I have lost several animals that were in my life; five dogs, numerous cats, two cows, a goat, numerous chickens, geese and ducks; along with several parakeets, goldfish, tropical fish, and a hamster, which were the usual childhood pets in our household. Some I grew up with and some I have owned myself. Through the vagaries of old age, illness or disease they have passed over the Rainbow Bridge.
The hardest thing to explain to someone who has never had a pet; is the grief you feel when you have lost a pet. It can be as strong for a pet, as it can for any human member of your family. After losing one family pet that I had grown up with, I had a dream about her. She was a Boxer and her name was Duchess, and I dreamed I answered the door one night just after dusk and she was standing there bathed in the glow from the porch light with all my previous pets sitting on her back, or perched on her head. I felt as if she were trying to tell me that she was OK, but that didn’t make the loss any easier to take.
The most important advice I can give you at this point is that you are allowed to grieve and should let yourself do so. Do not deny yourself that period of mourning, for a wonderful companion that you spent so much time with. I go through stages when I lose an animal friend that I hold dear. Depending on the situation, I get angry, and ask why a lot; or I get sad and cry a lot. According to the experts I am not alone; many people feel guilt, anger and denial along with their grief. They mention that your deep sadness on your pet’s passing can turn into a temporary depression. Just because they are an animal with four legs instead of two, the grief can be just as crushing.
Because I live in the country, we can bury animals on the property and we have a place in one end of the yard where we hold our funerals and burials. Then I plant flowers and place a stone. If you live in a city and are not allowed to bury your animals at home, you do have alternatives. Your can have your pet cremated and the vet can give you the ashes to either take home or bury. Or you can buy a casket for your pet and there are now pet cemeteries where you can hold a funeral service and burial. You could write your own service and have members of your family share their memories. If your own clergy-person feels uncomfortable about officiating at a service for your pet you may now even hire an animal minister or chaplain to conduct the service. There are also many counseling and support groups for owners of pets that have passed on.
I would like to pass on something to you that someone passed on to me after the loss of my first dog Nimber. It helped me, and it is called the “Rainbow Bridge Poem”.
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together.
I keep promising that I will not get another dog, and then a higher power intervenes and I find myself with a new bundle of joy. I now keep a journal, where I write about the daily comings and goings of the animal cast of characters on the farm. Then I have something to look back on and smile about after the next one passes on. So I will go through the joys, tears, laughter and sorrow of living with a dog again. I know I will see them all again when I pass over the Rainbow Bridge and can be with them once more.
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