Early & Daily Grief - Talks With My Furbaby
by Colleen Baxter
2/1/16 Shadow came to me an unadoptable problem dog: She was older, hated dogs & children. When she arrived, this love-hungry, unwanted & per trainers who tried to help, abused misfit instantly jumped onto my recliner & nuzzled into my chest, heedless of my disability. She refused to leave. She's never left my heart since. We spent nearly 10 years together, comforting & acacepting each other unconditionally, through adversity & joy, healthy or sick, happy or sad. She reminds me daily: each of us is an imperfect work in progress, destined to become better than we ever thought we could be. Shadow showed me how to live well regardless of our circumstances in this transient world. She's one tough dog who loved me tenderly & reminds me God does too. Thanks Shadow. Love forever!
2/9/16: Two weeks ago today I found out my Shadow had been put to death without my knowledge or presence. No euphemisms. When I gave her to those who, later unbelievably but unbeknownst to me then, ultimately didn't allow or at least facilitate any more contact with my dearest "Shadow Girl", I thought she would die of an enlarged heart that daily medication I don't have the coordination to give would stave off while giving her good quality of life for a time. When Shadow took a turn for the worse, & died of related kidney failure, a stranger told me too late. My baby was mortally ill but I was denied my right & chance to say goodbye. When did she start getting sicker? No one told me anything. I thought Shadow was doing comparatively well in her new home. Even given that her final symptoms came on suddenly, someone must have known the end was near. I wasn't given any time to prepare for or come to grips with her death. No one had time to talk to me during Shadow's last days or hours at home or while she was at the vet's or even before her final lethal injection. I wasn't told right after Shadow passed away but 2 days later. The vet & her staff were competent & kind but strangers. Perhaps the vet would have told me what was going on had I spoken to her directly. As it was, I talked to those in charge of the foster network that had sent Shadow to me so many years before. I wasn't allowed to speak to any medical personnel beforehand or afterwards so I could be part of & later hold on to, the particulars of my beloved pet's passing & thus have some closure & peace. Was she cremated with fellow creatures or was her body just inhumanely or callously thrown away? Unknown....
  More horrible than my pain is the possibility of Shadow's. She didn't die alone apparently but I agonize over how often & how long she was alone or without a caress as she lay in distress or dying, hooked up to IVs in an unfamiliar perhaps frightening place, especially since it was Sunday when techs come for only a bit to care for patients. Was Shadow adequately sedated? Did she sense my or her friend David's absence in her final illness & last moments? Did she in our time apart suffer separation anxiety? Regretfully, probably; dogs
recognize & prefer their humans especially in distress. Speaking of beloved humans, Shadow & David never saw each other after she left home: He didn't drive me to bring her back to Canine Castaways. He never got to say goodbye. He & Shadow were inseparable; they had a special bond, evident in how crazy she went when he visited, in his nicknames full of endearment for her & by her jumping into his arms clinging to him when he came to take her home after we boarded her. David may have been able to comfort her & us in her stressful last illness & hours had we been told of her worsening condition & probably imminent death. One more sorrow I hold.
 Some reading may wonder why things were handled so insensitively & poorly. I'm not sure. Naturally, I'm angry & feel guilty for surrendering her albeit so she could get care & treatment I couldn't give. The guilt's unwarranted but I still feel it strongly. My emotions are hyperly out of kilter. As I sob, I wonder if my furbaby misses me while praising her Creator with the angels. Does sentience come to our babies as it does to the creatures of CS Lewis' Narnia? Are our furbabies really playing & cavorting joyously together in some sort of preheaven? We won't know for sure 'til we are reunited but we can hope. Faith is belief in the unknown & unseen; it is grief's powerful antidote. Does Shadow know I long to have her near & feel my love somehow?
I think so. I pray that reality beyond human reason called faith bring comfort to all who share our loss & special kind of grief. In Rainbow Bridge I've discovered a place where Shadow, with all furchildren who've left this physical existence, & I aren't forgotten or dismissed but acknowledged & cradled. As I once held Shadow, caring new friends are holding me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Loss is a bit less painful shared. I reach out & cradle you.
