Rainbow Bridge

I thought about adding a clever title but couldn’t come up with it. My heart is sore, and just writing the briefest of blog posts has produced tears. So I won’t try for clever.

On October 27th our sweet Zena crossed over the Rainbow Bridge with the loving assistance of a retired veterinarian providing in-home service. We were able to cradle her head and tell her until the last breath (and beyond) that we loved her and that she will always have a place in our hearts.

This photo was taken a couple of years ago. Her most current photos make me too sad. Although I continued to hand feed her and she needed lots of attention to persuade her to drink, she continued to lose weight, somewhat rapidly. Her dementia was so significant she couldn’t get around at all without constant monitoring. It was time.

Jay and I took off for a few days following her passing. The return wasn’t any easier, as for the first time in years we didn’t have her sweet exhilaration upon meeting us at the gate. The house still feels empty.

Anyone who has loved a pet knows that deep void–the void that is hard to explain to someone who hasn’t had a beloved longtime pet companion. I think it will take awhile. We aren’t likely to jump back into dog parenting.

Joyfully we are anticipating the birth of another grandson at the end of this year and our trips to Oakland will likely increase. It’s a difficult and very inconvenient time to adjust to another pet’s needs and schedules. In time, perhaps.

One of my favorite book of poems is Mary Oliver’s “Dog Songs.”

Dear, wonderful Mary Oliver passed in 2019, but her poetry is very much alive and current. I’ve included one of her poems from “Dog Songs” read by the author. I hope it will mean something to you, as it does to me.

If we are to enjoy the companionship of these wonderful creatures, we also have to take the sadness when they transition. Life is like that.

65 thoughts on “Rainbow Bridge

    • Frank, I so appreciate you! The word “horrible” is exactly how I see it! I have a couple of friends who are very experienced in pet rescue and have a steady stream of pets and almost routinely have to say goodbye to one or another.They have helped me remember that we did our best to give her a good life, and that’s a joy. Thank you for your sensitivity!

  1. Oh my very dear Debra – my heart is sore for you, too. I have never had a dog, but if I were to lose Boodie I would be just as deeply unhappy as you two are. Pets are so important in our lives: but we must tell ourselves how important we are in theirs. To’ve been able to make a small animal’s life joyful is a huge privilege; and you will, one day, take it up again.
    In the meantime, you beautiful woman, cry as much as you like – there’s not a skerrick of shame in it.

    • Thank you so much, M-R. I hope that some time in our lives (not soon!) we might take in another rescue.I would like that. She came with lots of insecurity and she was prone to damaging doors and furniture if left alone, suffering from terrible separation anxiety. She had experienced neglect and some abuse, and so the one thing I know for sure is that we adored her and we did give her a very good life. Of course, she enhanced ours, as well. I hope dear Boodie has a long, long life. We had a cat that lived with good health until he was 23 years old. Cats are more prone to those long lives, so here’s to Boodie! Thank you for your very kind words.

  2. Oh my friend, I am so sorry! I can pucture Zena, jumping for joy at the fence and running using back and forth as one entered the yard. She was well-loved and cared for and had the best home imaginable!

    • Thank you so much, Linda. You hadn’t seen her since she had her eye removed and I think you’d have immediately noticed a change. She was never quite the same, but on occasion she’d still get excited when we’d been away and it was funny to see her jump and be a puppy, if only for a few minutes. You’ve been here yourself with sweet dogs who are a part of the family. Thank you for your kind remembrance of her!

  3. (((Debra))) sadly, I know too well how you feel. It’s tough to lose a pet. After we had said goodbye to our Norman this year, they gave me a piece of paper with a beautiful story. It didn’t dry my tears, but it made me smile while mourning our dog:

    A four-year-old child’s wisdom
    (From the internet….author unknown)
    Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish wolfhound, named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane were all very attached to Belker and they were hoping for a miracle. I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer.
    I told the family there were no miracles left for Belker and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog. Ron and Lisa told me that they thought it would be good for the four-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.
    I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker’s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few moments, Belker slipped away peacefully. The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion.
    We sat together for a while after Belker’s death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, “I know why.” Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I never had heard a more comforting explanation.
    He said, “People are born so that they learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The four-year-old continued, “Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

    • OK, Bridget. Now I am REALLY crying! What a precious story. I will share it with my family. I was very aware when you shared about your experience with your own dogs, as I knew we were getting closer. She was a precious trusting companion. And she did love us all the time. 🙂 Thank you for the hug, my friend.

  4. I’m so sorry to hear about your puppy passing away. It is so painful to say goodbye to our sweet, unconditionally loving companions, as they are such a massive part of your lives.
    We lost our cat a few weeks ago, so I know the sadness that comes with the sudden emptiness within our homes and routines.
    Sending you lots of love and healing thoughts. May Zena rest in peace.

