Sunday , 24 September 2017

Goodbye For Now: A letter to my dog

Goodbye: A letter to my dog  – by Nat Lauzon 

Dec 28th, 2014.  One year ago.

It’s the day your journey as a dog ended, and your next chapter began as something else.  As everything else, I guess.

If you had any idea how many times I’ve tried to write this over the months, you’d wonder why I wasted so many mournful moments and didn’t spend that time doing something more productive – like napping in a sunbeam or going for walks or hoovering a radius around the kitchen floor.  After all, that’s what you’d have done.

But I’m a dufus human.  And I’ve been trying hard to learn more lessons about “present living” from more evolved creatures, like dogs.DSC00038

But my girl, as a dufus human, I  have this need to put my thoughts to paper and my words to the universe.  I guess this is what some might call a form of “closure”. Even though I know the wound of your loss will never be closed.  Grief isn’t airtight.  Nor should it be.  Nor, do I want it to be.

Remember those first months after we met, Flea?  When you came to me from a puppy mill – almost 2 years old, dull-eyed, sickly and paralyzed with fear.  You knew nothing of the world except life in a cage. Your sole comfort – the puppies you produced – were ripped away from you time and time again. You’d find the furthest corner of my apartment and tremble with fear and hide your head, trying to be smaller than you already were.

Committed to helping you, I educated myself.  I taught you about your new world in small doses. I put your feet on grass for the first time, showed you toys, introduced you to all the wonderful places we could go with a leash and harness.  In return, you taught me how to use patience and understanding and calm.  You showed me that despite your past, you were willing to forgive human beings. You learned that some of us (especially ones with food) really aren’t all that bad. You inspired me to do more. So I created Montreal Dog Blog – and thus began a legacy of helping rescue animals like you.

fleagrassSlowly I watched you blossom into the dog you were meant to be – taking just a few more steps outside your comfort zone, becoming more confident and curious, tail just a little higher, chest a little prouder.  Just when I’d think I wasn’t doing enough, I’d see you make progress and reassure me we were on the right track.  I got to see your first (of countless) moments of true happiness (chasing squirrels in a park)!  Even the physical changes amazed me. A good diet and some TLC, and you grew a thicker, longer coat – and to my surprise, long plumes of fur eventually sprouted from your ears and tail!  Of course, some remnants of your past would always remain – like fearfulness of loud sounds and an initial hesitation of most people.  But these served as reminders of your past and a measure of how far you’d come.  dogsflea7

You were forever kind.  You were forever gentle.  When 4 month old Arty came into the picture, you mothered him and played with him and even though he’s got a strong personality, you were never mean to him (though to my amusement, you discovered in recent years that you could terrify Arty with the way you guarded the bed if you got in it first. I guess it made you feel kinda tough, if only for a few moments). 

flealick

To you, joy was a full-body expression! Your entire body would spin like a top when you were happy – which was every day!   I miss the way you’d bow every time I put my head near yours, the way you figured out if you ran ahead of me and rolled over on your back, I’d have to pet your belly, your good-natured interactions with other dogs, your familiar jagged little sigh in the darkness at bedtime, your deep appreciation of sunbeams, your obsession with food (What is this, steak? Awesome! What is this, kale? AWESOME! What is this, a leaf? AMAZING!). 

As you got older, and the brown on your face faded to grey, you owned your golden years!  You really luxuriated in creature comforts and naps and stretching out, belly-up, to relax.  Oh, and of course – that ridiculous tongue!  Which was often obliviously decorated with something off of the floor from your crumb patrols. And how I was the only one you ever trusted to hold you.  When I picked you up, you melted right into me like it’s where you belonged.  Because, of course, you did.

 Flea, my heart squeezes when I think of you. But to trade the tears for never having experienced these things at all?  Not a chance. We had some good adventures, didn’t we?

Is th-omething th-tuck to my tongue?
Is th-omething th-tuck to my tongue?

DSC00183 flea6flea8

runningflea2fleaplayarty8I’m happy you got to meet Chad.  Despite your wariness of people, you loved him right away. And THAT was pretty awesome. Like the saying goes, “I’m suspicious of people who don’t like dogs. But I fully trust a dog who doesn’t like a person”.  He quite literally picked me up off the floor during some bad moments after you were gone. He still lets me talk about you until I’m blue in the face, by the way. He’s patient and kind and he loved you too.

A product of a puppy mill environment, your body was never truly healthy, though you didn’t let it stop you.  I lovingly called you my “spare parts dog”. You were plagued by urinary problems, toddled along on genetically malformed, arthritic legs and suffered epileptic seizures. And though I’m sure you felt the pain of your body at times, especially in later years, you never cried or whimpered. You handled physical pain with strength and stoicism.  In fact, the only time you really ever cried was when I was leaving you for vacation.  And again when I returned.

