The Rainbow Bridge is that meadow in front of the pearly gates where our deceased animals wait for us, so they can escort us into heaven when we die. Whether you believe in Rainbow Bridge or not, it does help pet owners to cope with the loss of their beloved fur-mates.
There’s no easy way to tackle the subject of Grief and Loss. At some point or other, we will go through losing a loved one – and that includes our furry companion. I dread the day when I have to say goodbye to Bowie, and to be honest, I’d rather enjoy every second of his love and company than to think about ‘What if?’.
“The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief. But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.”
Hilary Stanton Zunin
I’d like to share Lisa Domeny’s personal letter to a friend, which I feel sums up beautifully the feelings of grief and loss. Lisa is an author and ‘mother’ to Team Golden Oldies, where she adopts senior dogs and gives them a safe and loving forever home to see out their days.
Some fear that adopting a senior dog will only lead to heartbreak because of the not-so-many years left in them. But as Lisa said, ‘When a senior dog enters your life, love is not measured in quantity but quality. Yes their time with you might be limited, but the unconditional love they give you is not.’
Here’s Lisa’s letter written verbatim…
My name is Lisa Domeny and I adopt senior rescued dogs known as Team Golden Oldies.
I currently have eight dogs with me, seven seniors and Poppy an ex puppy farm girl. I started my love affair with senior dogs while fostering 13-year-old Maggie. Although we only had Maggie for 9 months, the joy of watching her embracing life was immeasurable. She inspired me in so many ways that changed the course of my life.
I would like to talk about a subject that sadly I have had to deal with a lot these past few years – Grief. I understand and fully appreciate that the way people deal with grief is as individual as the number of people reading this. No two ways are the same and there is no correct way. I can only speak from my perspective, from my journey with adopting seniors and having the Oldies in my life and then having to say goodbye.
In the last 5 years I have lost 12 dogs. People often say to me I don’t know how you do it. I will be honest it is NOT easy. Every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them. It’s like a door closes to a room they occupied in my heart. But I always ask a dog we lose to send us another. And they do… I don’t do this to ‘replace them’ and I hope that people don’t feel that is my intention.
But sadly there are so many senior dogs out there looking for a forever home. When a new dog arrives another door to another room seems to open in my heart.
A door I didn’t even know existed. The heart is amazing like that. It has the capacity and the capability to keep loving and to keep giving. Sometimes I feel my heart is like a revolving door, opening, closing, opening, closing…
So often I hear from people, especially when giving out free hugs that they couldn’t possibly get another dog because the pain was too much losing them. Although I respect their choice, I do feel sad for them. Sad that they are denying themselves the opportunity to love again. Sad also for the dog sitting in a pound or shelter waiting and hoping for love and a forever home to see out their days.
The sad truth is that losing something or someone we love hurts. There is no denying that. But FOR ME I have always felt that it is better to have known a dog, to have loved a dog, for a few years, or even a few months than to have never known them at all.
I am under no illusions that the seniors I adopt will not be in my life for a long time. I know from the start that our journey together will be short. Although some might find this confronting or even depressing, I try and look at it as a positive. I try and make EVERY day count, make every day one of love.
I try and provide as many opportunities as possible for the oldies to both give and receive as much love as possible in whatever time they have with me. I do not take our time together for granted for the truth is each day I spend with the oldies is gift.
The reality is each of these dogs and other senior dogs adopted could have died as a ‘number’ in a pound, if not for the rescues who saved them and the families who decide to put an old dogs needs before their own fear and concerns about the pain and hurt of their passing. To have the privilege of being able to give an old dog a safe and loving home to rest their weary head is truly a blessing. I so wish more people could understand this. It is a gift I can give them, perhaps the ultimate gift.
In many ways I have to shut down my grief, my feelings. Whether this is healthy I don’t know. But the truth is I have seven other dogs who need me. I cannot get ‘bogged down’ in the sadness, in the loss. It does NOT mean that their death has not affected me, how could it not. But I guess I push down many of my feelings in order to continue to do what I do. That is, to continue to adopt senior dogs. If I didn’t, there is no way that I could continually open up my home but more importantly my heart for the inevitable loss that is ‘just around the corner’.
When I lose a dog now I write a children’s book about them. This is their legacy, their lasting message to leave this world. I so want their lives to have mattered. I want them to have stood for something. Each dog who has come into my life has taught me something. For that I will be forever grateful.
I try very hard not to get lost in the sadness when I lose an oldie… I am NOT saying this is easy. In fact it is VERY difficult sometimes!! …but I try to remember and to celebrate the time we DID spend together. To rejoice in the fact that our paths crossed, that they chose me and I chose them for however long.
This approach does NOT make the pain go away. But I guess it makes it bearable.
My message is to embrace each and every day you have with your fur-kid. To not take any day for granted. Because the truth is you never know when it will be your last. This message also applies to others in your life you love and care for. Tell them and show them EVERY day how much you love them because one day, sometimes when you least expect it, they won’t be there to tell…
I’d like to finish this blog post with a quote from Helen Keller
“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose; All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”
To all the fur angels who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Run and play… Till we meet again 🌈❤️
Thank you Lisa for sharing your story. I hope this will resonate and help fur-parents to cope with the grief of losing their loved ones. I also hope this article will bring awareness and encourage senior dog adoption. It is indeed very true that saving one dog will not change the world but surely for that one dog, the world is changed forever.
Lisa and Team Golden Oldies were finalists in the 2019 Jetpets Companion Animal Rescue Awards in the category of Advocate® People’s Rescue Story for Australians who have adopted or fostered a pet. More finalists and winners, go to rescueawards.com.au. You can say hello to Lisa and Team Golden Oldies at their Facebook page.