Uncertainty, Loss, and Learning to Love Again

I recently asked my Facebook followers what they’d like to read about on my blog. Not surprisingly, they wanted to hear about Ana.  She’s been a huge part of my life since I adopted her in August, and of course people want to hear more about her and her antics.  Her penchant for eating $20 bills. Her Houdini-like escape maneuvers. Her ability to outsmart me (and her trainers) at literally every turn.

A couple of people asked me to write about something that surprised me, though. They wanted me to share how I got over the death of my heart-dog, Tasha, so that I could so fully commit to Ana.

13603638_10154556966443268_8986993429120975080_o1Tasha, you see, was my life for twelve years, and anyone who spoke to me for more than ten seconds knew it. I adored her. I lived for her. I built my life around her. I didn’t think I could survive without her. Literally. I told my husband that when Tasha passed, he’d have to take time off from work to put me on a suicide watch. He believed me. He even warned his boss.

But when Tasha passed, life went on.

I spoke about it with Marc over dinner tonight, and I honestly don’t know how I healed from Tasha’s death. Maybe I didn’t. Or maybe I grieved early. I worried so much about Tasha’s passing—lived it in my head for the last years of her life—that when it actually happened, I was devastated, but not lost, at least not permanently. I fought and fought and fought and fought to keep her with me.  So hard, that when the battle was over …

It was just over.

Maybe I was saved because her death was so beautiful. At home, with those she loved, without intervention, without suffering.  The most important people in her life came to visit during her last week to say their goodbyes. She ate a meal three hours before her death and jumped up to bark at her vet—who made a weekend house call to check on her—a half hour after that. In her final ten minutes, my husband held her head while I rubbed her feet and assured her.  No one could hope for a better goodbye.

Then again, maybe it’s because I knew that I’d have to go on without Tasha someday. In spite of a savings account worth of tests, we never found out what was wrong with Tasha during those final months. But as I examined and re-examined all of those “normal” test results, I couldn’t feel reassured. I knew deep in my heart that something was wrong with my love. Absent a diagnosis, the only thing I could control was what I’d do if she left me.

So I planned for the future. I spoke with about a dozen German shepherd breeders, not feeling any more reassured than I did from Tasha’s medical tests. I had lingering concerns about all of them.

14632999_10154857647418268_4750400350699038905_n1Two days before Tasha passed, I was referred to a breeder who was perfect. Miraculously so. She normally had a long waiting list, but given my circumstances, she agreed to hold a four-week-old puppy for me, even though we knew I might not be able to take her. I sat down with Tasha that same day and told her, “I don’t want you to leave. I want you to stay with me forever. But if you’re tired—if you’re ready to go now—I’ll be OK.”

I think Tasha had held on for me until that moment. In fact, I know she did.

A few people—one quite unkindly—have told me that I didn’t adequately grieve before I got a new puppy.

They’re wrong.

After all, Tasha sacrificed so much for me. How could I not honor her? How could I not fall in love with the puppy she’d waited so long for me to find?

I hope this post doesn’t sound dismal, because I certainly don’t feel that way. I feel content. Next week, I’ll post  some of the lessons Tasha taught me. For now, let me say this: The greatest lesson of all is that love is worthwhile, in spite of the inevitability of loss. And the best way to honor the one that you’ve loved is to do it all over again.

And maybe, just maybe, you don’t have a single heart dog. Maybe you have two.

Tracy Weber

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All four books in the Downward Dog Mystery Series are available at booksellers everywhere!

38 thoughts on “Uncertainty, Loss, and Learning to Love Again

  1. Nancy Perkins

    Simply beautiful. I have tears. This is how my aunt left this world, with us holding hands saying the Lord’s Prayer. Never has there been a more beautiful send off, and it brings such comfort. You are a vessel of love, and you keep full by pouring it out. So pour away, Tracy, your dog’s are incredible gifts.

    Reply
    1. Whole Life Yoga Post author

      Thank you, Nancy. I agree. Such gifts. I’m not sure why I’ve been so blessed, but I’ll take it!

      Reply
    1. Whole Life Yoga Post author

      Thank you so much. There is beauty in the midst of loss. Sometimes it’s just hard to see it.

