Have you ever loved something so much that the thought of losing it brings you to your knees … truly to your knees, especially when actually lost? If you have not felt that incredible, unconditional, forgiving LOVE from a 4-legged confidante, I am sorry; it is a love like no other. Truly.
So many emotions flood my mindful heart & soul as I write this.
It was two weeks ago that my family and I were FORCED to say good-bye to our 15-year old lab/retriever mix. We are simply grateful for Dr. Sara of Compassion for Paws who lovingly came to our home when that inevitable time came. It was today he rode “co-pilot” one more time with me. He came HOME.
We would have saved him again if we could have. His name was Louie. My husband and I adopted him at 13 weeks rescuing him from the most horrific of conditions – tied to a fence in North Carolina summer heat with a pure-bread Golden Retriever and left for dead at 6 weeks old. His 5-year old friend passed away soon after being rescued due to malnourishment. We saved Louie!! My husband and I joke that he was the best $50 we ever spent!
On November 8, 2000 I turned 25 years old (in NC) AND got engaged; Louie was there. On June 1, 2002 we got married (in WI); Louie was there. On June 21, 2002 my husband and I closed on our very first home (in NC) and had sub sandwiches on the floor in our furniture-less dining room; Louie was there (hoping to score a few bites of ham which became his lunchmeat of choice). On April 5, 2004 we welcomed our first-born; Louie was there. He was the only constant in my post-partum, baby blues filled, forever changed world. He comforted me. In 2007, my husband, 2 year old daughter at the time and I moved to Sweden for one year; Louie was not there, but instead he spent those 52 weeks getting so much love and attention from family that when we reunited it was like NO time had passed (except he could lick a dirty plate in the dishwasher SPOTLESS, a talent he did not have prior to his extended stay at the grandparent’s house). In October, 2007 we moved to WA, survived two long months of temp housing and finally landed us a home; Louie was there for it all. On March 5, 2008 we welcomed our 2nd born; Louie was there. On August 31, 2010 I purchased Susan Cohn and Associates; Louie was there to help us celebrate. In fact, Louie came to work with me and provided so much love and many teachable moments about gentility & compassion (he was also a very well mannered guest at tea parties during play therapy sessions). He came with experience though since I had him enrolled as a puppy in a program through a veterinary clinic in NC where we went to nursing homes to provide love and comfort to residents with Alzheimer’s Disease, a disease my late grandfather lived with.
When at the clinic, he provided sensory feedback with his soft, silky, long, & fluffy hair to so many children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) needing that input. When at home, Louie gave my kids comfort after long days at school which immediately calmed them down, yet he never knew the calming affect he had on them. He would also be there to listen to them read (he knew the “A-Z Mystery” series very well). He just loyally and lovingly took all the nestling, ear rubs, squeezes and story times. He was unconditional. He was a true companion to so many.
I swear Louie could tell time. Unprompted, at 8:19 every morning during the school year he started to bark so the kids would get a move on & not be late. He knew if they were late they would make him late for bus duty. Instinct. He became a permanent fixture at the school bus stop making sure that the kids who passed him pet him then he waited until all the kids were on the bus before he would walk home. Even with his old arthritic legs, he stood there on the last day of school June 16, 2015 savoring it all perhaps knowing it would be his VERY last school send off.
He was therapeutic on so many levels. Still, even after death, his amazing grace continues to shine. My family and I grieve and are doing so very differently. Saying good-bye to Louie on August 4th was the closest thing to loss my kids have ever experienced. Louie passing on has provided so many teachable moments about emotions, coping, friendship (we have had an outpouring of love and comfort from near and far), and moving on yet not forgetting. It would have been my thought that our daughter would have taken it the hardest as she had so much anxiety about even thinking about Louie passing away each year he got older. Instead, she has been the calmest and most positive. She has been the best at reminding us to celebrate Louie and not be sad about him being gone, but instead be happy about the life we gave him for 15 wonderful years. How is she coping and making sure Louie’s memory is honored? She is using her own money to sponsor senior-aged dogs from the organization Louie was rescued from, Neuse River Golden Retriever Rescue in NC. She just paid all $45 of six months worth of her saved “share” money to help a dog named Greta. She told me this makes her happy. Louie continues to teach grace and kindness through her.
I know wholeheartedly that some think those of us huge animal lovers are losing our marbles and are crazy with how far some of us go with these creatures (yes, Louie’s teeth were brushed on a regular basis AND he had his own cardiologist the last year of his life … oh, and he LOVED his weekly Starbucks pumpkin bread treat ). In our family, all of our pets are welcomed as true family members (our 1-year old pooch was not fond of the coconut oil rubs on her dry pads last night) and they deserve to be because they simply live for our love and grace in return.
Never underestimate the love, tenderness, and compassion animals provide. They are the best therapists and teachers with no required degrees to practice or teach. They are grandfathered in to these very important jobs and I am rather certain they would not choose anything else to do because the snuggles, ear rubs, walks, treats, care & our love in return are all they want and are compensation enough.
Louie came home last night. We cried. Again, our daughter was the strongest reminding us that he is home, but just in a different form. Our family is back together again.