Dear A & L,
I didn’t ask you if it was okay to use your names when writing this letter, hence the initials. And I don’t want you to feel self-conscious, or feel as though your grief and sadness at the loss of your beloved yellow lab Alta is at all on display.
I want you to know how sorry I am for her passing. I want you to know that our hearts stretch and reach out to you during this time. It isn’t simply difficult for you, it is so very difficult for your children. As you said to me, they simply just do not understand why she had to go, what this means, how death happens.
They don’t conceive of why Alta couldn’t stay with you forever. Why she won’t be back to stand watch at the end of their sick bed, or chase crickets through the long grass, or lay in the shade of the trampoline on the ranch.
This bond between us humans and our animals is much, much deeper than I imagined. Especially with a puppy like Alta who really becomes like a first child. If you had said some of those things to me– about how deep the love between a person and their puppy runs, or how they become your family, or how they give so much love to you that is irreplaceable– a few years before we got Bailey, I’d have smiled to myself and thought otherwise.
This territory is HARD. Maybe loosing an animal companion is hard because we know of the inevitability of this event– most dogs will never live as long as their human counterparts. But that doesn’t make it any easier when they depart. Does it make it harder?
I have come to believe strongly that all dogs truly do go to heaven. Your words of love and tenderness toward Alta have swelled my heart. I believe, as you do, that our dear companions are taken home to that Creator who gave them life, and that we are reunited with them as we cross the bar from this life into the next. Maybe Alfred Lord Tennyson said it best:
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
The mood this Monday is low– the clouds hang heavy on the mountains, the rain falls quietly and cold. I hope you feel and know that heaven weeps for and with you, too. This love you had is not a small or forgotten thing. Passing time may not ever make it better, or right. There is only the hope of happy meetings in the great beyond.
These seasons and changes, these passings and hopes of restoration– they hit deeply on the nerve of life. Death teaches us the importance of life. It causes us to look to our God and hold those we love closer. Such a lesson never comes easily, and almost always has that heavy, tear-born cry for one more day, one more moment in the sunshine.
May you meet Alta with our Pilot ‘face to face’ in the next saga of this journey– the continuance of life feels sure to me. May you find sweet and comforting solace for your sadness, tender hearts, and pain.
2 thoughts on “Losing Alta”
Okay this left me absolutely sobbing, squeezing my dogs so hard right now.
I think with dogs, even more so than with people who might outlive us, we get to experience the dual realities that for with each hug, lick, destroyed couch cushion is the reality that their existence is finite and one day we’ll lose them. So hugging a dog is simultaneously lovely and heartbreaking.
Time, after all, is the fire in which we burn (To quote Star Trek: Generations).
My heart goes out to the owners of Alta in this horrible time of loss.
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Casey, your comments have been so insightful, kind, supportive, engaging. Thank you. I love that quote about time. I think that our animals give us another reason to live. YOU are their world. Yes, their time is shorter than ours, but it is good to remember that as you give them your love, care, concern, attention, their world is complete. Thank you again for sharing, for commenting, and being part of this journey. <3, Megan