Saying good-bye

Posted by on November 26, 2011

It’s been five days now and neither of us has made it through one without tears.

I have not washed my hair because it seems like too much effort. Nor can I bear to wash the dog hair from my clothes or vacuum the floor. Mornings are hardest. We walk around the empty places, eyes averted. We listen for the thump of a tail, the tap of toenails on the floor. We fill the silence with music. Sometimes, we just stand and hold each other until the wave of grief passed.

For the first two days, I stayed in my pyjamas and could not eat, my stomach was so sick. I did not want to get dressed, because somehow, she always knew and would be waiting for me at the bottom of the steps to see if I had my walking clothes on. Every cell tingled in my body as if it was twisting and realigning itself.

Everything we did for 13 years revolved around Callie-dog’s needs. She was our constant companion; our special girl; the child I never had. We bought vehicles with her in mind, vacationed in places she enjoyed, bought her Cheerios as a post-breakfast treat, fed her special homemade food, chose hiking trails with swimming holes because she so loved the water, took trips to the lake or beach on hot days, so she could swim. We laughed with delight at her power turns and her crazy antics with the snow scoop. Shared with her the joy of a good run.

I’d known this day was coming just as clearly as I knew I could not bear it when it did. We’ve been losing her in bits; our girl going steadily downhill, losing energy, ability and muscle tone. Pat built a ramp so she could navigate the steps. Then, suddenly it was here. I held her tightly through two seizures; a decision had to be made. I walked around the house, crying desperately, “Please God, take this cup from me.” I could not bear to choose what was best. I did not want to be God.

The hours passed slowly as we waited for the vet. Pat was outside, forcing himself through the horrible tasks of digging a hole, building a box. I buried my face in her fur, inhaling the scent of her. I talked, she listened. I brushed her carefully, memorizing the curves and angles of her body, her blonde eyelashes, the tiny scar where a squirrel bit her too-inquisitive nose. I wrapped our love around her.

One evening afterward, we sat side by side; the only sound, Pat’s knife as he scratched lotto tickets. He cracked a feeble joke about working on my retirement fund, $6 at a time. Then he glanced up. “I’m not being jovial,” he said, “just looking for normal.”

Thursday, I followed a small set of coyote tracks in the fresh fallen snow. I stopped at the place where her tracks crossed our own path – the path we walked so often with Callie when she was still able. The last time had been weeks before, when she stopped a short distance down the trail, in too much pain to go on. The grief became too much. I stood still, sobbing, my tears dropping on the snow, until there was nothing left. As I walked away, I wondered, whether the scent of my grief would remain as a shadow, causing the coyote to pause on her next pass; whether my tears would still be there, like invisible pearls in her tracks. Whether someday, if we encountered each other on the trail, she would know who I am by the hole in my heart.

That night, I fell victim to a barrage of guilt and dark thoughts. I spilled them out as Pat knelt beside me, then looked up to see his eyes, red-rimmed, stricken. I can’t do that to him again, so now, I replace those thoughts with beauty. With thankfulness. It takes all my will. But again, gratitude in the dark is a choice.

In the stressful times : seek God
In the painful times : praise God
In the harried times : hallow God
In the terrible times : trust God.

And at all times — and at all times – Thank God.

~Ann Voskamp~

Yesterday, we tried to find normal.  Groceries, errands, a trip to town would distract us. Pat stood at my office door. “Are you going to have some breakfast before we go?” “Hmm,” I mumbled. “I’ll make you a slice of toast.” His subtle, loving way of helping me eat. Later, in the afternoon, we drove down to the farm to cut a Christmas tree. Again, his suggestion. “I want to put it up by the Callie-dog,” he said. “Decorate it with those soft blue lights.” It kept us busy.

We now have a lovely little Christmas tree by her burial site, blue sparkles of light glowing in the darkness, slowly helping us move from the night of her absence, to the light of her presence.

February 10, 1998  – November 22, 2011

There’s a part of me that struggles against wrapping this all-encompassing grief within the limitations of words. That balks at even speaking about it. But how can we receive the healing gift of love and compassion if we do not share our pain?

And how can we recognize the need and feel compassion for others if we don’t acknowledge the agony in our own souls? If we lightly pass over it, like it does not exist?

Thank you for allowing me to share ours. It helps to know we are understood, and the kind messages and gestures from close friends this past week have touched us deeply.

