A year ago, on Valentines Day, I lost my dog. I didn't say much about it to anyone. In fact, I avoided spreading the news. My father was the one in charge of that and when people asked me about it I just said that, indeed, I was very sad and it had been a shock to all of us, but I was glad he had gone in peace. No big texts, no memorials. Wherever I had a profile picture with him, I left it there. I even postponed the matter of what to put over his grave until it was forgotten, with only a few herbs growing around it. The impression most people had was that I had had a quick recovery, and though sometimes it does feel like I'm perfectly fine with what happened, there are moments when I wonder if I haven't been in denial this whole time. It comes and goes and the denial gets me by surprise. Once, around May, the coach asked me why Indi didn't come to watch me practice anymore. I don't remember what I said, but I lied. Coming back home, in December, I had goosebumps that he would be there waiting for me. And that's why, after one entire year, I'm writing my testimony over what happened. Maybe there's something I still have to take away from my chest, and written words have that property of turning real whatever it's that they're saying.
We had just come back from a trip and I would have two entire weeks at home before starting University in Brazil. We got home and went to sleep, Indi lying in the corridor with his somewhat comforting snore filling the night. The next day, a Sunday, I went to the movie theater with a cousin while my brother took him to the beach. I didn't feel any kind of regret, I didn't think I was missing any opportunity. After all, I still had two weeks and I would take him to the beach each and every single one of these days. I couldn't tell that Indi would have a heart-attack while swimming and that my brother would be left to deal with it alone. I couldn't tell that that would be a day of last-times. Now, I don't know what is it that I feel when I think about these events. Is it guilt? At some level, yes, but there's also a small, maddening, barely conscious hint of envy. I wish I had been at my brother's place almost as much as I'm relieved I didn't have to witness it. I wish I had been there to bid him goodbye, because in my pride I believe that neither my brother nor my father loved him as dearly as I did. Isn't this complete nonsense? It's a choice I would never make, I'm too cowardly for that, but I have no control over the ideas which happen to cross my mind. I'm torn by conflicting thoughts and I wonder how I would have had that moment be. There's no answer. There's no right manner for one to go away. But how deeply I wish I had been given one more week.
In thousands of years of human thought, the one sentence that best describes what I felt when I heard about Indi's death is still Lemony Snicket's. "It's a curious thing, the death of a loved one... It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there's one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there's a sickly moment of dark surprise". This line has been with me since I was 6 and, looking back, it's the only one that fits. There's something, though, that Snicket didn't mention: it's not just one moment. Your foot keeps falling down, as your mind, too used to taking some things for granted, tricks you over and over again. The water-bowl, the collar, a hair, his favorite resting place, arriving from dinner. The urge to ask, away from home, how he's doing. For a month I didn't enter my parents room, afraid of not finding him there. But there's no avoiding these scares and time will allow them to occur less often. Suddenly, there's no more sand in the house, no more need to beware food on lower shelves, no more stopping my reading to take an excited ball of fur outside. He used to put his paw on my leg, begging for attention and food, mostly food.
The first week was a nightmare. My brother and I kept building a giant lego, not sharing a word, only trying to mechanically occupy our minds. To sleep was to forget, and to wake up was to fall again. It was the first true grief both of us had ever experienced. Then I decided to write. Not about his death, but about his life, and though I found some comfort in it, maybe it was just another manner to trick myself. I would write letters addressed to him and talk about his time as a puppy. I stopped when the chronological order brought me to one of his diseases, not only because these were bad memories, but mostly because then I would have to admit how absent I had been. The grown-ups dealt with such problems, not the children. And I wished my parents had forced me to take part. I wished I had been imposing enough to bend my mother's prohibitions. It seemed I had been with Indi during his brightest hours, but absent on his darkest ones. And then there was the matter of how relieved I was that he was gone. One night, on his last January, I sat with him and cried. I cried because I was going to study abroad and didn't think I would be able to do it if every time I came back home, I would just find him older and sicker. A shapeless, wordless thought floated, of how easy would it be if he were simply gone one day, painlessly, before my own depart. But I always imagined we would have said goodbye.
I'm well now. When I think about him, I try to remember solely the good moments, and anyone who ever met him knows how many there are. I can now look at his pictures with only a healthy hint of melancholy. But that's 80% of the time. There are waves that come and go and there's no stopping them. Then, the pain of the day he was gone will still be pretty much alive, and last month I found myself in complete despair, not identifying any change at all on the way I felt. It was then that I realized I hadn't said goodbye, and it was then that I decided to write this declaration. And yet I can't say the words. I don't know if I'm forcing this mourning upon me as a way to compensate for whatever it's that I didn't do while he was alive, if it's my way to prove to myself that I indeed did truly love him. But didn't I? Of course I did. And the occasional grief reminds me of that. So, after all, I'm not saying goodbye. Maybe one day I will be ready, but for now, I'll just let it be; and despite of how easy and tempting it's, I won't imagine that Indi is at home.