Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Christmas Miracle

It was Christmas Eve, 1995.

I had lost my dear dog, Martha, just a few months earlier. It was Martha who was going to be by my side as I transitioned out of the corporate workplace, looking for my soul work. I didn’t know exactly what that would be, but I knew it would have something to do with animals.

I didn’t know Martha would become ill and leave me suddenly, before I knew what I was supposed to do with my life. I didn’t know it was her sudden loss that would put me on my true path.

So there I was at midnight on Christmas Eve, standing at her gravesite in our backyard. I was in my bathrobe and slippers…and I was freezing!
I don’t know exactly what I thought was going to happen. I had heard the story about animals being able to speak at midnight on Christmas Eve. Maybe I thought I’d hear her beautiful bark, or feel her magnificent shaggy coat one more time. After all, I’d already seen her in the arms of an angel. What was ONE MORE MIRACLE?
Midnight came, and I could feel the magic in the air! I held my breath, and then all of a sudden….absolutely nothing happened!
It would be 9 years later that I would experience my Christmas miracle. It came in the shower on New Year’s Day 2005. There I was, shampooing my hair, and suddenly I heard this story being told about an old dog who wanted to leave his sad earthly life and go to the heavenly world. He would do this through the Christmas Nativity – something I didn’t understand until I sat down to write the story.
If I had sat at my computer for the rest of my life, fingers curled expectantly over the keyboard, I never could have thought of this story on my own. Old Dog and the Christmas Wish would be the last book I wrote and illustrated with my beloved dog, Jake, still curled up by my feet. Every time I read that book I feel Jake’s spirit running through the pages.

One day I realized something – THIS was my Christmas miracle! It was the miracle I had been waiting for all those years earlier, come to me in the form of this magical book. And what better way for a miracle to manifest in a writer’s life than through a new book, clearly inspired by Martha, by Jake, and by a loving and wondrous universe.
May all your Christmas wishes come true!
With love,

Monday, December 14, 2009

Losing an animal at the holidays

I’ve said goodbye to many animals in my lifetime. Those farewells have taken place at different times of the year, but never during the Christmas season.

It was close, once, back in 1993. My sweet dog, Jessie, spent much of the week before Christmas in the hospital as several of her organs began to fail simultaneously.

She came home on December 24th, a shadow of her former self….but she DID come home. The vet said the only reason she was alive was because she wanted to come home for Christmas. Jessie left me three months later, so I was spared the heart-wrenching loss of my four-legged friend at the holidays.

My heart goes out to those of you who’ve had to endure the
painful loss of a critter at this time of the year, when everyone around you seems to be in a festive mood. Holiday movies run non-stop on television. School groups sing seasonal songs at the mall. Cards arrive, wishing you Ho Ho Ho Happy Holidays.

I wish I knew a magic word, or secret ritual, that would soften the grieving process. For some people, relying on their friends, family and faith can be a tremendous source of comfort. For others, staying close to home…alone…is all they can manage. That’s fine, too.

I wrote about this at my website, in a section called Grieving – How Do You Cope with the Loss of a Pet? It still brings tears to read the words I wrote about the loss of my forever dog, Jake. But I also find hope in those words.

Perhaps others can find hope there, too.

If you’ve lost a critter at this time of the year, know that you are in my holiday heart and prayers in the weeks to come.

With love,

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Remembering Clint

If ever there was a “forever dog,” surely it was Clint.

His two-legged mom, Sandy Grossman, wrote to tell me about the loss of her beloved long-haired dachshund to cancer, after spending 17 years with this special boy. Here’s what Sandy said:

“Clint was a special and remarkable animal. In 1997 he suffered from what would be the first of three immobilizing “slippage of the vertebre” episodes. He astounded veterinarians and others alike with his remarkable lust for life and unexpected full recovery from that episode, and the two that would follow in 2001 and 2004. It was noted by Veterinary Neurologist Dr. John Speciale that Clint should have been a cat, as he clearly had 9 lives.”

Clint went on to make several valuable contributions to veterinary medicine, including working with a world renowned Veterinary Cardiologist in developmental research for the cause and treatment of a rare heart condition known to cause sudden death. Clint donated his own abnormal EKG results discovered while under anesthesia for a routine teeth cleaning. Clint volunteered his time to have the EKG test redone, to contribute to the ongoing research of this rare condition.

But most important of all, Clint was loved…deeply loved.

“Clint will be cherished forever and loved always, for his doggie smile, his huge heart, his gentle nature, his CONSTANT licking, and his boundless energy,” said Sandy.

Clint is flying through the starry skies now, but I know he will always watch over Sandy…because that’s what angel dogs do for the people they love!


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Knowing when to say goodbye

I always thought that saying goodbye to a treasured animal came when your critter was older, or perhaps ill, and you knew your time together was coming to an end.

I wrote about this in the Pet Loss Section at my website. It’s such an excruciating decision. We shouldn’t HAVE to make it. We don’t WANT to make it. And yet, in most cases, our animal companions are depending upon us to make it.

So we begin the painful process of accepting that our journey together is almost over, and, one step at a time, we begin to say goodbye.

With the sad loss of Creamsicle, the neighbor’s kitty who began visiting my yard earlier this year, I’ve learned that when a critter just disappears, and you never have the chance to look into those soulful eyes and say farewell, the process of letting go is very difficult…or at least it has been for me.

The neighbors said that most likely Creamsicle was taken by a coyote. Considering the evidence, and the prevalence of coyotes in our neighborhood, that’s probably true.

But still, I find myself looking for him every day. I peek out the window, expecting to see his orange-striped body crawling under my fence. “I’ll be right there,” I would call to him, and I’d run to the kitchen to prepare Creamsicle’s meal.

I just can’t seem to let this little ritual go, even though I know that I must. Over the years people have contacted me to purchase one of my pet loss books for someone whose critter also “just disappeared.” I always thought I understood what they were going through, but I don’t think I really did…until now.