Now I Understand Religion!

Yesterday my dog Mona went missing.  She has a lot of freedom, and in the warm months the door to my house is always open.  She normally doesn’t venture far, and seems to be a responsible creature – the kind that would remind her teacher that they forgot to assign doggy homework.  But the woods that surround my house are dangerous and full of predators.  I have lost 3 cats to the beings that reside in there.  Not to mention that down my road is a highway where a car could easily hit her.  Much like my other dog Chomsky… Gaia bless his soul.

I have had Mona for over 12 years, and was despondent at the thought of her demise. I didn’t think it was possible that someone would have found Mona and not called me, because surely her collar had the right tag on it – the one with my phone number.  I looked outside for her everywhere, but I knew she wasn’t out there.  Mona would never stay out that long past dark, especially in the rain.  It makes her hair frizzy.

When I went upstairs to bed all I could do was weep.  I have been sleeping with Mona every night for over a decade.  I missed her energy.  I felt so much loss.  At that point I could only assume the worst.  I had to come to terms with the fact she was gone.

I tried to meditate like I do every night, but the tears were relentless.  The thing about animals that I respect so deeply is that they have mastered something that humans still struggle with everyday – unconditional love.  I am sure you could argue that animals don’t really love humans, but are just kept alive by them so they are responding to being fed and given water.  But I think that anyone who has ever shared love with an animal knows of its purity.  To lose an animal is traumatic because they have been real friends to you.  I have cried countless times into Mona’s fur, and she has always comforted me with her eternal acceptance.

I looked at her little doggy bed and could barely breathe.  I didn’t get so say goodbye.  I felt so much guilt and sorrow.  I felt like since having The Munch I wasn’t as devoted as a doggy-mommy.  I used to take Mona with me everywhere.  When I lived in NY I would sometimes even stuff her in a bag and take her to yoga so we could go to the park after.  When the class would “om” and a howling would come from under a jacket in the back of the room I would act confused like everyone else.  Even though I knew it was Mona, being one with the universe, and wanting to “om” with the rest of the class to prove she was way more spiritual than us.

My dreams that night were so intense.  In it my friend Josh found Mona, and I was so happy, but then I would wake up and feel the emptiness of her non-pressence.  I fell back asleep and dreamt of my best friend Bitty who had died.  We were at her grandfather’s funeral, and she was giving this speech. But then it turned out that it wasn’t bitty after all.  But a hired Bitty. An actress who looked like her to play the part.  I woke up and all I could feel was loss.  The loss of Bitty.  The loss of Mona.  It was too much to deal with.

Then I thought of The Munch.  How was I going to tell her that our dog was dead?  We have talked about death in terms of bug carcasses we come across, road kill, and when we find decapitated mice that the cat has eviscerated.  But she has never experienced death with someone she knows and loves.  The Munch has yet to know loss on that level.

Thinking about telling Munch made me even more hysterical.  I remember as a child really wanting a dog, and my dad saying “no.”  I went up to his study and pleaded for him to reconsider.  Only when he saw the literal puddle of tears I left on his floor did he acquiesce.  But now I understand why my dad was so tentative.  It is not that he didn’t love animals.  He loved them too much. He couldn’t deal with their deaths, and he sure as shit didn’t want to deal with my dealing with their deaths.  My dad could anticipate the sorrow and he wanted to avoid it.  My childhood dog Fiona lived until she was insanely old because my dad spent thousands of dollars keeping alive.  Even after I went to college Fiona had her second surgery to remove her second eye so she could keep living.  She wasn’t miserable, mind you – just eyeless and blind.  My dad couldn’t let go.

But I get it no Dad!! Not only could I not deal with the death of Mona, I couldn’t deal with telling Munch.  When I woke up in the morning I desperately tried to think of what I could say to her.  I wanted to tell her the most fantastic story.  One where Mona was found by a group of fairies who loved her so much that the sprinkled fairy dust on her so she could fly and live with them forever.  I wanted to throw up and the idea of looking at her little face when The Munch heard this news.

After I decided on the most elaborate beautiful story I could tell my child, I started to think of religion in this whole new light.  Obviously mortality is devastating for adults, and dealing with the death of a loved one is traumatic.  Religion in many ways sooths this existential angst, and I think a life filled with belief helps a person cope with the unknown of death.  If we can picture that whomever we achingly adore is in better place, there is at least a sense of consolation and meaning.

Yet beyond the need for a grown person to come to terms with death, it is also something you have to rationalize to your child – the person you want to protect from pain more than anyone else.  I would almost tell The Munch anything to keep her heart from breaking.  And I can’t help but wonder that maybe religion, the force that millions of people have died in the name of, started as a story a parent told to their child to explain why their beloved pet was gone?

PS… Soooooooo it turns out that the tag on Mona didn’t actually have my number on it after all. Yeah…. So that happened. And a woman found her and brought her to the police station.  Note to self.  Get my number on that fucking dog.

(Photo credit: THE MUNCH!)