      Reply
  2. Terri Crossley

    I totally believe you can fall in love with more than one animal. Some people may take years to get over the loss others not so long. I lost a dog and a few months later I got another dog. Unfortunately we had to put that dog down and I swore I would never get another dog I was so heartbroken. My husband called me to meet him one day and he had me look at some puppies. I was still heartbroken at the time and really didn’t know if I wanted to go through that pain again. But then I meet Yukon and immediately fell in love with him. Yes you can love again even after the pain. Yukon helped me heal but I also tell him about the other dogs I had before him.

    Reply
    1. Whole Life Yoga Post author

      I talk to Ana about Tasha, too. I call her “your predecessor.” They are both so different from each other. Both challenging and wonderful in their own ways.

      Reply
  3. Becky Muth

    Beautifully written, and there’s a lot of truth in what you wrote. After losing Gingerbelle I didn’t think I’d ever love another dog that much, but then life brought me Cinnamon, who makes me smile every day. I love reading about Ana’s antics. Thanks for sharing them!

    Reply
  4. Denise Zendel

    What a beautiful tribute. I had to make the long walk with my geriatric Beagle in early December. It was hard, but, like you, I had berndoing the what-ifs for the whole year. She did what I aked, which was to make it through the wedding (July) and the rest of the year was gravy. I wanted her to see her 15th birthday (January of this year) but it was not to be. I sae her out with dignity, I was right there by her side. That was the best I could do. I know you are a peace-loving person, but I hope you clocked the person who told you you didn’t grieve long enough.

    Reply
    1. Whole Life Yoga Post author

      I wanted Tasha to see 12, but she passed about 10 days before that. I was sort of shocked by the person who told be point blank that “normal people take time to grieve before they get a new puppy,” but the truth is that I suspect she said what others were thinking. It doesn’t matter. In the end, it was totally the right decision.

      Reply
      1. Linda

        When I started doing cat rescue, I commented to the person training me that I couldn’t imagine waiting years after losing an animal to get another like the adopter that had just been chosen by a cat. He looked at me for a moment then replied, there are 2 kinds of pet parents. Those like you that lose one and want to adopt quickly to give that love again, and those like the lady leaving with her new furkid who needed time to heal and adopt someone new knowing that someday, there will be that pain of losing again. Neither is wrong and neither should be judged or told they are wrong. They are just doing what they need to do.
        I try to always keep that in mind now. So, don’t let anyone tell you you are wrong. You’re doing what you need to do. Funnily enough, I who have always adopted soon after losing a furkid, have decided to wait a couple of years until I retire to get another dog after losing my beautiful (inside and out) Sheltie Sarah in May. Guess you can be both kinds of pet parent!

        Reply
      2. Marihelen Ligon

        Tracy I have really enjoyed this post. I have taken a lot of joy in your finding of Ana so quickly. I identify closely with you in this. I lost my little Sami in May. He went fairly quickly and unexpectedly and I thought my heart would break. But I also knew that I wouldn’t and couldn’t wait any time at all to get a new fur baby. My husband and I have had at least one in our home continuously for forty-five years. We waited two days and then went down to the Humane Society and found our little Sadie Grace. Finding and giving love to a new fur baby is the way some of us do heal.

        Reply
  5. Sheryl

    Sometimes when a heart breaks, it breaks wide open. We have enough love in our hearts to accommodate much more than we think in our little minds.

    Reply
  6. Kristin Schadler

    Thank you for sharing. We all went through your issues with Tasha with you, and I know it was frustrating for us that no one could provide answers…I can’t imagine how hard that was for you. I know what it’s like to love a dog like that. My Jax is my child, since I can’t have kids. I’m hoping to have another 15 or so years with him, but knowing that you went on after Tasha gives me hope that I’ll survive losing Jax someday, and maybe even open my heart to another dog in the future. Thanks again for sharing your story.

    Reply
    1. Whole Life Yoga Post author

      Thank you for reading it. I can only say that for me, the road to healing had to be walked with Ana. It couldn’t have happened without her.

