The Healing Power of Animals

Hi friends,

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.

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– 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.

XOXO

AJS (Newton’s Mom)

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R.I.P. dear friend. Newton, a friend to all – August 29, 2010 – Dec. 19, 2012.

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One step forward…

Dear friends,

This blog started as a record of my new adventures, namely Crossfit. I plan on recording many more adventures here, but for now I need this space for another purpose. I understand if this is not what you signed up to hear about, so don’t feel bad about not following what I write anymore. This is a space that I need to use for my grieving process. I can’t tell you how long it will be like this, only that I will use it as I need – without apologies.

It’s been awhile since I last wrote, as you can imagine it’s been a very difficult time for us. To be honest, I didn’t want to write, as it would send my last letter to the archives of my blog… a place I consider the past. A place I wasn’t ready to go.

Just when I think I’m going to be ok, I notice the little things.

That spot he loved at the foot of our bed, a quick glance in the backyard can bring back so many memories of enjoying the snow, gardening adventures and playing soccer. I imagine we’ll be finding his fur in places for years to come, just one of the joys of having a long haired dog.

It snowed today and we couldn’t stop talking about how much he would have loved it.

Newton

We both take solace in the fact that we did the right thing, but going forward from this place seems difficult when we are surrounded by memories of Newton. It helps to write to him, so I will.

Dear Newton,

It was the first night back at the house without you. Your dad will be here for a week before he goes back, I will be here for awhile. Everything reminds us of you, both a constant indication of how deeply entrenched you were in our lives, and a depressing reminder of what we both miss terribly.

We got the call today, that you are ready to be picked up. We’re also going to be selfish and keep part of you with us, wherever we go. We also plan on sharing you with the places we know you loved most. We will be going to St. Mary’s point to give you a remembrance ceremony you deserved, to celebrate all the wonderful memories we had with you there as we scatter your ashes.

Newton, I think of you every day, even when I was at your grandparents place for the last week – healing. It’s an odd feeling to only be responsible for myself and come and go as I please. It’s odder still, since it was a feeling that was not wanted. I want you to know about all the people that miss you. Tears have been shed, messages have been relayed – all for you. You played a great role in many people’s lives and should know you touched so many.

I am being extra careful to pay more attention to your furry brothers. As I promised in my last letter, I give them the love and affection I know you send their way (Yes, even Frankie).

Stewart and Frankie
Stewart and Frankie

Frankie and Stewart do miss you. It was different being at your grandparents home, as there were other distractions. As we arrived at our house last night, they searched for you. Frankie sleeps on your bed every afternoon, I like to think it comforts him.

Stewart understands, but I catch him still looking at your spots every now and again – “Just in case”.

Oh, the girlies miss you. Your cousins ran into the house when they arrived, saw me, and searched for you. They were uneasy without you all week. It wasn’t the same. Penny and Kacey send so much love your way. I gave them lots of hugs, kisses and thought of you as we all raced through the fresh snow in the backyard last week.

Newton with his girlies
Newton with his girlies

There was a kitten at home named Louie at home, you would have loved him despite his timidness (or some people thought hatred) towards dogs. At 5 months old, he would have loved to attack your tail as it swept tables, you would have patiently waited for him to stop.

Your uncle Alex knew I needed a distraction and “Lulu” became it. For the last week, I helped socialize him from a wild child to the calm and chill kitten I knew he could become. He still doesn’t like dogs, I couldn’t have overcame that obstacle without you there. I think Lulu knew I needed him more then he needed me. Although the pain and aching is still so deep, he helped me realize a part I didn’t completely know. I still have room to love others. I thought you would leave me with nothing left to share. I don’t want to move on, please don’t see it that way. I want to move forward and continue your legacy, I need to be around more animals. More importantly, animals that might need a little bit extra TLC.

We aren’t ready to bring another one in permanently, but I have registered to be a dog walker at the SPCA today. I think you’d like that. You loved other dogs, even the damaged ones, even the ones that wanted to rip you to shreds. Through the things you taught me, I plan on sharing with them: To be kind, gentle, loving and patient. This is by no means to replace you. Instead I see it as a way of continuing on with you, to practice all the wonderful things you taught me.

I still think of you every night and cry when I need to. Your life deserves to be celebrated as well as mourned. I’ve been angry, been in stages of disbelief, stages of numbness and now I’m mostly just sad.

I take time to picture you running across fields full of tall grass and meeting our other furry friends that have passed over the rainbow bridge, Meadow, Cheeko, Janey, Magic and Felicity. I love to think of you in our happiest moments.

I hope you can hear my thoughts and are able to continue to visit me in my dreams, as I look forward to those visits. I miss you.

Always yours,

Mom

xoxo