Groundhog Day, Imbolic, St. Bridget’s Day, Candlemas, and others all land somewhere on or around February 2nd.
No matter what you call it or what religion celebrates it they all mark a time of renewed life and it’s our human nature to look back on the old as we stand on the cusp of the new. Oftentimes we are hoping for better yet to come and sometimes we are fondly looking back.
2011 brought a number of losses to the community of doggie folks that I know well and this brings emotions of mixed sadness and joy.
The year started out with the loss of our little eight-week-old Callie – it was a sign of the year to come. However, following her passing we took in her only brother (and the only one of her litter mates still waiting for a forever home): Pinball.
Things started looking up at that point, but then the avalanche began. HEART dogs who had been working in animal-assisted therapy for years or training for the work began to slip away from us:
Vesta who had exchanged her Guiding Eyes career for one in animal-assisted therapy left her family after eleven years. Her devotion and love of her family and work was legendary.
Then we saw the loss of Riley, a little Wheaton who loved the “paws up” command so much that she passed it onto her Golden sister before she suddenly passed away. She was even remembered by Santa this year when the rest of her pack went for pictures and he asked where she was. Riley’s sweetness clearly touched Santa, too.
The loss of Kinsey – the little Mini Schnauzer who seemed to be born with a power pack that just wouldn’t quit – came at the end of her battle with a host of illnesses and left a not so mini-sized whole in her human’s hearts.
As if three were not enough HEART dogs to lose, one of the founding dogs, Hunter, left his family to cherish his memory and all of us the legacy of his work.
Thinking the year was almost over and what more could happen we lost Beau and Maude in quick succession.
Beau was fairly new to animal-assisted therapy but he was a champ. When he and Boo would visit together at the library the name confusion between the two made for a fun game with the kids when asking them if they wanted to visit Boo or Beau.
Maude was a seasoned veteran in the world of animal-assisted therapy. Always the trooper, she started fading when her sister Vesta passed and just wasn’t able to rally back to her old self after the loss.
Layla, the chocolate lab who patiently let kids cover her with band-aids – and taught Boo how to wear them, too – left her family and a young puppy she had been training.
The lovely Miss Torrie, a white German Shepherd Dog who had been a puppy mill breeding female only to be rescued for a new life as an animal-assisted therapy dog – and one of the greatest testing neutral dogs I have ever met – left her family on Christmas Day.
Now, forty days after the last of these losses we can look back and while sometimes their sadness can seem overwhelming each comes with a stream, and sometimes a flood, of sweet, loving memories.
This is the gift that our dogs give us when they are alive and it is the gift they keep on giving even after they pass. The joy they bring us is so great that even in the wake of the sadness that comes with their passing we are still filled with the joy they leave behind.
Dogs will come to us and they will leave us but the love they bring stays with us always.
As the groundhog pokes his head up today we can hold in our hearts that as the wheel of the year turns and Spring dances before us the love of these animals will sustain us until we can meet them once again and forever.