I’ve seen this way too much lately — in connection with beloved pets who have departed.
Now I’ve become a member of this club — again. Last week my husband, John, and I said goodbye to our fur baby, Chloe.
I know many of you are going through this right now, and the pain can seem unbearable.
Who rescued whom?
We rescued Chloe 14 years ago. She was a refugee from Hurricane Katrina — one of the 50,000 displaced pets from that tragedy. After trying unsuccessfully to locate her owners on the internet, she became a permanent member of our family.
And what an amazing family member! We now know Chloe rescued us. She had the disposition of an angel — and was so eager to please.
John spent a lot of time training her, and she went everywhere with him — to the office, to the bank, on errands and road trips. She would often visit my office as well — where she was welcomed by co-workers and clients.
Last week, when we had our first snow of the season, I was reminded of the way she would go dashing through the snow. She was equally at home in the sand, as we all took long walks on the beach together.
Basically, she just wanted to be with her “pack,” and that made it easy for John and me to include her in lots of activities.
Living life fully
As a poster child for this column, she definitely “lived life fully” for the 14 years she spent with us — and only began to slow down within the past year or so. As many of you may have experienced with your fur babies, she began to have problems with her hips and legs.
Then this started accelerating, and she found it increasingly hard to take those walks and go on those car rides. Toward the end, she could barely walk at all. And her ever-present “spark” began to diminish rapidly. It’s like she was not really living life, but just existing.
John and I started grieving early — as we weighed our options. Of course, we wanted her to be as comfortable as possible, but we didn’t want to rush the process and hasten her death. As my soul friends have said about pets, “They’ll let you know.”
So, we listened. And showered her with even more love and affection — which is hard to imagine because we already did so much of this. From the beginning, we had rituals every day in which we’d thank her for being in our lives. And we always assured her we loved her “to infinity and beyond.”
I got some comfort from animal ethicist and professor Bernard Rollin, Ph.D., at Colorado State University. “Your pet doesn’t experience time the way you do. To the animal mind, there is only present quality of life,” he explained. “And it’s the pet’s experience that is most important.”
When Chloe finally let us know she was ready to go, Dr. Eric Lee stepped in to assist with her transition — and to provide the perfect dose of compassion and wisdom.
Then John and I had a graveside service for her, with a reading of the Rainbow Bridge. For those of you who aren’t familiar, I’ve included a condensed copy of this piece below.
The Rainbow Bridge
Many pet lovers know this emotional and heartwarming poem. It describes an other-worldly place — said to connect Heaven and earth — where pets go upon death, eventually to be reunited with the souls of their families.
Just this side of Heaven is a place called the Rainbow Bridge.
All the animals who have been ill or hurt go there — and are restored to health and vigor. It has meadows and hills — and lots of sunshine. The animals all run and play together — and they’re happy and content.
Then the day comes when one suddenly stops. His bright eyes are intent, and his eager body quivers. Suddenly, he breaks from the group — flying over the green grass, running faster and faster.
You have been spotted! When you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again.
Happy kisses rain on your face. Your hands again caress that beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet.
Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together.
Gratitude and ThanksLIVING
While the “new normal” is a hard adjustment — and our routines are different — John and I will go on.
One of my jobs was to feed Chloe, and a dear soul friend told me to think of that time as feeding my own soul. My niece, Cathy, also sent a helpful article by Ernest Montague, “A Dog Never Dies; He’s Just Sleeping in Your Heart.”
As we approach Thanksgiving, I want to honor Chloe by staying in a state of gratitude, even though the waves of grief and sadness complicate things.
My wish for all of you is that you can deal with those challenges in your lives — whatever they may be — and, in time, overlay this perspective as well.
ThanksLIVING is a year-round concept — not just one day in November.
Thanks for being in our lives, Chloe. Thanks for all the life lessons you taught us — especially unconditional love and present moment living. You’ll always know how much you are loved.
And thanks for continuing on in our hearts. Even though there are some big holes in our souls.
Good girl, Chloe!