they are my real friends. Not one to “friend” every acquaintance I know or friends of friends, my FB friends are also my real-life friends though many of them I will rarely or ever see. This is a real loss, one I really regret, but it’s time for me to take a break from social media and live more in the moment and less in virtual reality. I hope that friends will keep in touch through email or phone. I will, hopefully, write more on my blog, and I can be contacted through that by leaving comments.