A Life Worth Living…

on February 10, 2014 45 Replies

I lost my dog.

That’s probably a powerful enough sentence to resonate with anyone who has lost their beloved pet. I’m dealing with a bunch of emotions that are purely human, and as I try to make sense out of them, I find myself being driven to the page. I’m a writer. It’s the only place I have in my life where I can express myself in a way that feels right.

My dog has had a long life. He’s about sixteen years old – give or take a year. What makes him extraordinary, in ways humans are extraordinary, is his character. I rescued him from Pets Alive – my local shelter – where they had just seized a bunch of animals in an abuse case. My dog was in an abandoned house with other dogs. Who knows how long they went without food, water or human contact? At the time, I had another rescued puppy who was so overhyper I usually came home from work in tears to see what she’d destroyed. I read that an older dog could be a good companion and calm her down.

Lester was the perfect dog.

The moment I met him, I realized he was an old soul. He was dignified. He was polite – except around any type of food–, was loving, kind, and a great fit for our family. I brought him home and our new lives begun.

He was afraid and cowered in doorways. He hit the ground at loud noises. He shuddered during sleep when nightmares hit him. I knew he had a terrible past, one I’d never really know.
It took about a year before he blossomed in his loving new home, and he no longer had any trouble with noises, doors, or anything else. We healed him. He healed us.

I know he’s been sick for a while, but with his age, I was hoping for a miracle drug cure. Instead, I learned he had cancer which is untreatable and too far gone to fight. I hoped for months. I got one more week.

I watched his fat, roly poly body become bony. I watched his legs weaken so I had to carry him. I watched his bladder begin to leak when he’d always been housebroken. I watched his eyes grow sad.

Once again, my dog made me see things I hadn’t seen before. How we all age – canine and human – and hope for the gift of dignity. Someone to love us. Give us warmth and comfort as our body wastes away.

His entry to rainbow bridge was both brutal and beautiful. Brutal for me to say goodbye, with his head in my lap, and my lips to his fur, as I whispered how much I loved him. Beautiful for him because he knew he was loved, and out of pain, and had a peaceful transition from this life to the next. I was lucky to be the one to save him and drive him home from the shelter. I was lucky to be the one to hold him as he left this world in my arms.

My heart is broken. He lay with me every day as my writing companion. He followed me everywhere, with those soulful eyes. He had a favorite squeaker he would keep in his mouth and trudge from room to room, refusing to let it go in case my other dog stole it. He is my family.
Lester will always be remembered, because I wrote about him in my short story, A Life Worth Living. His voice was in my head three years ago, when he forced me to write his story. Readers have embraced it. I was able to give back to the shelter on half of those proceeds when first published. Now I am able to donate one hundred percent back to Pets Alive, where I first met my sweet companion. So many readers have emailed me and told me how that short story made a difference to them, helped them with their own pets to believe in Rainbow Bridge, and thanked me for making more people aware of a dog’s life.

Once again, I’m reminded how precious life is. How important it is to love and take chances, even when there is loss at the end. Because it is all worth it. A dog’s love is a priceless gift, so pure and innocent and real.

It really is a life worth living.

45 thoughts on “A Life Worth Living…”

  1. Marcieann Pearce says:

    There is a website Rainbows Bridge that is a place for are Fur Babies. I lost my beloved Kitty Nalla. That’s were I found peace with my loss!

  2. shannon says:

    Sorry to hear about your lester. The pets we take in arent just pets they are family. This is truely said, again sorry for your loss.

  3. Oh, Jennifer, bless your heart. I’m so sorry. Losing a dog is horrible and excruciating. Hugs and blessings to you and your family. Here are a few lines to cushion your heart through the grief.

    “Though nothing can bring back the hour
    Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
    We will grieve not, rather find
    Strength in what remains behind.”
    ——Wordsworth

    1. Jennifer says:

      This is so perfect Cheryl, thank you.

  4. Lori Coco Bantel says:

    How lucky we are those who have known the love of a dog. How sad we are all when they don’t outlive us. How fortunate we all
    are to have the joy and memories that never leave us even when their physical bodies leave us forever. Until we meet again…

  5. Lisa Kessler says:

    Oh Jennifer I’m so sorry! We lost my son’s dog Zorra the day after Christmas and it’s gut-wrenching to say goodbye…

    This was a beautiful tribute. *sniffle* So glad he found you and you’re right, even though their lives are short and it’s sad to say goodbye, loving a dog is a wonderful gift. And worth every tear.

    Sending lots of love and comfort your way…

    *HUGS*

    Lisa

  6. RC says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of Lester. Thank you for loving him so much to share his story and your emotions. I have 3 of my own. 2 we inherited and 1 we found as a stray. I can’t imagine life without them, so I understand how much LOVE you have for Lester. Thank you for writing ‘ A Life Worth Living’ & your recent post. God Bless!!!

