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It’s been two weeks since we said goodbye to you. It seems like yesterday and it seems like years ago. I swear the first couple of days lasted for years. But the last two weeks have sped by. I can’t believe it’s already been two weeks.
My heart hurts and so does your dad’s. We miss you so, so much.
The house is too quiet. You spent most of your days sleeping, or moving between two surfaces on which to sleep, or following me from one room to the other just to make sure I was okay. You were only ever noisy if a squirrel or bird taunted you from outside the window, but that was rare. Mostly, you were quiet. And you were little. But your presence was so much bigger than you were. It’s hard to be alone in the house because it’s so obvious that you’re not here. There’s no snoring. No clicking puppy nails on the floor. No horrible dog farts. We knew you were special and we loved you so much, but you really don’t know how important something is to your life until it’s gone.
You’re gone now.
It’s not fair. It’s just not fucking fair. I know life isn’t fair, but you weren’t even nine. You were considered a senior by the standards on that chart in the vet’s office, but eight is still such a baby to the people that love their dogs. You expect to spend years and years with your dogs. You expect to say goodbye to them in their teens, while secretly hoping they’ll live for decades. I expected you to be around when we had a baby, but we still don’t have a child, and now we don’t have you either. That kills me.
You spent the first four years of your life with at least two families before I met you at the SPCA. I don’t know these families and often, I wonder how anyone could walk away from you. But their loss was our gain. I don’t remember how long you had been at the SPCA when I met you, but I know it was long. I walked around the shelter three times before we made eye contact. I knelt down to eye level at your kennel and you picked your sleepy little butt off the cot, sauntered over to me, and wagged your tail. When they took you out of the kennel, I called your name, and you ran to me. You were mine from that moment.
You were very sick when I brought you home. Your first vet appointment cost almost $800. And you were varying degrees of sick throughout your short life, but we always did everything we could to get you the treatment you needed. We couldn’t always afford it. Actually, we usually couldn’t afford it. Sometimes we used credit cards. Several times your grandma paid for your treatment in place of a normal Christmas or birthday present for me. We probably spent more than 10k on getting you treatment and taking you to the occasional doggie daycare while you were with us. Throughout your life you had an oncologist, allergist, and a chiropractor. We couldn’t afford it but we would do it all over again. You were worth it all. It was worth it to make your life easier.
Four years. That’s all we had. I wish we had more. I was hoping for so much more.
But I knew it was coming. You knew it was coming. I felt it. Something changed in the last couple of months. Before the spinal trauma, before the move, things started to feel different. I worried about you more than normal. Every little hiccup or sniffle had me on high alert. Often, your dad would catch me staring at you while you slept, watching to make sure you were still breathing. He thought I was being ridiculous.
I thought I could maybe be losing my mind but the worry, the feeling that you didn’t have much time left, it was on my heart more than I could possibly explain. I knew we were running out of time.
You changed. Your always expressive face seemed sad. Your new vet told us you had a heart murmur and I watched you even closer. You knew. You were more forcible about getting snuggles, about staying in the bed at night, about following me everywhere. Something was wrong and you didn’t know what it was but you knew it wasn’t good.
I didn’t like that feeling. I didn’t like worrying that you were leaving soon.
When I dropped you off for spinal surgery, I took a picture of you before I left. I took the picture because I knew you weren’t coming home. I had a terrible feeling that would be my last picture of you. I bawled my eyes out when I left you at the hospital. Because I knew.
They called us after your first set of scans to tell us about your metastatic cancer. When the doctor personally called led with the fact that they had only completed the first round of pre-op scans, it was clear nothing good was going to follow.
They woke you up so we could come say our goodbyes. I’m so glad we did that. Maybe it was just for us but I think it was for you too. We wanted your last minutes to be with your mom and dad. To be as comfortable as you could be and covered in snuggles. When they wheeled you into the room you looked so upset, so confused. By the time the doctor came in to put you to rest, your face was different. You were calm. You were relaxed. I hope it mattered to you. I hope it made a difference.
I’m sorry we had to do that. I hope you know that we didn’t want to. I hope you know that we wanted so much more time with you. It wasn’t fair to force you to keep living in so much pain just so we could all have a little more time together. We took your pain away, which meant we took you away, and that hurts more than some people could possibly understand.
You were so wonderful and so special and I know that not only because I lived with you and loved you, but also because of the people that have reached out since your passing to tell us how much they loved you. We were so obsessed with you and so happy to share stories and photos about you, that people that never even met you knew you and loved you. They saw your goofy side and your grumpy side. They saw you in a pumpkin t-shirt and a bunch of different bow ties. They saw us celebrate your birthdays. We openly adored you and other people have mourned with us in the weeks since we lost you.
