My Dog Is Headed for The Bridge – Why Do I Feel Like I Am Too?

Author Kelly Byrne's dog Lucy

For the last week or so, every time I thought about sitting down to write this post I suddenly found something way more important and interesting to do. Cutting my nails into tiny shapes of farm animals, watching a maimed spider crawl up the toilet (fascinating), cleaning my eyes with Windex.

Anything not to sit here and be with this post for even a minute. Because why?

I’m afraid of it.

There. I said it.

It scares the hell out of me. The vulnerability it’s taking to write it makes my stomach hurt. Which is most likely why I’ve been on a mega-bitchy angry-asshat bender for the last couple months.

That, and heat.

See, I’ve come to realize, consciously, in the last couple weeks, it’s much easier to be a cantankerous jerk-face than it is to be a grieving mother.

I can build a wall.

I can pretend (my dog) The Goon’s rapid descent into frail slow-mo is not really happening, that somehow in this whacked out alternate reality in my head, her relentless decline is a personal affront to me. I become irritated, frustrated, and impatient with her and the world over the fact that I’m very little more than a caretaker now for her ancient little self.

I get angry and close off. I hide behind that wall o’mine so I don’t have to acknowledge the sad truth that with every breath she takes, she’s one breath closer to leaving me for good.

Because, my God, being a Superhero Sensitive, how do I cope with it any other way? I’d just be a big walking puddle of snot otherwise.

This has been my subconscious rationale for the last couple months. I’ve been a spoiled rotten baby jerk. I fully admit it. Acknowledging is half the problem, right?

And now I’m entering a different stage.

The Kübler-Ross model of the five stages of grief goes like this: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

Denial. Check.

Anger. Double check.

Think I’ve skipped right over bargaining, because, well. I’m not Superman and I can’t spin the world backwards 15 years, or even five years, so.

I’m sure you’ve figured out which stage I’m currently sitting in then.

I’ve torn the wall down, come back to my senses and compassion and everything is beef carpaccio raw in me right now.

Everything means something. And it’s all really sad.

Sometimes, when The Goon is on her way back inside from potty time, she’ll stop and stare at me sitting on the step waiting for her. More and more lately, it feels like she’s seeing through me. Like maybe she doesn’t know exactly who I am anymore.

Like all the years we’ve spent together, the great and terrible things we’ve been through, the amazing adventures we’ve shared, all those precious moments come crumbling down to rest in piles at her feet like our life’s detritus. Left behind as she walks away from me toward that damn bridge.

Rainbow Bridge makes it sound whimsical and fun like childhood and ice cream. Rainbow my ass. Click To Tweet

Then, in the next moment, as if all of that was simply happening only in my head, she slowly limps to me, every step measured, and tucks her little head into my armpit nook, her special spot, the place reserved For Goon Only. I cradle her and pet her, rub her bony little back that feels more like a mountain ridge now than a spine.

But I know. I know she remembers because she’s still doing this. Maybe she doesn’t remember the way I do, but she knows. She knows how much I love her.

Walls officially torn down.

And that’s when I really disintegrate.

How do you keep saying goodbye over and over every day? Every time I check to make sure she’s still breathing I’m hoping for the best, but somehow expecting the worst. In a lot of ways I feel like I’m shrinking, shriveling, failing, falling down the hole with her.

I know it’s the depression speaking, but there’s not a lot in this world that excites me these days. I’ve got major ADD when it comes to my writing projects. I can’t seem to focus on anything for more than a few minutes at a time.

I don’t know if this is a normal thing that happens to people losing a loved one slowly or not, because I’ve never been through this before.

♥                                        ♥                                        ♥

Sometimes I reminisce about all the kooky things she used to do when she was a puppy.

The hell bent, out-of-control figure-eights with the crazy wide-eyed ‘I’ve-got-way-too-much-energy-and-I-need-to-take-it-out-on-this-lawn’ face.

Lying next to her bowls instead of standing when she ate and drank.

