Surviving Pet Loss
By Lisa Spector, Juilliard Graduate, Canine Music Expert and co-founder of Through a Dog’s Ear.
In the acknowledgments for Calm your Canine Companion Vol. 1, I wrote … “In memory of my beloved soul-dog, Byron. You remain forever in my heart.” While recording, I kept the above picture of Byron on the piano. I’ve been thinking a lot about him lately. I wrote the letter below just hours before he passed away at the ripe age of almost 14, on May 28, 2003.
Words canít possibly express what a treasure and gift you have been in my life. 12 1/2 years ago I wrote an affirmation that brought you into my life. I posted it on my bedroom mirror and read it every day. Six months later, in June of 1991, I learned that a 21-month-old Golden Retriever named Byron needed a new home. Iíll never forget the first time I saw you. You were wet because you had been playing on the beach and your entire focus was on retrieving the stick. Once the stick was gone though and I walked you to your new home, you acted as if you just loved me instantly. Barry said we were just trying you out for awhile, but I knew from that moment, there was no going back. We were lifetime partners.
You loved your new home and we so loved having you with us. You hung out with me by the piano a lot, and I loved it when you rested your head on my pedal foot – your favorite position. Although I loved you a lot then, I think we bonded more after we separated from Barry. You became my Rock of Gibraltar at that point. I knew the day that I left our home that if I had you and my piano, I would be happy. Your mission was to take care of me, and mine was to take care of you and have you by my side as often as possible. Every day, you came to work with me and became the school mascot at my music school. People passing us on the street would often remark, ďYour dog is smiling at me.Ē
What a team we made – hiking Montara mountain, daily walks along the coastal bluff tops, frequent romps on the beach chasing sticks and footballs. You always made sure I got lots of exercise and kept playing retrieve with your beloved frisbee. We took summer vacations together. Swimming with you was my all time favorite activity we shared, and Iím pretty sure it was yours. The first summer we went to Oregon together, we swam in every lake and river to be found. One day, after swimming and hanging out at the river for 7 hours, you cried like a baby when it was time to leave. Summer Lake Inn was the best, and Iíll always cherish the photograph of us swimming together there last summer.
This morning, you looked at me intently and this is the message I felt you were communicating to me: “Thank you for all you have given me, for I am eternally grateful. It has been the best life a dog could wish for. Remember this moment always, it is all that truly matters now. I have taught you well that love is more important than anything and the present moment is all that exists. It is now your time to carry this message out to the world.”
My commitment to you is to carry on in the lessons that you have taught me about peace, gentleness, and love. You are leaving your body, but you are not leaving me. Byron, thank you for being a miraculous gift in my life.
The look he gave me that last morning carried me through many following challenging days. When a pet is part of your family, losing him/her can be a very painful experience. If we choose to have pets in our lives, pet loss is an inevitable part of the experience.
As I remember his passing eight years ago, I am reflecting on the support I received that helped me through that difficult time. And there are even more resources available today than there were then. Here are a few that you may find particularly helpful:
Next: Resources for coping with pet loss
PetLoss.com – A pet loss grief support website, including personal support, thoughtful advice, The Monday Pet Loss Candle Ceremony, Tribute Pages, and healing poetry.
Tufts University Pet Loss Suppot Hotline – Callers speak one-on-one with staff members (trained by a psychologist) for as long as they wish.
10 Tips on Coping with Pet Loss by Moira Anderson Allen,† M.E. – Very helpful tips covering everything from coping with feelings to deciding whether to stay with your pet during euthanasia.
ASPCA Pet Loss Support – Includes advice on everything from end of life care to tips on helping you decide if it’s time for euthanasia.
Care2 Pet Heaven eCard – Furry, fluffy, and fantastic. Not only are these cards sending a healing message, all Care2 eCards generate donations to great organizations.
Altar – After Byron passed, I created an altar in the area he used to eat. It included flowers, pictures of him, his dog bowl, collar and favorite toys. Having reflective moments in that sacred space proved to be very healing for me.
Next: Healing poem Rainbow Bridge Poem
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….
What has helped you cope with pet loss? Thanks for clicking on comment and sharing your stories.
As co-founder of Through a Dogís Ear, I am offering my Care2 readers a free download from our latest release, Music to Calm your Canine Companion, Vol. 3. Simply click here and enter your email address and a link to the free download will be delivered to your inbox for you and your canine household to enjoy.
Image: In Loving memory of Byron