Recently, several dogs in our pet therapy group passed away. When a loss occurs, the group is notified by email with the family’s address, should we wish to send a sympathy card. Some of the dogs I knew very well, and I find it easy to personalize the card with a particular memory of the pet, but others I didn’t know as well, and I struggle to come up with the right words. But I know how meaningful it is to receive a condolence card when you lose a pet – it’s a validation of your grief and an expression that the pet’s life mattered. The challenge is what to say that doesn’t sound trite or generic. (more…)
Archive for the ‘Pet memorials’ Category
Browsing through my photo archives, I found this photo of Alex and Emily taken shortly after Alex joined our family in August, 2008. He was ten weeks old, and Emily was about 14 – as she was a rescue, I never knew her exact age. I had no idea how she would react to a puppy – in fact, I was a bit scared – but Emily seemed to enjoy Alex’s company and was patient when he thought her long spaniel ears were a tug-toy! I treasure the photos I have of them together, and the fact that all my dogs’ lives have overlapped. When one passes on, they pass the torch.
Sadly, our therapy dog program lost another of its long time members this past week. On July 19 Smudge, a 13 year old basset hound, crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Smudge was adopted at age 4 and began doing therapy work soon thereafter. On Saturday mornings he faithfully visited hospitalized children. Smudge was an accomplished counter-surfer and his owner Pam loves to tell the story of his visit to a little girl who had hidden her waffle in the sheets of her hospital bed. No one knows if she was saving it for later, or just pretending to have eaten it, but when Smudge was placed on her bed for a few moments of cuddling, he began rooting around in the sheets and found the waffle in no time! At age 10, Smudge developed incontinence and was diagnosed with back problems requiring surgery. Although he didn’t regain continence, he was otherwise healthy, so Pam learned how to express his bladder, which she did every 6-7 hours for the past three years, arranging her work and the rest of her life around this schedule. Although she tried using vet techs to help on occasion, Smudge would not let anyone else express him. (more…)
Haley, a long-time therapy dog with Paws with a Purpose (now known as Paws on a Mission) recently passed away. Haley spread joy and comfort right up until the end, continuing to make therapy dog visits during what would be the last week of her life. The following tribute written by her owner, Ken, contains an important lesson.
DON’T WAIT TO EAT YOUR TOAST!
Ever since she was a puppy, Haley loved toast and she loved peanut butter. In fact, she would eat ANYTHING with peanut butter on it! Every time the toaster was set on the kitchen counter top, Haley would strategically position herself to be certain to receive the corner piece of toast to which she felt she was entitled. Haley would get one corner and her sister Sam would be tossed another – rarely would the ‘girls’ actually catch the pieces but they’d certainly scramble like mad to clean them off the floor. Even when Haley lost her sense of hearing, she seemed to sense when that toaster came out and she’d be sure to be there, drooling like a starving hound, waiting for that tiny, precious, single corner of toast. (more…)
Theo, a beautiful English Springer Spaniel who was working as a bomb-sniffing dog in Afghanistan, died recently, suffering a fatal seizure just hours after his soldier companion was killed. Theo was so successful at locating explosives that his tour had been extended. Knowing how devoted Theo and his handler were to each other, the military arranged to send Theo’s ashes back to England along with the soldier’s remains. May they both rest in peace.
Read full article at ABC News.
Every year, as I open the boxes of holiday decorations, certain ornaments bring back a flood of memories of Christmases past. A few are vintage ornaments in the bright, shiny red, teal, green, or silver of the 1950s, carefully boxed with their wire ornament hooks and passed down by my mother. I see these same ornaments in childhood Christmas photos, with our family dogs Sheba, and later Sherry, posing in front of the tree, looking mortified at wearing a Christmas bow. But the ornaments that always give me pause are those connected to my dogs. Carefully, I open the small white box labeled “dog bone ornaments” and remove the three handcrafted, Milk bone-shaped ornaments with a loop of red yarn for hanging, personalized with Marmaduke, Molly, and Chester’s names, a gift from their groomer. I hold the ornaments in my hand and remember Christmases in Santa Fe, and later in California, with them. Chester was my first springer, a chance encounter at a shelter that over the years showed me the depths of devotion. After Marmaduke and Molly died, I adopted Dixie, an older springer, to keep him company, and then Byron, my first Welsh springer, joined our family. The year that Chester and Dixie died, both of cancer and within weeks of each other, I found these springer angel Christmas tree toppers at a craft fair. The one in the plaid dress represents Dixie; the white-robed angel is Chester. As I set out the Christmas decorations each year, I display them together, in memory and in gratitude for the joy they brought me every day. This week, as I carefully wrap tissue paper around them and store the ornaments for another year, I am comforted by this ritual, these objects that still connect me to my dogs, long gone but not forgotten. What about you? Do you have special ornaments representing your dogs? Or Christmas traditions with your dogs?
