************************************Denial covers the pain of the past * A blanket over the world * Lift a corner * Don't be afraid * Your life awaits you*************************************

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Writing Excercise Submissions: Animal Stories

This week's writing suggestion was in honor of my black lab, Jake, who met his end this past Saturday. I asked to hear stories of how an animal has changed your life.

Submitted by Desiree:

My obvious choice would have been to write about Romeo, since it's only been a week and a bit since we lost him. However, as he was really my daughter's pup, I am rather going to write about Tessa, who we had to have euthenased a year ago (May 5th 2010).

Every single dog we've had the privilege of sharing our lives with has been special. Each, totally unique. Each, irreplacable. Tessa, however, possessed something even more profound in her makeup. In every way, she was the very best of everything 'human' We could see her thinking things through! She really understood! Her eyes were deep pools of love and she held you with her gaze. She was a large German Shepherd and was an outstanding guard dog, but, to us, she was as placid as a kitten. She was exceptionally gentle and trusting and never ever snapped or snarled at us, or grabbed anything we offered her. I trusted her with my life.

She took on the role of foster mother to both Bonny (now 10) and Heathcliff (now 6), raising them as though they were her own pups. She shepherded and watched them closely through to adulthood and beyond. In return they both loved her and bowed to her authority. We found this remarkable, because when we got her as a puppy, our then German Shepherd (also spayed, bitch) Ziggy who was 7 at the time, wanted to have nothing to do with her! They eventually became good friends, but Ziggy really gave Tessa a raw deal as a puppy.

Tessa, on the other hand, was quite amazing. She taught the others to play with a ball, she showed endless patience playing tug the rope with them and allowed them to cuddle and snuggle to their heart's content. When they were doing anything not permissible, she would growl at them or nudge them away and they'd learn so quickly from her. We were constantly marvelling at how much she taught them and how fair she was with them. She really doted on them and always wore what can only be described as the most beautiful smile. The only time she 'sulked' was when we went out and left them behind. Then she would truly give us the cold shoulder and turn her gaze away from us. She forgave us instantly when we returned though and always held up a paw in greeting. She used to sit just like a human, with her bum on the top step and her back legs sticking out from underneath, while she supported herself firmly with her front legs on the step below.

She loved her meals, her bath time, being brushed and petted. She loved being in the garden, smelling the flowers, watching the birds, bees and bugs...truly! She was like putty in our hands despite her size and strength and yet, in an instant, she could turn into a fierce looking guard dog if anyone came near our gate. She was regarded with respect by all who met her and she was extemely discerning when it came to choosing who she felt worthy of befriending. Some were accepted quite quickly, whilst others were never accepted by her and we always said she knew who could be trusted. I reckon she was spot on every time, too!

When I was sad, she would come over and nuzzle me and stay firmly by my side. We spent lots of time gardening together. She was always with me and always made me feel so very safe. Sadly, she suffered a stroke and was unable to move on her final day with us. We had to allow her to be put out of her suffering and insisted our vet come to the house so we could let her go in her own familiar environment with us right beside her. It was one of the hardest things we'd had to do, but we knew that it was the kindest thing we could do for her at that stage. I truly thought I'd never recover from the shock of losing her (she was 12.5 years), but we had no option but to move on for the sake of Bonny and Heathcliff, who were also grieving. We got Toby, another German Shepherd (our first male Shepherd) the same week Tessa died and knew she would have approved. Raising Toby helped us come to terms with her death and helped Bonny and Heathcliff over their own grief.

As with Ziggy, we had Tessa cremated and both of their ashes were scattered in the raised flowerbed beside our frontdoor. The plants grow lush and are permanent fixtures reminding us daily of our two wonderful, irreplacable dogs.


Submitted by Ivory:

I had a small gray poodle. Nickie was a lively, ball-chasing crazy dog - and she loved me. During some of my darkest hours, she would jump onto my lap and lay her head on my chest and look into my face as if she wanted to console me. She would do anything for me, including allowing our cockatiel to climb up and preen on her back as she lay snoozing in front of the heater vent. She also climbed up onto the back of my chair one evening and lay her head on my shoulder and watched me crying as I tried desperately to keep her newborn tiny puppy alive. Nickie taught me what my mother did not: complete and unconditional acceptance and love.


