Any dog lover…actually any animal lover knows that to lose a beloved pet is an indescribable grief. I can only relate to dogs because I’ve never had a pet cat, bird, hamster, Guinea pig, etc. So, my experience comes from the canine variety.
Although I had dogs growing up; cocker spaniels, Taffy # 1 and Taffy # 2, (one, hit by a car and the other given to a trusted home after he tore up living room drapes, and then started on the rug) I didn’t then and don’t now mourn their passing to any great extent. After all, I wasn’t even in school yet.
Valentine (left), border collie/German shepherd mix and the smartest dog, EVER, was a birthday present on my 13th birthday. We actually picked her up on Valentine’s day, hence the unusual dog name. From the start, she was more my mom and dad’s dog. I loved her and mourned her passing at the age of 15, but the grief wasn’t all-encompassing.
Flash forward to Sam (Right) Silly, silly Sam. I still remember the day my dad came walking up our driveway with the little ball of fur he’d found running across the street in front of the house. He was part of a litter belonging to our neighbors. They didn’t much care about him, his brothers and sisters, or his mama. Dad suggested, and I agreed, this tiny six-week-old pup would be the perfect companion for our six-year-old son. And, oh how Sam was until the year he got bone cancer and died at age 11. The grief caused by his death was overwhelming. I still tear up, almost forty years later.
It was decades before I let myself consider bringing another dog into my home and my heart. We were living in Fort Myers, Florida, Ken traveled to Miami every week for work and although I was working part-time, the nights were lonely. Until one day, Molly came into our lives. A little terrier/mix who lost her “mom” and her home when she was three. We found her at the Miami Animal Shelter, sitting in the back of a cage with two boisterous, barking German Shepherds. It was love at first sight.
Molly (Left) was with us through three moves. The first two she tolerated, but the last was very hard on her. She also had many stairs to navigate; a circumstance that took a toll on her arthritic knee. She spend a whole year slowly declining until that awful day she could no longer see or get around the house. I could tell, when I picked her up and she clung fast to me, she was ready to go. This coming October it will have been ten years since she crossed “the bridge”. Tears still sting my eyes.
It was almost three years before we both gave in and rescued our sweet Lucy (Right – in Dad’s arms). I can’t even imagine the day she leaves us.
Which brings me to a long-time Facebook friend, Barbara Techel. I first got to know her and special fur-daughter, Frankie, more than a decade ago. Frankie, her beloved dachshund, suffered a spinal injury when she was young, and spent the rest of her life “on wheels.” Barbara had to learn to care for a paralyzed dog; not an easy task, but they both thrived. Barbara became a best-selling author, penning, Through Frankie’s Eyes, One woman’s journey to her authentic self and the dog on wheels who led the way, then her children’s picture books, Frankie, the Walk N Roll Dog and Frankie the Walk N Roll Therapy Dog.
From the time Frankie was seven years-old and rolling in her wheelchair until the day she left this planet at almost thirteen, both she and Barbara formed an amazing team helping children and adults see their challenges in a positive way. They logged over 400 visits to schools and libraries, and made over 250 visits as a therapy dog team to hospitals, senior assisted living facilites and hospice community.
Losing Frankie left a huge hole in Barbara’s heart and life that needed filling. She jumped back into rescuing a special-needs dachshund. Although that sweet girl was only with her for about a year, Joie (pronounced Joey) inspired another memoir, Wisdom Found In the Pause, Joie’s Gift.
Through the years, the love of Frankie, Joie, and now special-needs dachshund, Gidget, have been among Barbara’s greatest teachers. “…they continue to serve me in a positive way, as a mirror I welcome looking into, even when it’s difficult.”
Then there was Kylie; perhaps the best teacher of all. Beautiful English lab whose sweet soul instinctively knew she needed to stay in the background while her “sisters” were tended to. She watched over Frankie, Joie, and then Gidget until, finally, it was her turn to cross the Rainbow Bridge. Her mom calls her the sweetest soul she’s ever known.
During Kylie’s remaining two years, she claimed a rug between the living room and kitchen as her own special spot. The family would have to carefully step over or around her. But, they didn’t mind. The lab also had her own very large cage that was her sanctuary from the daily hustle and bustle. When Kylie began to decline, Gidget started joining her in the cage; snuggling as close as possible. The “somewhat aloof” Kylie, let her.
It’s been several months since Kylie joined Frankie and Joie, and now, Gidget (Right) has suddenly taken up her sister’s favorite spot on the rug between the living room and the kitchen. It’s like she’s connecting, in her own way, to Kylie’s spirit. I don’t doubt that one bit.
When I read this on Barbara’s recent blog about Gidget’s new habit, I was comforted; knowing each and every furkid I’ve been fortunate enough to have in my life will always be with me, in spirit and in my heart.
Barbara Techel describes herself as Intuitive Guide, Oracle Reader, Author, SoulCollage® Facilitator, Animal Lover, Deep Thinker. You can access Joyful Paws Website and discover more about Barbara’s books, Oracle Reading, Workshops, Blog, and how to contact her.