My beloved Max died on 11th July. Having to put him down was the most difficult thing I have done in my life. But he was suffering and I remembered: “If you love someone, let them go”. I write this for those of you who have lost a companion animal.
About a year before Max became sick, I asked myself: “If I were to die soon, what would my biggest regret be with regards to Max?” The answer that emerged was that I didn’t bring him to the beach enough. From then onwards, I brought him to the beach regularly – more in that one year than in ten years! He even overcame his fear of swimming. We had wonderful, wonderful days at the beach. And I am thankful I asked myself that question. It transformed our time together.
Before he died, I gave thanks to him for being my teacher, my healer, my catalyst and child. He changed me in many ways, teaching me unconditional love and patience. He opened many hearts while on his wheelchair. I wrote down the lessons he had taught me.
I apologised to him for not having done enough for him during his younger days.
I used “Rescue Remedy for Pets” in his last days.
I brought him to the beach often.
On the day we put him down, we all gathered around him, and prayed, and said goodbye. There was quiet in the room.
The grief was tremendous after he left us. Like a big gaping hole in my heart. And a sense of disbelief. I cried alot.
In the days that followed, many interesting things happened to reassure me that he was in a better place, and also, in a way, still around. Those are very personal but I just want to share that if you lose an animal, stay open to signs and messages you may receive…yet do no expect them. Just stay present. (You may also like to watch the movie, “What dreams may come”. I recalled the scene with the dog with a sense of peace.)
A few days after he died, I felt Called to start a page for those serving animals. It keeps Max “alive” for me. How can his memory benefit others? That’s the question I have asked myself.
I read “Goodbye Friend” by Gary Kowalski. I felt understood, connected to many who have lost their animals and to all of humanity for we all suffer all kinds of losses. It is beautifully and soulfully written. Here’s an excerpt:
“But if the things that we can do are limited, the things that we can be are manifold: patient, accepting, and compassionate with ourselves, sensitive to the currents of sympathy that surround is, and hopeful that even in the midst of sorrow the future will open new possibilities for life. Inside each one of us is a center that is affirming rather than negating, expansive rather than constricting. Finding that center and holding to it can help us live creatively even when the world round about seems chaotic and confused.”
Here’s an interview with the author, Gary Kowalski.
There are other books on loss of companion animals. Perhaps you may find one that speaks to you in the way you need.
A few days ago, I laid out Max’s things. And just bore witness to them quietly. Each item reminded me of a role I had played in his life, or a role I hadn’t played – perhaps an opportunity lost even. But even with the regrets, I reminded myself that i could learn my lessons and apply them to my loved ones who are still around.
I then threw away most things; decided to donate some and kept a few. The few I kept are now sacred objects to me of a very important relationship in my life. I kept his bowl because he LOVED to eat, even till the end. I kept his dog toy because it reminds me of the spirit of play which he brought into my life. I kept the pair of scissors which I used to groom him with. Grooming him allowed me to practise physical caring for another being. It was a time of quiet connection, of trust on his part that I wouldn’t hurt him and trust in myself that I would be mindful and not hurt him. (Over ten years, I nicked him once!)
The healing journey continues. Today I donated his wheelchair to Mount Pleasant Animal Hospital in case another dog needs it. And I collected his ashes. These are triggers for tears. And I accept them. Crying heals.
Somedays I want to write this to him:
Sometimes I forget
that you’re not here anymore
And I expect to find you when I come home…
When food falls on the floor
I half expect you to come for it
But sometimes I remember too clearly
that you’re not basking in the sunlight anymore
and it is now just a square patch of empty light
And that I cannot see your beautiful face
Or touch you
and your heavenly paw
But sometimes I forget….
I have not found many places to go to for support for the loss of a companion animal in Singapore. So this is a small offering from my heart to yours if you have lost a loved animal.
When he died, I really did not know how my heart would heal. He’s irreplaceable. But the heart does heal; not in a linear way, but in its own way at its own pace and guided by things I do to help facilitate that.
I wish you healing.
Related: Goodbye, Friend