Today we went on our first outing with Bella since Mariah passed away. We went to Crissy field in San Francisco where we've taken them both many times and things were very familiar, yet very different at the same time. The sand, the pier, and the views were the same, but the dominant presence we've known for the last 15 years was missing.
Mariah was the bridge to our young, early life together. We got her a few months after we were married and had arrived in Omaha for my first assignment in the Air Force. Her boisterous personality was relentless in its energy and we could feel her presence at all times because she demanded our attention. Bella is the opposite in her approach to life, laid back, observant, a thinker, and extremely sweet. Mariah seemed to smile and radiate happiness at all times, while Bella often appears morose, coming to life at certain times, particularly when we take her to the beach.
We tend to project our feelings on our dogs, so it's hard to say if Bella is mourning the loss of Mariah. Certainly she's reading my recent behavior as peculiar because I am constantly in her face, seeking reassurance that she is OK and that she is moving forward when in reality I need the assurance for myself. The truth is she's probably happy she gets to eat out of the big bowl now and doesn't have to share the backseat with a manic personality.
Since I've really become heavily engaged in taking photos over the last 3 years, I tend to think in snapshots (framing, composition,depth of field,etc..). When I think of all the photos I've taken of our dogs over the years, nearly all of them have contained 3 dogs plus a human, so when I observed Nikki walking Bella alone for the first time it cemented for me the reality that this is how things will look moving forward. The shot of her and Bella walking down the path will be the anchor in my mind for when I moved into my mid-life. The young guy I see in those early photos with Mariah has changed, I need to accept that and move forward.
As we continued our day at the beach and Bella chased her stick and swam and frolicked, the sadness I'd been carrying over the past week began to slowly lift. As I watched her shake the water off her fur, smile, and challenge me to chase her, something occurred to me: Bella still has her life to live, she is happy, she is living in the moment, and she needs our participation.
Life goes on.....