We miss you so much.
I hate that I can leave food unattended in rooms now. Or that I can shower without leaving the door open. I hate that you’re not there guarding the shower for me. Or that you’re not around to keep watching the Gilmore Girls marathon with me. I miss your welcome home excitement and watching you sit on your hind legs for a treat when we left. I miss your super soft ears and your adorable little dog butt. I miss the L-shaped white patch on the back of your neck that I like to tell your dad stood for “love.” I miss trying to put my shoes on in secret so you wouldn’t get excited and think you were going outside too.
You were the best little spoon a girl could ask for, always willing to snuggle up and always quick to run to either of us when we were sad.
We finally got ourselves a house with a yard for you to run around in, and you got to enjoy it at least a little bit before you left us.
I heard this thing recently that said that after a loss we struggle with wanting to get past the pain and not wanting to let go of all the memories. I want to feel better and stop crying but I’m also sad that every new week is a week farther away from when you were here with us.
We are so lucky to have lived with you for four years. I wish we had you sooner. I wish we met you earlier. But I have no regrets about the time we spent together. We always snuggled with you and we often spoiled you. We bought you a million toys, treats, and blankets. I told you every day how much I loved you and how handsome were. You were my first dog. My first baby. I gave you so much of my heart and you brought me so much peace and joy. You brought so much laughter to us. I truly think we were all lucky to have each other, for so many different reasons.
I feel weird about trying to stop writing about you. I feel like closing this piece brings a finality to this, in a sense. I don’t want to stop writing about you or saying goodbye. If I stop then I’m farther from you. I know I will continue to get farther from you, but I don’t want to. I write because it helps me process, because it helps me get out thoughts and feelings. Some of them are funny, some of them are not. This is a form of catharsis for me, to release thoughts and emotions about you and your passing. It is cathartic but it is no less painful.
It seems like nothing I do to honor your life or mark your passing is good enough. I got a tattoo. We will bury your ashes in the backyard and plant a tree. The hospital sent us your paw imprint and a lock of your hair. We might make a photo book. We’re going through the process to get approved to foster with a local beagle rescue. We’re going to donate to the Fauquier SPCA in your honor, the place that you called home more than once and the place that we met. I laid your collar on the shelf next to the little beagle figurine we found at a thrift store a month ago.
None of it is good enough because none of it is you.
I will miss you forever.
As a young girl it was never a question for me, whether or not I would take my future husband’s last name when we married. It was just what you did. And besides, my last name was weird anyway. People were always misspelling it or thinking it was my first name. Or my personal favorite, the countless number of people in educational and professional settings that called me Jessica. Not only did you just completely ignore my first name, but you added letters on to my last name. I mean, at that point I just assume you’re TRYING to get my name wrong.
When the time actually came for me to give my hand in marriage to the cynical and handsome movie nerd of my dreams, my feelings seemed a bit more mixed on the subject. I spent many months before our wedding debating whether or not I would change my last name. I asked married friends what they thought of name changes, why they chose to change or not change, and how they felt after the decision. I debated and debated.
Eventually, I made the choice based on logic and a twee bit of sentimentality. I have a very unique name. I am one of only two Sabrina Jess’ in the world – from what I’ve been able to sleuth out via the internet. The other me lives in Ireland and wears more makeup than I do. She’s also younger than me. And for what it’s worth, we’re both brunettes with nice eyebrows. Coincidence? Okay probably, but I digress…
As someone who writes on the interwebz and has been on camera on the interwebz, I thought it best if I keep my artistic professional life and my day job professional life separate. I wasn’t doing anything shady as Sabrina Jess but plenty of companies aren’t fans of their employees existing on the interwebz so it made sense. With my husband’s last name I could disappear. You couldn’t Google and find me or anything I worked on (you could however, find a British porn star, which might have been a hindrance in the long run anyway). It seemed like the right choice to make. I could be goofy, creative me online and keep that me separate from 9-5 day job me.
Or so I thought.
My first job after changing my name? They found out my maiden name, my Facebook, and my blog all before I ever signed any papers telling them my SSN or my maiden name. Thanks a lot, internet. My current job? I work as a Technical Writer and used my blog as proof of my writing interest and abilities. Pretending Sabrina Jess wasn’t an option.
I thought I could disappear but the internet found me.
It became clear my plan was foiled and the only last shred of my desire to keep the last name came in the form of zero logic. I just thought it was nice that I shared a name with my husband.
It was nice.
