Oliver's family knew that he would soon be living life one day at a time. At 12 years old he was showing signs that let his family know that he would soon be ready to go. They knew it was a blessing to have had Ollie for so long, but it was still very hard to think about letting go of their beloved companion.
Ollie was a model student from the beginning. He completed puppy class, recall class and agility; he even earned his Canine Good Citizen badge. Ollie loved being with his family. He was a big teddy bear and being a "Good dog" was in his blood as Ollie's grandfather won best of show at the Westminster Dog Show in 2004. At the age of five though, Ollie came down with canine meningitis. He was sick and afterwards had trouble using his hind legs, but he went on living and loving life for 7 more years. Ollie's dad says, "He kept us together as a family. He owes us nothing; we owe him." I think this says it all.
Ollie passed away just before Christmas. His family was heartbroken, but Ollie had given them notice of his intentions ahead of time to help prepare them. The family had read the story of the Rainbow Bridge and kept it close to heart in the months that led up to Ollie's passing. (I wonder if that unknown author has any idea how many families they have helped with the passing of their beloved pets.)
We got pictures of Ollie with his family and pictures with his housemate and friend, Zeus. Then we took some pictures to help Ollie's loved ones remember that he will forever be in their hearts.
I feel privileged to have met Ollie. Between our brief time at the session and the wonderful stories told by his family, I know that he was truly the definition of an old soul.
There are several versions of The Rainbow Bridge out there, but they all convey the same message and conjure up the same emotions. Here is one in particular that I really like:
The Rainbow Bridge
inspired by a Norse legend
By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,
Is a lush, green meadow where time stands still.
Where the friends of man and woman do run,
When their time on earth is over and done.
For here, between this world and the next,
Is a place where each beloved creature finds rest.
On this golden land, they wait and they play,
Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.
No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness,
For here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness.
Their limbs are restored, their health renewed,
Their bodies have healed, with strength imbued.
They romp through the grass, without even a care,
Until one day they start, and sniff at the air.
All ears prick forward, eyes dart front and back,
Then all of a sudden, one breaks from the pack.
For just at that instant, their eyes have met;
Together again, both person and pet.
So they run to each other, these friends from long past,
The time of their parting is over at last.
The sadness they felt while they were apart,
Has turned into joy once more in each heart.
They embrace with a love that will last forever,
And then, side-by-side, they cross over… together.
© 1998 Steve and Diane Bodofsky. All Rights Reserved.
How do we know when it's time to let our family pet go? It's a tough decision and almost impossible for some, but I feel like it's something we can give in return for all that they've given us.
Our pets are often very stoic when they aren't feeling well. They don't have a "poor me" attitude. Instead they just figure out on their own how to do what they want to do with this new hiccup in their life.
When we start to notice something isn't right with our pet we set out to try and fix whatever it is and hope that it will work. So, what if it doesn't work or what if it isn't fixable? What then?
As our dog, Zoe got older the typical things started happening - her eyesight was getting worse, and her hearing wasn't so great anymore, but she never stopped running the fence when the kids were out at recess (she was a border collie and herding kids was her life). During her last 6 months or so something told me that she might not be with us for much longer. I would come down the stairs every morning, see her laying on her bed and think to myself, 'It's ok if you don't wake up, Zoe'. That might sound harsh, but I wanted her to go as peacefully as possible. Maybe it was a little selfish, too... I wouldn't have to make any decisions as to the timing of things.
Zoe was one of those tough dogs who never ever complained. During her last visit to the vet I told him that I did not want Zoe to ever suffer and I asked him how I would know when it was time to let her go. He told me simply that I would know. The day came when Zoe let me know that she was ready. There was no mistaking it and all I could do was thank her for that final gift.
Last week a good friend of mine had to go through this process with her own dog. Unlike Zoe, her dog was one of those dogs who throughout her life had one thing happen after another - allergies, diabetes, that wicked eating glasses, socks and cell phones syndrome... But, Jersey was one of the happiest dogs who ever lived. Always smiling, always giving kisses, always wanting to be with you (and on you!). She was Hermes' best dog park buddy when they were youngsters and Hermes even had a sleepover once with Jersey. Jersey loved everyone and if you aren't afraid of big dogs I guarantee you would have loved her, too.