I always returned.  In the end, we always were reunited.  I knew there was no question I would be there for you when that dreaded time came. Though, we’d had 10 years together, I fleafacestill hadn’t expected it to come to an end so soon. I guess no one ever does. Your goodbye was everything I didn’t want it to be. And not how I would have constructed things, had we had more time. It’s really a silly notion of humans to think we always have more time.  I’m working on remembering this too.

When you got sick last Christmas – it was sudden and it was devastatingly fast and cruel. You were given an unforgiving diagnosis of IMHA (Immune-mediated Hemolytic Anemia) and fought hard through a blood transfusion. You were tough to survive that.  Then again, you were always resilient, given how you began.

In the wee hours of December 28th, I received a call that I should come and say goodbye.

Seeing you, ravaged by this fast-acting disease was a heartbreak I still actively force out of my mind. Within 48 hours, you had gone from healthy to something unrecognizable. The last time I saw you, your body was in spasms, wheezing and trembling, hooked up to oxygen.  Mercifully, you were unconscious. They told me you were not aware of anything and I was grateful for at least that.

But my girl, I hope you know you were not alone.  I was there like I promised.  I was there until your very last breath.  I pulled your blanket over you.  I held you and nuzzled your neck and thanked you.  I told you I loved you and what a good friend you’d been and that it was okay if you needed to go.  I tried to desperately snapshot the feeling of your fur beneath my hands, knowing it would be the last time but wishing it wasn’t, all in the same moment.  Chad was there, too – one hand on you, the other on me – trying hard to send you peace through the torture your body was inflicting on you.

Seeing you this way was tough. So, when you slipped away, and the struggle for breath ceased, I felt relief.

And then the twisting and turning journey of grief began.

I miss you every single day. If it’s true that we mourn in proportion to the significance of our relationships then, this is going to take longer than I thought.  Once, in the days after you were gone, Arty started barking and I was sure I heard you join the chorus. It only ever happened that once.  He misses you. He looked for you a lot in those early arty5days and slept in your spots and has even taken on a few of your characteristics.  I wish he had been able to say goodbye. It broke my heart, his seeking you out, his confusion.  It’s not what I wanted for him.

You should know that I’m in a much better place.  Arty and Chad and the understanding of so many kind friends and strangers has helped me heal. I don’t squeeze the heartbreak out into a million tears, anymore.  Where I used to scoop you into my arms, I now hold fast to memories of you.  I collect them happily.  They are warm and make me fleamesmile.  And just like you were, they are never, ever far from my side.

Someday, I will honour the lessons you taught me about patience and kindness and rescue another animal in need.   But it’s going to have to be someone special (you know how finicky Arty is about the company he keeps).  Somewhere there is a dog being passed up because they are old or sick or so fearful that they’ve never had the chance to be who they really are.   And I know I can help because you’re the one who gave me that gift.  You gave me a decade-long lesson in compassion.  How many of us are so lucky?

In the meantime, my girl – we’re turning the page on a new year. I wish you were here.  And yet, I know that you are.  You’re in every sunbeam and gentle breeze and every good feeling. You’re in all the small joys in every day.

fleawaterWriting this letter to you has been 365 days in the making. 365 days experiencing a journey of grief that is as individual as every soul. Some will understand the grief of pet loss – and some will not.  In writing this, I’m not seeking the understanding of others.  I had a personal need to acknowledge the depth and richness and individuality of your life as something more.  Your life had meaning.  How can I say it didn’t when it literally changed mine?  Words will never do proper justice, but at least I know I’ve tried.  My tiny spare parts dog, you were the most whole creature I have ever known.

Thank you, my Flea, for teaching me about forgiveness and joy and living in the moment – all the beautiful and pure things that are so exquisitely dog.

Dec 28th, 2014.  One year ago.  It’s the day your journey as a dog ended and your next chapter began as something else.  As everything else.   As part of me, too.

Until we meet again, my sweet little girl.

dogs

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20 comments

  1. Nat, I just finished reading your tribute to Flea and I am a blubbering mess. You managed to encapsulate the feelings and raw emotions we all feel when we lose one of our fur babies. Thank-you for being the special,caring,funny,person that you are!!