46 Valued Thoughts on Saying good-bye

  1. Sharon Bryson

    You have my heartfelt sympathy on the loss of your dog. They leave a big hole. Hope you are feeling better soon.
    Sharon in Antigonish

  2. Ceci

    Dear Deborah and Pat,
    What a beautiful tribute to your Callie-dog and the wonderful addition she was, and still is, to your lives. I wept reading your words having been in that painful place before and knowing that no one can make it better for you. Our animals are our fur-babies, our families, as much as any children or grandchildren may be. We love them as they love us, openly and without reservation.

    And when it is time to say goodbye, the pain is excruciating.

    Just know that, when you are ready, it will get better. There will come a time when you can remember your wonderful companion with joy and happiness, thankful for the time you had with her. You will tell happy stories of things you did together; how she made you laugh; how she comforted you when you needed it.

    In the meantime, let yourselves grieve and share the sorrow of your loss until the tears dry up and a small smile begins to appear – first in the corners of your mouthes and, eventually, in your eyes – lighting your faces again with happy memories.

    Huge hugs being sent your way.

    • Deborah Carr

      I know that first week, first month, first Christmas…all these things will have their moments of tears, but we will make it through. Thank you so much, Sharon. And Ceci, bless you for sharing your beautiful soul.

  3. Melanie

    My heart breaks that I can’t be there for both of you right now. As usual beautifully written and a great tribute to a beautiful soul. I wish I was there with you both right now.

    Love you both.

    • Deborah Carr

      I know, Mel. If you were here, we’d be crying together. You were my greatest supporter during those years as we tried to convince Pat to join our ‘side’. I remember your words… ‘Dad, Deb needs a dog’.

  4. Angela B. in Riverview

    Hi Deborah,
    That made me cry! I lost my little fur companion last year…my 13 year old Sasha cat! She was also my little baby since I too have never had children. What you wrote above is beautiful! I now have 2 rescued kitties and they brought a smile to my face right away and helped me heal from my loss. Take care!

    • Deborah Carr

      Thank you, Angela. They teach us the right way to love, don’t they? As excruciating as this was, we were able to do it on our terms and not in a crisis situation. I’m thankful for that. And yes, she was a beautiful girl.

      How wonderful that you have two rescues. That you’re passing on all the love that Sasha gave you.

  5. Rick Flanagan

    I share your pain. A few years back when I watched the light go out in my buddy Willie’s eyes, a 14 year frienship changed forever. I cried all the way back from the vet’s as I returned him for a Viking funeral. A close friend said to me in consolation. “A loving friend Rick, and a friend well loved”. So sorry for your loss.

    • Deborah Carr

      They take hold of the dark corners in our hearts, don’t they Rick? I think we willingly give them our all because they give us their all. I’m so sorry about your dear friend, Willie.

  6. Renelle LeBlanc-Scott

    Deb & Pat,

    Know that I love you both dearly and that you are both in my thoughts…

    Renelle xx

  7. Germaine Comeau

    Beautifully written. When I lost my first cat a few years ago, I wrote him a long text. It helped a lot. Now I am just as close to the two cats I got a few months later. Animals have souls, I read recently. And we meet them again outside of time. I know you could not have loved her more. And only that counts… Hard times will soften.

  8. Brian Cormier

    What a beautiful tribute to Callie and a raw and emotional look at how much we grieve when our animals leave us. Thank you for writing this.

    • Deborah Carr

      Thank you, Renelle, Germaine and Brian. It does help to put some of it to words, although I started many times before getting the courage to continue. Pat and I have been very moved by the responses and care.

  9. Harriet Gratian

    Spoken through the beauty of unconditional love! Thank you for sharing!

  10. Joanne Branscombe

    Well written and so beautiful. You have a natural talent with writing, even as you struggle to put your grief in words. It’s a wonderful tribute to an amazing Callie. May God wrap His arms of love around you as you grieve. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Sonya Gagnon

    WOW! As I sit here with my dogs by my side and read this beautiful tribute to Callie, tears running down my face, I am speechless…

    Callie is most definitly looking down on the both of you and so very proud to have known you!

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    • Deborah Carr

      Harriet, Joanne and Sonya, we are feeling God’s love wrapped around us through the kind words of our friends and acquaintances. Thank you for taking the time to share yours.

  12. Jim Brown

    Dear Deborah
    So sorry. As I read your tribute to your beautiful girl it also brought tears to my eyes. I am reminded of the holes I have dug ,and the wonderful friends I have had to say goodbye to.
    My Jack will be 12 this spring, and in good health, but her years are few now and I worry about that!
    I am sure your Callie-dog has been well loved and cared for and has loved in return.
    I understand your feelings of guilt but it is only temporary. As you know the hole in your heart will gradually heal.
    Your Pat sounds like a wonderful, loving and sensitive Man. It is good that neither of you have to grieve alone.
    Thanks for sharing with us, something so personal, so sad and yet so beautiful!
    Blessings to you and Pat.
    P.S. I have never bought a dog. They have always just came into my life and I have loved them all.