Long & much painful experience tells me healing eventually comes with allowing & expressing feelings without denial or judgment, from pain & longing mingled with acceptance & new love(s). It comes slowly with self-care & with giving heartfelt care to & about, others. I pray, then, for all who have had to come to terms with absence with all its causes & forms that we find peace & validation in the Serenity Prayer.
 As we grieve, I'll gently remind myself & all who read this colloquy with my beloved much missed Shadow of the wisdom appropriated & written here. May it be slowly & deeply assimilated emotionally & spiritually. In the meantime, thank you for your love & closeness, my sweet Shadow baby. You're in my heart & thoughts today & forever, never alone or forgotten, abused or in pain again. Love your very lonely & still sad mom.
2/14/16 Shadow, how could I not spend time with you today of all days? Valentine's Day, the year's most special day for all who love. I have loved many & much, both humans & creatures but you hold a unique place in my heart, mind & soul that nothing or no one else can fill. Physically, I literally feel your presence & body nearby: Your little tongue licking me affectionately now but on earth sometimes incessantly, at least least in part because your electrolytes were so out of balance, your body pressed against mine in our bed, your fur gently caressing my skin. If I really focus, I can smell your doggie smell so hard to describe. Memories are ok but Valentine's Day should be a special day of sharing treats & closeness & dreams in total relaxation, calmness, trust in each other's presence, love made concrete. Through my sadness, memories keep surfacing: Often as we slept you would start to dream & I'd feel your body move. I've often wondered if you were relaxed & peaceful like I am in sleep without spasms & stiffness. This Valentine's Day with special love & connection, I remember & identify with my old gray girl. A squirrel at your residency now isn't the least bit afraid of you. After you became blind, nearly tame squirrels would sit right in front of you without flinching, waiting for peanuts. When you were young & sighted, you'd try to attack any moving target including the squirrels. I loved you then; I love you now, just as you are. You remind me age can be beautiful. My memories of you are bittersweet & tears come very easily: I am crying as I write so I'll close. My heart is with you always. I think of the song "All God's creatures have a place in the choir, some sing low & some sing higher. Some sing out loud on the telephone wire. Some just clap their hands or paws or anything they've got. God's choir has room for everyone. You & I are different-to some, misfits. Happy Valentine's Day my favorite misfit, my erstwhile canine castaway, now a creature of paradise. Have you met the Good Thief? While I wait to be with you, I remember Jesus' promises: All things work for the good of those who love Him &, significantly, His last one uttered as He suffered in agony unto death on the cross: Today you shall be with me in paradise. We find hope in the knowledge that our God made man knew death & loss just as we do. Again, Happy Valentine's Day little one. We'll someday be together to love completely, all our limitations forever gone. Don't get sick on all those candy hearts! I know the angels spoil you rotten just as I did & Jesus is the softest touch of all.
2/16/16 My dearest Shadow, Mi Sombrita. 3 weeks ago Sunday, January 24th, you went home to God. This Sunday on Valentine's, I wrote of our love but today, Tuesday, is 3 weeks since getting an early morning phone call, about 8:15. Groggy from sleep, I wondered what insane stranger was calling then got the shock of my life when she told me you were gone. I tried to piece together her sketchy report, tried to put on my medical hat to get as many details as I could. But I faltered.... When I hung up, I cried & cried & cried; I feel like I haven't stopped since. I don't remember an aggressive dog hard to control on a leash. Nor do I recall an old dog who peed constantly. My mind's eye sees a contented black lady (the poet's Dark Lady) with a graying face & soft pointed ears looking up at me from her carrier bag on my lap. You didn't care how long you stayed in it as long as you were with me. You loved to travel, especially car rides. You slept on my bed or when you couldn't climb up anymore, under the kitchen table at my feet or lifted on the couch near David. I could go on but right now I cry at the memories. It's so hard; I have the two trigger days. It's the wee hours of the morning & the loneliest time of all. Dearest Shadow, God's Shadow, I miss you miserably & I love you greatly. The missing is painful but loving is healing or so I tell myself. Please wag your tiny stubby tail; look down on me with cataract-free eyes & tell me you're ok. Sleep with the angels, if only out of pure lazy enjoyment. Sweet dreams chasing squirrels without trying to hurt them. If Pope & St. Francis are sure dogs are in heaven, good enough for me. If you are in such a place of absolute good, then you're ok. That's my mind's logic while my heart begs you look down with love so I know it. Head & heart unite in total sweetest love of you, my precious softest furbaby. Good night with all I am.
