Tsuga Remembrance: Part Two

Tsuga’s last picture: His salute to Christmas 2011 (and my mom)

I will soon move on, on the blog, with more distance from last week’s loss. But at the same time, I want to make myself accountable to my small readership for this project–a readership that includes, perhaps, a disproportionate number of folks who have cared deeply for their animals, and for mine vicariously over the years at Fragments. I hope I can carry through to produce some final offering–most likely a digital book with many pictures–that celebrates the animals in our lives over the decades. I want to do it, and need to. And I think I could spend my time less wisely than this. In fact, I’m sure of it.

Forgetting is time’s way of healing. It leads to closure, we hope, but we never experience a perfect recovery from emotional pain,  never really return in our lives to the fiction we imagine as an antecedent “normal.”

The sequence of repair is not unlike the process by which a flesh wound grows back together. Intact edges of the painful cut pull closer as tough, fibrous scar tissue shrinks and tugs at the gap over weeks, months, years. The incision shrinks, the skin pinks up.

But recovery is slow and never full. The injury has memory, though it has been only a week–almost to the hour–when Tsuga began showing symptoms of a condition that would give us no choice but to put him down with an end to his own pain, and the beginning or ours–only a bit less sharp this moment than it was those first hours after he left us. Nature and the soul are at work, reknitting tissue that never entirely reforms like it was before the loss. And oddly, we covet the scars.

We don’t want full recovery, full forgetting, because diving beneath the surface of the pain of loss we submerge in and are carried back by a currents of wonderful memories. We find the tender places easily, and avoid them at first. But very soon, I will want and need to make myself remember.

Unless I take effort right away to make myself write out the story of who he was and who we were together, the memories that are still so painfully clear today will lose their crisp edges and color. They will fade just as he did so often moving away from us, off exploring into the mist in the pasture of an early spring morning, where he faded until his white shape finally disappeared, even though he was not far from us at all.

The mundane demands of the life we were living one week ago have not disappeared with your passing. One week later, we have just as many deadlines, just as many bills to pay and correspondence to return and chores around the place that did not stop after December 5 at 10 pm, even though it seemed right that the whole world should stand still–at least for a moment of silent recognition. And yet life goes on around us as if nothing had happened, no ripples move across the mirrored surface of any small pond but ours here on Goose Creek.

But I will tell Tsuga’s story, all of it–which is the story of our three labs going back to 1981–and will be willing to face both the joy and the tears these directed memories will bring. I promise I will not grow too busy over the holidays to make time to place a memorial of memory on the grave we chose not to give him. I admit some regret having refused the symbolic scattering of his ashes down Nameless Creek that we could have purchased from the emergency vet clinic.

But I’d rather send him off in words. I could not have come back to visit his ashes, and he was not in them. The words about his life, I can come back to, if I lay them down before they grow too dim to recall. And in the words, he, and the two that came before him, will live on.

Share this with your friends!

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

Articles: 3013


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Recording your remebrances sounds like a wonderful legacy for Tsuga. It will more clearly reflect the love you felt for him because it is in the form that you do so well.

  2. When you realize that the rest of the world didn’t feel the earthquake that rocked yours, I think it’s fair to say that it’s nearly as shocking as the event itself. How can they not have felt the loss of that soul?

  3. Everyone who has loved and lost a pet — and especially those of us who have had to face it more than once — look forward to remembrances of Tsuga. While painful, they also bring to mind some of the most special remembrances of the ones we’ve lost.

  4. Georgia, I trust this will be the case. it has been rewarding (while a bit sad) with Ann to dredge back into our lives w other pups, and turns out there are quite a few untold or partially told stories that would make for good tales in a book. We’ll see what happens.


  5. I forwarded, and will continue to forward, links to your Tsuga posts to my friend who just lost her lab to cancer. She really liked the first batch. What a good thing to do with your winter: write good stories about dogs you have known and loved.

  6. I purchased a pdf-to-coffee table book tutorial back in the fall, and am just now getting serious about wading through it. I think that, armed with the knowledge of where my “dogs of decades” book might go and look like, I’ll make some headway. Also pairing up w a couple of local writer guys starting next month, and should get some much needed butt-kicking to finish the thing.

  7. I’m so glad to have that picture with Tsuga. You know I loved him soooo much! He made me feel so loved and special, even though I knew he treated everyone the same way. The way he acted so glad to see me in the morning and would get up on the love seat with me–at my encouragement. You will love Gandy but she can never take Tsuga’s place.