Sunday, April 18, 2010

...a broken promise...


She was an exceptional friend.  Strikingly beautiful with thick, pale, golden hair.  And, oh so intelligent!  We were clued in to her intelligence when as a little untrained pup we had barricaded her temporarily in the kitchen, where tile floors would make any accidents easier to clean up.  She had her water and sleeping area and we had put all her favourite toys in the kitchen with her.  She could see us through the openings in the extendable gate we installed to keep her out of the living room.  We watched as, little tyke that she was, she brought each toy and struggled to drag it up to the top of the gate and drop it over into the living room side.  She dropped every toy we had put in the kitchen for her - over on to our side of the gate!  Surely, the silly humans would realize that she needed to be on the same side of the gate as all those toys!!!  She made her point and was soon happily enjoying the delights of the living room and her human companions.











(Not photos of our Silken, but these pups look so much like her!)

Years later, we had been ferrying her to the veterinarian and knew there was something wrong.  Usually by my side, I became concerned one day when I noticed her absence.  She was huddled in her favourite corner but not looking out the low window hoping to see other critters as was her wont.  As I got down on my knees to cuddle her, I realized that her breathing was laboured.  My heart seized as I comprehended the meaning of the moment.

We immediately took our beloved golden retriever to the vet.  We managed to get her in the waiting room but when the receptionist called us in to see the doctor, Silken (her name) could not walk.  Attendants came with a stretcher and she was carried into the examination room.  My heart lurched at the sight.   

We were eventually told she had a tumour which had to be removed or she would have to be euthanized.  That was the choice.  In our desperation to keep her loving presence as a part of our family we chose the operation ... (I have often second-guessed that choice since).  DH and I sat on the floor holding her as we struggled with the decision.  It was already late in the evening but the surgeon was willing to come in and perform the operation.  We were told to leave and come back in the morning.  Leave?

No way!  I intended to stay and wait right there.  "No Ma'am, we do not know how long the x-rays, blood tests, pre-op and operation will take and she will need quiet time for recovery afterward.  We do not want her to get excited when she sees you and perhaps open the incision."  Reluctantly I went home to sleep.

Sleep?  Sorry I misled you.  Sleep was impossible.  I lay in bed full of dread.  My thoughts drifted to a book I had recently read entitled, "The Sense of Being Stared At" by Rupert Sheldrake.  It is a book about our 'non-local' mind and some of the extrasensory perceptions at work on the planet. 

I thought of the section in the book where Sheldrake cited study after study that showed dogs know when their master is coming home - not just from habit and knowing the time of day.   Many of studies had the human subject vary their departures in order to determine if it was habit or truly some extra-sensory knowing.  Each time the human part of the study began to simply prepare to come home, the human's canine companion stopped what they were doing and went to their favourite spot (usually the door or window) to wait for their master.  According to Sheldrake, the dog sensed the master's intent to come home!

Feeling as if I had abandonned Silken at the Veterinary Clinic, I decided to use the information from Sheldrake's book and I silently talked to Silken during the night.  Over and over in my mind, I said, "Silken, I'm coming."  "Silken, I'm coming", I promised.  "Everything will be alright Silken, I'm coming."

They had told us we could come at 9:00 a.m.  Before six I was up and getting ready - planning to storm the back door of the clinic at 7:30 a.m.  Then the phone rang.  My heart stopped.

Hello ....

Mrs. Zieman?,  said the female veterinarian (not the surgeon).

Yes?

The operation went as planned and the tumour was cancerous as we suspected.

Oh?

But I'm sorry to have to tell you that Silken died a few minutes ago.

What?

Silken survived the operation which ended after midnight, but died a few minutes ago.  I'm so sorry.

Oh no!!

Yes.  I came in early to check on her - and it was strange - I walked over and stroked her head and talked to her and ... it was almost as if she was waiting for someone to come before she could let go and die.

What?! ... what did you say?

I had the feeling that it was as if she was waiting for someone to come before she would allow herself to die.

Ohhhh ... Ohhhh noooo.  (Long pause where the vet is also silent - allowing me to absorb the information).

Choking back sobs I thank her for going to Silken and being there with her as she died.  I told her we would be right there to say our goodbyes.

OMG!!  The vet sensed she was waiting for someone to come, and all night long I had been sending Silken the message "I'm coming" ... Silken must have sensed it and was trying to wait for me before allowing herself to let go into death.  I guess the gentle touch of another female human had to do ... as she could wait no longer for me to come.  This memory always reduces me to a limp puddle of emotion.  How loyal she was (trying so hard to wait for me) right to the end. 