It's never easy, but sometimes the best thing we can do is to let them go. We tell them we love them, say our goodbyes (and some people feed them 3 hot dogs - can you see the smile on Jersey's face? ) Then we picture them as we want to remember them... happy and healthy and goofy and tirelessly loyal... and carry them in our hearts forever.
It's always hard when we lose a pet, but at the holidays it seems tougher still. I had the privilege of spending time with these pups and I know how much they are missed.
You were my favorite hello
and my hardest goodbye.
I met Susie in August. She was used for breeding before her owners brought her to live with them so she never really knew how great it could be to be a dog. Susie was a quiet dog, very shy, and would follow her mom from room to room. She learned what love was as she had two little boys who adored her. Susie would go camping with her family and watch from the sidelines during the boys' soccer games. Besides belly rubs, I think her reward for her previous hardships was that she knew she was finally where she belonged.
Earlier in July I had a wonderful session with Maggie, (who went by the more stately name of Margaret during her senior years ). She was devoted to her owner and lived a very full life with him. She was a sweet, energetic pup who grew up loving tennis balls, her stuffed monkey, car rides and cheese. She was very attached to her human and they enjoyed hanging out together. Maggie was a wonderfully spoiled dog right up till the end . . . (as they all should be ).
You might remember a certain Vikings fan named Sophie . . . She, too has walked over the rainbow bridge to run and play to her hearts content. Sophie didn't play fetch, but she liked to play ball on the floor by pushing it back to her owners when they would roll it to her. She was so cute and I'm guessing that those warm eyes of hers saw more smiles than a dog could wish for. She was so very loved and she knew it . . . you could see it in her little westie face.
All three of these pups were living out their last few weeks when we did a session. I'm so thankful that I got to meet them. Like all of the pets I do sessions with, I think of them when I encounter certain things. I will always think of Susie when I see daisies; red convertibles will always bring Maggie to mind; and I heard a goose the other day and immediately thought of Sophie and her sister Sage. (You had to be there.) ;O)
Peace and love to our furry friends and their families.
"Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog."
-Sydney Jeanne Seward
This is Zoe. She was my best girl (in our house of all men) for 16 years. Next month will be a year since Zoe passed away.
Zoe was 16 and I knew her time was growing shorter. Although she never let on, I knew she couldn't see as well as she once could and couldn't hear as well either. She was so smart that neither of these things really mattered though. Zoe had us spoiled as pet owners, (Hermes didn't stand a chance). From the day we brought her home, she was eager to learn and eager to please. She learned things on the second try (if she didn't learn it on the first) and she knew on the second "no" that it was something that she shouldn't do or somewhere that she shouldn't go.
Zoe kept the boys wrangled when they needed to be and she taught them how to care for an animal. When Hermes came along, Zoe had been the family pet for 9 years and she wasn't so sure about this new addition to the family. After a few days of tolerating him, she decided that he could stay, but that he was going to have to learn the ropes. The first thing she taught him was how to know when it was time for the kids to come home. The two of them would wait at the front door every school day just a couple of minutes before the boys showed up.
Zoe was a big help in training Hermes. She taught him to sing (who knew he'd be a soprano) and she taught him to walk on his side of the path when we went for walks. (Apparently, dogs talk to each other with their eyes, too. I never heard a thing, but boy, when she said "get on your side," Hermes listened!) Zoe could see that Hermes was a little on the hyper side when it came to tricks for treats, so she offered a "paw" with this, too. Literally. When I said, "sit," Zoe would sit. After the 3rd time of hearing the word with no treat delivered, Zoe would look over at Hermes (obviously the reason they weren't getting the treat) and smack his back end down to the floor with her paw. She would then look at me silently saying, "How's that?"
I worried for months that I wouldn't know when it was time to say goodbye to Zoe. I use to come downstairs in the morning and just watch to see if she was still breathing. I told my vet that I was concerned about Zoe's old age and worried that she would be in pain at some point and never let me know it. He simply told me that when the time came, I would know. Last December, a week before Christmas, Zoe told me that it was time. She made it very clear to me so that I would have no doubt. It was the best gift she could have given me.
In honor of Zoe, I am now offering a session for pets who are terminally ill or have only a little time left with their owner. I'm calling it, the Zoe Session. If you would like to know more about this session please don't hesitate to contact me.