      Reply
  7. Joanne Kocourek

    Bealy stated, Tracy. Loss of a beloved fur baby is one of life’s most difficult happenings. My service dog, Skittles, passed away quite unexpectedly on Christmas night, but it was clearly his time to cross the Rainbow Bridge (and medically there was nothing more medical science could do to reverse what was happening internally). He passed away peacefully in our arms surrounded by family. This weekend I formally applied for a successor service dog. That wait may be short or may be a year or more. No matter what the wait, my heart is ready to welcome and love again. No dog will be the same, but the differences will make that dog unique and perfect for me, my needs and our family. Some have questioned the grieving process and timing. For our family and me it is the right time and whenever Skittles successor is ready for his/her forever home, it will be perfect. i know your love of Tasha is great and so is your love of Ana. Your heart has room to love both holding the memories of Tasha close, you can appreciate Ana’s uniqueness and the joy she has broughtinto your life and home.

    Reply
    1. Whole Life Yoga Post author

      Thank you, Joanne. I’m so very, very sorry for your loss. May your wait for a new friend be short and pass quickly.

      Reply
  8. Leslie Bird Nuccio

    Hi Tracy, I really loved your blog post, actually I enjoy them all, but this one touched me. I’ve been in Doberman rescue for over 11 years. I’ve lost dogs, some my own, some fosters, most that I’ve lost have been the hospice seniors and special needs dogs that I gravitate to. There is no right time for bringing a new dog into your home and your heart after a loss. My feeling is you honored Tasha in the most perfect way by bringing Ana home. You gave Tasha your heart and soul while she was alive; a part of both left this plane with her. So Ana came into your life to help you heal and to find, through her love, and antics, a way to refill the pieces that were missing. I applaud you for your dedication, but mostly for your courage to let Tasha go when you knew it was time. That is truly the most loving gift we can give these beautiful souls who leave far too early, release before they suffer and our full presence the moment that theirs leaves for the Bridge. Forget the naysayers. You know to your core that you did the right thing, always, for Tasha. That is love in all its power and glory. Leslie.

    Reply
    1. Whole Life Yoga Post author

      Thank you, Leslie. I have Tasha permission to go, but she made the choice when. We were lucky in that. A little over two hours before she died, her vet came by to assess and told us in her opinion, Tasha would pass, but that she wasn’t suffering. We all thought she’d last several more days. I think seeing her vet was part of her process of saying goodbye.

      Reply
  9. Margaret Rushton

    That is a beautiful story. I cried when I read it.
    I’m now going to the heartbreak of making the appointment with our vet to come to our home this week. My Jasmine is a 15 year old black lab mix that has beat cancer 3 times in her life but now has had a tumor that cannot be operated on due to a bad reaction at her last surgery.
    We know we’re making the right decision as her quality of life is not good anymore. It’s hard to make the decision as she still wags her tail at us and still loves her food but she’s on constant pain pills, she’s incontinent, and has trouble walking and it’s getting difficult to pick up a 75 lb dog. I hate to let her go but I know it’s not fair to her because I don’t want to say goodbye.
    I’m happy our vet can come to our home so that our almost 16 year old dog can be with his best friend at the end.
    I’m so glad you found love again and someday we will open our home to another rescue.

    Reply
    1. Whole Life Yoga Post author

      Bless you. I truly wish there were something I could say or do to make this easier for you, but nothing I can think of is adequate. May you find peace in this part of Jasmine’s journey. Love and love and love some more. Then love again.

