There was nothing initially remarkable about February 26th, except that it was a Friday at seven AM and I wasn’t already en route to work. I lay in bed surrounded by darkness, chilly as usual. This day, however, suddenly felt abnormally cold. I went to bed the night before with bare feet, having habitually relied for the past twenty-something months on the warmth radiating from my furry bed furnace/ pup, Barça. While she did an excellent job of keeping my feet warm, they often grew numb anyway from her 60 pounds splayed out atop them. This morning, there was no furry furnace and my toes felt icy. My toes felt…My toes felt Barça's absence.
No alarm sounded. There was no high-pitched whining, no paw swatting at my legs, no tail flailing back and forth against my ankles. No beady little eyes happily greeted me when I finally opened my mine. I didn’t sit up and run my fingers through my pup’s soft fur while exclaiming, “Good morning!” in a sing-song voice, my way of conveying to Barça just how good the morning truly was because it had started with her. Barça wouldn’t patiently wait for one of us to pull ourselves from the bed and let her outside. Carlos and I wouldn’t scramble to herd her into one of our cars before chauffeuring her to daycare, or, over the past few months, to my office. There weren’t any pills to dole out or veterinary appointments to remember. We didn’t have anyone to feed this morning except for ourselves. This morning, for the first time in a long time, we weren’t parents.
We adopted Barça when she was around five-months-young, and us, in our twenties. Given my age, Barça’s pre-cancerous projected lifespan (a little over a decade), and Carlos and I’s future plans for a family, I never considered that we might experience another childless day during our lifetime. I reveled in the idea of perpetual motherhood. Now only mere hours on the other side of the inconceivable, I felt scared and lost, suddenly stripped of my identity. I was a mom. But what am I now?
It’s nearing three months since I lost Barça and I still struggle to understand how her death has changed me, but perhaps that’s because I’ve struggled to change.
I am still the same person who adopted a scared, stray puppy and devoted themselves to loving the fear, loneliness, and mistrust out of her.
I am still the same person who fully and unconditionally loved and treated their dog as though she were of their own flesh and blood.
I am still the same person who prioritized their dog above everyone else because she needed that love and attention most.
I am still the same person who handmade all their dog’s treats because it gave them so much joy to make something that she so obviously loved.
I am still the same person who got excited for rare alone time, only to spend it talking about or doing something for their dog.
I am still the same person who ran after their pup into oncoming traffic (after she freed herself from collar), threw themselves between their dog and an aggressive dog, and did a bunch of other inadvisable things because they felt an insuppressible, maternal instinct to protect their little one.
I am still the same person who loved to play with their dog after a long day of work because they knew that it would be the best part of her day and they loved being able to make her happy.
I am still the person who carried their fur baby everywhere when she couldn’t walk, even though that baby weighed more than half of their own weight.
I am still the same person who didn’t give up on their little one, regardless of her prognosis, the judgments of others, and especially, the significant emotional, physical, and financial sacrifices, which they gladly and unhesitatingly made.
I am still the same person who advocated for what was ultimately best for their little girl, even if that meant living the rest of their life with unimaginable sadness so that she wouldn’t have to suffer.
I am still the same person who made sure their pup’s last day on earth was the best of them all, even though it was the toughest day of their own life.
I am still the same person who cradled their baby throughout her final moments so that she left this world knowing and feeling their love.
Even though my baby is physically gone forever and I am no longer a mother in the sense that I no longer have a child, I will always be the person that she made me. No matter what I do and what my future holds, the life we shared will always be a part of me and continue to shape who I am. I was and will always be Barça’s mom.
Kate is Barça's mom, as well as the founder and content author of Barcelona & Company. When she's not doting on her adorable pup, Kate is a full-time art and architectural researcher and writer.