Our family will start the New Year minus one and plus another.
It’s funny how God works, that’s what I spent most of Christmas Eve thinking. My beautiful children spent the day and first half of Christmas break with their father and his family out of state. As for me, I typically flee town for a few days to transition easier with the silence which takes over our home.
Prior to the children leaving, I was able to fulfill a long time wish of my son by way of dog rescue. His Christmas surprise this year came a week early. The surprise – an adorable pug named Abby, who needed a second chance at life.
In complete honesty, it was a surprise I expected to take weeks, even months to properly pull off. Pugs don’t stay long in rescues. People who know this breed of dog scoop them up as quickly as they become available.
Prior to becoming parents, my ex-husband and I shared two beautiful rescues – a terrier and a pug. With the birth of each of our two children, each of these two rescues aged up to the Rainbow Bridge. I still recall the two of us enduring the heartbreak of losing our beloved pets, the true start of our family and reflecting on how their lives ended so shortly after the birth of each child. Both of those dogs lived full and fruitful lives, both lost to old age and the challenges which that brings.
My son was three at the time of our pug’s passing and as odd as it seems, he’s never forgotten that dog. So now, he is the proud owner of Abby, a rescue from Manteca who was used more for puppies than a pet. She’s with family now, her work days are over.
The hardest part of all of this, is the loss piece. As we brought Abby home and helped her transition into a home with our dog Willow and my daughter’s cat Fluffy, we also held hope that this young addition would be a welcome life saver for our 14-year-old rescue Willow.
We brought Willow home from the Oakdale Animal Shelter nine years ago, when my daughter was just a year and a half. Earlier this fall we began to see age catching up with her, by way of movement and energy. In her final days it became undeniable. I must admit, selfishly I hoped we could just get her to summer. Why? I have no clue. Perhaps it’s just that I simply wasn’t ready for this good bye.
She was our family pet, yet she was also my roommate and best friend. She was always there for me at all hours of the night. She saw me through the trials of divorce, my first time without my children when they went to dad, heck she was even there the night I came home from my first post-divorce date. How do you let that go, with any type of ease or peace?
Thirteen years ago, when I was first faced with this very struggle with our first dog Sable I was given wise words from our family vet Mel Tanner. As we made the trips back and forth to his office, prior to Sable’s passing, I wondered how I would know it was “time.” I asked this of Mel, I mean how do we really know? He gave it to me straight and as a guy who knows his stuff, he was right. “You’ll know,” he said. “They have a funny way of letting us know.”
And so … on Christmas Eve, as I escaped up in Napa with a lifelong friend, our sweet Willow let her pet sitters know, it was time.
In honesty, that was the longest drive of my life. As I journeyed home, I prayed she would just close her eyes and go. Upon arriving home, my mom now at her side, I learned she had waited for me.
She was tired, no longer able to walk and ready to return to her healthy body and play again.
This Christmas Eve reminded me of many things, none of which were found in a card or under a tree.
We are nothing without love. Be it the love of friends, family, two beautiful rescues or a group of strangers in the waiting room of an Emergency Vet Clinic. Love is our greatest and most valuable of gifts.
I don’t know that my heart will ever completely heal from the loss of my Willow. I do know I am grateful that she fought as long as she did and I know she left us knowing how well we would love Abby.
She actually greeted Abby when we brought her home, tail wagging, face smiling and all. And then – Abby’s energy annoyed her. The ‘ol girl was out of spunk and she made sure Abby knew.
So now we greet 2018 as a family looking a bit different. We search for a way to pay proper tribute to the life Willow gave all of us and we continue to bring Abby into the fold – our pack. She too will live a life full of love, adventure and fun. We will love her just as fully as we have the ones that came before her.
So goes the circle of life. Live those moments as best as you can, love without fear and embrace the present, because it truly is a gift. Happy New Year.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.