A week before Yom Kippur, my eldest dog Sassey, became sick. Initially, she was diagnosed with an upset stomach – athough I knew that wasn’t the reason why she was so lethargic. I took her for another visit to the vet on Saturday. He did x-rays and blood work and still was unable to diagnose what was wrong. By the time I called on Tuesday morning and said that she was worse, he arranged for an ultra-sound. The results weren’t good.
At sundown on Tuesday, Yom Kippur began. It is the holiest day of the year for Jews. That night I prayed for Sassey to make it into the Book of Life (one of the tenets of this holiday).
I used creative visualization imagining her as a healthy, romping dog again – and spending time with my father, who is 88, when he makes the trip to Israel next spring for my daughter’s wedding. He and Sassey have had a love affair since my Mom died 8 years ago. When he stayed at my home for 6 weeks after the funeral, Sassey comforted, loved, and helped him heal. I believe that her love gave him faith that life could still be good even with his profound loss.
I left the vet. on Tuesday with a feeling of dis-ease. Even though I felt that a second opinion was needed, normally I would have told myself that I was being over indulgent. Not this time.
On Thursday I saw another vet. His take on what Sassey’s illness was different. Although she’s still a sick pup, I felt more confidence in his style and the way he explained her prognosis to me.
After leaving his office, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. I finally knew that whatever happened, I had done the most I could for Sassey. I wouldn’t be living with ‘if only’. Thank goodness that I listened to my instincts.
I spent the next few days praying, visualizing, and telling myself that all was going to be OK. I kept on telling Sassey that she was a tough dog, she could make it, and I wasn’t ready for her to leave.
As a minister, when I work with dying patients, they often talk about how they’re ready to die. They share how they’re trying to hang on to life for their loved ones – who beg them not to leave.
When they ask my advice, I tell them when they’ re ready to depart this world, they can let go. That they don’t have to keep on fighting.
That’s what I’m now doing with Sassey. These past few days, as I see her becoming weaker, bumping into things, and moving haltingly, I know that it’s time for me to surrender.
I am grieving. True dog lovers know that these 4 legged creatures are not just animals for whom we have affection. Rather, they are a part of of our families.
I’m crying a lot. I tell Sassey how much I love her and that it’s OK for her to leave when she’s ready. I know that my mother will be waiting on the other side.
This morning, Sassey kept on turning around and looking up at the ceiling from all angles. I had never seen her do that. I called her name but she didn’t look at me. She was in another plane of consciousness.
Ten minutes ago, the phone rang. My spiritual mentor and dear friend, Betty Allen, died in her sleep last night. She was 88 years old.
I didn’t cry. This is what Betty had wanted for a long time. I know she’s in a better place and at peace.
For a second, I wondered if Sassey’s swirling around and looking at the ceiling had something to do with Betty’s soul. Call me crazy – but who knows?
When I sit quietly and meditate on constant change, the cycles of life, and the beauty of being alive, it offers me comfort.
And my faith? It’s what cushions and embraces me in times of sorrow and joy. It reminds me that all will work out as it’s meant to.
Now it’s your turn. Have you experienced the loss of a pet? Has your faith helped you through the process?