We always said Max was a creature of habit. With him gone, we've come to realize we were the creatures of habit.
Sitting on the couch, my legs extended I find myself moving my feet back and forth to rub the back of the dog that's not there. As my husband goes to putter in the yard, he waits a moment holding the screen door open for his little buddy, who's no longer here to follow him. As I ride my bike in the basement, I keep looking toward the basement stairs awaiting the sound of Max barrelling down them. Next to me the rug with the half-eaten chew remains empty, and my hand reaches to pet the air.
When my husband comes home I say, "I didn't even hear you come in," and with a long face he replies, "I know." He no longer says, "Go ahead, tell them I'm here," and I no longer reply, "Okay, okay, I got it, Daddy's home."
That's the saddest phrases we no longer say, but not the only ones...
"Did the dog eat?"
"Feed the dog."
"Ya gotta go outside?"
"Ohhh, you got your baby?"
"Leave your baby inside?"
"Gimme that baby."
"You want to come to the patio?"
"C'mon Boo, inside."
"Frankie, go clean the dog's yard."
"Did you clean the yard?"
"When are you gonna clean the yard?"
"Didn't I tell you to clean the yard?"
"Go put down a towel, Max wants to eat his chewie." "How do you know?" "He's mind-probing me." "You were right." "He's a dignified dog. He doesn't eat on bare floors. He needs a tablecloth."
"Max wants water." "How do you know?" "He's mind-probing me." "You're right, his bowl is empty."
"Don't give him table food. He's getting too fat."
"Okay, stop mind-probing me...you can have my pizza crust."
"Is Max outside?"
"Someone let the dog in."
"Did you give him a treat?"
"He's waiting for a treat."
"He won't be denied his treat."
And the one that I still say before going to sleep...
"It's bedtime, Boo..."
I've decided the best way for me to handle his absence is to be places where Max wasn't with me. And when I have to be home, I pretend he's at the groomer, or sleeping on the floor by the side of my bed. Sometimes I can even hear him snore.