Letting Go

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Well, we had a good run dear Jazzy Girl, didn’t we? Today was peaceful, well as peaceful as a vet office can be for a skittish girl like you. For the most part it was just you and me kiddo, until we saw your vet who was kind and gentle with you as always. I think you and me both were ever so grateful for the soft quilt they laid on the floor just for you. Mamma even got down on the floor with you and we snuggled up close as they gave you the first shot. You fell asleep so fast and my resistance told me it was too fast. Even though I had already said a thousand goodbyes there really could never be enough.

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I’ll bet you know that I never let go of you for one second and never stopped telling you how much you were loved. When they began to squeeze the blue stuff into the vein on your leg to stop your heart, you did your little dream whimpers like you were having fun chasing the squirrels. I buried my head into your beautiful, soft, white fur that was so fluffy from the bath I gave you this morning. When you went silent and still and I could no longer feel any rise and fall of your belly, your doctor listened for your heartbeat and finally confirmed that you had passed. I stayed with you for a little while, knowing you were gone, but you were still so warm.

It was a fleeting memory that I had while I stayed with you. Remember when the kids were very small and were scared of the dark? I would place my hand on their heart and have them place their hand on mine and you’d always appear, squeezing your nose in there, making sure it touched the outstretched arm of the frightened child. And I would look into their eyes and say to them, “I send a bridge of protection and loving light to your heart” and they would repeat it, sending that loving light energy back to mine. You received some of that loving energy too, because it was always in abundance and there was plenty enough to go around. I calmly reminded them that the bridge was our connection and that our love kept it strong and no matter how far away I might be (which at bedtime, this usually meant I was merely in the next room) that bond could not break. And they felt safe. I just want you to know that I loved sharing little moments like that with you.

I couldn’t help but shed more tears into your fur before I left, trying to get a handle on my emotions and not letting guilt take over my heart because Little Love, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But sweet Jazzy Girl, I must put trust in the fact that you are no longer in pain and I take comfort in the fact that you were able to pass over with dignity and grace. Until we meet again my sweet girl, my heart sends a bridge of protection and loving light to your heart, and I can feel that same bridge of deep love and protection from you, connecting us between the worlds. You will be so greatly missed by your family, but I don’t really need to tell you that, Little One. You already know.

Jazzy Starr

 March 30, 2009 – January 30, 2017

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The Here and Now; Living in the Moment

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This morning I passed by the family room altar with a pile of clean laundry. As I dumped it over the top of the couch and thought about how I needed to dust, my eyes landed on a “memorial” of sorts for Jazzy. Call me morbid, but in trying to work out how I was going to help my children deal with the transition, I made something to be placed on our altar a few days ahead of time. Just a small, framed photo and poem about the “Rainbow Bridge”. I was too distraught to even create my own poem. Hell, I could barely even do that little bit of copy-paste.

Each family member added something that reminded us of her. I planned on placing her collar and leash on the altar when I came home without her. My youngest daughter crocheted a small cotton yarn bracelet and hung it from the corner of the frame to be charged. She asked if I would place it on Jazzy’s left foreleg before she was “gone” and to tie it snug to make sure it stayed there “through what they, you know, do with her body after”. When I told everyone the good news, she immediately took the bracelet and with a big, beautiful smile on her face asked me to tie it snug to her wrist.

It’s many days later and our altar has slowly changed shape and form, but I decided to leave the picture itself there for the time being (interestingly, I never placed the date of her death on it). I feel it’s a beautiful reminder to us about life and the afterlife. The soul to soul connections we create (or continue) with loved ones during our incarnations are powerful and whether or not the “Rainbow Bridge” exists on the way to the Summerlands is really irrelevant at the moment. But I do think it will spark some creative conversation about how as individuals we feel about the cycle of life, death, the afterlife, and rebirth. There will be so much to talk about, and I’m curious to see what they spill out after being raised in a Pagan/New Agey/Touch of Wiccan/Zen Moment Reminding/Goddess Worshiping home. It should be interesting and I’m bound to gain new insights on how their own unique individual thoughts and feelings about their spiritual paths are evolving. They are old enough now to be able to make distinctions of what resonates with them and what doesn’t. And that’s what I want for them.

