Ayla, my family dog, died at 2:30pm on July 20th, at 13-years-old. She spent the last four years of her life living with our longtime housekeeper, Elsa — aka. Ayla’s favorite person on Earth. Elsa was by her side for her last breaths, just as I hoped she’d be, just as Ayla deserved.
The day Ayla died (after crumbling into a sobbing mess, screaming “no!” while Aaron held me) I rushed over to Elsa’s home. I spent hours sitting with Elsa and her nieces and nephews — alternating between tears and laughter — as the WHOLE NEIGHBORHOOD came by to say their goodbyes to Ayla…
Including the old man that lives next door who told me the story of how Ayla would barge into his house everyday, walk straight to the “ice box” and sit there until he gave her a hotdog. He told me that Ayla would never eat it at his home, she’d walk away with it, sticking out of her mouth, and then eat on her front porch. Then there was the young super tough-looking dude who I’d probably be scared meeting alone at night, who told me that he’d really miss seeing Ayla every morning, as she and Elsa walked by him, on his way to work. And then there was Gordito, Ayla’s neighborhood dog friend, who paid his last respects with a white furry paw around Ayla’s still body.
This ended up being the last photo I took of Ayla about a month ago. This was her demanding attention from me as I worked on the couch. I will miss that huge smile of hers and her bossy Boston attitude.
Yesterday Elsa, her neice, and her four great neices and nephews came over to my apartment where we dug a grave and buried our special girl. We buried her because Elsa didn’t want Ayla cremated, explaining that Ayla was always so miserably hot, that even in death she couldn’t bare to put her through that kind of heat.
So Ayla is buried in a shady spot in my courtyard, where it’s always nice and cool.
I feel like every molecule in my body is filled with greif, weighing down my entire body so that every task, every thought, happens slowly and painfully and pointlessly. Except burying Ayla. That was one of the most pointed things I’ve ever done. There was something so immensely cathartic about it. After her death I felt so helpless. i had no idea what I could do, what I should do. And no way to make this better. But digging and digging and digging gave me a goal, gave us all a project that we could work on. And it didn’t matter that Elsa and I can’t really communicate with words. Because when we picked her up together and laid her in the ground, and Elsa handed me Ayla’s little Santa outfit to use as her pillow, we didn’t need words. Just tears and shared love and greif.
I remember when I bought Ayla from the pet store I worked at for a summer. I fell in love instantly and one of my first thoughts upon bringing her home was “Why did I do this? One day she will die and I will be devastated.”
I was right. I am devastated. But I realize that I brought her home so I could have those thirteen years with her. Thirteen years of laughing at her silly antics, listening to her sleepy snores, seeing the incredible bond that formed between her and Elsa, and thirteen years of suggles, licks, and love. And I know that even though I am, in fact, quite devastated and I never want to feel like this again… it was all worth it.
Ayla’s passing has left us all with a short, fat, black and white hole in our hearts. She will be missed as much as she was loved.
RIP Ayla, aka. “Ayla Baby,” “Ayla Wayla,” “The Way,” “Pookie,” “Pookie Pie”
April 17, 2000 – July 21, 2013