Sleeping on her side, belly up against the dining room wall in our old apartment, fully stretched out like Superdog, holding up my whole world.

Humping all the dogs she played with at the park. Not embarrassing at all to explain that she’s a she. I know I know. Dominance and all that. Still.

The day we met at Wanda’s Golden Retriever Rescue, she tore past me from her quarantined crate in a back bedroom to go pee outside then bolted right back and sat at my feet staring up at me, daring me not to take her home.

Like she knew.

She knew something I didn’t then. I didn’t want her. I needed her.

She’s been by my side, walking with me, every day for 15 years. My little girl, my angel, my soul. I don’t want to be without her. But I understand life and that’s not part of the contract.

Goon in the morning

So the most I can ask for is as much time as she can give me. And I guess I’ll have to accept being that big walking puddle of snot because I’m tired of being angry about the whole thing.

When she goes, I want to be right there with her, holding her paws, petting her, singing her to sleep. I want her to be at peace. And, if it’s at all possible, I want to be too.

Author Kelly Byrne Website

Kelly Byrne
An award-winning writer in many a genre, I currently herd words into novels and short stories about wildly flawed, but lovable characters. I strive to uncover the extraordinary in the ordinary, for those who believe in the possibility of the impossible, and those who always believe in love. My fiction embraces the idea that extraordinary things can and do happen in the real world. These whisperings of supernatural elements give my work a strong emotional edge, lending surprise and wonder to every story. I live in Los Angeles with my desperately handsome boyfriend where I’m working on my next novel.


  1. Let’s add spending some quality time with The Goon to the list of “must dos” while I’m there. I’ll be the giant Kleenex to your walking puddle of snot.

    1. Most definitely quality Goon time. ‘Giant kleenex to my walking puddle of snot’ – that’s, like, the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me. Hugs. Can’t wait to see you in just one week! 🙂

  2. Oh Kelly. I’m typing through tears. The Goon remembers all that you’ve been through together. I think she’s trying to soak all of you up to take with her where she can remember you even better on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge (which, yeah, shitty happy name for something so sad). I lost my faithful four-legged companion (she was my kitty, not a dog, but the grief is the same) almost exactly a year ago and I still grieve her. I am so blessed, and still torn apart, that she waited until I got home from work to let me hold her while she passed from this world to the next. I had 18 and a half wonderful years with her, but it still wasn’t enough.

    1. Now I’m typing through tears, Shawna. Thank you. And I’m so sorry about your baby. I remember when you posted up about her. It’s just impossible. They are the most amazing creatures in the world and they should be able to stick around far longer than they do. It’s just not fair. Big hugs to you today. I’m sorry if reading this was hard for you. But I always appreciate your support so much. <3

  3. Oh my heart! 🙁

    When we adopted Eddie the Schipperke (his “official” Facebook name) in 2010, he already had early stage Cushings. We lost him in June 2013 after watching slowly decline over the course of a year. Knowing how hard that was on all of us, I can’t even begin to fathom what you’re going through. You and The Goon will be in my thoughts as you make this difficult journey together.

    1. Thank you so much, Trace. It’s been rough. But I really appreciate all the support. Makes it a little easier knowing I’m not alone going through this. I’m so sorry about Eddie. Why can’t all the animals stay and all the bad people leave early? There should be a thing.

  4. *SNIFF* Going through similar with my Bailey Boy, 14+ years and slowing down. Clearly sore and blind and deaf, but still his face finds its way to my lap when he needs some Mama loving. It’s like he’s asking me to make him feel better, to remind himself I’m always here. I want to pull away and not think about it, be the one in control of whether I’m with him or not. To prepare myself? Maybe. I can psychoanalyze it all I want. It still sucks. Big hugs to you and the Goon, Kelly.

