- Death & Loss of Life
My Beloved Dog Died Yesterday.
To say I am devastated would be an understatement. My darling, gentle, rescue Greyhound 'Lady' had to be put to sleep yesterday (Sunday 19th October). Okay, in some ways we had all been expecting it. She was over 14, she had minor heart problems, arthritis, kidney problems etc, but she was usually still capable of producing a gallop of joy when she saw my Sister or I arrive at my Mum and Step Dad's house where she lived.
Lady came into our lives about seven years ago, initially because her elderly owner was not able to walk her due to ill health. My Mum answered an advert in the newspaper asking for help to exercise Lady, and before too long she was walking her regularly. Then Lady's owner was first taken into a home, before sadly dying some weeks later. Initially Mum took Lady on as a pet until she could secure her a good home. I was living with my late Husband Dave on the UK mainland at this time, and we had lost our Doberman 'Odin' about 7 months before to a rare form of Hepatitis. When Mum told us that 'Lady' needed a home we agreed to take her, knowing she would be great company for our little Cairn Cross rescue terrier 'Misty'.
My Mum and Step-Dad (James) quickly brought Lady over to the UK to live with us, and this is where she stayed for the next two and a half years until my Husband Dave died from Bowel Cancer. Seven months later I returned to Guernsey complete with my dogs and cat, and secured a rented property for us to live in. This situation went well up until I made the mistake of getting back with my ex from 13 years previously, and agreed to move to Tenerife with him. In spite of my pleas he refused to allow me to bring my pets along, and so, after reluctantly re-homing my cat 'Tarot' with his ex-girlfriend, my Mum and Step-Dad agreed to take on the two dogs.
To cut a very long story short, the relationship did not work out, and by the time I made it back to Guernsey, emotionally battered and bruised by my exes cruelty, my parents had re-homed my terrier with friends of theirs, but still had Lady the Greyhound.
At this point I was not allowed pets in the rented accommodation I had secured, and so Lady stayed with my parents. The option to retrieve my cat Tarot, and my terrier Misty, were also non starters for a number of reasons (neither owner would give them up).
I was however comforted by the fact I could continue to visit Lady on a regular basis, and it soon became a thrice weekly (at least) visit. She was always so pleased to see me, and I used to take her treats, presents etc. Clearly my Mum absolutely adored her, and even my Step-Dad, (who loathed clearing up her messes from the lawn), obviously loved her.
Over the next three and a half years (during which time I had married my current Husband Richard), we continually visited my Parents and Lady. My Sister Hayley also adored Lady, as did everyone who met her. She was pure white, elegant and totally lived up to her name.
As time went on she was diagnosed with various problems, including a minor heart defect, kidney problems, arthritis, a throat issue and terrible teeth. By the time last year came she only had her four major canines left (as all the others had needed to be removed). Her personality and joy at life never wavered though, and even though in typical greyhound fashion she was incredibly lazy and wanted little exercise, her joy was abundant when people came to visit, especially my sister and I.
By now my Mum was reluctant to put her in kennels if her and James went on holiday (because Lady would lose so much weight due to separation anxiety), so my Husband Richard and I would let her stay with us (once our landlord said it was okay). At first our cats hated her, but soon realised she was harmless, and they quickly recognised her arrival and would rub their cheeks affectionately along her face and wash her paws. Due to her arthritis Lady was now sleeping on a huge beanbag, and trying to get her off it was an almost impossible feat in itself.
We were lucky, in that we had our fishing lake nearby, and could therefore walk Lady around it off lead whenever she stayed with us. She adored this, as normally she had to be kept on a lead to avoid her hurtling off after any dog she saw, (even if they were aggressive). She loved other dogs so much, and desperately craved their ability to play with her. All of our anglers also seemed to adore her, especially as at least two of them used to own greyhounds themselves.
When my parents used to come back at the end of their holidays Lady always seemed to be torn between staying with us, or going home, and often went off her food for a day or two until I went up to my parents house to visit her.
Sadly, as the months went on her ability to run and play did diminish to some degree, but right up until a week ago I knew her to still manage a few steps of a run to come and greet me upon my arrival at my parent's home. She had the sweetest nature, and would always make a point of going around the room to greet each individual so they could make a fuss of her, before she ultimately flopped out in the sunshine, or returned to her beanbag.
Then, this Sunday morning at 08.30am, I received the call I had been dreading. It was my Mum to say that Lady had experienced a dreadful night of terrible throat 'hacking', and struggling to breathe. She was seriously suffering and had needed my Mum and James to sit up with her since 04.00am. She was refusing food and water and seemed incredibly distressed. I rapidly got dressed and Richard and I headed over to their house, a huge sense of dread hanging over me.
