in which some comfort is found

I saw Ferris' empty dish last night when I fed Riley, and it unleashed an agonizing wave of sadness so overwhelming, I dropped to the floor in our living room and cried as hard and as long as I ever have in my life.

After she was finished eating, Riley came over to me and sniffed at my face. Through my tears and gasping sobs, I told her it was okay, I just missed Ferris a lot and I was sad.

She rubbed her face against my cheek and trotted into the family room. A moment later, she returned with her soggy tennis ball, which she gently put into my lap. She looked up at me, and then walked into the corner of the family room, where she picked up her rope – her favorite toy, which she brings with her to the front door whenever we come home – and brought it over to me. She set it on the ground next to me, and then laid down and put her head in my lap. I cried for a good long time, but I was comforted by Riley's actions, even if I'm projecting my own feelings onto her. I felt like she could tell I was grieving, so she brought me the things that make her happy, before letting me cry on her until the fur on her neck was soaked with my tears. When I finally stopped, mostly because I was physically and emotionally exhausted, I felt a tiny bit better. 

Anne is out of town and Ryan went back to school last week. This is Nolan's first major loss, and I haven't wanted to burden him with my own grief, so other than emails from friends and comments on my blog, I've been essentially alone with my pain the last three days. It's been incredibly difficult, and I'm glad Anne is coming home this afternoon, so I'll have someone to cry with.

128 thoughts on “in which some comfort is found”

  1. Wil, I don’t think you should hide your grief from Nolan. If this is his first major loss, he may not know exactly how to feel, what’s “okay” to feel. If he sees you grieving, it might help him to grieve as well. He loves you, and I think he can bear more of your “burden” than you realize. Pain shared is pain divided. I totally understand your wanting to shield him from your naked humanity but truthfully, I think it would help him with his own grief if he experienced and shared your pain.
    Extra treats to Riley for being such a pillar for you! As others have said, you ARE NOT projecting. She knows you’re sad and need comforting – that’s why she brought all of her favorite toys to you and rested with you. She’s sad too, and being near you probably brings her comfort as well.
    Glad to hear that Anne will be home to enfold you in comfort and that you’ll be able to hold each other and cry. Emails and such can be lifesavers [it’s really what pulled me through when I was experiencing my loss] but there’s nothing like being able to cling to someone and sob.
    This whole thing is a process of surviving minute by minute. Thank you for sharing yourself and all your minutes with all of us.

  2. Oh, Wil, do cry. Cry with Nolan. He needs someone to cry with, and he needs someone to show him that grief is all right. I lost my kitty Mikhail Baryshnikat (Misha) 25 years ago or more, and I still cry. He was the only friend I had in the *world* at the time, and it crushed me. Two years ago I lost my dog Kaila, and I miss her, too. So hugs to you and yours.
    They say when you give birth, you have to tell the story at least 20 times to be at peace with it. I think that’s true of any intense experience. So tell Ferris’s story, until you’re at peace with it. If it’s 20 times or a hundred, it’s grief, and it’s all right. Massive hugs to you.

  3. Wil,
    You have a heart of gold. I’m sorry you’re hurting so much. Any of us who have lived and loved with a dog will agree you aren’t projecting anything at all. If a human has evolved the ability to read the emotions of a dog, it’s silly to think that in all these millions of years dogs don’t have a similar skill. If she knows when you’re happy, and when you’re angry, she knows when you’re sad.
    I’ll be thinking of you and your family.

  4. So sorry. Been 2 years for me, now, and your post hit me in the heart. Right there with you.
    It’ll suck till it doesn’t. Most of my memories are met with fondness instead of pain, now, but I didn’t realize it right away. The hardest part, still, is coming home.
    Share your grief with Nolan. It’s just as important to share the bad along with the good. This you won’t regret. It will help you both.
    Heal soon.

  5. Riley knew her packmate/family hurt and did what she felt she could to cheer you and let you know she loved you and was there for you. How amazingly wonderful a gift.

