Last night, I heard that one of my friends had to put her dog asleep. It made me hurt for her. This is such a sweet deep ache. She will feel this loss a long time. We all do. When I heard about the death of her beloved dog, I took the time time to pray for her. I “love on” my pets a little more than normal when I hear of the passing of someone else's fur baby. Losing a pet is awful.
In the pet world, people pass the news when someone’s pet has died. There is a hushed conversation and shared sadness. It makes you think about your own fur-kids. I am an animal person. There are many who don't think they are. They usually are (for the most part) very nice people, but they just don't have pets. This might be because their opportunity has not come yet. It is never too late to reach out to find an animal in need no matter how old you or they are. It’s not always that we find our pets— many times they find us. Sometimes it’s just saying “yes.” Many of us believe that we are the ones rescued.
Did you have a pet when you were a child? I can still recite the lineage of my pets. They are engraved upon my heart. They were all my babies, friends, and confidants. Even now as I write my big black cat is watching with the greatest interest a good friend gives. I watched him being born. He delights in hounding me when it’s time to go to bed. He likes to sit and watch me write.
When I was young all our pets were old. We seemed to always inherit the pets of my parents’ patients and friends when they passed. We learned how to be tender when they were timid and sad. Most of the time these were much older dogs and cats. We eventually lulled the puppy or kitten inside them out. These older pets were as much part of our family and became such a blessing. Animals still come my way later on in their lives. They have that look when they are lost. I love the look when they know they have been found and they have a home.
Putting a pet down is one of the most difficult and loving things I have had to do. I have pulled from the deepest place of love in order to do this. Only one of my dogs, Shasta asked not to be put down, but to go naturally. How did I know this? She told me, of course! If you aren’t a dog person, you might not understand, and that is perfectly ok. We, “dog people,” are a weird breed at that. Our animals have a way of letting us know that it is time to go.
I took Shasta to the vet to be looked at, for something seemingly not potent with death. When the vet informed me otherwise, I felt the wind knocked out of me. Shasta looked at me and I back at her. I was instantly filled with sadness and pain. I picked her up and left.
The vet had mentioned euthanasia. Finding a way to help her pass naturally as long as she was not in pain, was my goal. Tending to the dying is not easy. I spent so much time with her and was ready at a moment’s notice if she was struggling to take her to the vet. Thankfully, she didn't struggle. She was loved and tended and she knew it.
When I met her, I had no idea of her adventure before we met. I could tell she had one. We both had. We both seemed very tired. We leaned into one another. I had just left the Gulf Coast a month and a half after Hurricane Katrina. Since I lost my home, my work, and the complete infrastructure of my life, I had to leave.
There was a restorative yoga class that I found where I was living several states away. My teacher had just gotten a wonderful new, old dog— Shasta was a husky. She was shy, but we connected and became friends. She would hide a lot at first. There was something special about her.
Several years later, my friend and teacher was moving and could not take Shasta with her. She gave her to me. It wasn’t until the next day that my friend asked if I wanted Shasta’s paperwork. She had forgotten to give it to me the day before. It turns out that she was a rescued dog from Hurricane Katrina— from the Mississippi Gulf Coast. That is where I was from. I sat with this truth and it was then that I understood so much about how Shasta and I came to be together and why.
I thought of the horrible time animals had, after Katrina. This amazes me still that she not only survived but became mine. Shasta had somehow found her way out of Katrina and found me.
When her day finally came, I was with her. I took a lot of time off. I rested with her by her favorite spots— in front of the refrigerator by the warm spot. She was sleeping longer and longer. I fed her, her favorite treats and spent time loving on her. I listened to her breath and laid on the floor with her. I breathed with her until she stopped.
Whispering her name, I told her she was the best dog in the world. I tell all dogs that. Only because they are, and she really was.
This was written by my favorite poet- Robinson Jeffers, 1941
I visited his house and noticed his dog’s grave, just outside where he sat at his desk
The House Dog's Grave (Haig, an English bulldog)
I've changed my ways a little; I cannot now
Run with you in the evenings along the shore,
Except in a kind of dream; and you, if you dream a moment,
You see me there.
So leave awhile the paw-marks on the front door
Where I used to scratch to go out or in,
And you'd soon open; leave on the kitchen floor
The marks of my drinking-pan.
I cannot lie by your fire as I used to do
On the warm stone,
Nor at the foot of your bed; no, all the night through
I lie alone.
But your kind thought has laid me less than six feet
Outside your window where firelight so often plays,
And where you sit to read--and I fear often grieving for me--
Every night your lamplight lies on my place.
You, man and woman, live so long, it is hard
To think of you ever dying
A little dog would get tired, living so long.
I hope that when you are lying
Under the ground like me your lives will appear
As good and joyful as mine.
No, dear, that's too much hope: you are not so well cared for
As I have been.
And never have known the passionate undivided
Fidelities that I knew.
Your minds are perhaps too active, too many-sided. . . .
But to me you were true.
You were never masters, but friends. I was your friend.
I loved you well, and was loved. Deep love endures
To the end and far past the end. If this is my end,
I am not lonely. I am not afraid. I am still yours
Breathing deeply with you and still learning
Josie Jackson - A patriots Journey
In dedication to “Little Man--” you are the best dog in the world!