  2. Oh Nat – what a heartfelt and beautiful tribute to your special girl. Your love for her shines through each and every word. Having lost my “heart dog” Heidi to IMHA after an 18 month battle she fought so valiantly, I know the emotional roller coaster and special hell that you live in with that horrible disease. It’s been 5 years since her loss, but it still tears my heart apart that she was taken from me far too young, but she taught me so much about love. That love led me into the rescue world, and I think Heidi’s legacy is that I’ve been able to help other dogs in need.
    Thank you for putting so beautifully into words the life-altering changes that your special little girl brought to your life – every single word resonated with me. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you at events in the Montreal area, and should we meet again, I’m giving you a big hug, and maybe we’ll also share a tear or two. Thank you for sharing this beautiful letter with us.

  3. That was truly the most beautiful letter to a pet I have ever read. I feel your pain and understand all too well.
    They never leave us. The pain never really goes away. It only gets a little easier. They teach us lessons and give us such a special gift by sharing their time on earth with us. For that we are blessed.
    Thank you for sharing this Nat.
    Voula

  4. Callie "Critturs" (from the IMHA page)

    Nat — you get it. You understand what motivates me to help IMHA dogs … and dogs with demodex and all the other “things” I help with. But it all started (for me) with Prissy. http://www.critturs.com/prissy.html — that’s MY letter to Pris.

    I pulled her off the street at 6 1/2 months old — and btw … she had already HAD a litter that someone had taken away from her. They drowned the pups and threw her out of a moving car. She was my first “sick dog” (deathly ill from pancreatitis many times). But oh she taught me SO much.

    Nat — it took me SEVEN years to write my letter to Prissy. She lived to be nearly 20 — and taught ME so much about rescue, about “fear”, about how to keep trying even when you “can’t”. After I lost her I just became a robot. I just could …. not …. get …. past ….

    And finally one day my grief poured into a letter.

    But this is why I keep helping dogs. The Prissy’s and Flea’s of this life are a supreme gift. They change our lives. Because they were THAT “worth it”.

    You and I are better people for having known them. The WORLD is better because they were in it.

  5. I’m glad you wrote this Nat, and that I got to read it. It’s wonderful. I feel your pain and your joy as well. We are blessed by the beautiful souls who surround us, be them human or dogs! Thank you for sharing this story of you and Flea.

  6. Just said goodbye to my Memphis a year ago as well. I still dream of him, sometimes, thinking that I should go back home earlier from work, so I can let him out.
    Thank you for this letter to your dog. I knew I would be crying reading it but i could not help myself but to read it.

    Your little one was a lucky one for sure,

    Nath

  7. I lost my girl 7 years ago and still miss her so much I then lost her best friend a year and a half ago she looked for her for over a year I know how you feel I cried when I read your letter you said everything I have wanted to say for a long time and just didn’t know how to thank you so very much.

  8. That is a most beautiful tribute -I feel your pain and your grief. On the day before Christmas Eve we lost our most precious cat Molly – a rescue – due to the auto immune virus-a vicious horrible thing – she was only 4 yrs old,l0 days before our precious Maggie went- a rescue also. Gone in a few days no warning. One year before we also lost our beloved dog Kaylee- at 17 yrs – a long and beautiful life well lived.

    Please know your are not alone in your grief – it is something those of us who love our animals will suffer.
    Thank you for sharing those beautiful memories.

  9. Nat, that was the most beautiful letter that I have ever read. I am in tears remembering all my beautiful furbabies that I have had to say goodbye too. So many memories and you have captured them all so beautifully. Flea was lucky to have found you and you Flea. You gave Flea a wonderful life. What you had taught each other was amazing. You are amazing. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. xo

  10. What a poignant, beautiful letter. Such a lovely testimony of a genuine love shared. How lucky you both were to find each other. Thank you for sharing that amazing story. Reminds me of many experiences that I have. And, maybe some I am yet to have. I am so sorry for your loss of Flea. I sure wish we could have them with us longer. Take care! Peace🌷

  11. Wow,

    As I sit here and cry…I am comforted by the fact that there so many other people like us, who cherish and adore their fur babies.

    I know exactly how you feel Nat, and like you…I still mourn the love of my life who left me in 2009…I will never forget what he taught me, or how that beautiful little face could make my heart swell everytime I looked at him.

    God bless!

  12. Really touching and brought me to tears. You were both lucky to have each other.

  13. You put so beautifully into words what we all, as pet owners, feel about our babies. They come into our lives and give us such joy and pure love that when it is their time to leave us, it leaves gaping holes in our hearts. Thank you for such a beautifully written letter.

  14. Beautiful!
    I cry just thinking about my doggie leaving us one day. Aside from how it will rip my heart in a million pieces I will feel even worse for my daughter who is 15 and will be heartbroken. We try to give our little bundle of joy the best possible life so when she goes to doggie heaven she tells all the other dogs how she had the best family EVER!