    • Deborah Carr

      Oh Jim. You have such a large, dear heart. May I say that kindness and gentleness emanates from you, so I am not surprised that all of your dogs have found their own way to you. Your Jack is a very lucky dog to have found you. I cried for all of Callie’s dog friends, as one by one, they passed on in recent years, knowing that our time was also coming. This time has been bittersweet as we tried to enjoy every moment with her.

  13. Shayla

    Dear Deborah, sending you love during your great loss. Thank you for sharing. We lost our Beena in March and are still grieving. She was my best friend in a real sense, not in the way of that trite saying. Perhaps because we too didn’t have children, perhaps because I was ill and didn’t get out with many human buddies, or perhaps because of what I really think- she was something special, an exceptional communicator, not less than because of being an animal and I’ve mourned the loss more than the loss of several human relationships. Our pets are family and some seem to be even greater than that.

    • Deborah Carr

      You are so right, Shayla. I think we become so close because they don’t try to fix us, they just give us the healing balm of their presence and their love, without conditions. And they are so patient with us and our muddling ways. I would love to hear about Beena some day.

  14. Jeanne Damoff

    “I wondered, whether the scent of my grief would remain as a shadow, causing the coyote to pause on her next pass; whether my tears would still be there, like invisible pearls in her tracks. Whether someday, if we encountered each other on the trail, she would know who I am by the hole in my heart.”

    Beauty from ashes. These words. Your heart. I’m convinced God shows up in our pain in ways He can’t otherwise come. And when we give our brokenness to Him, it blossoms into life for others. Thank you for this, inadequate though it may feel, that others may meet Him in your words.

    Praying for you.

    Much love,

  15. Nancy Bond

    I am so sorry for the loss of your beautiful girl. That’s all I can say, but you know what is in my heart. ♥

  16. Dale Babineau

    Debbie, I can hardly write this comment for my tears. This was so beautiful. I cried harder with each paragraph. I wish I could go visit you this weekend but am up to my ears in responsibilities. Hopefully I will see you soon, would love to bring Chloe down for a walk and to see Callie’s Christmas tree. Oh my gosh I’m sobbing. Be strong Debbie. I love you lots, and I’m hurting with you.
    Love Dale

    • Deborah Carr

      Dale, I know that you have also felt this pain and loss. Love both your girls and spend special time with them this season.

  17. deb

    no words Deb.

    so much love to you.

  18. leslie

    Stopping to think of, and pray for you, now, as you grieve so deeply the loss of your beautiful girl. I’ve been in this place, too. When you know “pets” as family, losing them is like losing a part of your family. And saying goodbye is so very hard. They are so brave as they say goodbye – so trusting. I think they know their Creator is waiting for them. May you know His comfort, and His love, as you walk through this valley of shadows.

    • Deborah Carr

      Leslie, I truly felt that Callie was seeing much more during that last day than what I could see. I think you are right and as we continue our walk through the valley and this initial pain begins to ebb, those are the thoughts that will comfort us the most.

  19. jodi (bloomingwriter)

    Oh, Deb, I’m so sorry. Been buried in the morass of post-surgical pain, and somehow missed this. Animals bury themselves so deeply in our hearts when they come into our lives, it’s inevitable that our hearts will break when they leave. But they give so freely and completely while they are with us. Allow yourself to grieve, and know that your Callie-Dog is always with you. Perhaps next spring you can plant a shrub or tree as a permanent tribute to your lovely dog. xx jodi

  20. Carol Steel

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ll hold you close in thoughts and prayers and get together to listen if you need/ want to talk. So sorry for your pain. Carol

  21. Daryl Steeves

    Beautiful words, beautiful thoughts, beautiful friend…may she rest in peace and may you rest in her memories.

  22. Susan Somers

    There are no words…….just reminded of these ones from Psalm 34: “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted….”
    So sorry for your broken hearts and praying you’ll feel His closeness.

    • Deborah Carr

      Jodi, Carol, Daryl, Sue…thank you so much. You cannot know how the words expressed here have moved us. Someone wrote to me that pain is very personal and that’s what it felt like for the first few days – we hugged it to ourselves, believing that no one would understand how grieved we were, how deeply she had embedded herself in our hearts.

      But, now I see how wrong I was. How so many have struggled with their own losses. And how important it is for us to acknowledge and share and how that grows us and strengthens us and helps us connect with one another. I feel God’s love moving and swirling through all the caring thoughts expressed here.