It has taken me a long time to come to terms with a sense that I failed her, broke my promise and abandonned her.  I still struggle with it right now as the tears flow.  However I do know with a certainty that she led a charmed, happy, love-filled life ... and that at least she knew it was my intention to come even if I ultimately did not make it in time. 

Up until the end, we did have the best of times with the very best of dogs.

56 comments:

  1. What a moving story about your pet sensing and waiting for you. I have taught several students who told me that they missed a day from school because their pet had died. This post reveals the power of that connection.

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  2. I'm glad for Silken, that she had someone with her and that she had a wonderful life with people who loved her. She knew you didn't abandon her.

    I received the same call in the early morning three years ago when Harvey died after surgery. I can understand how incomprehensible it was to you. For me, it brought me Howard. I hope you found another to love.

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  3. bonnie...you have me in tears...dogs, pets, are family and to see one pass...she heard you...you were there...

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  4. That is such a powerful and moving post, Bonnie, especially for a dog lover such as myself. Dogs bring such joy into our lives but their leaving can be unbelievably painful.

    I'm sure Silken knew she was loved, until the very end and beyond.

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  5. I can relate. In case, it would be my father's death instead of a dog's. My dad died 9 years ago today, April 18, 2001, after surgery which we were told was not life threatening. So I took my daughter on her springtime college tour of Southern California colleges and was 350 miles away from him the day he died. I knew--psychically--the moment he died.

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  6. Beautiful story of love and life. A pet well-loved, and Silken knew it. My condolences.

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  7. Paul C: It is such a powerful connection - probably coming from the unconditional love they give.

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  8. Sandra: Oh, you too! It is such a devastating moment isn't it? I do not have a beloved Howard - feeling I could not bear another loss like that. I literally wailed for days.

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  9. Brian: Yes, I think I forget that if she knew my intent to come - she could also sense my love for her at the same time. I always seem to end up focusing on what I failed to do at the end, and forgetting what I did do all the years before. Thanks Brian.

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  10. Barry: Ah, thank you. One of the reasons I so love your blog apart from YOU, of course, - is that you share Lindsay and your love for her with us. I do not have a dog now and so enjoy spending a little time with your beautiful Lindsay.

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  11. Oh my god, Bonnie. I know just how you feel. I still suffer from guilt about my own sweet loving dog, a boxer. She was old and gray and had arthritis and then developed a tumor on her knee. The vet didn't think she would survive an operation even if we could have afforded it so it just grew and grew and eventually split, all putrid. we knew she was going to die from blood poisoning so we decided to euthanize her. We were so poor we didn't have money for a vet but the spca would do it for free so we took her there. We had no idea how terrible it would be for us, for her. they put us (me, hubby, son and dog) in a room. Two big men came in, said one of us should hold her head, so I did, looking in her eyes. she was confused, sensing my emotion. One guy grabbed her around her body while the other injected her and just like that her heart stopped. All I saw in her face was confusion and fear. It still makes me cry when I remember how badly we managed her end. She just didn't deserve that.

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  12. Oh Dan ... how awful for you! The way you attended to your friend Walter - well, I'm sure you would have wanted to do the same for your father ... Sometimes we just have to accept that the love shared before is/was enough.

    Anniversary memories are powerful aren't they? Silken died in April too and I have been feeling blue most of this month. The grief work goes on at different levels and intensities.

    Thank you for sharing how you relate to this post. Judging by his son, your father must have been one fine man.

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  13. Thanks Jenn. You are right, she was well loved.

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  14. Ellen: Oh, I'm so sorry. What a painful, dreadful experience for you all!

    I am grateful you shared this experience. I have always secretly thought that we/I chose the operation as the easy way out because WE couldn't bear to face the death scene. I have rebuked myself for selfishly putting her through the operation for OUR needs - imagining that the euthanizing process would have been a peaceful, loving, beautiful one. Amazing how we construct idealized fantasies of how good the OTHER choice might have been.

    It seems clear that given the choice we both had to make - there are no perfect/good choices - either way is terribly difficult.

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  15. Oh Bonnie-

    My heart aches - tears flow :-( I am SO sorry about Silken.

    Love and hope
    Gail
    peace......

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  16. Poor Bonnie. My beloved Boris died of cancer too and I cried for weeks afterwards. His place in our house stayed empty for a long time and it was only when the dog warden told us of another black lab who was in urgent need of love and care that we allowed Boris' space to be filled again.