For his own part, my darling husband could not care less what my last name is. Okay, maybe that’s not true. If I changed it to Sabrina HatesMovies or Sabrina VaginaPunch he would probably at least speak up about it. At no point has he ever cared whether or not we had last names that were the same or different. I cleared this with him multiple times before both name changes. Zero fucks were given.
Prior to our wedding, I spent a lot of time researching my personal ancestry and started to feel a connection to this lineage of mine like never before. After the wedding, I found that for all the problems my maiden name had caused me, I actually missed it quite a bit. I mourned my last name. I became insistent that every artistic endeavor I participated in used my maiden name. I was proud of being a special snowflake. I missed my special snowflake-ness. When my Poppa died, it felt particularly strange for me, wanting to identify as a Jess and feeling as though I couldn’t. Not that society saw me differently. But I did. It made it that much more clear that I was not okay with letting go.
If you ask my husband why he won’t take my last name, he’ll tell you it’s because for better or worse, his name is his name. It’s who he is. It’s who he’s always been.
For me, it’s very much like that. I didn’t realize how much a part of me my last name was until I gave it away. My unique identifier in the world with which I have always had a love-hate relationship but ultimately, has always been so good to me. It made me feel like me.
So I thought on it. And thought on it some more. Because I’m incapable of not obsessing over every decision I make.
And then I changed my name back because the exciting thing about being a human people is that I can change my mind as much as I want (so there). I have a fancy court document decreeing my new (old) name and everything.
I love and adore my husband, and my in-laws have been nothing but kind to me over the years, but their identifier is not my own.
Thank you, David, for letting me borrow your last name for a while. I needed that time with it. I needed to experience life with the same last name as you so I could appreciate my own last name, but it has served its purpose, and you can have it back now.
I want to use flowery language and proper story outlining for explaining my feelings today but I can’t. I want to express myself in a way that conveys that I am cool, calm, and collected, but I’m not. I want to provide easy-to-follow answers to the problems I have, but it’s not that simple. I’m upset. I’m pissed off. I feel so many things right now. I have so many words to express myself and none of them fit and all of them aren’t enough.
When I run or walk outside, when I work out in a gym, when I exercise in a room with windows to the street, I feel vulnerable.
I already feel vulnerable as a female existing in our society, but when you add onto that the circumstances of exercise, it all seems magnified.
When I exercise, I am vulnerable. I am becoming stronger but at the time I am breaking down my own defense. I am breathing heavy, red-faced, and covered in sweat. I feel exposed.
I mostly exercise in my own home because that is where I am comfortable. That is the only place where I can exist without judgement, and that is not okay.
I am not paranoid. I am realistic.
When I run in my neighborhood I am faced with street harassment 9 times out of 10. This is not exaggeration. This happens with or without a running partner, regardless of my running partner’s gender, although the problem is exacerbated if my running partner happens to be female.
Screams from car windows, honking horns, men at work cat-calling me.
I have a vagina and I have boobs and that makes too many men feel more powerful than me. Too many boys and men think that it’s acceptable to yell out their windows, to honk their horns, to cat-call women walking by. Just one is too many.
These advances make me feel othered. I feel less than. I feel even more vulnerable. I feel even more exposed. I feel helpless and hopeless.
Didn’t your mother teach you better? Didn’t your father teach you better? Didn’t anyone in your whole life ever tell you to be a better person than that?
Who are you to take away my feeling of safety and security?
When I walk by men after sunset, I move to the other side of the street. When groups of men or boys get on public transportation, I walk away. Do you know what it’s like to live in fear of the other half of the population? A fear that is, unfortunately, not unfounded.
I have been groped by boys in schools and men I couldn’t pinpoint in crowded locations. I have been called bitch, lesbian, bull-dyke, slut, whore, prude, cunt, and more. I have had sexual advances yelled at me from across classrooms and parking lots. I have been made to feel less than for my gender by strangers, family, coworkers, and bosses.
I don’t deserve it.
No one does.
I need feminism because the law states that men and women are equal but our society tells us otherwise.
I need feminism because there are boys and men in the world that feel they have a right to openly comment on my body.
I need feminism because there are people that believe that men and women are treated equally.
I need feminism because turning down a stranger’s advances shouldn’t lead to threats from that stranger.
I need feminism because I deserve better, my step-daughter deserves better, women deserve better.
I need feminism because whether I run in sweatpants or a sports bra or naked, I am not “asking for it.”
I need feminism because good, kind, caring men still don’t understand why I need feminism.
I need feminism because we teach girls how to not be victims but we don’t teach our boys how not to victimize.
I need feminism because I exercise in public.
Because I exist in public.
And existing in public shouldn’t make me afraid.
But it does.