A week ago today, one of my dogs crossed the rainbow bridge. Using the phrase “Rainbow Bridge” to describe a death seems like such a contradiction. How could I possibly consider a peaceful vivid existence over this colorful bridge crossing when having just seen the life leave my sweet, beloved pet. There’s nothing joyous about death. It is arguably the saddest thing you could experience. It reminds us of our own mortality, and that life is short and will come to an end eventually.
Through the sadness, I am thankful for many things about her passing. Our small southern town has experienced uncharacteristically cold and rainy weather for the past few weeks, but Wednesday March 4th temperatures reached 70 degrees, marking the first day of spring. The sun was out all day, accompanied by a light breeze. Hailey, by her own will, spent most of the day napping under the sun’s warm rays on our screened porch. Seeing each of our dogs sprawled out on this porch was commonplace during warm summer afternoons, so I enjoyed the flashback to these peaceful afternoons.
Besides the glorious day Hailey enjoyed, I was thankful for a loyal veterinarian and friend, Kim Keeton. She saved us from the pains involved with taking an older dog into the vet’s office for euthanation. At the end of the warm afternoon Kim came to our home and after first making Hailey comfortable through sedation, she allowed us to say farewell to a beloved family member in our home. In addition, Kim is a friend, and fellow horseback rider, so I feel comfortable saying I know her well. Having a familiar face conduct this procedure made all the difference. Rather than an unknown, unattached vet in a cold examination room, we were blessed to have Hailey surrounded by those who lover her in the place she was most comfortable, my mom’s arms. I will never find the words to express my gratitude for the comforts Kim offered us in this difficult time.
Although I have been a dog lover and horse enthusiast the majority of my life, this was my first experience putting and animal to sleep. I have to say, it was more difficult than I could imagine, but would prefer this experience to the alternative. I was able to pet and love on her until her physical being was put to rest next to another beloved pet, Cato.
For the remainder of that Wednesday and more days than I’d wish to disclose I was inconsolable. Grief overwhelmed me, and I considered the possibility this dark could would never move from above me. Following this grief, I felt regret. Regretful that I had cut my sweet dog’s life short, possibly too short. Looking back now, I realize how selfish I was to have regrets. I shared 14 happy years with Hailey. In the final months before her passing, she had become completely blind, developed dementia, which left her with large memory deficits, and was in renal failure. She found comfort in her naps, which took up most of her days and nights. It was her time. Her quality of life was such that putting her to sleep was the most humane and kind decision. This realization helped me understand the Rainbow Bridge. Our sweet dog was final free of her pained, limited physical body and onto a better place.
I no longer feel regret. It still feels as if she’s just on vacation, and is about to trot in from the other room. When I remember that is not the case, a sharp pang hits my heart and I feel the sadness again. For the first few days I couldn’t overcome this, but as the days continue I try to replace these feelings with happy memories of my special dog. For a birthday party once we left a chocolate cake unattended, and a few moments later we found Hailey on the dining room table licking every bit of icing off the cake. Or how she would swim circles in the lake around the fish below her. We ended up needed to put a life jacket on her because she would swim and swim until her head would start to dip below the water. She loved spending time at the lake. This pattern of denial, aloofness, sadness, and acceptance is ongoing. I still miss her constantly, but I know we made the kindest decision to give her peace. Ill be doing something monotonous and suddenly remember she’s gone. It will hit me when I least expect it. Each day gets easier and I’m finding comfort spending time with other fur babies, dogs Drake and Spot, cat Marigold and horses Ginger and Justin.
Some might think this post is a bit lengthy just for a pet, but thats how my family operates. Our pets are family; lifelong companions who we value equally with human family members. We rescued Hailey with the intentions of loving her for the entirety of her life. She lived on a lot of land with our other dogs, Cato, Spot and Drake, to play with. She spent her summers at the lake riding on the boat and swimming with the fish. She always slept in the bed with someone. She always wiggled her way under the covers and curled up right next to you. She would sleep soundly like this for a few hours, until she got to hot and would get out of the covers panting right in your face. Hailey was the worst guard dog around. She loved every person she came across and always jumped right into the UPS driver’s car.. every single time. Her energy levels were often overwhelming and sometimes honestly annoying. Her first nickname was Loopy. This was because whenever we came home she was so excited she couldn’t even greet us. Instead she would run full speed laps around the house. She practiced these “loops” every time we came home. Now, she was by no means a “good dog.” She never listened and was always running away from us. She chewed almost everything in the house including countless pairs of underwear. She disliked unfamiliar dogs and would always try to start a fight. She may have had a fatal altercation with a cat or two…. She wasn’t a well behaved dog, but she was a good dog with a sweet heart. She was our dog, our family, our Hailey.
Forever in our hearts