  6. Wil,
    I’ve been following your last couple posts, and really only now have been able to reply.
    Our “once in a lifetime dog” died last year and I can completely understand what you’re going through. The really special ones are as close as family, heh, they are family. And I’m very, very sorry for your loss.
    My fiancee at the time remarked at one point that it’s so unfair that we humans have such longer lifespans than our dogs. I told her then something that did comfort her. Can you imagine our dogs without us if we were to die first? Would we want to put them through that?
    Our caring for our dog, for 13 healthy years, throughout his long decline, daily intravenous fluids, carrying him up and down the stairs for walks, the agonizing decision to say goodbye at the vet, and our grief which continues to this day is what we owe them, for the unconditional love and joy they bring us in their all too short lives.
    Know that your pain is shared. Not just for our own losses, but for your loss as well. Unlike Conan, I know you will cry for your loss, but I too will cry for you.
    All the best.

  7. Wil
    My heart goes out to you for your loss. I am greatful to you for the degree to which you are able to express the experience of your grief for your departed friend. Sharing your emotions with all of us using your gift for word is a remarkable gift. As time eases the onrushing waves of sadness, I wish you nothing but happy memories of Ferris.

  8. Hey Wil,
    I believe Riley sensed your sadness and wanted to comfort you. I believe any dog or cat (or any pet) can sense what we are feeling and so they respond in kind. Riley wanted to make you feel better and provide some comfort, so she got the things that made her happy in hopes that you could be comforted by the items. Keep your chin up Wil, I know it’s hard, but you WILL get through this. My thoughts are with you guys.

  9. Wil, I don’t think you’re projecting at all… and I’m glad to hear that Anne is coming back today. Sending you some well wishes and hugs. It’ll get better with time (as hard as it seems to hear right now).

  10. Ah, man. I lost my aged 14 lab over three months ago and I’m still not over it. Sometimes I think about him while I’m going to sleep and I start crying. The other night I was reading Robert McCameron’s “A Boys Life” and the protagonist’s dog dies in it. It broke me up. The holding and whispering in the dog’s ear portrayed in the book was too similar to my experience in having to euthanize my dog.
    My heart goes out to you.

  11. Wil, my heart goes out to you and your family for your loss. I’ve been reading and re-reading your posts, trying to formulate just the right response, but there are no words. I lost my Maine Coon baby four years ago, and your last few posts have brought the grief back nearly fresh as new. I so understand how you’re feeling and what you’re going through. I’m glad Anne will be back soon – nobody should have to go through this alone. Although, really, you’re not alone – you and Nolan have each other. I think you’ll be surprised how much of your strength he’s got in him, if you’ll just share this with him. Let him be there for you like you’re there for him.
    In the meantime, go through your grieving process however suits you best. Know that the grief will always be with you, but it *will* get better over time.

  12. You’re not crazy or projecting, your dog can definitely tell when you’re sad. Mine can as well. It’s not like they’re people and they’re sympathizing with you or something, but they recognize your abnormal behavior and it triggers some level of response in them, like they’re concerned about you.
    Dogs certainly have some level of emotional response, and I don’t think it’s crazy or psycho to believe they do. All animals experience fear, and anyone who owns a dog knows they experience joy and excitement as well. They may not be as deep or complex as human emotions, but they’re definitely there, so I think your dog is bummed that you’re bummed and wants you to feel better so that he/she can feel better too.

  13. Dear Wil,
    I am so, so, so sorry for your lost.
    Reading your last three days of posts has brought back the lost of my dear cat, Ms. Eby (who was a neutered male, long story)and my stomach and heart lurched. My eyes teared up from understanding the pain and sadness that you are feeling from losing a member of your family.
    Whether it’s Riley sharing her toys or your virtual community/audience,you are not alone. The overwhelming grief will pass, just not the memories of Ferris. Hang in there.

  14. I’m so so sorry for your loss, Wil. I had to put my dog, who I’d known since I was in junior high, to sleep years ago, and I still feel sad about it, but I also smile to think of all the good times.
    Don’t hide all your grief from Nolan. This being his first major loss, he needs to learn that it’s OK to mourn. If he sees you being all brave about it, he’ll feel like he has to do the same and bottle up rather than letting out. I never saw my father grieve, and thus I had trouble grieving properly when he died.

  15. Hey Wil,
    Not sure if this helps but I’m reading “Just a Geek” for the second time and I just finished the part about when Anne (actually both of you) “Saved Ferris”. The fact that she came around from being extremely depressed to being such a happy dog in such a short time is a testament to how much love you guys gave her and how lucky she was to become a part of the Wheaton Family. You guys did a wonderful thing and made what would surely have been a miserable existence for her into a great 8 years of life. Who knows how long she would have lasted if Anne didn’t pick her up from that bus stop but I don’t think it would have been 8 years. I’m sure you’ve already had this realization but I just wanted to make sure.
    Hang in there!

