I don’t know about you, but when I’m sad or stressed I can’t think straight. I envy people like my husband who can compartmentalize their feelings and focus on work or whatever needs to be done. I flit from thing to thing and my thoughts are all over the place.
So I have to warn you that this post is going to be pretty scattered, too, but I wanted to share some of the inspiration and ideas you’ve so generously given us this week—the grace notes that have helped us say goodbye to Gunther. I hope they can help you or someone you know who is mourning the loss of a loved pet.
- We bought Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant for our kids when our beagle, Molly, passed away. This picture book helped us just as much as it did them. Rylant’s writing style is deceptively simple—she conveys deep truths in clear, straightforward prose. I haven’t been able to look at Dog Heaven yet, but Tim has managed to read it (barely) to the younger ones. Several people have mentioned in notes and messages that this book has helped them, too.
- My dear friend Jeanette printed out a copy of the Rainbow Bridge for us. The “Rainbow Bridge” is a short piece of poetic prose that tells of a special place where a beloved pet goes after it passes away. The pets are, of course, reunited with their loved ones one day. Okay. I haven’t felt ready to read this yet, either, but I will—so many of you have mentioned it that I’m sure it will help.
- Cheryl, a lovely staff member at our elementary school, gave me a couple of ideas for remembering a pet. The first is to use a soft, non-goopy clay that will harden (like Model Magic) to make a print of your dog or cat’s paw. I thought that would be very sweet. The other idea is to put some special items like a photo or two and your pet’s collar and tags in a shadowbox to remember him or her. If you have other ideas of what to put in the shadowbox, please share.
- We’ve received sympathy cards from friends, and their acknowledgement of our grief truly helps. One friend even made dinner for us one night, which was incredibly kind. Don’t be afraid to do or say something; it will be appreciated.
- Our friend Claudia, who is a gifted photographer, offered to make a portrait of Gunther for us to keep. Because his condition progressed so quickly, we weren’t able to take her up on her offer. But I think that having a professionally-made portrait would be wonderful to have.
- And finally, Leslie, a friend of mine from high school, shared this quote from a friend of hers, Lori Cabell, DVM, who is a veterinary surgeon: I believe that for us to outlast our pets would be far too cruel; we are their world and everything that matters to them is connected to us. God gave us these creatures because in spite of all our intellect, we must constantly be reminded of what is truly important. Animals focus on only the essential: life, love, and happiness. They teach us how to live—and how to be better people.
Isn’t that powerful? It certainly makes me look at our loss in a different light. Do you have other ideas or inspiration that have helped you cope with the loss of the pet you loved?
[ Update: I almost forgot this article about knowing when it’s time to let go from another high school friend, Heather. It really helped give us the courage to let Gunther move on. By the way, I was feeling pretty strong tonight. We were at a school event and spent much of the evening talking with friends about our dogs, including one family in our neighborhood whose sweet boy, Jack, passed away this morning. The rest of the time it was so loud and crazy I couldn’t even think. But then we came home to the quiet house and opened the mail to find a beautiful, handwritten letter from Gunther’s veterinarian. Can you imagine? A handwritten letter. What a lovely person. But of course that set me off again. Sigh. ]