I lost a dear friend recently. She was a gifted athlete, yet she couldn’t outrun the pain. She had a heart of gold, but even that couldn’t overcome the hurt and suffering. She was smart, and still couldn’t think of a way to beat death.
Kate was my dog. She was an ex-racing greyhound: a beautiful sprinter, strong and fast, loving and happy. She enjoyed her “retired” life lounging around the house, chasing bunnies in the backyard, and going on walks through the neighborhood. She wasn’t old when she died, only seven years (that’s 49 in dog years), but somehow she broke her hip (we don’t know exactly what happened), and there was no way to fix it. At the end, she could barely walk without tremendous pain, and yet she never whimpered, complained or cried. She trusted me completely as I took her for the final time to the vet, and the hardest thing I’ve ever done is hold her in my arms as the light left her eyes. The trust, the love and the pain were all gone, and yet I could still feel her warmth as her body lay there, never to run again.
I’ve lost friends and family (and other pets) before, but this was the first time I had ever held someone I loved as they died. It was wrenching, heartrending pain, and yet it was also comforting to know that the last thing she saw, heard and felt was someone who loved and comforted her. In those moments of pain and loss, I recognized the fleeting hopes for a continued soul, so that her wonderful spirit and beautiful life could continue forever.
As I gently removed her collar, I bent down and kissed the top of her head one last time and softly closed her eyes. With tears streaming down my face, I remembered the energetic joy she exuded whenever she ran, the happy tailwagging greetings I got when I opened the door, and the calm, peaceful look she had when asleep. And I knew that the soul doesn’t reside in heaven, but in the loving memories of those who remain. And as long as I keep the memory of Kate within me, she will always be joyfully chasing bunnies through the Elysian fields of my dreams.