  16. I lost my dog, Napoleon, after 10 wonderful years together. He was ripped from me so suddenly (run over), and it was very difficult to be with. Those of us here who have pets understand every emotion that you are going through. Pets ARE a part of the family – they don’t hold grudges, they don’t start drama, and they love you unconditionally. They are friends and companions, and when we lose them, we lose parts of ourselves.
    Riley seems like a wonderful dog as well. She is grieving with you, really, you aren’t just imagining this. When one of my dogs ran away, my female dog was so struck with grief that she didn’t eat (or really move) for days until we found him. She sat by the back door, looked for him in the yard, and did so many other things that made me understand how emotionally complex dogs really are.
    All of our good thoughts are with you as you go through this.

  17. Wil,
    I know exactly how you feel. I lost Max, my black lab in 2003(he was almost 15), and it seemed like I cried for weeks, and I probably did. Greg is right; the grief never goes away, but it does get better eventually. He’s also right when he says you are not alone.

  18. It gets better as time goes by, but of course there is the wave of sadness that washes over and then it’s over as soon as it started. Even after 2 years of losing my 17 year old Charlie, I sometimes stop and think about funny things he would do when I was sad, depressed or even in pain and then I have to smile, because it was something precious that I will never experience again with him. Hang in there Wil and remember the good times and even the crazy times you had with Ferris and cherish those memories. If you and Anne have to hold each other and weep for Ferris, go for it. Ferris came into your lives for a reason and a purpose and it was time for her to leave. You gave Ferris something special when you brought her into your home. We’re here for you.

  19. Wil-
    A dear friend lost their dog this past weekend, and between that and this, I’ve been too upset on behalf of other pet owners to comment…I’m sorry for that. But I’m here now to say that I, too, send my most sincere sympathies, and I understand.
    You are not alone in this, and together you and yours will get through it. Hang in there. Much love.

  20. Crying again. I closed the office door this time.
    Maybe Nolan needs comforting as much as you do? I remember my first major loss, being bewildered when my grandpa died because I never saw my dad cry, and he never said anything. It was actually kind of scary. Of course, I was a lot younger than Nolan, so maybe it was just my age that made it seem that way.
    In later years, my dad told me that he never knew how to handle grief, and he didn’t know how to offer us kids comfort that he couldn’t find. He still doesn’t, but he does at least talk about it now.
    And no, I don’t think you’re projecting – I think Riley feels how much you hurt, and wants to make you feel better. A rope is as good as a hug.

  21. Wil,
    I have faithfully followed your blog for a long time now, but have never left any comment. With the sad announcement of your loss, I just had to register and log in to say how sorry I am. I know your grief is very real and Riley knows it too. Dogs are very in tune with us, and they know. There just aren’t any words to really express sorrow here, but the best I can do, is say I’m so sorry your beloved Ferris has passed. I hope you, Anne, and your sons will find peace with this soon.

  22. This is really a difficult time. I am so sorry, Wil. You’re not alone. Many people keep you and your family in their minds and share your feelings.

  23. Our pets are amazing creatures aren’t they? Somehow they know just how we’re feeling and respond accordingly. I’m sorry to hear of your loss and I’m sure Riley shares in how you feel as well. I don’t know if I’d handle the loss of my 5 year old friend very well either and I thank you for sharing and having the openness to share your tears with us. God Bless you Wil.

  24. I would really encourage you to involve Nolan in your grieving process. He’s going through this too, and I can tell you from experience that shared grief is so much more bearable than grieving alone. There is a feeling of loneliness, of “I am the only one that feels this pain” that comes with grief, and being able to connect with someone else who is grieving over the same thing alleviates that. And remember that he might be feeling that same thing.
    And besides that, having someone around to reminisce with you and talk about the good times makes everything better. My grandma passed away a couple of years ago and one of the most loving moments my family shared was the wake the night before her funeral, when friends and family and former coworkers gathered around and told stories about Grandma and cried and laughed together. It was a very healing moment for me and it brought us all closer together.

  25. Wil, Knowing that nothing but time can alleviate your grief, perhaps reading about another’s wonderful companion could offer some comfort now. Dean Koontz released a book today (I think), A BIG LITTLE LIFE: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog, about his family pet Trixie (see: Dean and his wife are supporters of Canine Companions which is a wonderful organization that might interest you.
    Wishing you peace.