    Now my Benno is getting old and some day we will have to go through the pain and heartache all over again.

    Who'd keep dogs! And yet, how empty my life would be without at least one of man's best friends.

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  17. Friko: They do fill our lives with a unique kind of unconditional love. Perhaps they come to show us what is possible in loving and in dying.

    Take care of yourself and dear Benno!

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  18. I am so very sorry to hear about your loss. Iam glad that Silken wasnt alone and knew she was so very much loved. In tears remembering my Oscar. Hugs to you. Paula

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  19. Paula: Thank you so much. So many of us have such loyal friends to remember. I'm sure your Oscar was wonderful.

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  20. Wow. What a touching story. It is so hard to lose a pet. But to hear about this book, and how the animals senses their master....

    I'm sure Silken heard you and will be waiting for you, wagging her tail, on the other side!

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  21. I too have a promise I felt I did not keep..I cried when I read this..its been 5 years and the loss is still as freash today as it was on the day my beloved baby girl had to leave..she was 13yr and had cancer..I held her...when she left us..I always wonder if i should have waited a little longer and waited ...but I didn't want her to suffer..I guess I will never know.

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  22. Now that I have got my tears under control I can reply! I just spent an afternoon shooting images of a cute great dane puppy who is uncontrolably loved by his owner. I know their journey is just begining. I have buried my share of loving pets, and two children as well. It is always hard. My oldest daughter loved animals & watched the vet shows on TV every day. I'm sure she & her sister were both there waiting to welcome your sweet Silken home & play together forever.

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  23. Pat: Thanks. Yes, the book gave many anecdotal stories of, for example, wives knowing their husbands were returning from war service by the way the family dog started to behave. As well there are many studies that were done to prove what all pet owners already new. The book also talks about human knowing - such as how people in cars 'sense' when someone in a passing car is looking at them and they turn to see. Thus the title, "The Sense of Being Stared At".

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  24. Marlene: I'm so sorry. Have to admit I'm a bit confused as you say little, baby girl ... and I don't want to mistakingly assume you are talking about a dog if you lost a child. Condolences either way - but cannot imagine the tragedy of losing a young child.

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  25. Bonnie- should have been a warning at the top of your post...I am an utter mess...This is the saddest story ever- Oh my GAWD!
    Same thing happened to our best kitty- I felt as though I had abanded him in a strange sterile place. Forgiving, understanding, letting go is difficult.

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  26. Beth: Oh my - so much loss. It always amazes me when I encounter people who have born the unbearable. I'm sorry that this post awakened your sadness. Perhaps if you are like me, you get to the point where amidst the sadness there is a sacred treasuring of the memories of their sweet faces.

    I am so very sorry that you lost two children. I have to catch my breath at the thought. How brave and resilient you are. I'm sure they are very much alive in your heart and I appreciate your sweet thought of your loving children welcoming my dear Silken.

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  27. Linda Sue: You know, I think you are right. In fact it did cross my mind to put up a warning that this post could tug at tender heart-strings and then I thought perhaps it would be over-dramatic. However, now that I am reading the comments ... I am wishing I had! Some of the comments are more heart-wrenching than the post!

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  28. Bonnie, I was already feeling teary today and this made me spill over. Those of us who have had dogs know exactly what you're talking about - the connection, and grief when that is lost, is intense.

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  29. Oh Deborah, I'm sorry. I really should have done as Linda Sue suggested and put a "Read At Risk of Tears" warning above the post.

    I really wanted to post about the co-incidence(?) of my saying "I'm coming" and the vet telling me it seemed as if the dog was waiting for someone 'to come' before she died. To do so, however, it seemed I had to tell most of the story and I am feeling concerned over the the emotion it is putting people through!

    Tears are cleansing, right? :)

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  30. Ahh, Bonnie. But she waited until someone came who could give you the message. Didn't she.

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  31. June: In six years that thought had never occurred to me. Thank you ever so much! Isn't it amazing how comforting a little shift in perception can be!!!

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  32. Bonnie, so sweet and poignant. I too have lost pets, and would be devastated to lose my little Miss Belle. I have a new post up. Come visit!

    Karena
    Art by Karena

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  33. My heart aches reading this and the tears instantly stream.

    I am so honored you shared Silken's story with us... but oh the end coming about this way would have been so incredibly hard to reconcile. I always felt it was a blessing that we knew Dakota's days were numbered. We treasured our time with her and resolved not to let her go on in pain and she so helped us know her time.

