I wanted to write today exactly what my title so subtlety suggests – the healing power of animals. As many of you have already read, We lost our very best friend – our 2 year old Bernese Mountain Dog – Newton, to Chronic Kidney Disease on Dec. 19, 2012. It hasn’t yet been a month, and I still am going through the grieving process.
I still cry when I need to, as Newton was the center of my universe, an infectious light in this sometimes very dark world. As my fiance says – Animals keep things simple, in a world where you are measured by status, money and success, Animals are there to remind us to simplify our lives. They love you, just for you. When you lose a love that true, a love that many adult humans are not capable of, it can be hard to go forward.
Please know that I am not suggesting adopting an animal before you are ready. Some people can get a new furry friend right away as part of their process (which is helpful to them), I am by no means ready to bring another animal into my life as I need the time to grieve Newton. What I’m writing about today is remembering my friend in a positive light, while working through my grief. It’s harder to do this, especially when remembering them at all, brings a sense of loss. It’s all too easy for me to get stuck in this sense of loss, so I needed a way to bring out the light – to remember the super, amazingly marvelous things about him. I do not want to forget, I have this deep longing to remember everything about him. In recognizing this, I needed an outlet – a positive one. Let me explain.
I believe when you love animals, and have the means to be a great animal owner, you should. There are far too many animals out there without proper homes or proper owners. If you are one, treat another animal to the life it deserves. When we are ready to have another dog in our lives, I want to take all the life lessons Newton had taught us, and apply them – Make us even better owners and humans and celebrate a new life and the legacy Newt left. Many people say not to compare dogs, I think it’s crazy hard not to – especially when it was your first animal and all you know. I think it’s ok, as long as it’s not a negative comparison.
I’ve recently decided to start the healing process by volunteering at our local SPCA. I’m not saying this is the way to proceed forward – this is what I found works for me.
There are about 25 dogs, and 8 puppies currently at the SPCA I go to. I’ve been going every day, around the time I would usually walk Newton and choosing to walk or play with a dog, or two, or three. In this way, I know I’m using this process as a positive distraction and a time to remember our Newt. These dogs are temperament tested and are given a color – Green for the easiest dogs to get along with, yellow for a few issues and then the orange – the ones that only experienced handlers should take, the ones that are usually there for months without adoption. These orange dogs have been the best part of my day. I consider them the “misunderstood”. Once you find what makes them special and they develop a sense of trust with you, it’s a magical thing to witness. They come out of their shell, their tail comes up, their ears are alert, they look at you – in the eye. The best part ? They play.
I took out this little guy – Rex. Rex is a Lab/Pit mix who loves the snow. He’s around the age of two, loves people, extremely active – with one fault – he has a high prey drive. Which makes him a high risk for anyone who already has a cat or small dog in the house. Nonetheless nobody is perfect and Rex will make the right owner or family very lucky, as he’s one great dog.
He’s such a goof, loves to head dive into snowbanks chasing flying snowballs. He’s also great at sit, down, paw and stay. We played for 45 mins, and I know I was most likely more tired then he was.
– Look at that face!!
Due to Rex’s high excitability he’s usually not the first pup to be taken out by volunteers. As you can imagine, the orange dogs usually get taken out the least by volunteers, when they usually require the most work (socializing, handling, manners). Hanging out with Rex and the rest of the oranges over the past few days has allowed me to openly practice what I termed “Newton’s Life Lessons“. I’m far from the only volunteer to do this, I met a lady –
“Saint” Diane, who has been volunteering for 4 years with her husband every day. She just adopted a poodle mix before Christmas and still comes in to walk more dogs. She’s fantastic!
She said one thing to me – When the day comes and you see adoption papers by the animals you love the most it can be sad to say goodbye – Consider it a job well done. The time, effort and kindness you have shown the dog, have probably helped in some small way to allow that dog to become more adoptable. I can’t wait for this to happen and give Newton a “high-5” in my head.
I believe these animals are helping me, more then I am helping them. The trust and affection I get from that helps heal little pieces, bit by bit. The way I see it, I’m using Newton’s legacy for the greater good instead of dwelling on the loss and negative. Bit by bit, I’m moving forward with him, the only way I know how and the only way I can – with other animals. I am still having some very rough days.
It helps me to know Newton would love my way of doing this. He loved all, the sick, the weak, the angry and the misunderstood – without judgement. Isn’t that one of the magical things about animals?
When it’s time to open our arms, we will. To appreciate and love another for themselves and not to replace. Newton has taught us both to be better parents. I will continue to be thankful that he was ever in our lives. I have given more attention to our other two fur-kids as well. Stewart and Frankie are our two cats. They have relished in it, making me aware that they need it in this difficult time, as much as I do.
I’m sure if you stumbled upon my page, you’re going through this or are a pet lover/owner who understands. If something has happened, and you are losing/have lost your furry love, I’m so very sorry. I’m not saying that this is THE way to help with the grief, but it’s my way. It is helping. If you’re not able to volunteer, perhaps, when you’re ready, volunteering to dog sit for a night, a day or a weekend might be the thing that helps you the most. I know doggy hugs have helped me on my darkest days. Humans are great, but there’s something about the hug a dog gives – Maybe it’s a combination of the soft fur, kind eyes, the sincerity behind the motion – It works for me.
I want to thank Newton for everything, as he exceeded our expectations, surpassed our hopes and dreams when we first brought him home. I most definitely would not be the person I am today, had he not fallen into our lives. Tripping into our hearts as uncoordinated as can be, leaving his legacy to live on.
AJS (Newton’s Mom)
R.I.P. dear friend. Newton, a friend to all – August 29, 2010 – Dec. 19, 2012.