In Alan Wolfelt's "Mourner's Bill of Rights" he tells the mourner that they have the right to have "grief bursts." In my job I use Wolfelt's "Bill of Rights" often to comfort and give permission to the bereaved individuals I speak with but it has been awhile since I have used them for myself. As I am sure you can guess, that changed last week.
We have an 8 year old beagle Copper or "poor Copper" as we affectionately refer to him. We got Copper as a puppy from the SPCA to be a companion to our Jack Russell terrier (Quincey). Quincey was not adjusting well to Rhys entering our lives. If Quincey did not shape up we were going to have to find him a new home. He had been our first "baby" and after 6 years it was heartbreaking to think of adopting him out but his attitude with Rhys was undeniable. The vet told us that Jack Russell's were better as pairs or with other dogs of a similar size and so that is why in our infinite wisdom we got Copper.
Unfortunately the addition of Copper did not improve Quincey's demeanor and he was adopted by Landy's brother and sister in law. It was at that time that Copper got the name "Poor Copper" because it seemed that he could never live up to the legacy that Quincey had left for him.
Poor Copper is a great dog, it is obvious that he loves the boys, he is easy going and patient but he is also a glutton, adventurer, stubborn as a mule and smelly. We love Poor Copper but he will most likely be our last dog for a long time.
Last week I took Poor Copper to the vet for his annual check up. It had been a hectic week, problems with our daycare, a teething 17 month old, a husband working late, I was blissfully unaware of how run down I was. So with Kinley in the pack on my back, Ash holding my hand and Poor Copper on the leash we waited in the veterinary version of a patient room for the vet tech to come in and see us. When the tech came in she told us that her name was Julia and she was sweet, maybe 22 and cooing at Kinley and talking to Ash. We lifted Poor Copper on the table (all 50 pounds of him) and she started her exam asking questions about his diet, his routine and when she got to his mouth I mentioned to her that he had very stinky breath (probably from eating his own poo). She lifted his gums and I could see that they were bright red.
"Oh, he has some loose teeth here and by the looks of it an abscess."
What I heard in my tired state (which was never actually said) was "Copper needs to be put down due to a horrific case of gingivitis," and I began to sob uncontrollably.
"Oh, its okay, this is not uncommon for a dog his age," Julia looked so sympathetic and all I could do was nod my head as tears continued to stream down my face like a leaky faucet.
"It is nothing you did, we can get him in for some dentistry, clean up these teeth, remove a few and he will be just fine," poor Julia didn't know what to say and she thought that this uncontrollable burst of emotion was just because of Poor Copper's gum disease. The vet came in right at that moment to me still unable to speak, trying to suck my gasps back into my body and making an awful flump,flump,gah sound.
"She is very upset that Copper will need to have some teeth pulled, but I explained to her that it would only take a simple one day procedure and he would be as good as new." Poor Julia, maybe it was best to just let them think that was the reason for this grief burst. Not the fact that I had not celebrated my son's anniversary the way that I had wanted, that I had been juggling work, school, motherhood, supporting families through their own grief and all on an average 6 hours sleep.
The vet just patted my hand.
"Well Copper, I bet that even with loose teeth you will eat this dog treat!" The vet handed Poor Copper a Dentabone and Poor Copper made quick work of it and at that point all I could do was smile through the few remaining tears that trickled out of my leaky eyes.
I loaded the kids and the dog back into the van and as I sat in the driver's seat I became aware that I had really needed that grief burst, to release all the pent up energy, all the stress, the sadness so I could have a better day. Thank goodness for doggie dentistry!