    I do take great comfort in all of the shared stories, such a community of pet loss and remembrances. June's word were very wise as well... it proves your point about how smart Silken was... she waited for a kind soul who would deliver the news to you.

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  34. My heart is broken for you and my tears will not stop their flow. I am so sorry that you could not be there with her at the end. But she knew you were coming...she knew!!
    I know how hard this time is and I hug you!!!
    SueAnn

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  35. Bonnie, As sad as this is to read, I'm glad you have shared it. I imagine it's somewhat comforting to know you're not alone in your feelings. We have 3 family pets buried on the property.
    ...Wanda

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  36. Hi Bonnie

    But she did wait and you were coming...dogs also know they are loved....

    Happy days

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  37. bonnie - i'm sad for you. when my family emigrated to canada we had a border collie. he was my buddie. he took all sorts of stuff and never turned on me. he followed me to school. we couldn't afford to take him and he was too old to give to anyone so the vet put him down - he flew away lying in my mum's arms. your story tells about connection. real, good, deep connection. you have been blessed - but you know that. he'll be back. steven

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  38. Karena: Thanks so much for your kindness. I did visit your blog - you are an amazing artist.

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  39. Vicky: How true. We are a community in so many ways. We post about an experience and our fellow bloggers respond sharing theirs and affirming yours. A powerful medium this blogging thing!!!

    I, too, appreciated your post about being so aware that Dakota is absent from your life. How special these pets that elicit so much love!

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  40. SueAnn: Thank you. Your comments and all the others are helping me to finally realize that my communications to her were more about love than timing.

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  41. Wanda: Thank you. You are so right - sharing does lessen the pain and the comments provide such valuable perspectives and comfort.

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  42. Delwyn: Yes, you are correct - and it comforts me to hear the words from you.

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  43. steven: Oh, how difficult that must have been for you all. And you are right to point out that we must recall how blessed we were to have had such a sacred connection.

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  44. Some losses are very hard! You can only do your best in any situation, and you did. How blessed you both were to have each other.

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  45. Oh, my dear Bonnie. I'm so sorry for your loss. Our dogs are part of us. Such a deep, soulful part of us. And it's so painful when we lose them. Your story is almost identical to what happened to my Golden, Noah, many years ago. And to this day, I regret leaving him there as they asked me to, thinking he would somehow be okay. But now, after all these years, after a visit or two from him (waking visits!) I know that he knew I loved him so much and miss him still. And our life together had nothing to do with that awful day. He knew. So did your Silken. I'm so sorry. Hugs to you, my friend.

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  46. Hey Barbara! I've missed you ... but I do understand how busy you are.

    What comforting words: "...our life together had nothing to do with that awful day." Thank you!!

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  47. Oh, I totally relate to this...it is so familiar as my dog developed a tumor as well...but the vet told us that he would probably not survive the operation...and so he was put to sleep...Nevertheless, our dog had come to me with pleading eyes the day before...and I had not understood...that haunts me still...it is so hard to lose a loved one...especially a furry one...But your Silken KNEW she was loved...and she KNEW you were coming...she did not feel abandoned...but loved always...Hugs, Janine xx

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  48. Bonnie, my little girl was my dog..I have always
    felt she was like my child in so many ways..I guess your story really brought it all back so profoundly it came out that way..I sometimes feel I could have waited longer..I had to make the decision to put her down and hold her when they did it..that decision weighs heavy with me to this day...

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  49. Janine: Oh my ...'came to you with pleading eyes'... I wonder if they think we are gods and can fix anything for them ... like little children?

    Thanks dear Janine.

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  50. Marlene: Such a hard decision. It's a no win situation isn't it. Put your dog to sleep or see them struggle and suffer with illness. You did what had to be done and were there right to the end and loved her all the while.

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  51. What a poignant story Bonnie. Of course she knew she was loved and that you were there in her heart. The loss of a beloved pet is never easy. But, I am sure she knows you did all you could for her.

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  52. Sorry I'm so late Bonnie. Everyone has said it so well, all I can offer are hugs, virtual though they may be.

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  53. Oh hon...I will be back in a bit...I am in tears and have to take my son to the dentist..sending big gentle swan hugs to you..
    Love, Sarah

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  54. Profoundly sad, Bonnie, but beautiful to see so much love. I have been through this and I know how difficult it is. When my yellow lab, Baci, died of a tumor five years ago, it was the worst day of my life. I now have another yellow lab, Derry, with whom I cherish every day. It's the price we pay for loving the animals and having them as part of our lives. One thing is true, however: Our dogs continue to live in our hearts through the memories they created.

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