Grieving the Loss of My Dog, Nola

I received a call from my dad while changing in the locker room at my yoga studio on Wednesday night. His voice was shaky and he said he had some really sad news.

I’ve been so blessed to live such a beautiful life and I haven’t really experienced much loss up until this point. I’m grateful for this beyond belief, but the news that my sweet angel puppy Nola was hit by a car broke me to my core. I know some may be thinking that it’s just a dog or to try and be grateful for all that I still have when others have so much less. But if you’ve ever lost a pet before then I am sure you can understand the pain and loss that my family is experiencing.

She was a one of a kind dog. I wish I could hold her one last time, snuggle her little face again, and shower her with kisses. If I could have just a few more minutes with her, I’d tell her how perfect she was. I’d tell her how wonderful she made me feel—like how she’d always greet me at the door so energetically and then rest her little head on my shoulder once she was finally in my arms.

That night is by far the worst night of my life. I’ve broken bones, had awful breakups, not gotten the dream jobs, fought with loved ones… but there is no pain like losing something you love in a sudden blink of an eye. I came home to my apartment and cried all night long. I didn’t turn the lights on until 9pm, and even then I had no desire to eat or watch tv or do anything except mourn the loss of my sweet puppy whom I’d never see again. I couldn’t believe that she was just suddenly gone… that the last time I was home one month ago was the last time I would ever hold her, kiss her goodbye, tell her I loved her.

The next day was just as worse. I woke up feeling slightly normal—but like a brick hitting me in the stomach—I remembered that Nola being gone wasn’t a bad dream. I instantly started crying into my pillow and called my mom so we could cry on the phone together.

To be honest, I don’t think the pain we are experiencing after the sudden loss of our sweet Nola will ever go away. Perhaps it will dull over time and maybe my sadness over the time that was cut short with her will morph into happiness over the memories we were blessed with. But through the kind messages, phone calls, text messages, and loving thoughts that have all been sent my way these past few days I’ve realized that within heartbreak and loss, there is something beautiful. Through the tears and the aching in my heart, I still saw it. Here’s what I learned:

Perspective is everything.

When I spoke to my mom for the first time after hearing the news, she was incomprehensible. Crying so hard, pain spilling out of her voice like someone was physically hurting her. She kept saying, “I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry. I didn’t know she was outside.” I was heartbroken, shocked, and so unbelievably sad but none of those feelings turned into blame, not even for a moment. I would never in a million years think this was anyone’s fault. It wasn’t my mom or dad’s fault for letting Nola outside like we do every single day. It wasn’t the driver’s fault who wasn’t able to stop in time. It wasn’t that it was 5pm, and our street was busier than normal because it’s a connection to a service road. It wasn’t the squirrel running or wind blowing or whatever captured Nola’s attention at the exact moment that the car turned down the street. And here’s why.

In God’s timing, everything is exactly perfectly right. Regardless of what we may think is perfect, only God knows what our destiny shall be. He did write it all out for us before we were even born, after all.

The point is, you can never change God’s timing. No matter what. It doesn’t matter if Nola didn’t go outside that night. Or if the driver of that car left just a few minutes earlier. Or if there was nothing that grabbed Nola’s attention, leading her to wait patiently by the back door like she always does when she’s ready to come inside. Even if all of those things were slightly changed in some alternate universe that we could somehow edit, it was still in God’s will that He needed Nola up in Heaven more than we did here. And if it is in God’s will, then it shall be. (James 4:15)

I believe that with my whole heart and it is what brings some comfort to my endless tears and heartache. Selfishly, I wish Nola could’ve lived a life so long that she made the record books for oldest shih tzu to ever live, but unfortunately for us—God had bigger, more glorious plans for her. We will always remember her sassy snorts as she’d try to get our attention in place of a bark (because barking wasn’t lady like). We will never forget how much she loved to wear dresses. We’ll always remember how coy she was when she’d look up at you with the sweetest eyes. We’ll always remember how soft and cuddly she felt when she curled up in your lap. We will never stop loving her.

Life is so unbelievably short.

Don’t take anything for granted. Your time with loved ones, your happiness, your health, the sun shining on a beautiful day, your favorite song coming on the radio. If you love someone, tell them. If you hate that job, quit. If you have a dream that you’re pushing off, start chasing it. Don’t waste a precious second of this life because it will be gone way before we know it. Life doesn’t go according to schedule and we could never plan for the wonderful beauty or insufferable pain that may be in store for us.

The one aspect of life we can control? Our choices. We can choose to forgive easier. We can choose to send love to those who may drive us crazy. We can choose to give our loved ones a hug today, just because. We can choose to not care about what others may think of how we look, how we sound, or how smart we may seem. And most of all, we can choose to see the good in the most heartbreaking of circumstances.

I know I won’t get to see my little Nola girl again while on this Earth, but I patiently await the day she greets me at the gates of Heaven, swirling around my feet and jumping right into my arms. I’ve been talking to her a lot these past few days, and I pray that she can somehow hear me. If I could hold her and talk to my sweet baby one last time, this is what I would say:

Nola,

Words will never be able to convey my love for you. You were the sweetest pup our family could’ve ever asked for and the one thing I hope more than having you back is for you to be able to comprehend just how much you were loved. And still are.

I remember the first night Mom and I brought you home. We let you sleep in the kitchen with a baby gate blocking the door and we both slept on the couch just in case you needed us. In the middle of the night we both woke up and saw you sitting right in front of us, all 3 pounds of you having escaped the baby gate lockup you were sleeping in. It was like right then and there we all knew you were drawn to us, and us to you. You were destined for us. It was no mistake that God picked you to be our puppy and I believe that with my whole heart.

You were taken from us way too early, and though every moment we spent with you was sprinkled with love, I still don’t feel like I got to tell you enough how wonderful you made our lives.

Thank you a million times over for loving us so purely. You never held grudges, you never saw weakness, you never doubted that we would always be there. I wish I could be so pure of heart. You taught me to be soft and kind to everyone… and maybe a little skeptical of vacuum cleaners. I love you, I love you, I love you. I will never stop missing you.

xx