Updated: Nov 3, 2019
If you are a pet owner then one of the worst things is seeing your beloved family member get old and pass away.
I have gone through this over the years with my two Westies who lived to 12 & 15 and with all things in life the situations are never the same, sometimes traumatic, sometimes peaceful but all with a great sense of loss and grief. I remember as a teenager losing my best friend, a cat called “Taggy”, we originally called her “Maggie” after Maggie Thatcher but when she had a vet visit She was a He and we had to change his name!
I remember sharing my loss with someone who didn’t understand how a pet can bond and change your life and they laughed at me as though I was a fool, to them it was just an animal, to me a family member.
For the last three years I was incredibly privileged to walk a beautiful greyhound cross called Lady. Lady and her owner had shared ten wonderful years together from when she was rescued at the age of 6. Their bond was just wonderful to see, and they lived each and everyday for each others company and friendship.
Lady was a slim white and black dog with such an elegance about her that all the people in her local area knew her so well. I used to walk her and so many people would ask how she was and pet her, she would have little burst of playful energy with the other dogs she met. Her favourite game was to spot the squirrel!
I wrote a short story a few years ago about her favourite pastime:
Lady & the squirrel
The squirrel stopped on the footpath, aware that he was trapped in the pinpoint stare of a predator.
He moved one foot to test whether it was worthy of making a break for it, but as he did, the elegant black and white sleek form pricked her ears up in anticipation.
He froze again, becoming a statue in order to blend his grey form into the pavement and become invisible. Lady shifted her stance, from graceful old girl to a young pup ready to play and pounce. She poised herself ready for the chase. Her mind was alert, active and sharp but her body lagged behind nowadays.
The standoff seemed to last an age but in reality was merely seconds of predator prey nervousness.
Suddenly the squirrel made a break for it! racing towards the tree ahead of him, his little heart pumping with adrenaline and fear. He made it to the base of the tree and looked back with a sense of achievement. Lady with all her wisdom and grace, knew she wouldn’t catch this one and was happy in the knowledge she had spotted this one and gave it a challenge!
“next time, next time” she thought to herself with a big panting grin. The end.
She loved sitting out on her front lawn watching the world go by and soaking up the warm sun rays.
Lady was nearing her 17th birthday and since the start of this year she had slowed down and lost more weight. She still loved her walks but couldn’t go quite as far as she used to.
Her owner and I, who became a close friend over the years had discussed her end of life care with great caution and sadness, but being practical and putting Lady first, we knew it was coming and I wanted to finish the journey with her as Lady had become my “best friend” over the years.
I received a phone call from her owner one morning and I immediately went to the house. We sat for about an hour making that very tough decision about whether Lady goes to the vet to be put to sleep. She had been incredibly elegant and noble, having battled old age and other conditions, but when we looked into her eyes, she was saying her time had come. She even got up and went out of the room, separating herself as animals can isolate themselves when they know it’s their time.
The next part of the morning was so peaceful. We carried Lady into my vehicle where she lay on her big thick duvet and made herself comfortable. We arrived at the vets and were welcomed straight into a room without waiting. I had Lady in my arms, this frail old girl was still carrying her beauty and gracefulness right to the end.
After speaking to the vet, he compassionately said it was perfect timing for lady to go to sleep.
Whilst her beloved owner held her head and spoke calm loving words into her, I had her on my lap with her leaning onto me, stroking her gently and feeling how calm and grateful she was to her owner for rescuing her all those years ago and showing unconditional love to her everyday of her life.
It was now time for Lady to take the next journey from life to the eternal. The vet administered the drug to bring her shallow breath to a stop. She now lay still, drifting off from her time on this earth.
There were tears, words of love and the last gentle touches to her.
She then walked over the rainbow bridge into eternity.
I wrote this on the day of her passing:
The grace and peace of this magnificent creature now lay tired and drawn.
Her eyes , for so many years burnt bright for the joy of merely being alive, now were looking and asking to close and be still.
The tight grip of a cuddle and words of absolute love washed over her and filled her ears and old bones with love, peace, gentleness and calm.
As she slowly breathed her last, the wonder of this life passed into the next. The energy left her body and she went into an eternal sleep.
She opened her eyes and felt like a pup again, running over this bridge made up of all the colours of the rainbow .
She gathered pace and a happy trot developed into a fast run, feeling the fresh new air flowing over her face and filling her lungs like never before.
She gave the briefest glance back as she reached the other end of this bridge shining and sparkling beneath her paws, just an acknowledgement of her wonderful life and excited anticipation of the next.
She reached the multitudes enjoying the eternal and faded into the joy. She was loved on the earth and now entered into a new love, a never ending love joining with her creator.
Good night, God bless girl, run free.
Bereavement is an emotion and experience none of us want to encounter but it’s inevitable, as part of life is death. The best thing we can do for our four legged friends & family member is give them the best “everyday” we possibly can, take advice from them in how they live, full of joy and hope and just for the day they are in.
It has been a sad time since Lady left and she will always be in her owners thoughts and continuing the love through memories. As for me, I miss our lovely walks together, the joy of seeing her face in the mornings and the lesson of happiness only a dog can teach. She will be missed.
Until next time…