I think that some day next week we will sit down as a family and together write (or draw, or paint, and/or collage, etc.) something meaningful about our own personal connection to Jazzy in the Here and Now and create something special, perhaps a small hand-bound scrapbook or something that we all have contributed to… I don’t know yet, right now I am just too damned exhausted. My hope is that it will open the way to contemplate our own lives, the lives of our loved ones, and to remind ourselves of what we take for granted. I want it to help each of us to realize and appreciate every moment we have and every meaningful memory we create in the Here and Now. Because really, the Here and Now, this moment, this breath, is the only thing we know is for certain.

 

All You Need is Love

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Since I received the recommendation from our veterinarian to put Jazzy down, I had a lot to deal with. A lot to think about. A lot to process.

German Shepherds (some might call her a White Swiss Shepherd) are notorious for their health issues. Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, pancreatic problems, Degenerative Disc Disease, Degenerative Myelopathy, Panosteitis, plenty of skin problems, Epilepsy, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, and on and on it goes. My only complaint for a long time was the amount of dog hair that would come off of her, even when I brushed her everyday and it wasn’t shedding season. I’d just finish sweeping when I’d see more clumps of fluff tumbling down the hall. I wish that was all it was, but for the past 3 years she has been suffering from chronic perianal fistulas that are very painful and very frustrating to treat. Round after round of antibiotics, prednisone, and $400 tubes of topical creams (not kidding) would heal things for a while, but as soon as the medication stopped, they’d come back.

I knew they had returned when the usual symptoms occurred. She is a long-haired G.S. so that means that she’s so dang fluffy and furry that it’s hard to even detect anything is wrong until it’s already gone way wrong. This time fecal incontinence happened simultaneously, and the vet told us that since that has happened, the P.F.’s would more than likely never heal and everything would only get worse from there. And apparently, it looked like she was suffering from arthritis too. At this point the only “humane” thing to do was to put her down. I wanted to wait. I wanted the weekend and a day or two after that to prepare myself and my family.

Upon receiving the news of what loomed ahead, my heart grieved while I cooked up her favorite food; boiled chicken & rice. Nothing fancy, just chicken breast and white rice. She’s always been a very finicky eater and never one for table scraps. She’s the first dog I’ve ever met that would spit out bacon, turn away cheese, ignore hot dog slices, or never bother with begging at the table. She simply knew that if she did, that she would get sick.

She’s been on several different novel protein diets over the years because the dry chicken and rice food didn’t seem to settle well on her tummy. We tried everything from salmon to buffalo, duck, and kangaroo. Lamb was what seemed to be working for her the best, so we stuck with that. But really, her ultimate favorite cooked food is the chicken and rice.

So that’s what I made her. I cooked up what I figured would be enough for her final days. I chopped the chicken up fine, hand-mixed in the rice and fed it to her warm.

I massaged her muscles, let her snuggle with me in bed, even sang to her, and all the while my heart ached. I bathed her gently, brushed her, and when I would cry she’d lick away my tears. I made poultices of comfrey and lavender, and swept up the dog hair without a grumble. I was more than happy to do so, for as long as I could.

And she never once made a mess in the house.

Monday came and she was dropping her favorite toy at my feet. She started chasing the cat, and following me around the house like everything was normal.

I kept looking at her smiling at me with those bright sparkling eyes of hers until I finally got it. This was a dog that still enjoyed doing things. In fact, she seemed happier than she had been in months. This wasn’t a dog that was ready to die. This wasn’t a dog that I was simply going to throw away. I still had hope because she held that hope for the both of us in those soulful eyes of hers. I cancelled the appointment to have her put down and contacted a different veterinarian.