    1. Jennifer says:

      Thank you so much for understanding and appreciating the story of Lester.

  7. Fran Gold says:

    I am so sorry for your loss Jennifer. I know this feeling all too well. Lester will always be a part of you. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  8. Kathy Owen says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. I lost one of my dogs several years ago and though it was the humane thing to put him down it was without a doubt one of the hardest things I have ever done. I cherished every moment of the 12 years I had him just as I do the 2 I have now. Nothing picks you up after a hard day then coming into the house and having them greet you. Those of your readers that are pet owners understand what you are going through and you said it beautifully in your message just as you did in your book by the same name.

  9. Jackie Dickson says:

    It sounds like you and Lester were lucky to have found one another. It always hurts to lose a family member, whether they have two legs or four. I pray for comfort for your broken heart.

  10. Wendy says:

    Jennifer, I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s amazing how these sweet beings quickly become apart of the family. Their love and loyalty are endless. I have Ruby the boxer who is about 14. In the last 7 months I have had 2 major surgeries and Ruby has been at my side every moment. At the worst moments I know she understood the pain I was having, she has worried about me and she has loved me. I love her beyond words and I hope in some way she knows how much she has meant to me especially the last 7 months. I can see age creeping up on her and I know I’m going to have to face facts eventually. However, I’m sure Ruby will deal with this better than I will. Your post about Lester was beautiful and I’m sure he knew he was loved and still is loved! Hugs to you Jennifer!

    1. Jennifer says:

      Hugs back Wendy. Thank you so much for your beautiful comments.

  11. I’m so sorry for your loss .

  12. Becky Almanza says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. You reminded me of an awesome dog I had for 18 years and I lost her to a tumor (cancer). This loss was so hard, I have not had another dog since but now you are making me rethink that and possibly save a dog from the pound…we’ll see.

    1. Jennifer says:

      Hi Becky, thanks for sharing your story you must let me know if you decide to adopt again…

  13. Debbie Woolard says:

    Oh Jennifer I’m so sorry. What a touching story of Lester’s life. Bless u for taking him in. You were both truly blessed. My thoughts are with you.

  14. Jennifer, I am so sorry you lost your companion, I know from my own experience that dogs give us a gift like many others in our life do not give us-unconditional love, and devotion, and I just know that is how your wonderful dog was to you. You healed him and in return he gave you a powerful gift. You also gave him that gift-unconditional love. Lester now is in the hands of God-never doubt it! And I know he thanked you every day of his life for you giving him-a life worth living.
    RIP Lester.

    1. Jennifer says:

      Thank you so much Loraine that meant a lot to me…

  15. Sharlene Wegner says:

    So sorry for your loss. You have me in tears with your beautiful memories.

  16. Ellen says:

    What a beautiful tribute. So sorry for the loss of your companion.

  17. Delene Yochum says:

    So sorry for your loss Jennifer. How lucky we are to be a Dog Mommy for our four legged friends. They love us so unconditionally, grateful for what we give. Not realizing they have often given to us so much more. Your Lester will always be a smile in your heart as soon as your sadness heals. Healing thoughts for you as you go through this.

    1. Jennifer says:

      Thank you Delene, the support from other pet owners is amazing. Your words are beautiful.

  18. Laura says:

    So sorry to hear about your dog. My prayers go out to you and your family.

  19. kathy says:

    I am so sorry for your loss Jennifer. They are so much a part of the family . My thoughts are with you and your family.

  20. Jen, I am so sorry for your loss. But through your words in A Life Worth Living, Lester will live on in the hearts and minds of your readers forever. Hugs.

    1. Jennifer says:

      Thank you so much Heather you are so right!

  21. Nicole Newman says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. True unconditional love is what our pets give us. We can all learn so much from our precious four legged companions. What a wonderful life you gave him.

    Hugs

    1. Jennifer says:

      Thank you so much Nicole. Hearing everyone’s stories heals my heart.

  22. Eunice says:

    I’m so sorry to hear that. As a dog person myself they are like you family.

  23. laurie eller says:

    Jennifer, five months ago our family was right where you are now. We were told our shelter dog and sweet girl, Sallie, had Lupus and had a year to live. She made it thirteen months. The heartache will ease over time, and in its place is this genuine feeling of joy–joy that you made her years better than anyone else could have done. I’m deeply sorry for your loss and will have you in my thoughts… many hugs, Laurie and family.

    “What we have once enjoyed, we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” Helen Keller

  24. Victoria Waterman says:

    Jennifer – What a lovely tribute to your boy Lester! I am sure he was loved by all in your family, but he was special to you as your writing companion, some one to keep you company. I hope you realize how special you were to him, you brought him home and loved him and when it was his time to leave you were there for him, hugging and kissing him as he eased from one home to another. I have lost a beagle (Mandy) who battled pancreatic cancer and now I have a rescue dog (Callie) who also has a tumor on her pituitary gland. It is so difficult to watch them get sick but what pleasure and joy they bring to our lives! My thoughts and prayers to you and your family.

