It was exactly a year ago that I sat on the floor of my living room with Nora’s head in my lap as she drifted off into a deep sleep and took her last breath. It was a gift to be able to let her pass at home with the help of at home euthanasia, but it was also the hardest and worst decision of my life. What a beautiful and terrible thing. To have the immense privilege to end my dog’s suffering, and the indescribable pain to have to make that choice. Still when I think about it, my face gets hot, my nose gets runny and my eyes well with tears.
Over the last year I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me as they say goodbye to their pets, looking for words of comfort or advice, or simply to say they are broken and don’t know how to heal. Sometimes I think what I share might help. A part of me knows words can’t fix that kind of heartache. I think most of us just want to know there’s someone else who understands.
On Grieving The Loss Of A Soul Dog
How do you grieve the loss of a soul dog?
You move through it as best you can. Eventually it won’t feel so heavy, but a year later, there are times it feels just below the surface. The loss of Nora took me through a level of sadness and heartache I’ve never experienced. I honored my grieving process, and let it flow through and out of me. I cried a lot. Most days the best I could do was to write about what and how I felt. When we lose a human life we process the loss with wakes, funerals, and memorial services. When we lose an animal, a trusted and loyal companion, we don’t have the same rituals, so we must make our own.
The morning after Nora passed was the first time I received one of her signs (this book helped open my eyes and heart to the messages she was sending me). It was a family of deer in our yard. For days and weeks following Nora’s death I saw deer. Whenever I needed it most, there they were.
A few weeks ago we decided to rescue a puppy. Almost a year had passed since we said goodbye to Nora and we thought, if not now, when? I didn’t feel ready, but I wondered if I ever would. No dog would ever replace Nora’s presence, but then again that’s not really the point. In the early morning on the day I was picking up our new rescue dog Pepper, I looked out the window to find a family of deer in our backyard. Tears streamed down my face. I hadn’t seen any deer in a while.
A pretty wooden box in the living room of our house in Rhode Island holds Nora’s ashes.
I glanced at them as we packed up our things for the fall and winter to move up to Vermont, but I decided to leave them there. On a trip back to Rhode Island last week I took her ashes from our house and brought them back to Vermont. As I got into town around 2pm and pulled onto our street, I looked to my right. In the driveway of the house right before ours, there was a family of deer.
Since Pepper arrived, there have been deer in our yard most mornings. I find myself waking up early to make sure I don’t miss them. A few mornings ago there was a fawn so close to our front door I could probably reach out and touch it. I sat quietly in the window drinking my coffee. Some mornings it makes me smile, sometimes it makes me cry.
We got home from our walk the other day and I looked over to find Fuji and Pepper in the large basket bed together. Pepper was cleaning Fuji, something Nora spent much of her time doing when she was around. No dog can ever replace Nora or the connection I shared with her, but surely they can help keep her memory and spirit alive. The hardest part of having a soul dog is that one day they leave us, the best part is that the love lasts forever.
Pet Loss Resources and Keepsakes
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