Tag Archives: grief

A Puppy Just Saved My Life

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My husband and I didn’t always agree eye to eye on fostering – especially puppies!  So, when he suddenly passed away earlier this year, one of my first thoughts was that I was going to foster again when things get a little less hectic.

The problem with things getting a little less hectic is that the quiet moments become greater.  It’s during those quiet moments that your pain and grief of losing your loved one hits you like a ton of bricks.  Fostering for me, brought a normalcy I needed. I think.  It’s not even been 30 days.

I don’t trust that Andy is dead.  He’s been away from me for long period of times since April of 2014 when his mom first went into the hospital.  Because of work situations and care needs for his mom, he ended up spending most of 2014 through April 2015 taking care of her up in New York.  I spent time up in NY and he’d make a trip down to Acworth for important things like our anniversary. Unfortunately, him mom passed in May 2015.  He then spent the better part of 2015 taking care of her different properties in New York and Florida.  Flash forward to October and Andy finally came home.

Most of the time he was gone, I was in Acworth.  I was so lonely for him.  Again, it was the quiet times – no one to sit on the couch with and hold hands. No one to cook for. My mood was spiraling downward.  During this time, my saving grace was a boisterous dog named Oscar.  Willful, crazy but lovely and smart. He was one of the first residents of our new shelter and I took him home loving a challenge.

While Andy was gone, Oscar wormed his way into my heart.  After more than a year and a half of fostering Oscar, Andy gave him to me for our 21st anniversary.  Betcha didn’t know that dog was the gift for that year.

So, it makes sense for me, as I try to make sense of losing my best friend, my love and soulmate that I take a puppy to foster.  For me, this was comfort (along with wearing Andy’s shirts).  The Litt Palace of Puppy Love is open for business.

Love and Loss — Animals Feel It

On Sunday, October 6,  my younger brother would have been 45 years old but he passed away in 2006.  He was pet sitting my dogs Bailey, Phoebe and Viola — we hadn’t got Sophie yet. He had a heart attack on a Monday afternoon.  We knew something was wrong on Tuesday when we couldn’t reach him.  I asked a friend to go check on him and they found dead upstairs in the bedroom.  The dogs had been with him for over 24-hours after he died.

Bailey and Joey on Halloween

Bailey and Joey on Halloween

Our friends immediately called us and called 911.  We were frantic as we were in Las Vegas and couldn’t get home fast enough.  We were worried about the dogs and how this was going to affect them.  Bailey had been with Joey the longest and she was the one we were most worried about dealing with this. Plus there were lots of strangers in the house and she didn’t really like strangers.  They stressed her out.

All the girls looked for Joey.  He was the constant in their lives day in and day out.  He was very sickly and spent a lot of time on our coach snuggling with one, two or all three of the girls. I was traveling a lot for my job and Andy was working a lot of hours so Joey was the the mainstay for the dogs.

He used to be a very healthy guy but being a bachelor out on his own, he didn’t take care of himself.  He contracted Strep and didn’t go see a doctor.  This was partly because he didn’t have any health insurance and partly because he was not very pro-doctor.  The strep moved into his heart and his kidneys.  Within three years he was on dialysis and was getting ready to have defibrillator surgery on his heart.

After his death, Bailey started to exhibit some weird behaviors.  We have a bookcase in our kitchen right next to where she sits when waiting for her breakfast and dinner.  Joey’s ashes sit on the bottom shelf.  She “high fives” the container with his ashes before every meal.  She never did that before.

Phoebe took a different route for her grief.  She at the beloved couch — really just the cushion Joey used to sit on.  She did this three times until we could no longer save the cushion and had to order a new one (cushion not couch).

Viola did not really have any changes in behavior but she would bust open the door to his room and just stand in there.  I always felt like they thought he was going to walk in at any time.  Andy and I thought that too.

We see animals grieve for their humans all the time.  Only an unfeeling ogre could make it through Hachi (the Richard Gere movie) without boo hooing when Hachi ran away looking for his person!  Our pets also feel grief with the loss of another pet in the family.  In a recent op ed piece in the New York Times (I think it was Sunday, October 6) claimed dogs were “human too” because of a study going on with dogs getting MRIs to measure their emotions.

Gregory Burns states in his article, “Because dogs can’t speak, scientists have relied on behavioral observations to infer what dogs are thinking. It is a tricky business. You can’t ask a dog why he does something. And you certainly can’t ask him how he feels. The prospect of ferreting out animal emotions scares many scientists. After all, animal research is big business. It has been easy to sidestep the difficult questions about animal sentience and emotions because they have been unanswerable.” But an MRI result, is looking directly into the brain and bypassing behaviorism according to Burns.

Burns believes that we need to rethink how we treat dogs because his study shows that they have the ability to experience positive emotions, like love and attachment which would mean that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child.

I didn’t need a study involving MRIs to tell me that my dogs feel love and attachment.  I see that everyday and I’m grateful for them!

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!