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.