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Today, January 20, 2014, at 10:04 am, you closed your eyes and took your last breath. I kissed you, told you I’d see you again and promised that I’d search for you, that I’d find you. I hope one day you’ll be there waiting.
Harlow, know that no matter where I go, who I become and despite what pets come into my life hereafter, no one will ever take your place. Today, not only did you die, but that piece of my heart that I gave you 12 1/2 years ago – that first moment I laid eyes on you – died too. It felt like I had been stabbed as I said goodbye; that familiar ache overcame me (my furry children (yes children) and their unconditional love never leave my heart). I, like Trev and Kaian, am devastated to have had to say goodbye to you. You, Harlow, such an integral part of our lives – breathtakingly beautiful on both the inside and outside – is no longer here for me to kiss, to hug, to laugh with, to cry with, to run beside and lie nose to nose with, to talk with. My strong silent rock, who held me up when I was down, is in an instant . . . gone.
I know that from this day forward every time I think of you, I will cry. I know this will go on forever. I still cry for my beloved Sandy, one of my childhood dogs, who too had “only her way” of understanding me at a time in my life when I know now was imperative for me to feel that.
Harlow, I hope that we gave you a life that you loved living; you deserved nothing less. Not only did you help to save me from myself after my stroke, but I know you saved others in your 3 and a half years of therapy work and after that. For 12 1/2 years, anyone who came through our front door, saw you in the neighborhood, met you on your visits when we left you at the kennel or the groomers, or who we greeted in all sorts of travels together, you intuitively knew who needed you and you’d go to them. We often would joke that we could just walk away when this happened and you’d go on to live in a new home with them. You were such a confident and sensitive soul who existed as a gift to so many. You will never be forgotten, not only by us, your extended family – I know especially by your Uncle Ray and beagle cousin, Angelina – but by so many others too. You touched a lot of lives, instantly, in such a quiet and steadfast way.
My sweet girl, you were and will always be the first female dog I owned. I am so fortunate to have met you and called you mine. This last week, I know, has been hard on you. We were hopeful that it wasn’t deterioration, but rather something fixable so you could stay. But, that didn’t happen and instead progressed quick, almost too quick. It overwhelmed us, especially me.
Please know now that if you felt any pain, we are so sorry and meant you no harm. I could tell this morning when I came to you and your nose was pressed up to the kennel, with your tongue slightly hanging out and snoring that you somehow looked vacant. I wondered if you’d left me already. I could not stand seeing you this way and I know Trev couldn’t either. You were limp. I wonder if you had a stroke or a seizure. Only you and your baby boy, Bo, will know this. Oh, how I wish you could have talked; that you could have expressed to me what was going on when it first started happening. I yearn for one more day, month, year, a lifetime of love from you.
My heart hurts knowing that I will never see you again here in this life. I am confident you have crossed Rainbow Bridge and are in Puppy Heaven now running ecstatically with your Baron. Selfishly, I am jealous as I’m reminded too that you will also get to see Mogley again and meet Big Willow and Shadow, cats you’ve heard lots about over the years. You will even meet the dog who saved my life when I was a teenager, Sandy – give her an extra squeeze. I know you’ll see Cosmo again too and meet the Bogeys, Skippy and Tippy, Whisky and Porco, Picket and see Lemieux. Lastly, but never least, you will also meet our first family dog, Dusty: let him know we are well! Let all of our animals know that we love them and miss them, always!
Harlow, know that when we came home today, Bo went to the mat you’d laid on all weekend and whimpered. He too knows his surrogate momma has passed and I can’t help but say thank you now, sincerely, from the bottom of my heart for staying long enough to teach him your kind and gentle ways. You were six days shy of a year with him. I appreciate that you stayed long enough to pass on your wisdom to him. We already see your character within him, which we treasure.
Harlow, I am so at a loss as to what else to say to you. You, my now guardian angel, are the sweetest, kindest, most potent of character souls I have ever met – despite you being here in dog form. You are beyond unique and I love you with all my heart, all my soul, forever and always.
You were nicknamed “Mouse” as you were so quiet. When I looked at your face, I always thought of orcas (killer whales) and dolphins. I remember your last real walk was at Clover Point, doing a send-off for Kate at Wholly Fit, and how the orcas visited us that night. We humans did not know that they were there, despite you trying to tell me this as we lied amongst the group watching a video made for Jenn, owner of Wholly Fit. Trev said that they were there though when I handed you off to him. Here I thought you were just antsy and you were trying so hard in your silent way to let me know that other friends were here with us too 🙂 You know how much I love orcas (orcas, bottlenose dolphins, wolves, lions, tigers, and eagles – my favorite wild animals). Weird how this weekend we watched a movie about the orca, Luna, and then you left me. The orcas must be an essential symbol to you. I will forever continue to look at orcas my precious Harlow and think of you. That day will forever be burned into my mind when I lied and kissed your nose as we watched the documentary together thinking you were just not feeling well.