2/25/16 Dearest sweetheart, my beloved Shadow, I miss you so!! I couldn't write yesterday even though you were in my mind & heart. Monica, my new friend among all the dear people at Rainbow Bridge, consoled me with beautiful words & prayers to lift my spirits & to help me focus on all the good you brought & are. She wrote in our guest book to ask you to be close & not forget me. Dogs have their own way of remembering & loving. The dear Lord gave you an instinctual way of discriminating & therefore recognizing those you love best. I believe all that makes you an unconditionally loving Being is amplified in your new existence. As one of my Rainbow Bridge new friends wrote, you're my guiding star. While you were physically with me, you drew me to all that's unadorned yet beautiful in God's creation, to all that's genuine, the good, the imperfect. I love you completely for always. I didn't forget your anniversary; I just couldn't mark it in writing because the sadness of new grief & in some ways never ending grief coupled with all invading all encompassing memories held my pen & heart paralyzed. I can write now thinking of your antics with David & Charlotte, your dear 2nd mom, one of my best friends. She misses you terribly & thinks of you with me. I'll see you tonight in the twilight of God's love.
2/29/16 The wee hours of Monday morning but really Sunday night. Another Sunday, another day without you. Such loneliness.... David's Dahri was with me last night & today but I am alone now, missing you so much. My dear sweet sister reminded me in our guestbook that I honor your memory by living. Easier said than done. So many gone. My beloved consoler, who will console me now? You were a physical reflection of God's goodness, hence your name. God's Shadow, hide me in your heart so I may find peace. As Rainbow Bridge friends remind me, you are nestled beside your paw prints in mine. So good night, God bless, my furangel. I must sleep & please God, dream of you.
3/5/16 Besides the date associated with our being parted in death, I find myself thinking of our last day together: 11/21/15 I brought you to Canine Castaway's vet because I thought you might improve with treatment. You got well enough to go to your new home. Thank God your caregivers were kind to you & told me a little about your new life & health each time I called! But they always denied me any chance to be with you.
Our last time together was a sunny afternoon not quite overshadowed by impending separation. Jack, my dearest nearly lifelong friend, took pictures & waited tolerantly & patiently for us to say goodbye. You lay down on the chair & accepted my caresses while I pet you & cried. I brokenly, after almost 4 hours, let them take you to begin your treatment. I never dreamt I'd never see you again. I thought you'd go to God in my arms or if you were on the vet's table, with my face buried in your fur. How much different & painful the reality!
3/6/16 Another Sunday. No one writes in the guestbook anymore. I reread the condolences for comfort but I miss you so so much! The only thing that helps is writing & rereading my edits. The reason I'm so sad is, unlike the end with my other pets, our end wasn't right. I remember Gert & Amica, each so dear. I treasure David's Dahri who has been & is my lifeline. You knew Gert & I cherish my memories of you both together. Jack's TyTy is here with me & Dahri has planted herself at my feet. I love them but they're not you. Be at peace. I'm finally cried out at least for now. I shall rejoice in all we have while I lovingly tend & nurture your beloved memory. I await our heavenly reunion & the blunting of my earthly grief.
3/15/16 Dearest furangel my sweet Shadow, I usually write late at night because I'm alone & don't have to explain my feelings. The days pass; grief is supposed to ease but it hasn't. You're still sorely missed!! Every time I look at my recliner, I think of you when you were young & agile enough to jump into my lap. I see Coach who looks almost like you & I cry so hard. I'm sorry I haven't written in a few days but I pray you're looking down as you share paradise with your Rainbow Bridge friends & playmates. Do you miss me? Do dogs live a new reality in eternity?
You make me ask the great questions: What is the life between individual death & the resurrection of our bodies made new at Jesus' second coming? "The life of the world to come"? My heart & soul tell me we shall cross some passage together into His arms into peace & totally positive completeness. At my death or at Christ's second coming? Your pure unconditional love has reinforced my beliefs, for He who is Love has made all creatures. When sadness engulfs me though, I find myself doubting everything. Then I remember your dear sweet love & how we all look for something greater than ourselves; every era & culture has a thirst for & conception of, God. We can't all be wrong. Thank you again for lifting my spirit. Love you forever!
