All Creatures Great and Small

When someone loses a pet and says to me in grief, “I know it’s not the same as losing a child, but it hurts so much,” my heart aches. Not because I know the pain of losing not one, but two children, but because I also know the pain of losing a dearly loved animal.

A Part of Life

Nothing, and I mean, nothing compares to the pain of losing a child, but that doesn’t diminish the heartache of any loss. Human or animal. The void in life after loss is incredible. Where there was once life, a huge black hole looms when death takes over. Where there was once love, heartache. Smiles. Sadness. Happiness. Loneliness. The loss of life fills your heart with an overwhelming emptiness and pain. The moment of loss—that incredible moment of pain—in the passing of life is unavoidably deep. It rips your heart out. Loss causes heartache and there’s just no getting around that. It’s a part of life.

A Huge Heart

This past February I had to put down Eric’s beloved Shadow. It was so painfully hard, perhaps extra so, because it was Eric’s dog, my living link to my dead son. Shadow was the kindest, gentlest black lab I’d ever known. He had a huge heart with big soulful brown eyes. When the decision came to put him down, I left that to my surviving son, Peter. He had taken over Shadow’s care in Eric’s passing.

Shadow had developed brain cancer with severe epileptic seizures and it was Pete’s responsibility to ensure Shadow’s comfort in his final debilitating days. Pete rose to the occasion and gently helped Shadow every time he experienced a seizure. Pete was also there in the middle of the night to clean up the blood and excrement from Shadow’s thrashing. And Pete found the courage to tell me it was time to euthanize him. As Shadow’s big black head with the soulful eyes lay quietly in Peter’s lap as the vet administered the needle, my heart screamed in pain at yet another loss in our lives. Shadow. Eric’s big black lab with the soft soul. My heart ached and I cried.

Life Deserves More Than That

I was so thankful he didn’t die alone; Shadow deserved more than that. Nothing should die alone. Any—no all–life deserves more than that.

Nameless but Loved

This past spring, I was headed down York Road and had to come to a creeping crawl to avoid the growing crowd on the shoulder of the road. Some members of the crowd were crying, others didn’t know what to do, but all eyes looked toward the middle of the road. My eyes followed their gazes. In the middle of the road was a beautiful brindle pit bull, smashed and dying on York Road. No one was near him; he was dying alone. God no. I pulled over and ran to him. “Has anyone comforted the poor thing?” I screamed. “No,” came their replies in unison. “We didn’t know if he’d bite.” I was spitting mad with grief, pain and tears as I watched the poor dog hold on to dear life. Where was their compassion? I didn’t understand. As I knelt down and stroked the dog’s big beautiful head, his blood spilling over onto my knees, his tail gave a tiny wag as he tried to look at me. I held him, comforted him, and loved him in his final moments.

I was so thankful he didn’t die alone. I didn’t know him, but he deserved more than that.

An Imperial Leader

Monday morning I headed to the farm to tend to my two horses and the other ten horses I’ve cared for over the past five years. My routine always starts out the same. I whistle for my horses and say hi to the others gathered at the gate. Where was Blaze, the leader of the herd? I headed into the stall barn to dish up the grain. Still no Blaze. That’s odd. Where was she? I called for her. No Blaze.

After putting the other 11 horses in their respective feeding stations. I shlepped through the field, over the bridge, over the stream, and into the 50 acre field to find Blaze. There, just beyond the stream, she lay—struggling to get up, bloated, and covered with flies. She had colicked sometime during the night and the others had left her for dead. My God. My God. No. No. No. The poor thing. Tears streamed down my face as I knelt beside her. She moved her head and laid it on my foot, looking at me through bleeding eyes as she let out a soft whinny.

I fumbled for my cell phone and called my girlfriend, leaving a terrifying message, “Call the vet. Call the vet now!” I screamed through my sobs. Then I crumpled beside Blaze in the field and stroked her big beautiful brown head with the white blaze. She labored to breathe. “Hang on. Hang on.” I whispered in her ear. “He’s coming. He’s coming.”

The vet arrived but couldn’t get his SUV across the stream. Could we get her up? Blaze tried, oh she tried so hard, but she didn’t have enough left in her. With a heavy heart the vet returned to his car to get the needle to euthanize her.

“Blaze, get up. Get up. You can do it. Everyone’s waiting on the other side. Don’t die her alone. Come on honey….get up.” I sobbed in her ear. With one valiant effort the gentle leader rose off her barrel belly onto her buckled knees and stood. With painful, labored steps this beautiful beast made her way to the stream where her herd was waiting. It took her fifteen minutes but she finally crossed to the other side where she was greeted with whinies and neighs from her delighted followers. She grew stronger with every painful step through the support and love of her herd, owners and caretakers, and finally made it to the paddock where she was enveloped and loved as she was laid to rest.

An imperial leader, of the gentlest nature, Blaze. I loved Blaze and was thankful she didn’t have to die alone. She deserved more than that, as do all creatures, great and small.

Rest in Peace Blaze, our gentle leader

Rest in Peace Blaze, our gentle leader

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