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The Love Of An Animal… The Love Of Friends

5 Stages of Grieving

by Carmen Hunter reprinted from the Dodgers Digest

Many people who see the title will close the link right away….not all people are animal lovers.  In my opinion they are missing out.  I am not sure why God didn’t make us ALL lovers of his beloved creatures….they offer so much to us and want nothing in return.

I recently went through two losses.  My cat Odin was euthanized over a month ago and then just last week My Josie girl passed away during surgery.  I will spare you the details…I can’t bear to relive them anyway.  Grief is such a rude emotion sometimes.  It’s relentless and always unpredictable.  Sneaking up at the WRONG times (at the grocery, during car line etc), and leaving a trail of puffy and swollen eyes behind.  

They say there are five stages of grief…and let me tell you I have been in them all lately.  Josie was one of the hardest losses I have ever had b/c it was such a surprise.  We never expected Josie to not come home.  It was a spinal surgery…not a heart surgery!  She should have been strong enough…but her heart just wasn’t.

Without the love of my friends I can’t imagine how I would have gone through this….I am SO grateful…so deeply and truly blessed by my friends that a thank you card isn’t enough.

I wanted to honor some of them that supported me through the first days by walking through the stages of grief and the ways they touched my life.

5 Stages of grief:

When the doctor told me on the phone “Josie is gone.  She didn’t make it through surgery” I cried out loud  “I can’t believe she’s not coming home….I can’t believe she didn’t make it!”  (DENIAL DENIAL)  But I didn’t want to be alone…because being alone was the hardest thing to imagine that night.  A dear friend came over and sat with me, let me recount the things I loved about her and most important of all…she felt my grief with me and for me.  She understood that although I didn’t lose a husband, a parent or a sibling that this grief was powerfully deep for me.  She let me be who I was without trying to make my grief “less than”.  i am forever grateful.

The next day I didn’t answer the phone and I crawled into my bed with my other three dogs and just wanted to be alone (isolation) and let them do their own grieving over the loss of a pack member.

Yes…I was angry.  I was angry with myself for leaving her there.  Until another dependable friend who is always my voice of sanity said “STOP blaming yourself.  You did everything you could for her.  You were trying to fix her…she was in pain.  STOP saying things like that to yourself.”  She was firm with me when I was in the midst of hysteria (which was right after I hung up with the doctor).  After the news I immediately defaulted to blaming myself….when in fact there was NO way I was going keep her at home-yelping and screaming in pain and I DID do the right thing for her.  I heard my friend loud and clear.  She is my friend that I can depend on to understand when I stop the car for a stray, the one who calls me when a deer has been hit on the road and she doesn’t know what to do.  Finding people who share your love of animals is a hide and seek game in life to me…you WISH there were more of you….so you look in crowds for a discussion that you can relate to (My dog does this, I run with my dog every day, my cat has diabetes etc) and when you find a person who understands it…it’s someone you can’t give up and you’re so relieved to know that others feel the same.

Just one more day with her…I’ll do anything if my son would be able to pet his dog one more day.   Watching him say good-bye to her little body the next morning was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  Yes, he’d lost his cat…but that wasn’t the same as losing his dog Josie. They were “couch pals” since he was old enough to climb up on it by himself.  She greeted him when he was born, and tried to lick his baby face when he had a runny nose.  She was his pal, his foot warmer on the couch and his buddy who used to jump in the leaves after her ball in the fall….disappearing only to see a tiny little tail tip wagging in the leaves until she’d find that ball and burst out of it proud to have found it.  He said “No playing with Josie this fall….this is her favorite time of the year.”  He is right…so yes…I would trade most anything for him to throw one more ball for her.

Yes…I was sad…depressed?  I don’t know…I lost my appetite for 3-4 days but I rallied pretty quick in that department.  As a food lover this has always been one of my signs of sadness, not being able to eat. However,  I cried at the drop of a hat, my eyes were swollen for days! I looked like I had gone a round with Rocky.  Then in the midst of it I called my sweet Seattle friend who I can always depend on to make me laugh…she cracks me up on all counts and rarely do I get off the phone where I haven’t giggled or laughed HARD.  But this time she surprised me….she made me feel relief.  I had been beating myself up again over dropping Josie off and letting her die alone.  ALONE.  But she said to me “She didn’t know she was alone with all the medication she was on and the anesthesia and you couldn’t have gone into the surgery with her.  She would have been alone no matter what…but she didn’t know it.”  That reminded me…she was in the care of a team of specialists that never would have let me in a surgery room!  Why did I think I could have been there?   I’m so grateful for that statement….I was able to feel some peace when we were done talking.  So while there was no laugh that day…she was there for me as always…just in a different way.

The day came five days later where I didn’t cry. That same day my angel of a friend sent me a card with some money for my son to memorialize Josie.  I think that moment was when I accepted that she wasn’t ever coming back.  The funny thing is my friends daughter is named Josie too.  Every time we’d be on the phone and I would say “Come here Josie…supper time Josie…stop BARKING Josie” she’d laugh.

I picked up Josies ashes from my vets house the other night…wrapped in a gorgeous hand carved box.  I walked down the hill to her house, fully expecting to break into tears (seems my vets (friends) haven’t seen much of me without tears lately!) and when I walked in her youngest son was clapping his hands eating dinner and jumping in his chair.  I forgot…for a moment the sadness I felt walking down.  He was so full of life, happy and enjoying the moment. I am so grateful to her and her husband…for bringing my little Josies body home that same night she passed away.  It was a blessing they were in Nashville where Josie was and were able to pick her up for me.  I spent some time with Josie after everyone had gone and Brayden had fallen asleep crying and hugging her blanket.  I hugged her little cold body and told her what a perfect and wonderful girl she was all those years.  I don’t care if that seems strange…it was very healing for me.  The whole family said their goodbyes except my husband.  He wanted no part in even seeing her without life in her body.  I understand that…but I understand closure more.

As the days have passed I have received cards and gifts daily….a friend who shares my grief because she lost three of her own in such a short time sent me a beautiful photo of Josie, I received a loving phone call from a thoughtful friend who made my day,  another dear one sent a beautiful book that I read while I drink my tea out of a coffee mug gift that makes me smile and the necklace I got today of a little weiner dog sent me back over the edge of grief alongside gratitude for her thoughtfulness and kind heart.  I just can’t say enough about the support and love I have received from friends.  I have some of the most thoughtful loving people in my tiny circle and one reason they all mean so much to me is because they care enough to KNOW ME WELL.  While losing a pet may not be something that seems stressful to some people… to me?….it is devastating.  The body uses tears to heal from grief, to relieve stress and toxicity.  I have no pride when it comes to crying…I want to express the build up of hurt so I don’t suffer in the future with more disease.  Health & wellness encompasses so much more than food.  This time in my life is a reminder that laughter and joy from a beloved pet is a healthy stress reliever and grief can cause enough internal stress to require the tenderness of friends.  We just finished putting Braydens memory box together….we have her ashes and collar, a story he wrote about her, some fur and our sweet letters of support in there.  He will take it out one day less each year as he grows but I am quite sure I will visit it more often.  We store memories in our cells and I want to make sure I keep them alive.

Licks n Sniffs in good health,

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