I burned sage last night and rubbed my eagle feather all over your body. Come back to me as an eagle, so I know you are still with me. Heaven got the sweetest of angels today. Everyone lost you except for us your immediate family, we got a very special guardian angel to watch over us and we are blessed, eternally.
“Hush little baby don’t say a word, momma’s gonna buy you a mockingbird . . .”
Forever and always, someone who never wanted to say goodbye, and who will always be your human momma,
To any person out there reading this who has a child(ren) and loses a beloved family pet, as we did, please know one crucial thing: allow your child(ren) to experience and feel the pain. Acknowledge the fact that they feel just as you do. Talk to them, comfort them.
Harlow was my son’s second experience with pet loss. Kaian was with us at the vet’s office to the day our beloved dog, Baron, died on August 1, 2011. He left the room right before it was time to give Baron his final shot. Kaian sat in the waiting room with my husband as I sang Baron to Puppy Heaven in his last moments (this is where “Hush little baby” comes from above, it’s become the song that I sing to my babies at these times). Kaian did return to the room with Trev though to see Baron and to kiss him goodbye. We wanted him to have closure; we felt it was important. We knew Kaian would grieve. He even placed a picture under Baron’s paw that he had drawn in the waiting room. He wanted it to be with Baron when he was cremated. It was touching to see him with the picture in his hand telling the vet his instructions. I could not be present in the room to watch him place it under Baron’s paw, I was pretty torn up by then, but my husband said it was beautiful.
So just know that although a child may not know how to express heartache and pain adequately – remember it can be foreign – they still will feel it. They will process it., but in their particular way, appropriate to their age level. But remember a picture is worth a thousand words, isn’t it? So maybe draw with them, talk to them, hold them, let them cry and feel and most importantly let them know it’s okay to miss their best friend.
When it became apparent it might very well be Harlow’s last day with us; we made sure that Kaian said goodbye to her before he left for school that morning. We explained very carefully to him that she may not be here when he returned home later. We gave him the chance to hug her and kiss her and let her know how important she was to him. We reminded him about Baron and Puppy Heaven and that Baron would be there waiting for her. It was hard for him. He did not want to say goodbye to Harlow; his faithful companion who guarded him many nights while he slept in his room (thankfully Bo will now get that honor, protecting mine and my husband’s most precious and priceless possession). But he did; just in case. I have to note here that Bo, who’d been all over Harlow in the days before this, only sat on the highest stair of the patio and looked down at us, he never made a sound or movement. My sensitive puppy just watched over us and allowed his best friends to say goodbye to one another, uninterrupted. Never did Bo let Kaian be near Harlow without him joining in. It hurt me to watch this. I felt a foreshadow was swathed over my heart.
Later that day, when we told Kaian that Harlow had in fact passed, he cried – big crocodile tears more than we were prepared for. At first, he thought we were joking he started laughing. Can you imagine our pain at telling our beloved little boy that another of his furry best friends had left him to go to Puppy Heaven? The sight of his laughter turning tears was so hard to watch. Trev and I just held him and talked to him.
Later that night, in his six-year-old wisdom, he assured me that Harlow was now in Puppy Heaven and that she and Baron were both busy making us a new little girl husky puppy for us to love. Oh to be so smart and wise! A good reminder for all of us to always lean in and listen to one another, despite anyone’s age.
Losing a beloved pet is like tearing a piece of your heart out. It hurts, it sucks and of course, time will help heal it, but remember that you will never forget your furry family member. You will see them one day again; hopefully just not too soon!
Know too that it is acknowledged that the death of a pet can be as significant to some as losing a human being – especially people like me who see animals not just as pets but as family members.
Also, if anyone is wondering, a few days after Harlow’s passing, I had an eagle fly towards and circle above me. Bless her soul; she sent me a message that she is home now, at peace and I am thankful.
RIP – HARLOW FRIESEN – MAY 31, 2001 TO JANUARY 20, 2014 @ 10:04 AM
“This soldier, I realized, must have had friends at home and in his regiment, yet he lay there deserted by all except his dog. I looked on, unmoved, at battles which decided the future of nations. Tearless, I had given orders which brought death to thousands. Yet here I was stirred, profoundly stirred, stirred to tears. And by what? By the grief of one dog.”
(Napoleon Bonaparte, on finding a dog beside the body of his dead master, licking his face and howling, on a moonlit field after a battle. This scene haunted napoleon until his death.)
Read Harlow’s dedication that I wrote for her at Pacific Animal Therapy Society.