Empty Nest Emptiness

Empty Nest emptiness

When a guide dog has been at your side for the past eight years, anticipating your every move, responding to your every request, waiting for your next walk, treat, game, or tummy rub, and in one minute, it’s gone, the hole in your heart is all that is left, or so you think.

Memories of your pride in her remarkable skills at working, her joy in catching a ball by jumping up and grabbing it in mid air, her ferocious bark when the doorbell rings or a squirrel passes by the window, her patience when you were almost out the door when the phone rang or you couldn’t find your key, the expression of love and devotion on her face when she gazed at you, are also there and will be forever. No matter how many future dogs you will love, none will compare to this one you just lost. Your heart is broken, and you think maybe you should never have another dog, because losing her is too painful. But as you wake each morning without a greeting of a lick on the nose or a sniff in your hair, and all you feel in that room is emptiness. And when you think you heard a flapping of ears or padding paws on a carpet, you wonder if her spirit is visiting you, or maybe it’s just the house settling. And now and then, for a split second, you think you should check on her water bowl, or you discover you forgot to put away her leash, or you find a ball under the couch.

In time, you admit that you really don’t like all this silence. You really want a dog to jump into your lap when it thunders, crawl into bed with you when she thinks you’ve rescinded the rule about no dogs on the bed, look up at you with imploring eyes when you’re eating something dogs shouldn’t have, back up to you for a scratch above her tail, jump up and down with joy when you return from being away, dive into her harness when it’s time for a walk, and walk proudly slightly ahead of you, because she loves her job, and she knows she’s the top dog in the neighborhood. You will tire of walking through your door without a leash and harness, talk to yourself and then feel foolish, because there is no dog to pretend to understand you. You will feel selfish when you lie in bed in the morning and then casually go about your routine that does not include taking care of a dog who depends on you for meeting her needs. You will feel lazy and depressed, because you aren’t taking walks in the sunshine. You will feel resentful when you climb on that treadmill, just to keep in shape for that magical day when you go back to training, and you are presented with the next love of your life. Each dog you’ve worked with over the last 40 years has been the love of your life at the time, but when you lose each one, your world comes crashing down once again. Mine did on April 3, when Dora died because of cancer. Since her diagnosis in November, I have dreaded this day. No surgery nor medicine nor prayers could make it go away. Now I wait for the next love of my life to be born, to be trained, and then be taught to be the next best guide dog ever. I pray that Dora’s spirit will be trotting right along with her, giving her tips on how to do it right. Dora got tips from Pippen, Sherry, and Mindy, all angels in Seeing Eye ® Heaven.

To see a photo of Dora and to read about the beginning of our journey together, go back to my entry on Feb. 24, 2014.

Mary Hiland


Author of

The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: a Daughter’s Memoir


Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life

Available from Amazon


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