Submitted by Paul:

When I was about 10, I did not have much going on that was positive in my life. But one day I found this abandoned kitten. A tabby. Perhaps he (or she) was not a kitten. He was a bit older than a kitten. But I never really had any contact with cats before so I did not know what to make of him.

It was as if everything in my life had changed. Immediately I knew I wanted to keep him in secret. So, I stowed him away under our back porch and snuck money from where my Dad kept his wallet, walked to the store, and bought cat food.

This went on for days. It was a very new feeling for me to know what it was like to care for another being. And care for that kitten I did. I cannot remember for how long I cared for him. I think it was only a few days. And I do not remember too much about it all, only that I know it was hugely important for me.

Here is where my memory becomes rather vague. One day I came home from school and the kitten was gone. I cannot remember what my mother told me. I think she either told me he ran away or that his owner came to retrieve him.

I wish I could tell you how I felt. I would like to think I was devastated. But I cannot remember. The memory is too faded or has always been too compartmentalized.

At some point, and this is also not very clear, I think many years later, I asked my mother about that cat. I seem to recall that she confided in me that the kitten escaped and got run over by a car in front of our house. I seem to remember this because she made it clear that she was worried that I would come home from school before the animal control officer came to remove it. Yet again, my reaction is not known to me.

I only have the vaguest sense that it was very important to me. He was my kitten. My life was changed. It was all better. Then that was taken away.


And my entry, which I'm only writing now because something interesting happened this morning. I opened the deck door and stepped outside. Bonnie and Clyde, three-year-old beagle/terrier mix siblings, ran across the wood and leaped over the steps to the yard, in their usual, playful race. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the smell of the imminent Spring shower and the warm breeze on my face.

What happened next seems, for wont of a better word, miraculous. I didn't try to visualize anything, so what I saw came as a surprise.

Behind my closed eyes, I saw Jake and he was in a full-out run. He was moving through a high, green field near a rushing stream. He splashed into the water, swam a bit in it's depths, and then climbed easily onto the bank. A cloud of droplets flew from him as he shook off the water with mighty strength. His tail wagged in a way I haven't seen in far too long.

His mouth was open, his tongue out. He looked at me with bright eyes and a joy that came to me in waves, engulfing me.

When I opened my eyes, I had tears on my face.

I want to believe it's real. I want to believe this vision came to me from a place where he can run boundlessly without fatigue or pain . So many times in the last six or eight months I've seen his legs moving in a stiff running motion while he slept the last of his life away. I know this is what he wanted more than anything. Please, let it be true.


  1. Desiree, I can feel the love for your dogs, and the special connection you had with Tessa, in every word. They really are gifts, aren't they? Unconditionally loving us and giving so much with so little expectation.

    And Ivory - again, that unconditional love. I believe they are our teachers much more than the other way round.

    Paul, I could relate to so much of your story. I used to bring stray cats home all the time, as a child. My mother would always say no, but then give in to letting me keep the cat. Somehow, the cats would "disappear". I have no memory of how they met their ends or even of the days I noticed they were gone. One cat in particular, also a tabby who I named Tabby (not very imaginative, huh), was my favorite. I had her for the longest and she had a litter of kittens right in front of me - quite a fascinating lesson for a nine-year-old.

    I know that I had her for a few years, and she actually had more than one littler of kittens under my ownership. Why my parents never got her fixed, I still don't understand.

    I've tried so many times to remember what became of her, to bring back at least a thought of when she went missing, but those memories are vanished.

    Strange... but (as you likely have tried to do as well) I've come to some conclusions of my own as to what likely happened and I suppose in the end it might be better to leave it in the past.

  2. I am absolutely convinced that Jake was communing with you to let you know all is well! Hold on to that vision and have peace. I cannot imagine a life without animals enriching it.

    I have left a further comment on your last post.

  3. Oh Shen, I am so very sorry for the loss of your beloved Jake - my retriever is also called Jake, and I can only imagine the sadness you must be feeling right now ((hugs)).

  4. Shen, I loved all the stories of dogs lost on this post. Grieving over the loss of a pet is sometimes hard because of the few people in the world who do not feel as we do about our animals.
    My Rocky is 13 and I know his life is coming to an end, not too soon, I hope. He is in pretty good shape. But I am trying to prepare for it,
    as if we ever can.
    Your blog is beautiful.

  5. Glenda, thank you for your deep understanding. I'm glad you stopped in. Blessings on Rocky for a long twilight time.


Please feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment.

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