  25. Charlene says:

    Jennifer,

    It’s so hard to lose a member of the family, and a pet truly is a part of the family. They are your constant companion, they love you unconditionally and just want to be with you. Lester was a Lucky Dog when you rescued him and I’m sure he loved you very much. May your fond memories of Lester bring a smile to your face as the days go by.

    A Fellow Dog Lover

  26. Marti says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. I’m shedding tears for you while I snuggle my cat. Animals are our family and their los leaves a hole in our lives, but know you gave your sweet friend years of love and happiness he wouldn’t have had with out you and your family. It’s hard to see them suffer. My son did some sleep walking and awoke next to our dogs house after we had to put our sweet boy down. It’s a hard but loving thing to do. Hang in there. Marti

  27. Wanda says:

    Jennifer, I am so sorry for your loss. God in his infinite wisdom decided to have Lester frolicking in greener pastures as his reward for taking care of you and your family. I hope Lester has a chance to meet my Jazzie, who I lost 4 years ago and my Daisy, who left us last summer, and become good friends. I think of them often. Only a pet owner can truly understand the lost of a pet. I send you healing thoughts and hugs.

  28. Tina Brimlow says:

    Oh Jennifer I am so happy you saved him from the shelter. You both saved each other and I am glad you had each other. I am so sorry for your lose. I know he is at peace knowing he left knowing what love felt like. You can find happiness knowing just that.

  29. I am so, so sorry…just know that it will take time to process (more than you might think…I still sometimes reach on my pillow for my almost-20-year-old kitty who has been gone over 5 years…and remember, crying is a healthy physical release)…do use your memories as a balm on this wound. You were lucky to find each other–so glad you and Lester shared space and time and heart and love! Hugs to you, Janet

  30. S. Shinsato says:

    So very sorry to hear about your loss, and a loss it definitely is. May your wonderful memories continue to fill those deep feelings of grief and loneliness – Just remember your baby is so much happier in heaven right now!

  31. Joanna Lessor says:

    We had been doing treatment foster care for about 3 months when we realized that our 3 cats, 2 ferrets & 2 birds were helping our kids more than we ever thought. We added a dog & a rabbit to our “Zoo” & watched our kids blossom. They even married 2 of the cats in a little wedding ceremony! I’m telling you this because I know what you mean about Lester teaching you & you teaching Lester… The same happened we us & our “fur babies” in ways we never dreamed! But 1 by 1 the kids either moved home or grew up & our fur kids became elderly & passed on… It never gets easier & never will but having known all of them has made me a better person & I love & thank them for that. You have Lester a REAL life w/love…& he gave that love back to you! You did a good thing & I’m sorry that he’s gone.❤️Hugs

  32. yen says:

    Reading your story had countless water streaming out of my eyes unknowingly as I recalled my 1st and only dog of 16years last moments flashed before me when he left me last May. Excruciating and heart wrenching indeed. So much so that I do not have the courage of getting another by my side. The thought of another dying in my embrace simply crack my heart. But your story makes me comfort me a little giving me another way to see dying loved ones leaving in my embrace as a form of bliss n solace. Has he reached the rainbow bridge? Will we ever meet…The thought of it going earlier kills me but if they outlive me I will not go in peace…guess im simply not enlightened as yet

  33. Shay says:

    Jennifer I am so sorry to hear of your loss of your beloved Lester I too lost my beloved pet Ollie of 15 years two years ago It was one of the worst days and I still miss him. They bring such unconditional love

  34. Sharon says:

    Hugs and prayers Jennifer. I have 3 dogs at the Rainbow Bridge, and hope to see them again someday. All of my dogs have been rescues and I feel that our loving them and them still giving us unconditional love, even with all they’ve been through, is the best gift. Keeping you in my prayers that happy memories of you and Lester will help ease the sorrow that you feel.

  35. JoAnne Martinez says:

    Jennifer, I am so sorry for your lose. Many people don’t understand the pain associated with losing a pet. To us it is another part of our family. Lets face it pets are there for us always. They aren’t to busy for us. Never say no! Unconditional love for us always. I had many dogs. And way to many times i had to put them to sleep. And every so often I still think that they are going to be at the dog to greet me. You will always have him in your heart an No one can take that from you. Just another person to meet you in heaven!! God Bless.

  36. Kimberly Cornman says:

    So sorry Jen, he was a good boy. I will always remember sitting in your backyard one summer while he and Bella played. He kept interrupting our conversation with his barking because he was actually “telling” on Bella for stealing his toy. lol
    He was sweet and he will be missed.

  37. Carrie McCabe says:

    Jennifer:

    I am sorry for your loss. I went through the same experience with my cat, Tipsy. He was my baby. You expressed my feelings at that time exactly. My heart hurts for you.

    Regards,

    Carrie

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