Relationships/Separation/Identity and Dogs

I’m currently reading This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Ann Patchett’s latest essay collection. So fucking good. Here’s a passage that really resonated with me as I was reading at the laundromat today. It’s from a piece about the passing of her dog Rose.

I want to tell you that Rose was an extraordinary dog, bossy and demanding of attention, comforting in her very presence. Famously, she first appeared in the pages of Vogue fifteen years ago. She sat on my shoulder in book jacket photographs. When she was very dirty after a run I would tell her to go get in the bathtub, and she would. She once scampered onto the headrest of Karl’s parked car, made a vertical leap through the open sunroof, and ran across the parking lot, into the grocery store, and up and down every aisle until she found us. She was loyal and brave and as smart as a treeful of owls. By explaining her talents and legions of virtues, though, I would not be making my point, which is that the death of my dog hit me harder than the deaths of many people I have known, and this can’t be explained away by saying how good she was. She was. But what I was feeling was something else entirely.

I came to realize in the months following Rose’s death, months that I referred to myself as being in the ditch, that there was between me and every person I had ever loved some element of separation, and I had never seen it until now. There had been long periods spent apart from the different people I loved, due to nothing more than circumstances. There had been arguments and disappointments, for the most part small and easily reconciled, but over time people break apart, no matter how enormous the love they feel for one another is, and it is through the breaking and the reconciliation, the love and the doubting of love, the judgement and then the coming together again, that we find our own identity and define our relationships.