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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. January Theme: "Peace"
Volume 2 Issue 2 ISSN# 1708-3265

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Finding Peace When an Animal Friend Dies
by Rita M. Reynolds

My dog Sam, a sizeable Husky-Shepherd mix, had been my inseparable companion and protector ever since he entered my life as a badly abused five-month old pup. As he aged I worried how I would exist without him by my side, how I could possibly get through a day without feeling his paw on my arm as he looked up, bright-eyed, into my face.

He was nearly 16 when that time did come, as Sam was diagnosed with a brain tumour. It was slow at first as the tumour grew, went into remission, and grew again.

Eventually the morning came when clearly he needed help leaving his poorly functioning body. When I acknowledged to myself and to him that it was time, again he looked into my face, love streaming from his eyes as they shone brighter than I had ever seen before, assuring me all was right. Later that morning at the vet hospital, his passage out of physical life was calm, accepting, and easy.

I, however, mourned deeply; and one morning, about a week later, while cleaning the goats' room I was thinking about Sam. I cried, and sad and tired, I leaned over the half door leading into the hay room, saying aloud how much I missed him.

Suddenly in my mind I saw a clear image of Sam standing up next to me on his back feet, front paws propped up on the edge of the half door. I "saw" his large, furry, albeit-spirit body and his face, his eyes anxious and searching, looking up into mine. He was very concerned about me and that concern, together with the suddenness of his appearance, instantly brought me out of my grief. In fact, I was smiling knowing he was still staying around and very much "alive" in his new world. He appeared strong and healthy again, and obviously continued to care deeply about me.

From the time of that one brief encounter in the barn I was at peace with his death, sure in the knowledge that while he had changed worlds, our lives still intersected through the great love we would always share.

For over 26 years I have had the privilege of being with animals who are moving into, through, and beyond death. Each one has come as a teacher and I have learned well. For, while admittedly, the separation of two friends is initially heart-wrenching, each experience brings me clearer understanding of the wholeness and continuity of life, defined as that which transcends all barriers of physical time and space.

And through such hard-earned understanding I feel without doubt that what we experience here in the physical world with our friends of all species is only a tiny part of what is actually all around us - right here - despite being out of our vision, hearing, or touch. Even though they have crossed through that door called "death", these friends are, at least for a while, still with us, only now in another "world". The same close relationship we experienced with that creature continues in a new way, yet unending and ever-evolving.

That which flows all around us in layer upon layer of dimensions and vibrational fields is simply The Rest of it All. And knowing there is so much more beyond this physical world and existence brings me enormous peace. My heart knows it will never truly be empty of the shared love between friends. The love has only expanded to the Limitless - to way beyond what we experienced as two physically bound beings.

My other dog, Waggy, a Black lab mix, who also died with cancer several years before Sam's passing, taught me a great deal about being present, focused, and centred during the dying process. As with Sam and so many others who have graced my life, Waggy demonstrated enormous grace and acceptance during those last weeks, days, and final point of departure. She radiated a lightness that continued to build right on through her crossing into her next world. And then, as with Sam, I began the grieving process, the healing and deepening I have come to understand and respect.

Thirteen months after Waggy's death, I was moving from the kitchen into the living room on my way to feed the cats. It was pre-dawn and only the kitchen light was turned on, sending a small of amount of light ahead of me as I crossed through the rooms.

My mind was on many things, I'm sure, certainly not anticipating the vision which suddenly appeared just behind the rocking chair in the living room. It was Waggy - sleek and radiant, her black coat shimmering with perfect health. As in Earthly life, her little ears stood half-way up, then flipped over at the tips so that I had no doubt it was her.

She stayed only a few brief seconds and then was gone, but a message was clearly delivered to me. She wanted me to know that she was very much alive and well, only in a different way now, and that she still loved me and checked in on me from time to time. Furthermore, she asked that I share her visitation with people who were grieving over the loss of an animal companion, because it would bring them comfort. And I have, for all the years since.

Sam's gift, Waggy's gift, and the gifts of all the animals, wild and domesticated who have entered my life, stayed awhile, and then gone on; assure me that without doubt, we are never truly separated from our friends just because we are now on different planes of existence. And so in the midst of the very normal and healing grief I experience with any animal's death, I close my eyes, breathe slowly and easily recall the little moments - a paw on my arm, shining, loving eyes, the faithful presence of a loyal friend, total companionship.

In these tangible memories I know that presence; that paw, that companionship are still with me, now in spirit-form, but just as real, precious, and grand. I can rely on the fact that outside of time and space, where spirit/soul resides without the confines of a physical body, boundaries dissolve and friendships continue, building on a love that cannot, will not, ever "die."

And in this knowledge of just how much more there is to it all, I can rest, and finally find peace.

Rita Reynolds is the author of "Blessing the Bridge, What Animals Teach Us About Death, Dying, and Beyond" (NewSage Press) and Editor/Publisher of "laJoie", a quarterly journal respectful of all life. For over twenty-six years, Rita has maintained a small, private sanctuary in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia; currently including such residents as donkeys, goats, chickens, dogs, cats, ducks, and one cow. Her sanctuary also specializes in old dogs and hospice support for dying animals. She can be contacted via email. Please visit her website at www.blessingthebridge.com.

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