My dog, Miley, since June 4th, 2008, the day my family and I brought her home, was the sassiest being I’ve ever known. She always had impeccable timing, and she kept that trait until her very last day on this earth. April 28th, 2022 I had just gotten out of a midterm for my communications law class and was frantically Googling answers as I waited for my mom to pick me up. My heart sank more and more as each Google search resulted in me realizing I put the wrong answer. However, these moments would not prepare me for the way my heart would plummet when I got into the car and my mom told me that the people who were taking care of my puppy had to rush her to the hospital. I tried to be optimistic that she was going to be okay, she was going to bounce back, but less than two hours later I heard the news I never wanted to hear: that I had to say goodbye.
I was over 2000 miles away, and I couldn’t physically hold my dog one last time. I had to say goodbye to the most important thing in my life over FaceTime. When she heard my parents’ and my voices, she lifted her head up to look for us. My heart was happy that she knew I was there, but it also shattered because I wasn’t physically there. This awful day happened not only during Week 5 when I had four midterms, but three days prior I was in the emergency room overnight for a severe upper respiratory infection. My parents flew out from the east coast to take care of me. I begged them and begged them to let me fly to Georgia, so I could see her one last time before she crossed the rainbow bridge. But they were right: I was in no state to do a cross country flight, and my biggest fear of being trapped across the country during my dog’s final hours, something I prayed for years would never happen since starting at UCLA, had come true.
I cried nonstop for 48 hours. I took my Spanish midterm with tears in my eyes as I stared into that Respondus camera, and I have cried every day since. I am crying now as I write this. To be completely honest, this event has caused my whole life to spiral. Physically, I have recovered from my week 5 illness, but mentally, I am still a mess. I just want to stay in bed, I struggle to concentrate in class, I hate my law class because I associate it with her death, I don’t enjoy things like I used to anymore, my stress towards school and life has increased, my body image has declined, and every day I ask when the pain is going to go away. The smallest things tip me off — whether it’s seeing a place I took her when she visited on campus or seeing a Snapchat memory with her in it, I feel I am in an unpredictable spiral. Her little sweaters I used to dress her in have become my comfort items. I cuddle them as I fall asleep at night, I even stuff them in my backpack as I drag myself to class everyday, so I don’t have to be apart from them.
I keep trying to figure out how to cope. My friends and family have been extremely supportive and try to comfort me and distract me, and there are moments when I do feel happy or normal, but they don’t last long. I try to be kind to myself as I feel myself falling short of my responsibilities. I get things done, but I know they are not the quality they should be. My therapist tells me I need to be kinder to myself, to honor my grief and how my body is feeling whether it is not having perfect notes, sleeping through a class or asking a friend to reschedule if I’m not mentally feeling up for social time. I’ve been trying to do that, and while I’ve started to honor how my body feels, I’m still trying to maintain the guilt that comes after.
The pain of Miley’s death is going to take a while to dilute. She was in my life for 14 years, and I saw her as a sister. I took her everywhere I could, smuggled her into my dorm when she came to visit, spent way too much money on her, let her take over my bed and loved her even when she didn’t want anything to do with me. My family and I joked that she had cat energy and saw us as royal subjects, but I know she showed her love in different ways whether it was small tail wags or even just wanting to be in the same room as you even if she wasn’t necessarily on top of you. I will never forget in high school that she always came into my room at the same time every day to check if I was home (she didn’t care for me going to see her), and she would always change her pace a bit after seeing me laying in my bed to come say hi and then lay somewhere in my room. One day, I didn’t come home because I discovered after school I had a collapsed lung. I was in the hospital for five days. She laid in my room waiting for me and snuck upstairs a couple of times, once resulting in my grandma with a cane having to walk upstairs and carry her down. When I finally came home, I never saw her tail wag so much. She leaped onto the chair I was sitting in and didn’t leave my side for days. During her last visit to California, I took her to campus and she ran around like a puppy (despite having a bad knee and variety of other health problems), played with my friends and cuddled me all day the next day out of happiness and exhaustion. We had a special bond, and I will always love her.
I can’t write a piece on how to handle grief because I’m barely handling it on my own as I hold Miley’s clothes, look at pictures of her every day and dream of her at night. I start grief counseling soon, so maybe in a few months, I can bestow some advice, but not now. This piece was an emotional release for me, to show others that if you are also struggling this quarter that you are not alone. Pain, no matter what type, is a valid excuse for not feeling like yourself, and we can only wait for it to be numb. They say that pain is a result of love, and I am thankful to have loved Miley and have her love me. As I heal each day, I remember to be kind to myself, remember she is at peace and no longer in pain, and wait for the day when the pain feels a little more numb, my happiness lasts longer than a few hours, and I can go class without a sweater in my backpack. Until then, I take one day at a time, and I hope everyone who is struggling goes as well.