As Christmas is fast approaching, I'm reminded again this year of my lack of heart dog. I try to stay happy, and for the most part succeed, but times get tough and it gets hard not to really, really miss Bella.
Things have changed so much in the year and a little bit she's been gone. When the idea that someday I'd loose Bella to her mental issues first arose, I told my mom, "If I can't have Bella, I don't want to do the dog thing anymore." My days leading up to losing Bella were spent upset that I was losing her and half convincing myself I'd have to find homes for Psyche and Zoey because I didn't think I could do this, this dog loving, putting my heart and soul into things, all of that, if I didn't have Bella there to drive me onward. I tell people about this now and tears come to my eyes, because I can't imagine my life without Zoey, Psyche or the other dogs now in my life. Psyche pulled me through losing Bella. I don't know how she did it, but she did. Psyche is a soft dog. She's timid, fragile even, and yet, when I needed her most she was the strongest pillar in my life. She never wavered when the wind blew at me and tried to push me down, when the world gave way beneath me and tried to make me fall, when the heat bore down on me and tried to make me hide--through all of that, Psyche was strong, despite her weaknesses.
And now, coming up on my second Christmas without her, I've added two more dogs to my canine family and I couldn't be happier. Crash came into my life after turning down a puppy from my dream bitch's litter. I had decided I wasn't ready for another dog... and then Crash came along. He needed me and someone, somewhere decided I needed him, because for some reason I brought him home as a foster and now he's here for good. There have been moments in having him that I've looked at him and swore that Bella was looking out his eyes at me. He gave me the challenge I hadn't had since Bella, just not as extreme.
With Simi I don't relate her to Bella at all. They're totally different dogs, even though they're both German Shepherds. Simi is different and I still love her, but she'll never be Bella. But that's okay. I don't want another Bella. I had the real Bella, and she was Bella--there's no replacing her. That said, there are times that Simi settles down for just a few seconds longer than others and a part of me thinks there's a connection being made there... that Bella's looking down, smiling, happy that Simi and I have finally been matched up. Who knows. Maybe Simi's what Bella would have been like had she been normal, maybe she's not, either way, Simi is her own dog and as much as I feared at first I'd try to make her live up to Bella's standards emotionally, I'm not. My heart tells me that even though they will be similar in breed-type ways, they are not the same dog and my heart is right. Just the other night Simi and I were outside and I picked her up and while I looked up at the stars, she stilled in my arms and titled her head up to the sky, and I knew then that Bella was smiling down at us. Call me crazy if you want, I can live with that, but I know when things are right, and they are now.
As for Little Zoey, I'll admit, the first year was hard. There were days I looked at her, after just losing Bella, and there was blame in my mind. It wasn't fair to Zoey and I never said anything about it, but it was hard to look at Zoey and not see her as the reason that I'd lost Bella. That has changed though. Zoey no longer represents Bella's bad days. In my mind, she and Bella are still what they used to be when they ran the back pasture together, friends, and when Bella jumped off a snow bank on top of her, to which Zoey responded by doing the same to Bella, the swims in the pond where Bella could actually coax Zoey into the water; those first moments together where nothing stopped them from loving each other unconditionally, without hesitation. Those were some of Bella's best moments and Zoey helps me remember them. They may not have been friendly at the end, but that wasn't the same Bella we knew at the beginning, the one who's mind hadn't yet been polluted by disease. The puppy who took everything that happened in her life and let it go with the wind; she forgave and forgot. Zoey knew the real Bella; the Bella Bella wanted to be and tried to be, right up to her last minutes.
So as much as I miss Bella, she will always live on. In my heart, memories and the stories I share of her, yes, but also in my dogs who were there when she lived and in my dogs who have come since losing her and who have yet to come. She influenced who I am today and in doing that she made me a better person, better capable of caring for the canine family I've been given and will be given.
I owe more than I could have ever imagined to that hairy, hyper, long tailed mutt. I miss you, Boo.