  23. Paula Sarson

    Coming to this beautiful tribute late, but so grateful for you having taken the trouble and made the effort to write it, Deb. The photos of Callie are exquisite, so indicative of her nature and her joy as you describe them–treasures along with the memories. Hoping you are feeling a little less stricken and little less sick with so much grace and love surrounding you and Pat. What a lovely idea to mark Callie’s resting place with a Christmas tree and the quiet sparkle of light in the darkness. Though I know just how far away she feels right now, she is close in your heavy hearts. Wishing you peace in the days ahead as you continue to celebrate her life and grieve your loss. Huge hug, Paula

  24. Marlene Oulton

    I have no great words of wisdom to ease your pain. I wish I did. As I too, have only ‘fur’ children, I feel your immense pain over your loss. It is no less than or greater because Caledonia was a dog, as that one word – dog – means more to some than just kibble, walks, and sweeping up furballs.
    Take care of yourself, as you know your second-best friend would not want YOU to be ill.

  25. Roy Gould

    Grace read your post to me. We are so sorry for your loss. Our love to you & Pat.

  26. Diane photographs ...

    Deborah, I came here to see if you had written about your dear girl and surely you had. I haven’t read them but I know all these comments are left by those who care about you and about your dear girl. Take them in, take in the grief, feel it, and don’t push it away. The pain shall melt away — as slowly as a glacier it may seem – but it shall move on when you have worked through this grief. YOu write so eloquently about everything but this post contains words, thoughts, and your soul like no other. Loving hugs to you and Pat my dear.

    • Deborah Carr

      Oh Diane…As always, you are able to get to the very heart of things…we are still slip-sliding on our glacier, treading carefully and gingerly, but see evidence of the melting edges. We are following your wise advice, allowing our tears to flow unchecked, talking much, hugging often, interrupting our chores to simply be close. Giving thanks that others feel safe to express their own stories of loss. And I am so grateful for my husband, who shares his heart so openly and hides nothing away.

  27. Nicholas

    We had to put Tessa down last March. Her spirit was strong, her body not. She was a companion and friend. Always ready to walk and play, always picking up our spirits when needed. It was tough to see her go. It was tough holding onto her at the end.

    Madra, is now part of our life. She is full of it, always ready to go, full of energy and spirit.

    I say Marlaine spoils her, Marlaine says I am to strict with her. Together we balance.

    Both dogs Golden’s, Both Special.

    We understand your grief.

    Nicholas Guitard & Marlaine Roberts

  28. gina

    oh dear deborah, i am only now seeing this. i had to stop a few times to wipe tears away. your words cut right to my heart. such sorrow, such love and such commitment to a loved one, part of your very soul and being. i’m so sad for you. just looking at her eyes in the photos…i miss her too, for you. i believe she is still all around you in the bright sun and the very quiet moments…and always will be until you are standing next to her again one day as well. just trust, seek, hallow, praise and most of all be thankful that you were given her as she was given you. a gift.
    much, much love to you, your husband and your beautiful, beloved caledonia.

  29. Barb Mealey

    Dear Deb and Pat,

    I’ve been praying for you these past days, partly because I love your Mum and Dad so much and partly because I’ve walked this road before and know the pain that accompanies such a loss: our Buffy lived to be 16 and was a great girl! I’m also an “Ann Voskamp” reader and know how exquisitely she addresses the rawness of loss and the part gratitude plays in healing.
    I know you’ll treasure your Callie and all of the indescribable memories – always.
    With love, Barb

  30. Carolynn

    I’m just hearing about your terrible loss. You write so beautifully about her, such a lovely tribute to a graceful, joyful soul.

    I’m never ready to say goodbye to my companions. They are truly my heart and soul.

    My heart goes out to you both as you mourn your loss. Feel it completely. Let it wash over you in waves that threaten to drown you. And, don’t let anyone ever tell you she was ‘just a dog’.

    I’m going to go have a cry now.


  31. Donna Duff

    Hi Debbie,
    We had also put down our Border Collie “Sparky” in Sept.15, 2005, she also suffer from seizures and she was 15 years old. It was very sad for us because we had her since she was 4 weeks old. Because her mother stop feeding her puppies and she had 6 puppies. Four of them passed away and my brother asked if we wanted to have a puppy, we better get her. My girls and us love her so much. I couldn’t go to the vet with my husband that morning because I saw her jumping into the car like there wasn’t anything wrong with her. We have a cottage up in NewCastle, New Brunswick Canada. Every time we go up there I looked at her grave and say a pray. It took me 5 years to convince my husband to get another Border Collie and he called him “Peppper” and he’s a joy in my life. I’m sorry about your loss !!!!

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