3/17/16 Happy St. Patrick's Day! I celebrate with you as only you of those I love feel near. I'm so very very lonely! Distance keeps some of us apart & death separates us from others. I think especially of Pa Gene. This was our day to share: Harmonica, squeeze box & corny but well loved American Irish songs, long before you were alive. How I wish you were with me today! Dearest Shadow, I decorated your memorial for the day; You, a part Min Pin German must have fought with her Boston Terrier half & the Terrier won! You're surrounded by Shamrocks & four leaf clover. Please talk to Jesus & ask Him to send you to me with the leprechauns' pot of gold. You're at Rainbow Bridge so you must know about the end of the rainbow. I miss you!! The sound of your joyful greeting barks, with your butt wags & whines is the best music I know. You're frolicking so a lively Irish jig would make a great accompaniment to your play that comes to me today as especially glinting gold sunlight. As night falls, may Irish fairies sing us to sleep as though we were lying side by side, your fur brushing my skin. How I wish I could yell at you to move over & then sing Irish lullabies 'til you yelped in your dreams. Goodnight sweet Shadow Girl. Your Irish mum loves you.
3/20/16 I won't take the Irish remembrances away yet even though st. Patrick's Day has passed because they & you are so close to my heart. The day is supposed to be light & full of laughter so I found myself thinking of your many names of endearment: My "Shazzo", David's "Little Deedle Do" or "Little Deedle Dogger" or my sister's "Shadow Bear". Each so funny, so cute & so personal. I have the funny pictures David took of you. But it's hard to laugh even with good memories because I miss you so. Goodnight precious Shadow, my furbaby. I'm so tired, still sad. I need to sleep & I pray to dream of you. I ask God that you come vividly to me in those wonderful rare dreams animated by sight & sound. You'll be with me as I sing to God tomorrow. I love you, especially remembering stroking your soft ears.
3/24/16 Today marks the 2 month anniversary of your going home to God. It's also Holy Thursday, one of the most Christ-centered days on the church calendar. How fitting you're by His side: You gave the best of yourself to those you love, as He did. It is the day of the new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you. I will remember & cherish Your love 'til I too go home. God knows we are not perfect; He wants us to imitate Him as closely as we can. You loved as much as you were able with your God given nature. May I do so as well. On this Holy Night, I feel especially alone, as did the Savior when He bent to the Father's will. I betrayed you although not intentionally. Now, I say as I have so many times before, Thy will be done. I ask your forgiveness. Please send me your presence & now perfect love to transform my sadness into acceptance, my grief into Joy. I love you so much my sweet precious Shadow. I can't believe it's been 2 months since your death & over 4 months since I hugged you, my face buried in your fur. I wish you were here so we could sleep together. Dense & dark the hours before dawn! Be with me this triduum as you celebrate endless Easter in heaven with Jesus who has risen never to die again. Send me a love sign as you frolic in rainbow meadows. I love you. Send peace & joy from you & your fellow creatures whom no pain or suffering can touch as you wait in bliss for the day when we're together for eternity. Goodnight my beloved. I will never forget you or our anniversaries. Sleep with the angels my dearest furbaby.
3/27/16 Easter Sunday. Christ is risen but I'm sad. I'm lonely. Are you happy among friends? Are you & your fellow furangels playing & singing with the the Risen Christ & His angels? Do you mark days as we do on earth or is eternity totally timeless? Do you know how long you've been gone from me, how long we've been apart? Yesterday marked the 2 month anniversary of when I was told of your death. It was also Holy Saturday. It would have been so wonderful after singing to come home to your joy & caresses. The same is particularly true for Good Friday. It's always a sad day but your presence made every day happier. Saturday I had sweetheart Dahri with me. She loves me & I know you don't mind but I still miss you terribly. I hope your Easter was better than mine. God bless you & all the Heavenly Host. I love you forever! I'm crying too hard to write more. Holidays are always hard. Perhaps not coincidentally, the dictated word "hard" came out "heart". So much truth in that. I must dream of you & forget this world temporarily. I love you my furbaby. As our anniversaries pass, my grief does
Comments would be appreciated by the author, Colleen Baxter
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