When you lose someone you love, it’s only natural to look for some way of blocking out the grief and relieving the pain, even at the risk of looking silly or finally confirming that you’re weird, bonkers, and totally insane. However, as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else and it gets you through a tough time without turning to drugs and other harmful things, I’m all for it.
That’s why I bought a surrogate Bilbo, who we’ve called FB or Fake Bilbo.
As you probably know by now, we lost our beloved dog Bilbo a few weeks ago, and our grief has been raw and painful. Although we have another dog, Lady is very different to Bilbo and not a surrogate…and she’s had to spread herself quite thin getting around four laps now that she’s the only dog.
We’ve also become used to having two dogs and Lady has never been an only dog. So, there’s been quite a lot of “adjusting” all round.
Not unsurprisingly, there’s been quite a lot of talk about getting another dog. In my last post, I mentioned how we’d resisted cute little Stella, and are waiting to get a Border Collie pup down the track.
However, all my resistance melted when I spotted this Border Collie in a shop. I had to have him. He looked so much like Bilbo. Moreover, when I picked him up, there was that immediate mix of longing and connection. I could bury my face in his fur and hold onto his paw, and it felt real. There was more than a lump in my throat, but I felt happy and that a layer of grief had fallen away and I could smile.
It reminded me of an old saying:
“If you can’t have the one you love, love the one you’re with. If you can’t love the one you’re with, turn out the light.”
What’s special about FB is that he’s not just an ordinary soft toy. Rather, he’s a “weighted toy” and weighs about 5 kilos. Weighted therapy is used by occupational therapists for people with Sensory Processing Disorder, autism, Alzheimer’s, but it also helps people who are grieving by providing something to hold onto during a time of loss. That added weight makes the dog feel real and the pressure I guess also acts a bit like a massage. While having a weighted dog to ease the grief of losing Bilbo is one application, my friend who had a still born baby was given a white teddy by the hospital to take home. Of course, nothing could compensate. However, that teddy is so much more than a memory, a something and has a place in her heart beyond words.
So, while I might feel a bit silly having a stuffed Bilbo, it works. AND, I can always say he belongs to the kids. Mind you, as we walked a long along the full length of town carrying FB, my daughter wasn’t carrying him. No! She was too embarrassed. It was me.
When I arrived home with the “new dog”, I made sure I warned the rest of the family. From a distance, FB really does look very lifelike and I didn’t want him to have the reverse effect and make them sad.
However, we couldn’t warn our other dog, Lady, who really has been missing her canine companion. When she saw him, she came running up wagging her tail. She was sooo excited and sniffed it all over for what seemed like eternity, before she gave up on it. Her mother was also a Border Collie, and she came here when she was two. So, it probably wasn’t just Bilbo she was thinking of.
By the way, Fake Bilbo has certain advantages over the real thing. He doesn’t need to be fed or walked and doesn’t poop or bark. Doesn’t steal your food off your plate or dig holes under fences to escape. He has very pat-able fur. FB doesn’t lick either, which depending on your point of view, could be a positive or a negative.
However, the bottom line is that Fake Bilbo can’t love you back like a real dog. As much he might look and even feel the same, he can’t look at you with those empathic, puppy dog eyes. He can’t see right through you with such compassionate understanding, that you know he can see straight through to the bottom of your soul. Humans rarely have such vision. Most are only waiting to tell you their own stories. Or, maybe I’m just being cynical. Of course, not every dog is capable of such understanding, but Bilbo certainly was. Mind you, he lived through some pretty intense times with our family and he went through all that as well. So, it’s not surprising that he understood difficult emotions. While Lady is a very loving dog and incredibly warm and friendly, she doesn’t have Bilbo’s intensity, his insight. At the same time, he never had her joie de vivre. I’ve never seen such a happy dog!!
Meanwhile, Lady is enjoying walks to the shops, although she proably wasn’t impressed when I tied her up outside the butcher’s the other day. She just told me that sniffing amb chops all the way home wasn’t much joy either.
I hope you are enjoying your weekend and it’s about time I head out into that beautiful Winter sunshine.
More About Weighted Therapy
Weighted therapy is the use of weighted products to apply weight and deep touch pressure (surface pressure) to the body stimulating the proprioceptive sense enabling those who are “sensory seeking” to relax, focus and have a greater awareness of their body.
The proprioceptive sense gives us information about our body’s position and movement via receptors on the skin, in the muscles, joints and ligaments. Those with a poor proprioceptive sense have difficulty interpreting these sensations often resulting in behaviour that gives them sensory feedback – for example jumping on a trampoline, chewing, spinning, running etc with seemingly limitless reserves of energy! They have great difficulty switching off and usually do not sleep well at night. This “sensory seeking” behaviour can be calmed and controlled by the use of weighted therapy and the application of deep pressure.