Rainbow Bridge…Coping with Losing Your Best Friend

rainbowbridgeRainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

— Author Unknown

Two of my good friends lost their beloved dogs this week.  I know they are sad and grief-stricken. The grief you feel losing a pet is real and it is painful.  My dogs mean the world to me and I probably spend more time with them than any single human including my husband.  When the time comes to consider their quality of life versus my need to have them on this earth with me, I hope that I will make the right choice.

I’ve faced this decision many times in my life and each time it is a painful experience.  I am a believer in the advancement of veterinarian technology and our policy in our house is to do whatever we can to save the dog.  My dog, Beatrice, who went under anesthesia to have a biopsy done and never woke up, haunts me.  I can only imagine her scared and amongst strangers when her life ended.  With my other animals, I’ve always been there with them, holding them and comforting them as they pass through to Rainbow Bridge.

My eldest dog, Viola, is starting to experience some health issues related to age.  Here eyes are clouded with what looks like the beginning of cataracts.  Her back legs are beginning to give out on her and she falls down.  She recently started waking up in the middle of the night and barking because she doesn’t seem to realize where she is.  We don’t know how old she really is because she was a rescue.  We guess her age to be about 11 or 12.  None of these symptoms, for me, are enough to look at putting her down.  My factors are first, how much pain is the animal in?  Second, what are the chances of recovery?  Last, what is the degree of recovery and the quality of their life?

We adopted Viola almost eight years ago.  My husband, Andy, found Viola at a rescue group showing their dogs at a PetSmart.  The problem was that he found her just about an hour after we had to put down our beloved Riley.  Andy literally left the emergency clinic where they couldn’t save Riley – he had a chronic disorder called “mega esophagus” and couldn’t get enough air into his lungs because the stretching of his esophagus caused him to have chronic pneumonia and lung infections from food and water getting stuck and causing infections.

Riley was in an oxygen tent and he was holding on just long enough to get his family there.  Both Andy and I had been out on Saturday morning.  When Andy got home, Riley had collapsed and did not appear to be breathing.  Andy put him in the car and drove to the emergency vet.  All the while calling me.  I was in a class and had turned my phone ringer off.  When we went on break, I looked at my phone and saw 14 calls from Andy.

I rushed over to the emergency vet as fast as I could.  They had managed to get him breathing again but he was suffering terribly.  When he looked me in the eyes, I felt him tell me to release him.  I could only manage to get one hand under the oxygen tent and I held his front paw and was able to scratch his chest a little.  It didn’t take very much and he was gone.

Although we adopted Viola a week later, she wasn’t a replacement for Riley.  Each dog is a one-of-a-kind and irreplaceable.  Andy didn’t show me the picture he took of her until I came home on Tuesday and told him about another dog we had to rescue, Phoebe.  That Saturday, just one week after Riley’s passing, we welcomed both girls into our house.

For each family, it is different.  Some people vow never to get another animal when they go through the grief of losing a beloved pet.  Some families think adopting a younger furbaby while their senior is still around gives the older animal some extra energy.  I believe the elder dog teaches the younger dog the lay of the land and what’s expected of them.

Grief is a personal issue and every person will deal with this catastrophic loss differently.  I love looking through old pictures of the dogs I had in my past and remembering their stories.  Those stories help me work through the grief and heartbreak.  You never really lose a pet because you keep their memory close to your heart.  And I do believe that one day when i’m about to cross Rainbow Ridge, all my friends will surround me and welcome me!

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