Today she saw her new doc. They sedated her, and as she swayed like a drunk, I gently coaxed her to lie down on the blanket they had placed on the floor for her. A few seconds later her head dropped in my lap like a stone. I pet her and soothed her as the vet and her assistant sat on the floor opposite me to see what could be done. They clipped the hair underneath her tail close, flushed the wounds, and assessed the damage. She would be okay. A completely different outlook and a slightly different medication route. She will more than likely have to stay on the steroidal medication for the rest of her life. I’m okay with that as long as she is.

I asked helplessly, what else could I do? She smiled and said I was already doing everything I needed to do, I followed my instinct. Feeding her the bland chicken and rice was the best thing I could have ever done. Feeding it to her calmed her angry intestinal tract and ultimately saved her life. She wasn’t incontinent, her body was just finally reacting to the expensive dog food!

And to think that I almost extinguished the light in those eyes makes me angry and hurt. But I will be forever grateful for the time I spent reflecting on all the things Jazzy has taught me over the years. Patience, unconditional love, perseverance, and then more of that unconditional love stuff.

 

 

A New Journey for our Beloved Feathered Friend

My youngest daughter buried her pet parakeet today. She had received the blue budgie she named “Sweetheart” for her birthday two years ago after she begged, and begged, and begged for a bird. I wasn’t sure if she was ready to care for a bird because it needed more than just interaction, it also needed basic care and frequent cage cleaning. She insisted and promised that she was ready but I still had my doubts.

So I had her research the parakeet species and write a five paragraph essay on how to care for one and what her expectations were. She did a lot of research online and checked out all the library books she could find about them. What she ended up creating was two pages (which is pretty good for a second grader) filled with heartfelt words of persuasion (so persuasive that any and all spelling and grammatical errors were immediately and easily forgiven) so needless to say, she won what had become the “Battle of the Bird” hands-down.

And she stayed true to her words and was a brilliant pet budgie owner. There were no regrets and the entire family enjoyed her company.

There were no signs of any illness or distress at all. She was eating well, and played with us the night before, chirping to the t.v. and seemed content. And like any other night, my daughter took her to her bedroom and sat her on the perch next to her bed and read to her.

Then this morning I made the unpleasant and sad discovery. Luckily we were running late for school and I hadn’t had the chance to uncover her cage until the kids were off to school. It bought me some time to first figure out how I was going to tell my daughter Sweetheart was gone, to find a proper box, and think about how we were going to handle the final goodbye.

My husband broke the news to her and talked with her for a little while as she asked questions that he could readily answer in his special way because he is both a biologist and a druid.

She then came to me and climbed into bed and I held her and stroked her head as she cried. After some time we dried her tears and began the task of saying goodbye.

Her little coffin was a cedar box with a hinged lid that hadn’t yet been painted for one of my Tarot decks. We placed muslin in the bottom with cotton batting underneath. The bird was gently placed in the box and at our daughter’s request we left the two of them alone until she was ready to close the lid. She had taken a piece of millet (Sweetheart’s favorite treat) because she wanted to tuck it into the box with her bird. We found a spot under an umbrella shaped deciduous tree that is deeply shaded during the hot summer months. My husband used the shovel and began digging the hole then handed it to our daughter and we each took with the shovel. She placed the box into the earth and began covering the hole. My husband finished and smoothed the top.

She rewrote a prayer from the book “Circle Round” on an index card and read it out loud.

“Sweetheart, fellow traveler and my trusted friend. I am sad to see you go. I will miss your funny chirps, and your soft feathers. I will miss reading to you at night and will always smile when I think about how much you liked sitting on my shoulder and how you loved to have conversations with your own reflection in the bathroom mirror (we then went around and each of us shared something). May your journey be peaceful, happy, and free. As you join the great dance of creation, we thank the Goddess for your time with us, and we will hold you forever in our hearts.

Blessed Be”

We are going down to the creek bed tomorrow so that my daughter can find a special rock to use as a marker for Sweetheart’s grave.

Many Blessings on Your Journey )O(