Nothing could have prepared me for losing my dog. Clark was our firstborn, our super puppy (Clark Kent), our Clark bar. The grief I felt about his passing was more intense than I ever expected. We faced a hard decision in putting him to sleep after being his parents for over 11 years. My heart hurt. I ached. 

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Clark came along just a year into our marriage. Long before our house. Long before our children. He was our baby. We were a couple with a dog in a one-bedroom apartment. The space got tighter, but the love got bigger.

He was already 8 when we had our first (human) born. As a new mom with a hard labor and delivery, I was tired. I was overwhelmed.

I was consumed by another’s needs as I never had been before.

A couple of years later, came another baby. All of our lives were different, including Clark’s. As he got older, instead of demanding attention, he faded into the background, and I didn’t even notice. I gave the kids everything I had, which I suppose is how it goes sometimes. 

Then all of a sudden, I realized how white his face had gotten when as a puppy it’d been black. How he slept most of the time. How sad he seemed. How uncontrollable his anxiety was. He’d gotten old and he was broken. 

The hurt ripped me apart as he tried to comfort me as I cried the day before he left us.

The more he tried to comfort me, the more my heart broke. He knew something was about to happen. 

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Grief swallowed me whole for three days. Three days of crying over the decision, over the end, over the memories, over this dog who had been my only baby for a long time. I cried over the regret most of all. Did I not love him enough? Did I push him away after having kids

I emerged from the grief remembering him as he once was when he’d been happy. He had been happy once. I remember how he used to cuddle with us when we watched TV in bed. How he used to play. How he wore a shark costume one Halloween.

How he’d loved us and tried in his way to keep us safe. 

The right decision is often the hardest one to make. If there is a rainbow bridge, I know he’s on it chasing squirrels, playing, and being happy again. We gave him the best life we knew how and that is the thought that comforts me the most when all else fails. 

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I will always remember this dog that loved squeaky tennis balls and putting them into our shoes. Who had a cookies-and-cream tummy. Who just needed to be loved. Though he needed to leave us, I will love my furry firstborn, always. 

Kristen Winiarski 

Kristen N. Winiarski spends much of her days battling her kids' hangry moods with bacon and Cookie Monster impressions. She also encourages dance parties as P.E. whenever possible. Published by Motherfigure, Her View From Home, Filter Free Parents and Allegory Magazine, Kristen started writing at just 10 years old. She excels in writing about motherhood, classic movies and also writes fiction. You can find her at https://knwiniarski.com and www.facebook.com/knwiniarski.