  15. I lost my dog yesterday. I’ve never known such pure grief. I didn’t think there were words to describe it. But there yours were.
    Judith

    • I’m so sorry for your loss, Judith. Thank you for reading my words. I’m glad they resonated. I hope they gave you comfort, too. xx (nat)

  16. I lost my Sparky exactly one week before you did. He wasn’t ill, had no chronic conditions. He had just turned 10 and we had adopted a 9 week old companion puppy for him 3 weeks earlier. 40 minutes before he passed, he and little Abby were running around the house playing happily together.He was teaching her how to be a good dog. I loved what I was seeing so much that I took a little video of them together, and then snapped a shot of him, smiling and shaking down Dad for a treat.

    And then, 40 minutes later, I heard a loud thump. He had fallen. From where? Wasn’t he already on the floor? He ran a few feet, dragging his back legs, to a comfy spot of his: under the dining room table. We ran after, pulled him out. His breathing was slow and heartbreakingly labored. We wrapped him in his new Christmas blanket and got into the car, driving in the late night to the ER vet 10 minutes away. The ER team was waiting for us, ran him into the back. Twice someone came out to tell us he had no heartbeat and did we want them to continue trying to resuscitate? Before I could get the words out, my husband would yell YES! Finally, the third time, when they indicated they were not being successful, we made the decision to tell them to stop. He had died in his Dad’s arms on the drive. They brought our beautiful boy into the exam room where we were, put him on the table, and left us alone with him. He looked perfect. He had been groomed for Christmas two days earlier. Just sleeping. Still felt warm. I kept putting my head against his chest, sure I would hear his heartbeat. I held him, stroked him, and cried like never before.I talked to him, told him I couldn’t live without him. You were fine, how can you be dead? You were my heart. You ARE my heart. You’re my once-in-a-lifetime special pet. You should have been here at least 5 more years. How? How could this be true? How could your mission here on earth be over? You still need to teach Abby so many more things! All your Christmas gifts are wrapped and under the tree, and tomorrow is my birthday!

    Sparky was not a rescue. I got him from a breeder. He was a joy from the start. However, in all other ways your letter resonated with me. Life lessons learned. A life that mattered more than anyone other than me knew. Grief as deep as the ocean. Realizing that heartbreak is a physical as well as emotional experience.
    I talked to him through my wracking sobs a lot in the weeks that followed. I knew little Abby needed a companion, but I felt so disloyal to Sparky for thinking it.

    One night I went upstairs to my bedroom and sat down in front of his photo. I talked out loud to him. Told him what had been on my mind, told him I didn’t want to dishonor his memory, told him I understood that it most likely wasn’t nearly the right time to look for a new dog. My simple request was that when he thought it was the right time, when it was okay with him, to give me a sign. I went to bed feeling peaceful.

    I got the sign the very next morning. He sent the sign through Abby. Won’t belabor the details. I will just say it was unmistakable. It was also two months to the day after Sparky had passed.

    In the ensuing days, I somehow stumbled upon a Facebook page for a rescue organization in a neighboring state. Scannng through their photos, I stopped on the face of a dog who was a dead ringer for Sparky! It was a female who had been recently rescued from a puppy mill in Missouri. She was the same breed as Sparky, and as I continued to read about her, I found out she had just given birth to six healthy puppies, 3 boys and 3 girls. Thus began the process of contact, application, discussions, having my references checked, and even a home visit. We were approved, and when they were 9 weeks old we were invited to make the 3 hour drive to meet the pups and choose one. We chose a boy, and when he was old enough ( 11 weeks), we came back for him. It was 4 months and 4 days after Sparky left us. We named him Teddy. He is a joy of a boy. I have no doubt that angel Sparky somehow chose him for us. You could say it was a match made in heaven.

  17. I Just read yor letter to Flea & it touched me so very deeply, Very soory for your loss. I hope Arty is doing well and wish you all the best for the future. Truly it was awakening to not only the difference we make in the lives of the dogs we rescue but all they do for us. Now that my boyfriend and I have a dog of our own (an awesome pitbull named Thor) we find it hard to remember what life was liek without him. Your letter was touching, Keep keeping on 🙂 As I saw once in another post somewhere, Dogs never die, They are only asleep in our hearts.

  18. Nat. What a great tribute. I lost Bono last week after over 9 years of pure joy and friendship. Our family mourns everyday. We miss him. It’s not the same without him. His doggie friends miss him too. I thank God for allowing us to care and love him like we did. He taught us a lot. I wish he was still here with us. 😢😢😢

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