When I arrived my worst fears were confirmed. My Mum was sitting with Lady next to her beanbag, and Lady was struggling for breath. We both tried to comfort her, and I managed to get her to drink some water, but looking at her gums I could see they were badly inflamed and full of pus, plus the colour of her tongue and gums was alternating between pink and blue. The hyperventilating was so distressing to watch, and I quickly called my friend Jennie, (who was the Head Nurse at the vets I used to work at). Bless her, she was suffering from a hangover, (it was not her weekend on call), but she came out as a friend to see Lady. Initially she felt that Lady had developed a gum infection, and that her kidneys could not cope with it, and although we could give her painkiller, which we did, and antibiotics, there was no long term solution. Having spoken to the 'on call' vet on our behalf it was decided that rather than take our poor greyhound to the strange environment of a vet's surgery to put her to sleep, (or take tests that would no doubt confirm what we thought, still leaving us with no cure), the kindest thing was let her die peacefully at home.
I had to break this news to my Mum, and then get her to call my sister so she could be there when this happened. Several hours of stroking Lady and telling her what a 'good girl' she was, had preceded the final injection. As an ex-vet's nurse myself, I agreed to raise the vein for the final injection that would end her suffering. It was possibly the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life, especially as it did take two attempts because Lady pulled back her leg the first time the needle went in.
The end was very peaceful though, and she gently drifted off to sleep for the last time, still laying on her beanbag. Even my friend Jennie (the vet's nurse) and her fiancé PJ, were crying, and Jennie said it was the hardest PTS (Put to Sleep), she had ever experienced. My Mum, James, my Sister Hayley, myself, my Husband Richard, and my friends Jennie and PJ were all present, and all in tears after the end came.
Afterwards, we all had a large measure of sherry to calm our misery, and waited for the rescue centre to collect Lady for cremation. The last time I felt this sad was when my Husband died from Cancer, and I only hope Lady is with him now, as well as our Doberman Odin that died about a year before my Husband went.
Having got home that same evening, I thought I could cope okay, and had another drink to help numb the pain. At the point Richard and I went to bed I ended up in floods of tears, and to say I was sobbing would be an understatement. By this morning (Monday), my eyes were puffed and swollen, and I had physically rubbed one eyelid until the skin had come off and left it raw.
From previous experience I know I shall suffer from this pain for a very long time, as will all of our family. My cardigan still has Lady's hairs stuck to it, but I don't want to wash it as it seems too final.
Truly making the decision to euthanaise a pet is one of the hardest ones of all, and on this occasion I had to make the final decision as I knew my Mum could not be the one to do so because of the guilt she would suffer afterwards. The death of a pet is no different in many ways to any other family member or friend, and one of my only consolations is that I 100% believe animals do have souls and go to the same afterlife as we do, (after all, why would I want to go there otherwise, and surely they have more right than most of us to be there based on animal behaviour versus human behaviour?). In the past I have also had convincing psychic medium evidence my Doberman Odin was now with my deceased Husband, (I should add that no questions were put to me, and no information was given by me, not even my surname, never mind who or what I had lost). In addition to this I had asked my late Husband (just before he died) to find a way to let me know he was okay and our Doberman Odin was with him, and he did exactly what I asked, I just hope and pray he does the same with Lady, as he knew her too, and loved her just like we did.
Never let anyone tell you the loss of a pet is less important than the loss of a person. Lady was my best friend, and whether she had four legs and barked, or two legs and talked, I would have loved her just as much. She never let me down, in fact in many ways I feel I let her down by leaving her with my parents in order to go to Tenerife for what ended up being a disastrous relationship with a control freak. If I could have prolonged Lady's life by giving up a chunk of my own life, I would have done it in a heartbeat. Her soul was purer than most people's I have ever met, and I look forward to the day we are reunited in whatever afterlife is waiting for us.
Until We Meet Again
I know what you're thinking. You think I'm dead. Because you cannot see me with your human eye, cannot feel me with your hands or hold me in your arms, you think I am gone forever.
You recall how I looked when I left this place, and you cannot remotely imagine that I could possibly be alive in another place. You are racked and torn by the pain of our separation and it blinds you to that which is right in front of you... me.
How many times since I left your immediate sight have you been told that I'm dead and you should "get over it?" How many times have you cried yourself to sleep because you feel like an outcast, believing you're supposed to get over me because that's what people say is normal but somehow you can't and no one seems to understand?
