I have a public confession to make…I am a creature of habit. My day is filled with lots of routines, and I like them. My eyes pop open and I climb out of bed at close to the same time every day—no matter what. Of course, this is probably the result of me going to bed at the same time each night.

When I descend the stairs, I follow the same path through the house, kind of like my own personal version of the yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz. I turn lights on and off in the same order, start the coffee, check the thermostat, get the paper…and on and on. I even hold to routines in the office: turn on the computer, check emails, check in with office and instant messages, make more coffee… (Yup, I like my coffee). I know I am not alone in my affection for routines; the fact is most of us have them.

So why all this talk about my routines? Well, they got interrupted this past week and it has been really hard for me. It’s not because I have an OCD issue. It’s because my daily routines also include my dog Duffy—and last week he died (sigh – big breath).

Duffy was a wonderful dog. As we say in my home, “the Best Dog ever!” He was a real gentle soul who loved his family and kept us entertained with his antics for over fourteen years. That means I spent a lot of time following the same daily dog-related routines. You see, he always descended the stairs with me every morning. I also let him outside—right before I made my coffee. He also retrieved the paper with me—after which I always gave him his “cookie.” The list of dog routines goes on and on…but then they abruptly stopped. And I have struggled greatly.

In the past few days, I have prayed much. I’ve had lots of talks with God, and my head has been filled with memories of my beloved companion. I realize that what I miss most is his unconditional love. I think my friend Jane captured the essence of what is so wonderful about a pet, which is why we hurt so much when we lose them: “It is really awesome how God made animals great companions for us humans. Unconditional love and acceptance, loyalty, giving us company and comfort. No wonder it is so hard for us to lose them. They are everything we seek in a relationship—without the risk of pain.”

It’s been four days, quite literally 96 hours, since I said goodbye to Duffy, and slowly, very slowly, the pain is letting go of its grip on my heart. I realized today it is because I am beginning to get used to new routines—a whole new normal—a new “normal” without him. And that’s life. Life is filled with the good and the bad, the happy and the painful. We need to embrace it all, never turn from it, but always press on.