Every day things happen that leave someone completely changed, for a moment they stop breathing, and it feels like the world has stopped turning – but it doesn’t. The world, just keeps on turning.
In my life I have lost six dogs who now reside at the rainbow bridge. Some were lost too young and to unfortunate circumstances, and some lived long and still I think their time was all too short. I think that, even though I know their passing made room and paved the way for the next pup who snuggled their way into my heart.
Some of them passed on to the rainbow bridge on their own, some relied on me to help them with their journey. The decision is never easy, the brain and the heart competing, arguing over what is the right thing to do. That doesn’t even take into account the noise of all of the free advice and unsolicited opinions, that creep into the decision-making process. The heart and mind wage a war over: is it time, is it passed time, are they happy, are they in pain, and do they have quality time left? Nothing that is said, heard, or felt helps change the simple fact that dogs don’t live long enough.
I remember the passing of each of my dogs, like I remember the way to early passing of a friend when I was in high school, of my beloved grandmother who gave up her retirement to raise me, and the loss of a dear friend and mentor only a few short years ago. I remember how hard the final moments were, how I felt like I couldn’t breathe in as they let their last breath out, how I just felt like life wouldn’t be the same and couldn’t go on with out my pup.
If all that sounds dramatic to you that’s okay because grief is different for each of us, just as our relationships with each of our pets are different. It is however, exactly how I felt. I felt like my world stopped. Maybe I wanted it to stop, I don’t know. I do know that each day it got a little easier and while life wasn’t the same I didn’t want it to be and I found it didn’t need to be. I know that breathing stopped being such a chore and at some point the reminders of my departed fuzzy partners brought smiles and even laughter instead of tears. I know that the world never stopped turning, but that I had wonderful friends and family that acknowledged my grief. While the world did continue spinning, they made sure that my world slowed down enough that I could get back in the normal rotation on my own terms. I know that each time I am faced with this situation that I forget all of that stuff I just wrote and go through it again. I also know that each little tiny second I get to share my life with a dog, makes me strong enough to go through this (in hindsight) relatively short, albeit horrible, part. I am constantly amazed at the resiliency of the heart, it’s ability to keep on beating, to keep on loving even when I am sure it will never love again.
Today the world stopped turning for a fellow Canine Companion’s puppy raiser, and it indeed stopped way to soon. There is nothing that anyone can say or do to help her catch her breath, to start her world turning again tonight. But in the coming days we can just be there, breathing – showing her how to start breathing again, showing her it is okay to start breathing again. We can be there watching and waiting for when those reminders become smiles and not tears. That is our job now to wait and then keep him alive through stories, memories, and photographs that will remind us all how this wonderful dog graced us during his short time on this earth.
Rest in peace Hercules. Your time was too short, but the legacy you leave behind is immense.