Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When we raised Border Collies here at Dogwood Ridge farm, I would get 8 to 10 calls a week from people wanting a dog, and they searched the internet and found us. Nearly 90% of the people who call had had a border collie before and just wanted to experience the joy and thrill of the breed "again."

The sad part is the same people that have lost their best friend are empty because of a multitude of reasons, including accidents, illness, or old age of their forever friend. Everyone will share their stories and photos, and we live them together, sometimes bringing both of us to tears. I have even shared some of their memories on our "Rainbow Bridge" page. People I have never met or talked with before will tell me their story about their pet because they "just wanted me to know," they knew I would understand, and I do, only too much, and we both cried over the phone.

Grief is genuine and can affect a person in many ways. At one time, I used to think it was unmanly to express sorrow when a dog of mine had passed on, and I was even embarrassed by my pain. Once, I was burying one of my beloved pets in our "family" graveyard here on the farm because of a sudden death. A neighbor was passing and stopped just to chat. I stopped him and motioned for him to move on before he got close because I was crying so hard, and I didn't want him to see me. Everybody reacted differently, but I knew I was hurting, and at times, I still do. I even remember my very first dog, her name was "Daisy," a beautiful little dog.   I was seven years old, and she came to the house because she was cold and hungry, and little did I know, her stay would be very short; she was sick and died a few days later. 

To cheer me up, my Mother bought me a new crisp pair of blue jeans and a green button-down shirt that I can still see in my mind's eye. Tears were streamed down my face as she made me try them on, thinking it would help, but nothing would stop the tears, and my heart was breaking. Little did I know how that event would shape my life, and I can see Daisy to this very day.

I received an email from a friend about a book by one of my favorite authors, Jon Katz. He writes about border collies and life on his farm. He was a city dweller and purchased a farm to help with his border collie "Orson." It's a beautiful book called "A Good Dog," but it turns sad by the end of the book. The only thing I will tell you is he did everything he could do to help Orson.   I would recommend the book.

The name of his book is "Going Home, Finding Peace When Pets Die." It puts a lot of things in perspective and, in a positive way, helps with grief. It's an easy read. I would highly recommend it too, especially if you have lost a pet.
Here are a few excerpts from one of the last chapters.
Going Home, Finding Peace When Pets Die  By Jon Katz

Letters from a dog

Dear Friend,
It is my time to say goodbye. My legs are weakened, my sight is failing, smells are faint. I am wearing. My spirit is fading, and I have been called home and away from you.

I wish to be strong again, to roll in gross stuff, to snatch greasy bones, to eat all the things you hated me to eat, to have my belly scratched for all time, to run through the fields and the woods, to smell the stories of life, and to raise my nose to the wind and see the world all over again.
I am going home. I know I leave you in loneliness and pain. That is the way of people when they say goodbye. Dogs are different. We don't have regrets or wish that we could alter the story of life.

Although I have been called away, I leave you with the memories of our life together.
I remember a cold winter's night when you sang to me in the dark as the wind howled and snow drifted outside the window. I felt your loneliness and knew my work.
When you looked at me, and the corners of your mouth turned up, you smelled and looked different. Lighter, happier. That was my life, my work. Nothing more clearly defined my purpose. When you smiled, I knew why I was here.

I never tired of watching you, of being with you while you lived your life. I sat by your side, entering into the spirit of the moment. I supported your life, wherever it went, whatever you felt, whatever you did. I was your witness, your testament.
I remember my heart jumping out of my chest when you came home and called my name, or grabbed a ball, or took me outside, or fed me. I hope you know that I loved all of these things-whatever you chose to bring me and give me, whatever time you spend with me, I loved.

And I thank you.
I always knew where you were, even when you forgot me or couldn't see me. You had no secrets from me. You showed me everything. We trusted each other.
I smelled and felt all of the worries in a human life, but I am different. Like other animals, I want only what I need. Your life is too complex for me to grasp. There are so many things in it that are meaningless to me.
I am so much simpler than you.

I love you, and I love all the people and animals in our home. And I love food and smelly things in the woods and balls and Frisbees and bones. There is not much more to me than that, and yet you loved me for that, and despite it.
By now, you must know that there is always a goodbye hovering in the shadows of a dog. We are never here for long, or for long enough. We were never meant to share all of your life, only to mark its passage. We come, and we go. We come when we are needed. We leave when it is time. Death is necessary. It defines life.

I will see you again.
I will watch over you.

I hope, in your grief and loneliness, that you will consider how sad it would have been had we not had this time together, not had the chance to give each other so much.
I do not mourn or grieve, but I will miss standing beside you, bound together on our walks through life, even as I know that there is a long line of others waiting to take my place and stand with you.

Thank you. It was nothing but a gift.
And finally, I ask these things of you:

Remember me.
Celebrate me.
Grieve for me.

And then, when you can, let me go, freely and in peace.
When you are ready, do me the great honor of bringing another dog into your life, so you can give and receive this gift again...

I see a lot of similarities in this story about myself, grief, and also my dogs. One thing I learned from reading this book, it is OK to grieve over your pet; that's part of healing your soul. As I think about my own four-legged friends and companions and the hardships that will surely come, Lord knows I will need to understand it.
Thanks for letting me share part of my life today and to the many people that call for a pup, I'm so sorry for your loss, but "do me the great honor of bringing another dog into your life, so you can give and receive this gift again."

In just a few short days in my early life, you made a big difference in the life of a 7-year-old kid...  Run Free Daisy with all the others dogs, I'll see you at the bridge. 

Thank You.  Ken