    1. Yeah, Chris, we try to protect ourselves from the hurt whatever way we can, but in the end it’s just better to feel what we feel as shitty as that is and try to enjoy whatever time we have left. I’m sorry Bailey is getting slower – it’s tough to watch. Enjoy him and love the hell out of him and accept that it all kinda sucks. That’s my best philosophy right now. Big hugs right back to you and Bailey Boy.

  5. Sweet Kelly,
    I had such a hard time getting through this post. It’s so beautiful, raw, real and true. I just shared it on my FB page. I cried all the way till the end. I lost a Golden and it was so heartbreaking. Now I have 2 and one is getting older and I can barely stand to think about it! Amazing how deeply we can love our furry babies…how BIG their presence is, how comforting their love is, how they can make us smile by doing absolutely nothing. My heart is with you. When the time comes, the tears will as well and there is nothing to do but breathe your way through it, knowing The Goon has your brought you endless joy…and we all know what brings us our greatest Joy will bring us our greatest pain, as well. It’s the greatest gift we’ve been given, to love wholeheartedly and to love with our whole hearts. Thank you always for your honesty and sharing your heart wholly with all of us. Sending you Goon-size LOVE! xoxox

    1. Thank you so much, Susan. I remember your golden. When I met you at that Christmas party (I think it might have been at your house) he (he/she?) was there. Such a beautiful pup.

      I always joked about how Lucy would never die. She would be the great Magic Dog who lived forever. I really believed it too. I had to. Because the thought of being in a Goonless world sent me spiraling. And now I’m facing that world and it’s far too soon. You’re so right – they make us happy doing nothing at all. Their love is the true definition of unconditional. Humans should aspire to the great heights dogs have achieved in love. Hug your babies and love them like they love you. Big hugs to you. xoxo

  6. Kelly, I can only send you love and strength to get through this unimaginable next step of saying goodbye to your very best friend. I still cry daily missing my big, furry, love of a dog (and it’s been 10 months). I keep waiting for it to get easier, but when your furbaby is such a part of you this grieving makes sense. I do feel him with me on walks and I know he watches over us. Hugs, and lots of love to the Goon and you. She will be at peace when she says goodbye and you can find some consolation in that. Xoxo, Sandy

    1. Thank you, Sandy. I hope so. It’s just so hard for me to think about a Goonless world. Every time I do, I just break down and say ‘no, I’m not ready yet.’ But I’m never going to be ready. Which is why it’s all only about her and when she is.

      I’m really sorry about your baby. It’s just a cruel joke that they don’t last longer here with us. Nothing funny there though. Thanks for the love and support.

  7. No. Not part of the contract, no matter how we shake our fists.
    I’m so moved by this post. I’ve read it a few times. Thank you.
    My dogs have been my closest allies during grief. They’ve taught me a lot about love.

    1. Thank you, Elaine. I’m glad the post moved you. That’s the thing, you know. She’s been my angel during so many hard times. Now, when the hardest of them all, her absence, comes, she won’t be there to snuggle with and ease the pain. That’s a tough one. But there’s nothing to do to about it, but love her till the very end. Thank you for sharing.

  8. I posted a response to you, Kelly, from my phone. But it looks like it didn’t take. So here’s what I wanted to say: First of all, I feel your pain. I am so sorry that you are going through this; so sorry that Lucy can’t live on and on. But now, I want to remind you to stay in the moment. Stay present in the ‘now’ so that you don’t grieve while the Goon is still here. Enjoy this time with her to the best of your ability. Stay grateful, be loving, rise above all the pain on a wave of gratitude and love. You’ve got time left with that wonderful dog. Try to stay in the moment and enjoy her like never before. You two can take a great deal of comfort in your mutual gratitude and love.

    1. Thank you, Davis. I’m trying. I’m really trying to be in the moment and not get ahead of myself, but some days that’s easier said than done. Yesterday was a particularly rough day for her and when we have those days, it’s so hard not to see the colors of that damn bridge blinding me. But I hear you, and I thank you for reminding me to be in the moment and have gratitude FOR that moment. Hugs.

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