  26. I’m so sorry for your loss. Reading your first post, I cried. I don’t know if that makes me over emotional to cry for an internet stranger, but I did. Years ago, we lost one of our dogs to a heart attack. He was also a rescue, and 8 years old. We only had him for two years, but I wouldn’t trade those two years for anything.
    The only problem with pets is they just don’t live long enough. They enrich our lives in so many ways, and that makes the loss so much more painful.
    Having another dog around helps. When we lost the aforementioned dog, my parents and brother took him to the vet, I was home alone with our other two dogs. I pulled them onto the couch and cried and cried, knowing that he wasn’t going to come back. Having the others helps you feel that you’re not alone. The dogs know, they feel the loss, they grieve.
    Losing a pet is a terrible pain. At least know that you are not alone.

  27. You know your family better than some random stranger on the internet, but sometimes the best thing for a grieving teenager to see is a grieving adult. It lets them see they aren’t going crazy, and that they aren’t alone either.
    We’re “here” to listen, that is after the point of a blog.

  28. Wil,
    I’m glad that we can help you. I know it’s not the same. Even though you don’t want to burden Nolan, maybe you should let him see the pain lest he think that holding it in is “manning up”.

  29. Animals grieve the loss of their fellow housemates. I lost my sweet little kitty this last May to heart disease after a three-month struggle. Our other kitty was very upset at losing him; our vet told us to expect her to grieve after losing her lifelong housemate, and she was right.
    Wil, I’m so sorry you lost Ferris. Sudden loss is never easy. Then again, loss, slow or sudden, isn’t easy. I’ve had it both ways, and both were heartbreaking in their own way.

  30. Wil,
    I am so sorry for your loss. Having experienced the loss of both human and animal loved ones, I should be more adept at offering my condolences. But I’m left struggling to find words that I feel will bring you solace. A very close friend once told me that each time we think of a loved one who has passed on, what is really happening is that they sent their guardian angel to check up on us. I’m not an overly religious or spiritual person, but for some reason, this brings me comfort. Each time my mother (who passed on 12 years ago) or my beloved cat Sunny, slips into my thoughts I remember my friend’s word and say silently, “Tell her I’m o.k.” Perhaps, Wil, all those times in the last three days when Ferris slipped into your thoughts, she was checking on you… just to make sure you’ll be o.k. I have never met you or your family, but you are so skilled at painting a picture with words, that I feel I do know you all. So I am confident that you will draw on each other’s strengths to get you through this tough time. I’m very glad that Anne will be with you tonight, since she knows, loves and understands you like no one else can. Let her comfort you. I will be thinking of you tonight as I watch Leverage and wishing you comfort and peace.

  31. In my experience, animals are incredibly good at comforting the grieving. Riley did what she could, and it helped.
    Condolences to all of you as you deal with the loss of your family member.

  32. Oh, Wil, honey, you didn’t tell us you were alone. I am so sorry you had to do this all by yourself. You and your family are in my thoughts.

  33. I so feel your pain. We are on the verge of loosing our 13 yr dog Lucky. (This will be my 2nd Dog loss) I will spare you the painful details; and they are painful; but by sharing our pain I know it lessens it by a small measure. I do want to thank you for your continued courage in letting us all share your life; the good, bad, happy, and the VERY SAD… If words could heal a broken heart yours would have been healed a thousand times over by all of us here, but only love, family, and time can heal a broken heart.
    Thank you again for all that you give us: Your precious time and immense talent.

  34. Wil, not to be bossy or anything, but don’t deny the grief your family (including Riley) shares with you. Sometimes when one is grieving it’s true that one wants to be left alone, but I hope you know that Nolan probably needs to share grief with you. Grief shared isn’t necessarily grief multiplied, you know?
    My sincerest good wishes to you and yours.

  35. I believe that Riley knew that you needed comfort and was doing what she could to support you. When babies cry in our house my dog brings them his toys in an effort to comfort them and stays near until they stop. Well, he does this for visiting babies – not the one that lives here.
    I am so sorry for your loss. Dogs are part of the family and losing them is just plain awful. Ferris was very lucky to be in your family and lucky to have the coolest dog name ever.

  36. I wish I didn’t know exactly how you feel, but I do, and I’m truly sorry for your loss. This is beautifully said. Thank you for sharing and I wish you all the comfort you can find.

