What Do I Do Now?

Learning how to live a fulfilling life after the loss of a partner.

Pooh

Finding metaphors for leading a better life, even at home.


I live in New York City, in a section called Yorktown, and have a Yorkie named Pooh. He is 14 years old, has high blood pressure, diabetes and cataracts that have rendered him blind.

My life with him is no longer: walk my dog, feed him twice a day, love him up a lot and do my own thing in between, because he requires a great deal of care and attention all day long. I have to make certain he doesn't walk into walls, end up in a place he cannot get out of. I can no longer leave him to snooze on my bed, cannot give him the treats he loves and have to test his glucose level twice a day, inject him with insulin and feed him special food with added nutritional supplements. His biological clock goes off every twelve hours. I've tried to change his clock but he won't be put off. He wakes me at 4 a.m. and starts pawing at me at 3 in the afternoon to supply his craving for food. I have to be in bed very early, not easy for me, so I can get in at least a few hours of sleep before his little paw taps gently on my arm. If I have to be somewhere early in the morning as I did the other day for jury duty, I am what my mother used to call: washed out!

Three years after my husband's death I was finally ready to do some traveling again. And then Pooh was diagnosed with diabetes. In addition to all his problems, he has tremendous separation anxiety. The only person I can leave him with is a technician from my Veterinarian's office who can test and give him insulin. But he refuses to eat for her and he must eat to receive his insulin. So for the present I am at home with Pooh and that's just fine because I love him and want to give him what he has given me over the years, his loyalty and love.

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Pooh has been a large part of the answer as to why I have been able to get out of bed in the morning during the difficult years of my husband's illness and the aftermath of his death. He has licked away the wounds of my heart. He has comforted me on terror filled nights with his snoring and warm little body huddled next to mine. He craves company when he eats. I sit on the floor with him...he sits at my side when I dine in. We are getting crotchety as we grow old together. We were at one time the same age in dog years. He's ahead of me, now. Above all, he has made me aware that I can still love...deeply.

I look for metaphors for leading a better life in many places, even at home. Pooh has reinforced my own awareness that we have to carry on no matter what comes our way. He can no longer see anything but shadows but he will make his way using his heightened ability to sniff out the path to wherever he wants to go. He doesn't whine or complain. But he knows when to ask for help. He barks when he's stuck in a place he can't get out of. He still enjoys his little pleasures, food, chewing on toys, and biting the Vet. His love for me is unconditional. If I have a crying jag as I did the other day when I found an abused puppy that died soon after, he all but did himself in trying to get to me, licking my tears away and staying by my side until I had calmed down.

Too often, I find myself looking into his round, sweet, brown eyes and begging: "Please, my darling little Pooh, don't leave me. Let's go together. I don't want to live without you."

Loving is hard because the possibility of loss is always present. That's why love is so precious and why I'm enjoying every minute I am privileged to have and love Pooh.

Sheila Weinstein, writer and pianist, reinvented her life after the death of her husband of 50 years, which led to her book, Moving to the Center of the Bed.

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