Today is the anniversary of my springer Chester’s death, on November 20, 1997. He passed away gently in his sleep, after ten wonderful years together. That Thanksgiving was very sad. After all this time I still think of him often, but now I smile at the memories. During this week of Thanksgiving, I am especially grateful for the dogs I have known and loved. The wonderful book Animal Blessings: Prayers and Poems Celebrating Our Pets by June Cotner, contains the following meditation on thankfulness:
The Love They Give Us
by Kent C. Greenough
Not only is there always another good animal in need of a good home, but we must remember to be thankful for the time and love our animals give us while they are here. Take time to enjoy them and learn from them. As painful as it is to lose them, they teach us to love unselfishly, they teach us to live each day to the fullest, they teach us how to grow old gracefully, and they teach us how to die with dignity. We do them a disrespect to focus only on the sorrow of their death when they have given us so much joy through their life. If we wish to honor them, take what they have given us, all that love, and give it back to another animal in need of help.
As we begin this holiday season, remember and honor the animals that bless our lives, and especially those who need a home.
Three years ago today, on November 7, 2007, my beautiful Byron crossed the Rainbow Bridge. He would have been 15 in January, a year or so older than the typical life span for a Welsh springer. I adopted him when he was 18 months old, a breeder re-home situation, and during our years together life had many ups and downs, but he was always there for me with his gentle presence. I especially treasure his graceful aging. In spite of spinal arthritis which progressively weakened his hind legs, his spirit remained cheerful. We adapted to the mobility issues with shorter walks, where I let him turn back towards the house when he wanted. He had a comfy bed in every room of the house, but he spent most of his time on his bed in the hall, where he could keep watch over my comings and goings. I helped him get up and walk with a little sling, and when we came to the cabin, I carried him down the stairs to his bed by the window, where he enjoyed looking out into the woods. Saying goodbye to him was very hard, but I knew I had to release him from his struggles. (more…)
I’ve written before about a very moving Blessing of the Animals service that Alex and I participated in. Now, Calvary Church in Danvers, Massachusetts has started Perfect Paws Pet Ministry, a half-hour service for people and their dogs on the third Sunday of each month. The service includes Communion,blessings, and dog biscuits for the dogs at the end of the service. The service also includes prayers for animals who are ill, and for those who are deceased. (more…)
I always think of her on New Year’s Eve even though it’s been 16 years since she died from hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive cancer of the blood vessels. I remember well the day we adopted her, too, and my first impression that she looked like a lioness lying regally in the shelter cage, her paws crossed, with an attitude of “There must be some mistake. I don’t know what I am doing in this place.” As we signed the adoption papers the clerk warned, “She’s been brought back twice. This is her last chance.” In spite of many behavior challenges, we gave her a forever home for the next seven years. When she was diagnosed with cancer, I learned how much I had come to love her for her courage, loyalty, and count-me-in attitude. As a final gift, she inspired me to begin a collection of tributes to beloved dogs, later published as Angel Pawprints: Reflections on loving and losing a canine companion. Although their years with us are never long enough, and it is unbearably sad when they leave us, I have come to think of each of my dogs as a precious gift that has enriched my life and opened my heart in unexpected ways. I am blessed and thankful to have walked beside them.
If you are looking for a lovely holiday gift for the animal lovers on your list, I recommend Animal Blessings: Prayers and Poems Celebrating Our Pets by June Cotner (HarperCollins, 2000). I discovered Ms. Cotner’s lovely series of books with her more recently published Dog Blessings. Animal Blessings includes writings about all types of animals, from dogs, cats, and horses to wildlife including birds, deer, dolphins, and other wild creatures. (more…)
Today is the second anniversary of my Welsh Springer, Byron’s death. Like today, it was a beautiful, clear fall day when he slipped quietly into his last sleep. He had struggled with mobility as spinal arthritis took its toll. For months, I had to help him to his feet. He walked with the aid of a sling under his belly. When he came to the cabin on weekends, I carried him down the stairs and settled him gently on his bed, next to the window where he could look out into the woods. He was a wonderful companion who brought me much joy. It’s hard to believe two years have passed. But no matter how many years go by, he lives on in my heart. I miss his gentle presence, but I am grateful for our time together.
The familar poem, “The Rainbow Bridge,” started me on a journey to collect, and later publish, comforting poems and tributes related to pet loss. I particularly love those written in the pet’s voice. The following poem, “Request from the Rainbow Bridge,” has been cited often by readers of my anthologies, Angel Pawprints and Angel Whiskers, as among their favorites. It it one of my favorites, too. (more…)
A few years ago, my veterinarian began taking a digital photo of each patient. The photo became part of the pet’s record, printing out on the bills and progress reports during our all-too-frequent vet visits during Emily’s last years. Emily was camera-shy, and the photo is a bit blurry as Emily turned her head away. As a final thoughtful gesture after Emily died, the vet mailed me a laminated keepsake of Emily’s photo, along with a comforting poem.
The poem, authored by Gayl Jokiel, reads as follows: (more…)
This week a friend made a generous donation to a fundraising campaign, Paws on a Mission for our hospital therapy dog program. Instead of honoring Alex, who is one of the “furry fundraisers” with his very own fundraising page, she chose to make her donation in memory of my beloved spaniels, Byron and Emily. This thoughtful gesture brought tears to my eyes, but it also warmed my heart. Once more, I felt the power of dogs to bring out the best in each of us. Once more, I experienced the gifts that they give, even in death.