Long Story Short: Resiliency and the what-ifs of grief

“Children are resilient that way,” my mom said this week.

She said that not too long after we broke the news to the girls.

Not too long after we dried their tears and gently separated their tangled hair from the drops rolling down their faces.

Not too long after they stopped lamenting on our shoulders and crawled out of our laps.

Not too long after they learned that Copper didn’t make it.

Copper was my parents’ much-loved dachshund. He ruled the roost.

Before I go any further, I will acknowledge my family’s awareness of real problems in the world. People are unemployed. Wars are waging. Disease is rampant. People are dying.

But for us this week, Copper overshadowed everything else.

The loss of him and his innocence fills my family with guilt and “what ifs.”

What if he wouldn’t have been outside when my dad and husband decided to take the boat down the river? What if he wouldn’t have gotten in the truck to meet the boating party? What if, in the process of loading the boat, there hadn’t been so much commotion, including people falling and a camera in the water? What if he wouldn’t have jumped out of the truck as they loaded the boat onto the trailer at Rotary Point? What if someone had noticed he was missing sooner?

If one detail had been different, I believe Copper would be sitting on the sofa beside my mother right now. I also know how useless that kind of thinking is.

We searched for Copper for four days. We put up signs. We went to the pound. We called the veterinarians in the area.

Finally, someone called.

I was dancing with joy as I yelled to my husband, “They found Copper.”

What I didn’t know at the time was that Copper had gotten into it with two big dogs. He probably approached them to play, what he did with my parent’s big dog and our own. They tolerated him just fine. Little Copper had no idea things could go so wrong.

Kind people went out of their way to help Copper. Someone I don’t know took the very injured dog to a vet they knew would help. The veterinarian, before his office connected the dots between my phone calls and this little dog, put Copper on a drip and tended his needs.

For four days, things improved. We thought he was going to make it. His back legs were paralyzed, but we were shopping for doggie wheelchairs.

Throughout the ordeal, the staff at Dr. Andy Plauche’s office was kind and loving — reminding me that compassionate medical care makes a difference for the patient and the family.

On Monday, just as my mom arrived from tending to my father after surgery, Copper took a significant turn for the worse.

She believes he was waiting to see her to die.

I don’t know.

But I do know that even though he was just a little dog — not even my dog, I am not quite as resilient as my children.

(Jan Risher’s column, Long Story Short, appears on Sundays. She can be reached at jan@janrisher.com.)

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