Denver (Big D) Stewart
Learning to write about things really close to you heart is hard, I'm finding. It seems that the most personal of experiences are the hardest to do justice. I have so much going on emotionally in my head and my heart that getting it on paper seems stuttered and detached. From all my acting years, I know that when you use the most personal things from your life to fuel a character and a scene, the more truthful a performance will be. Translating that skill to my writing is proving to be a challenge. I think it has to do with the fact that in acting, I used my whole body to communicate emotion, in writing it's all words. It feels like I'm spending so much time in my head when I'm trying to pull information from my heart.
However, I had a very special life with Denver and her passing shouldn't go untold, so here goes...
in 2001, Denver came into my life like a bullet. I heard from my dog training teacher and mentor that someone from his class was looking to give up their Golden Retriever and would I be interested? Now, I wasn't quite ready - I lived in an apartment that didn't allow dogs - and I wasn't just going to take any dog that needed a home. It needed to be the right dog. I said I would meet her, but couldn't make any promises.
The day they came to class, she came barreling up to me and, with the risk of sounding a little like a crazy dog person, I will say I knew that she was The One. We didn't have a make out session or plan to marry, but I knew that she was not only the right dog for me, she was the perfect dog. She then spent her lifetime proving that fact over and over until the minute she died last Friday.
Denver did a multitude of things over the past decade that made my life better:
1. She gave me someone to come home to and be responsible for. Living single in LA with nothing to ground you can be a challenge - it's not all Entourage and 90210 - you can lose yourself easily. So, with her in my life I was slowly becoming a better person who was beginning to grow and thrive again.
2. She was a partner in crime for all things dog appropriate and that was a lot in LA. We did brunch, hiking, agility class, and time at the park.
3. She taught me to be a better dog trainer. My mentor was leading me, but she was who I went home with to try out all that I was learning. She let me make mistakes and not have it ruin her. She communicated when my frustration was too much, not by acting out, but by walking away from me to let me cool down.
4. She helped me prepare to be a parent. She showed me that impatience actually hinders the learning process and does harm to relationships. Her reaction to my emotions informed me on how they could hurt those in my home. At the same time, she never carried that lesson into the next moment.
5. She weathered so many tears and provided a body to hold on to when my sadness was too much for me to take alone.
6. She loved my son in his first two years in the best way I could have asked. ...and anyone whose had kids for the first two years knows it's not the golden years for kids and dogs.
Her last week was shocking to us in that she hadn't really shown any signs until the day she turned down food. I knew there was something deeply wrong because she had never --- I mean never --- turned down food before. From that day, things went south very quickly. In fact, the vets didn't get a definitive diagnosis of liver cancer until 24 hours before she left us on her own terms.
After I got the diagnosis, there was some hope that she would rally with the help of some steroids for a little while, but the next morning, it was clear to both my husband and myself that there would be no last trip to the beach for us to catalog in our memories. We called the vet to tell him it was time, and he cleared the end of his day for a goodbye at my home. Five minutes before we were expecting him, Denver took her last breath in my lap. It was yet another gift that she has given me.
We will miss her. We do miss her. Like crazy. There's a hole in our home that won't ever be filled for sure. ....but I do subscribe to the idea (as a friend of mine wrote to me) that "with and in her death, there will be new life and growth," and I look forward to see what comes next. I only hope it does justice to the memory of my golden girl.