It’s been a week now, and if somebody asks me about that day last week Axel went to the rainbow bridge I cry. The house has never seemed so empty, and the world outside has become quiet. Much as people still try to make me see my decision was right, I keep second-guessing what I did and descend into a pit of guilt. The thing is, even veterinarians who are trained in pet care are oftentimes just making their best guess, because our dear pets can’t talk; they just can’t tell us what’s wrong.
I’m no stranger to death. Am I confusing other past losses of life with his? Is it now somehow bound up with this grief? I think loss is loss, and when loved ones – human or animal – go we feel it acutely. I realize now how dependent I was on Axel after Angelo died, and why I am grieving so intensely. I still keep looking at his picture and find myself saying, “I’m sorry”. I keep wondering if I was 7 years-old might I be able to accept and process Axel’s transition without any difficulty or confusion.
The only thing I’m grateful for is the fact my worst fears weren’t realized – I didn’t want to die before he did. It’s a small consolation now. Yesterday I finally opened a card from the Valley Veterinary Clinic. Through my tears I saw that it had been signed by the whole staff and that a donation would be made in memory of Axel to help care for animals in need. They had no idea that some nights I parked my car in their parking lot for a few moments as I knew his body was still there until Monday. Or yesterday, I stood on the edge of the road in view of Waggs’ N Whiskers on Highway 7 and watched the dogs play outside from a distance.
I’m a writer, and I need to process my grief by writing, so that’s what I am doing. But, the moral to this story is, no matter how much you love them, sometimes you have to let them go. Never let anyone suffer and live, love and do your best. The world was a better place with him but the last thing he would want for me is to be sad— and animals are as real to us as our family and friends. But there’s one huge difference–our relationship with our pets is so uncomplicated, so pure and simple – they need us -and don’t ask us to be anything other than who we are. In my world of being a whole lot different than other people, it can be a close call. But he didn’t care about that, he just knew I was brave enough to be myself. I loved him and I did my best for him, and in the end, I made his pain stop. I am really trying not to regret that, as a quiet death in loving company is the best any of us can hope for.