      Reply
  10. L. Reed

    I love your heartfelt post and love for your dogs . Such a beautiful post. I feel both your pain and your love having loved animals all my life. When I lost my Feathers after 19.5 years I felt as if the sun had gone permanently down . I literally could not imagine live without her. She was my entire world and having been elderly for 9 years I was committed to her care . As it was we had a difficult passing at a horrible vets office that almost did me in. She would not pass and they had to give her 3 shots before she let go. That was how strong our love was. The entire time she was getting the shots she was holding onto my hand and looking in my eyes. It was beyond horrific way to say goodbye. After that experience, I vowed not to have another for a long time. My heart was depleted just as were my emotions and I felt empty. I felt broken beyond repair.
    Then I was lost in a unfamiliar city and I happened across a high kill shelter . I thought I will just look and think about a new cat. it was only 3 weeks later. My Molly was waiting for me, stretched toward me only 5 pounds , starved shaking and her eyes spoke to me. She was so little, so terrified , and had a terrible history. Her foster Mom had brought her in to be put down by the end of the day because she had to move and could not be bothered to find her a home. She told them she was “difficult”. The only thing difficult about this poor animal was her history I realized as soon as I met her. So Molly came home with me and I realized with the love I had for my Feathers, my broken heart was big enough to love a new cat . Three years later we are smitten with our lives together and being a young cat, are we having fun together. Turns out I had more then enough room for another in my heart. Its is after all what my Feathers would have wanted . You have done your Tasha proud. Excellent post .

    Reply
    1. Whole Life Yoga Post author

      Thank you so much. I’m sorry that Feather’s passing was anything less than beautiful. I’m glad you found it within your heart to love again. Molly will be forever grateful.

      Reply
  11. Kay Bennett

    I loved reading this. I know how it feels. My old boy Sammie (he was almost 21) had been through so much with me. I finally asked my family if I was keeping him around for me or for him. When they all said it was past time to make that horrible decision, I sat and talked to him. Told him he didnt have to stay for me. That night was the very first night he slept through. He was so calm and peaceful. Remind me sometime to share my photo of that night. I swear the angels were surrounding him. I took him in the next morning. Thankfully I had my boy Rufus to hold and to carry me through that pain. When I lost Rufus it was the end of my world. He was more than just my dog, he was my service dog. I swore I would not get another dog for a very long time if ever. 3 months later while helping a friend look for a dog, Tyler showed up. Through several different odd happenings, I ended up getting him. It may sound cooky but I know that Rufus and Sammie brought him to me. I can see both of them in him every day. I know for a fact, my heart is full of dog love and there will always be room for another. Just not for a very long, long time. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Reply
    1. Whole Life Yoga Post author

      I think you did share the photo with me once. There’s sort of a mist around Sammie? And I don’t think it’s odd at all. I have to believe there is more than one life to our existence, and that those who go before us help us to go on until we’re ready to join them. In my best moments, I hope Tasha gave me Ana so she wouldn’t have to worry about me anymore, and that’s she’s enjoying the next plane, free from all burdens and worries.

      Reply
  12. Jeanie Jackson

    Thanks to you and to those who made comments, while I did have to wipe tears to make it through your blog and the comments were all so beautiful. We grieve when and how we grieve.

    Reply
  13. Pingback: Lessons from Tasha | Tracy Weber - Whole Life Blog

  14. Jennifer Lapachian

    A lovely article. Thank you for sharing. We have lost numerous furry family members over the years, each special in their own way. As much as the loss hurts, I can’t imagine life without them. They truly do leave pawprints on the heart!

    Reply
  15. Kay Wilson

    Thank you so much Tracy for sharing part of your journey with us. Losing a fur baby for me is hard. Some years ago I went to our local animal shelter and fell in love with a six month old Black Lab. She was gangly but I was smitten. Like you I learned so much from her, patience being one of the biggest as she destroyed the lower limbs of a Silver Maple, as she hung letting her weight break the limb. A lot of lessons.?
    When she was about ten we noticed a growth in her groin area. It was cancer. The vet operated and we thought we got it all. We hasn’t, it came back even larger several weeks later. I prayed everyday for God to take her home before we had to intervene. She was suffering and our vet explained what was happening and what needed to be done. Before we left the house I lay on the floor looking into her eyes. I like you Tracy, told her I really didn’t want her to go, but I understood it was time to go home and be at peaceful. Both my husband and I bawled vowing not to get another. A year or two later my husband was out in the backyard which had a chain link fence around it and a young female Beagle walked up to him. Miraculously she was inside the fence. Obviously, God had something else in mind for us?. Her name is Maxine. She’s still with us, a little long in the tooth and has two other Beagles to boss around. Because after all, she is the oldest.
    You are right where you are supposed to be. You honor Tasha through your love for Ana. She’s probably smiling when Ana becomes a little difficult.
    Sending you HUGE HUGS,
    K

    Reply

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