  37. Wil –
    As I watch your “Leverage” episode (you look great, by the way) and read your blog, I really wish I could email you my MySpace blog entries from October 31, 2006 through the next week or so. If it could help you with your grieving, I would. My wife had our dog Mackie before we started dating, and although he was a little kinda hesitant about liking me when we first met, he became my best friend. It got to the point that I couldn’t sleep or watch movies without him by my side.
    (I’m starting to tear up thinking about him just writing this, so bear with me.)
    I know how the loss can be, sir. It’s devastating. It’s like someone took a physical part of you that you relied upon so much every day. And that part of you brought you so much happiness and good times that you can’t imagine what life was like before or after they’re gone.
    Even though it’s been three years, I still miss Mackie intensely. We have two dogs who are very good and lovable, but I still think of Mackie often and wish he could see what our life is like nowadays. Still can’t hear Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” without crying immensely.
    I really wanted Mackie to meet our kids. At least your kids knew the joy that Ferris was capable of bringing.
    I and others like me are with you throughout this. Much love, respect and hugs.

  38. Puppy dogs know when the people they love are in pain. Many of us have been through the same situation and sometimes it’s of little consolation now but a little empathy can go a long way. Your days will get brighter soon.

  39. I’ve typed out comments to your last three posts and then deleted them. I lost my 10-year-old cat this time last year after a gradual and then sudden illness, so I know what this is like. Everything I read about losing a pet at the time said to be prepared for other pets to grieve, too.
    Mine seemed mostly relieved that the world’s bossiest, most entitled feline was no longer there. But they were also extra attentive to me, and both of those things were comforting in their own way.
    I’m very sad for you and your family.

  40. I’ve lost two dogs in the last 4 years, the most recent in March, and know the pain too well. Perhaps this quote will provide some comfort for you and Nolan–
    “In his grief over the loss of a dog, a little boy stands for the first time on tiptoe, peering into the rueful morrow of manhood. After this most inconsolable of sorrows there is nothing life can do to him that he will not be able somehow to bear.” –James Thurber.

  41. Animals live in the world of emotions. Riley’s trying to comfort you and share your grief. I’m very sad to learn that Anne wasn’t home when you lost Ferris and that you’ve been facing all this alone – well, maybe not alone, but with whatever comfort and support your internet friends can give you, and of course, Riley’s empathy.

  42. i’m sure you’ve heard all of this a thousand times, but i can’t tell you how much i understand. It’s been a year and a half and i still have moments where i miss him so bad and wish that i could just wake up from this long vivid nightmare in which he is nowhere to be found.
    It’s good that you have Riley with you so you don’t have to go through this alone.
    I have two children, myself, so i understand the need to ‘be strong’ for your children. Honestly, though, i shared my sadness with my children and let them know it was ok to cry and be sad and be angry. i also let them know that it’s ok to NOT cry or be sad or angry. It’s ok to smile and it’s ok to laugh. It’s ok to feel ok. It’s ok to feel whatever you feel – you shouldn’t hide it, just go through it and you will come out ok on the other side of it.

  43. Hi Wil,
    I wish I’d seen this sooner, but I was not reading your blog this weekend, as I was mourning, too.
    Last Thursday our cat, Elric, went into kidney failure and we lost him. Both of us spent many days crying; in fact, we’d both done so much crying on Thursday alone, we were both horribly dehydrated. I didn’t even know that was possible.
    I’m actually able to leave the house now without being sure I’ll lose it, but it’s still so fresh and hurty, especially in the mornings. I don’t know if this is some consolation to you, but reading your posts about Ferris have made me feel a lot better, that I’m not the only one who can weep so hard for a beloved furry family member.
    Thanks. I’m right there with you, buddy.

  44. Wil,
    I am so very sorry to hear of your loss. The hold of an animal’s love on your heart is especially great, as pets love unconditionally. I hope the memories grow sweeter and the days become easier. Riley knows you need her now more than ever and she will do her best to cheer you up. Again words cannot express how truly sorry I am.

  45. Wil, you say that you don’t want to burden Nolan with your grief, but in my experience, sharing grief is an important way for both people to cope. You both know what the other’s going through, know it’s okay to feel and express what you’re really feeling, and don’t feel any pressure to hold it in because you see everyone else holding it in.
    Deep condolences. It gets better, in the tiniest increments over a long period of time.

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