    • Thank you so much, Eva Marie. And I’m very sorry for your loss, as well.You’re so right about the emptiness. We downsized a couple of years ago and moved with big dog in tow to the “tiny house” in the back and my daughter and family moved into our large home. I’ve never lived “back here” without her. We have more room now, but it isn’t as welcome as I might have thought. 💔 Thank you!

  5. Dear Debra — I’m so very sorry to hear about sweet Zena. I don’t think you ever referenced her without “sweet” before her name. So beautiful that you all got to be together with her. It’s a big physical void, I know. Hugs to everyone.

    • Thank you, Gail. That’s so interesting about the adjective “sweet.” I think that’s true, but I hadn’t noticed. Yes, we really miss her. In the beginning she was such an anxious dog with lots of frustrating habits, but it’s true, she was really sweet! Thank you for noticing that, Gail!

  6. I’m so sorry for your loss Debbie. An animal is so much more than a pet. I know how good it makes me feel when I come home and Chips greets me. It will probably be quite a while until you stop expecting to see Zena in her usual spot.

    • Thank you, Ginny. Yes, it’s almost a cliché but that unconditional love and absolute excitement when you come home, even from the grocery, is hard to replace. 😌 It’s going to take some time.

  7. I’m so deeply saddened to read this. She was a special one as you and John, and family, were to her. Love and prayers for comfort.

  8. Ah, Debra, I am so sorry for your loss. Hugs.

    “Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives.” ~ John Galsworthy

  9. Oh Debra, I am so sorry to hear that your dear Zena is gone. It is heartbreaking, isn’t it. Losing a loved dog is so hard. I know how you feel and truly feel for you. Big hugs, from me and from Anouk. 🤗🐾🐾

    • Thank you so much, Cathy. We dog people (really, all pet people) know how special these creatures are, and what they give us. There is a void. I love my tortoises, but they don’t keep me company in quite the same way! 🙂 Hugs back to you and Anouk!

  10. I’m sorry for your loss. We welcome them into our homes and hearts in the sure knowledge that we will be sorely tried at their passing. I hope that you will find peace now that the burden of caring has been lifted from you.

    • For quite a while we did rationalize that her care wasn’t “so much” that we couldn’t do it, but it was getting difficult. It’s good to know that we held on as long as we did. Thank you so much for your kind message, Martin.

  11. So sorry for your loss, Debra and Jay. It is no small thing to lose a beloved pet. They are so much a part of our heart beats. For months, we hear them in the other room and expect to see them turning the corner.

    I went back to revisit Zena in her younger years . . . her exuberance was a delight: A Friday exhale . . . breathing lighter with Zena the Wonder Dog! October 11, 2013

    I wouldn’t want Tigger back as he was when we said good-bye since that was not a good life for him. But I would love to restart the clock and have him back as he was for much of our time together.

    At least we know we cherished what we had while we had it. Parting sorrow is the price we pay for that joy.


    • I do remember your Tigger, and your observation is so true to how I think, as well. By the time we are able to say goodbye to them, it’s clear they are struggling. You are so kind to reference the previous blogposts. I have been so glad that I have those to look at, too, although I haven’t quite yet. I’m thinking that I might print them up and make a little book for the grandchildren. This has been hard on them, too. Thank you for your very kind words, Nancy.

  12. Oh, Debra…I’m sorry. I know what it was like for me holding our dear
    Toulouse as he crossed the bridge a year ago. I still say “G’night Buddy” every night before I roll over to sleep. It is an odd combo of void and memory sea. My take: you don’t get over it, you just get used to it.

  13. Debra, so sorry about the loos of your dear Zena. I remember when you got her. Although I don’t have any pets, I have children and grandchildren who have and I felt their pain.
    Hope you and Jay are doing well.

    • Thank you, Catherine. It is true that we all have witnessed friends and family who lose pets and we see for ourselves the hole they leave. As Zena got older I recognized that when it was her time we were going to struggle. It’s been nice to share her in this blog. So thank you so much for stopping by. And yes, we are doing well, and I hope you are, too! We really do need to do a “catch up!!” ❤️

  14. Debra, it is so hard when our beloved animal companions pass. I’m sorry you lost your sweet Zena. I’m glad you could ease her out of this world in your presence, holding her and loving her till the end. Sending a virtual hug, knowing that time will ease your grief, but your heart will never forget.

  15. I’m so sorry, Debra. It’s never easy with a pet and your post reminded me of our Murphy. We too used an at-home vet and it was more peaceful and comforting in a way — although very emotional. Caring for a sick pet takes a lot. There are days I feel I have PTSD from caring for Murphy. I hope you find comfort in knowing you gave Zena an incredibly beautiful life filled with love. Peace always.

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