They say that “time heals all wounds.” Well, I don’t think they have ever lost anyone close to them. I thought time would make it easier. . . but honestly, it’s not.
“How lucky am I to have something that made saying goodbye so hard.” That’s more like it.
On Christmas Eve, my fiancé and I had to make the decision to let our sweet dog go on to his next journey. Chester had been living with Congestive Heart Failure for months and things got complicated really quickly. It was time. We were able to hold him and look into his eyes (the eyes that have felt like we were friends since the moment we met). In his final moments, he was surrounded by the unfailing love that he gave us. We’ve found a little peace in the fact that his big heart isn’t keeping him hostage in his little body, but otherwise. . . the last couple weeks have altogether – sucked.
Life isn’t the same without him, I knew it wouldn’t be. I knew he couldn’t overcome heart disease, but nothing prepares you for what it’s like when he’s actually gone. We had taken care of Chester and monitored his condition at home for longer than I had realized. I forgot about the numerous times I woke up from a deep sleep because of a tiny cough, shooting up out of bed to help my boy. I lost count of the number of times we drove to the doggie ER in the middle of the night because we thought this episode was going to take him from us. After administering three different kinds of heart medicine, three specific times a day to a 35 pound creature, and then watching his every move to make sure the meds were doing their job – I have a new-found respect for caregivers, both professional and situational. Since we knew Chester better than any of the ER staff on the other end of the phone, it was up to us to figure out what he needed when he was in distress. On Christmas Eve, we knew that our time for goodbye had come. His body was tired, and he didn’t like being the cause of our sleepless nights and constant worry.
Now, I’m learning to live in a world where my day doesn’t start with his body pressed up against mine, keeping me warm like a built-in heater under my comforter. When I can squeeze them in, I take walks by myself and I don’t have to stop and sniff every single tree and bush on my way around the neighborhood anymore. At night, I find myself wanting to call his name – I haven’t actually said it out loud, but I still think to myself, “come on little dog. . . it’s bedtime.”
Two weeks after we walked out of the vet with only a leash and collar, Chester came home. I’ve had dogs my whole life, but never done this part of it before so I didn’t know what to expect. I honestly thought that we were going to get a cardboard box with a plastic bag of ashes inside, but the Universe knew I needed better than that. Our vet always took great care of us and what we received was just one more way we’ll never be able to truly thank them. . . a beautiful heart-shaped clay imprint of our boy’s paw, some seedlings to plant in a garden, and inside a stitched bag that says “Until We Meet Again At The Rainbow Bridge,” a tin can covered in paw-prints.
I shared the poem below with my Facebook friends when I posted the news about Chester. I hope if you’ve ever experienced a loss like this that it helps bring you comfort, as it has for Leah and I.
“Old dogs don’t die, at least, not those dogs who take the biggest chunks of our hearts with them when they leave us. Those dogs are inextricably part of our souls, and they go with us wherever we are. Though we may not see them, we know they’re there because our heart is still beating; we still breathe, and those of us who have been truly touched by a good dog know our lives really started the day we met them.
Magnificent dogs don’t die. They shepherd our dreams and only allow the good ones through the gates of our consciousness. They watch over us much as they did in life. You see, a good dog is something only given to a few people. They are a gift from the Universe and, though they’re with us only a short time, they never really leave us. They are loyalty and love perfected, and once we are graced with that sort of love we can never lose it. For how can love like that ever go away?
It can’t, and it never will. For these brave souls trade their hearts for ours, and they beat together beyond sickness, beyond death. They are ours, and we are theirs, for every sunrise and every sunset, until the sun blazes its last and we once again join the stars.” (By Leigh Curtis, K9 Companion Dog Training/Port Jervis, NY)
He was (is) a magnificent dog, and I know he’ll be waiting for me at the Rainbow Bridge. Meanwhile, he’s finally able to catch those squirrels he always chased, and I will remember him happy, healthy, and smiling until our reunion comes.
I couldn’t pick just one, so here are a few of my favorite pictures of our Chester Boy. . .