One evening, I arrived home from a gig in the city to see Duchess in our living room slowly rise from her napping position on the floor to greet me at the top of the stairs. Each move as she unfolded her legs, propped herself up, and walked towards me was more deliberate and painful looking than usual. I ached for her and gave her a reassuring pet, then walked to the bedroom to put down my things.
When I came back into the living room, I was struck with terror at the site. Duchess was panting uncontrollably and I will never forget the glazed over look in her black eyes as I desperately tried to comfort her. Immediately, Eddie and I carried her to the car and drove to the nearest animal emergency room. I sat in the back seat with her head in my lap, stroking her narrow face as she struggled for each breath. It was rush hour in New Jersey on Route 17, Translation - backed up traffic for miles. My sense of panic and urgency was uncontrollable as Eddie weaved in and out of lanes making every effort to reach the hospital in time.
We were about 2 minutes from our destination – salvation in my mind – when my hand that was stroking Duchess’s chest and stomach no longer felt a heart beat. Her eyes were closed. She had stopped breathing. She was gone. Our frantic efforts had been in vain and we sat in the animal hospital parking lot grieving for our lost friend.
The next few weeks were difficult and strange. A member of my family no longer lived in my house. I no longer heard her footsteps behind me as I moved from room to room. I no longer walked in the morning to get my coffee because she wasn’t there, needing her morning exercise. I thought I would never get used to her not being with me.
After some more time had passed, my husband surprised me with a new, beautiful, baby Sheltie puppy. I found her hidden in the bathtub, curled up, waiting for me with a big red bow around her neck. I scooped her up with tears in my eyes knowing that I needed her, and she needed me. I named her Joy.
I’ve had Joy for a month and a half now. We have walked every day, traveled, and I even took her on her first jog with me (she doesn’t quite understand the concept yet). Between the potty training, the feedings, and the vet appointments, she has become my constant companion and comfort.
On days like today when I feel a little down and I miss my family, my husband, and my friends, she always makes me smile. When I am alone in my apartment, searching for gigs online, sending out headshots and resumes, and thinking success may never find me, she is there at the end of the day to lay her head in the crook of my arm, trustingly close her eyes, and release a tired sigh of contentment. Sometimes in order to heal, you just need a little Joy.