How many times have you put yourself through such excruciating pain because you aren't willing to consider that I am not, by any means, dead? I want you to do me a favour and go back in time with me. Remember the glorious day you brought me home - was I not the most intriguing creature you'd ever met? Did I not make you laugh and giggle? Did I not look at you with such adoration that you wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of your life with me? I wanted this too.
Remember the days when I was in my prime and we did many things together. You were so proud of me! I was a good friend and I took care of you when you cried, were angry or felt down and unhappy.
When you didn't have a lot of time for me because of your obligations, I waited patiently for you. I was always there when you needed me. Did I not look at you with such acceptance and patience that at times you felt perhaps a bit unworthy? You were never unworthy in my eyes.
Remember when age crept up on me, my bones became stiff and my movements slower. Still I met you at the door when you came home and followed you around the house. We'd been together for so long, I was your very best friend regardless of what you were doing, saying, thinking. Did I not look at you with such kindness and understanding that you felt overwhelmed? I couldn't get enough of you.
Remember the last time we saw each other with earthly eyes. You tried to be brave but I knew you were crying... I know you so well. Better than anyone else in the whole world. Did I not look at you with such pure trust and love that you yearned only to hold me close and keep me with you always? Did you not promise that you would love me forever? I believed you.
If this is so then why have you let me go by thinking I no longer exist? Remember the depth in my eyes all those times I looked at you with adoration, acceptance, patience, trust and love. Who created this depth and love? Would the Creator diminish the song of our laughter which was created in the name of love? I am no longer an earthly figure, this is true. My body was only part of who I really am. My body would have been but a mere shell on earth if it were not filled to overflowing with my soul, my spirit, my loving light. When we met you thought I was cute, sweet, pretty and adorable. But what kind of relationship would we have had if this were all that I'd been? How could you have loved me if I'd had no spiritual substance?
We are all made up of energy that resides far deep down inside of us, it is our core, our soul, spirit and loving light. It is the energy that is all of life... it has no beginning, it has no end. It simply is and always will be and without it there is no life. You can't see it with the naked eye nor can you hold it in your hand, it is simply a certain knowing that this energy does exist. It's a knowing just as you know that our love existed on earth - you couldn't see our love in a solid sense, you couldn't gather it all up and confine it to one place. But you knew it existed. There was no doubt in your mind.
They demand you get over me, insisting that I'm dead and you'll never see me again because animals don't go to heaven. Oh really?
I'm here to tell you different. You were worthy of my love and undying devotion on earth as I of yours. Do you really believe this love would be snatched from us forever by a loving Creator simply because I wasn't human? Was I not a living, breathing creation with personality? How could I have been so if I didn't possess the energy of soul, spirit and loving light? And if this energy is and always will be, then how can it be that I am dead?
If my core is not of the energy that is all of life then I was never alive to begin with. But you know better.
You cry because you miss me, this I understand. I miss you too - miss the belly rubs, hugs and kisses that we shared. But life does go on beyond these wonderful, fulfilling physical connections.
I came to this place to live a whole new life, not because I didn't love you anymore or because I wanted something better. I came here because it was time for me to go to the next phase of my existence, something all living creatures must do eventually. It is the normal progression of life. I was not taken away from you because you cannot take away that which was never owned. My presence in your life was and is a gift to be cherished and honoured just as I cherish and honour you.
Life is not simply about being born into a body, living a certain number of years and then dying. Energy cannot die. We are blessed with time in a body so that we can learn, share and grow. It prepares us for the next phase of our eternal life. The body holds within it the true life force of our existence... our soul, spirit and loving light. Without these our bodies would be empty, blank, void of feeling and expression. Without our energy we would indeed be dead and could never have experienced our love for each other.
You say that all you have left are memories. Not so. You see, when I took leave of my earthly body I left a little something behind for you. You can't touch it, hold it or examine it for what I left behind is far too uninhibited for confinement. I left behind a piece of my soul. I placed it right next to your own which is quite fitting as we were always side by side in our earthly life together. I love you too much to have left you with nothing but memories that tend to fade and grow cloudy as the years go by.
I love you too much to have vanished without a trace. How selfish it would be of me to remove love and light from your life.
I understand your tears, each one you shed is testament to your love for me and I am honoured and humbled. But don't forget the good things we shared - remember and smile. This is an honour for me as well. And when you need me I will be here. Close your eyes, relax, take slow, deep breaths and picture me in your mind. Shut off the world and your notions of what death is and give me a chance. Look for the subtle signs I send you. Don't stop being proud of me, I am a friend to be proud of, I am still your friend and soul mate.
Don't memorialise the death of my body but instead honour and celebrate my never-ending life for it is eternal and forever as is my love for you.
Until we meet again...
Rainbow Bridge (With Thanks to Christoph Reilly)
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....