One of the prerequisites of living with dogs is that you have to like routine. Dogs are creatures of habit; they like the important events of their lives (walks, dinner) to take place at the same time every day, and can get easily stressed if the schedule deviates. Losing a dog can mean that a human’s schedule, previously based around the dog’s schedule, can go a bit loopy.

Tula is still with us, of course, and we’re working hard to keep things as normal as we can for her, because she’s still very stressed at Bowie being gone. Keeping our lives as similar as they were before helps us too. We need that 7am walk every day to wake us up and prepare ourselves for the day. We need the system and the regularity of having to be home to feed or walk Tula at a certain time, just because it helps us to organize our days better.

There are little things that are missing, though, little scenarios we’d play out with Bowie that Tula doesn’t do. For instance, after the morning walk, Bowie would wait impatiently while I removed my coat and shoes, washed my hands, put my hair back and put on house shoes before feeding him. Every single morning he’d bark at me to hurry up, follow me into the bedroom while I put my shoes on, stomp around, bark at me some more, and then finally herd me out into the hallway and through the dining room to the kitchen to dish up his breakfast. We’d see the border collie in him at this time – he’d have nipped at my heels to get me to move faster if he thought he’d have been able to get away with it.

As annoying as that morning routine was (always punctuated by Greg or I yelling at him to shut up because we feared the neighbours would be pissed off), it’s one of the things I miss the most about him on a daily basis. Little things make me sad – picking up the stuffed ball he loved and seeing that it needs mending, or getting up in the middle of the night and seeing only the cat sprawled across his favourite spot on the dining room floor – but every morning now I am faced with the prospect of putting on my shoes without supervision.

It seems disrespectful in a way, to use the emotional feelings at these daily actions or scenarios (or in this case, the lack of) to spur a change in routine. It would make sense to try to keep things as similar as possible to how they used to be. But it also makes sense that it would be easier to enact a change in routine now, when daily life is in such upheaval.

Maybe that’s my inner life organizer talking. Maybe trying to make changes to anything right now is the stupidest thing I could do. But things are already different. Tiny measures, minute adjustments, tightening the schedule bit by bit to make life run a little bit more efficiently and to have the heart hurt just a little bit less because the reminders aren’t there.

I’ve been trying to adjust my morning schedule for years. I feed the dogs, grab a coffee and plunk my ass down here in front of the computer. And I would love dearly not to do that every day. Tula rarely eats in the morning without Bowie here. She’d be far happier being fed when we sit down to breakfast. There’s no longer a need for me to rush to the kitchen, or stick around to be sure that Bowie doesn’t steal her food. I could fit 15 minutes of yoga in this spot. Or reading, or housework.

There’s other little things as well, that could be adjusted here and there, that are now easier to do because the Dude is gone. I don’t want for a second to have it come across that him being gone is a good thing  – it’s not. It’s just a way to fill in the gaps and help the heart mend. To have less time and fewer reminders.

Of course, taking a work hiatus has torn the rug out from under that in a way. The busy-ness is less, there’s more time for mulling and ruminating, more time for missing him. But sometimes to rebuild routine, you have to break it down completely and start again. Empty out everything except the basic structure and then fit the blocks and pegs of work and chores and enjoyment into the new framework. It means some time spent at loose ends, some time accomplishing less that you’d hoped for to get it running smoothly. But a better life in the end, at least in terms of use of time.

I don’t want to wipe away the memory of Bowie’s breakfast dance. It makes me laugh to remember it. I just can’t, right now, relive it every day. It’s all still too raw in my heart. So we change the routine, make some new good memories, try some new things to fill the void. Look for the small happy things, the positive bits, pull the rest close to the heart to keep it safe, and move on.