The late, great Betty White once said: “Once someone has had the good fortune to share a true love affair with a Golden Retriever, one’s life and one’s outlook is never quite the same.”
When you lose a pet, part of you dies, too. Today, a part of me is gone because my beloved Benji is gone.
Many of you have been following this journey with me since my dog was diagnosed with cancer. For a while there, I thought Benji was doing a Benjamin Buttons impression: He was behaving like his old puppy self, and it was hard to believe his last days with us were sneaking up on him.
The initial stress of Benji’s impending death was so excruciating for me that I could barely breathe.
Singing seemed to help us both through this difficult time. So I often sang the Hebrew song Kanfei Ruach, which means ‘wings of spirit’. The lyrics remind us of our inner strength, and I loved the image of Benji’s wings of spirit: As his body was failing him, his spirit could still fly, and it will always remain inside of me.
Now, I am keeping his sweet face close to my heart by wearing this pendant.
I thought dealing with my emotions while Benji was at the end of his life would be a tiny bit easier because I’d already lived through the experience of losing another beloved dog – my first Golden Retriever, Barney.
Barney died on my kitchen floor the day of the night of his ‘Bark Mitzvah’. His legs had started failing a few days before, and I knew his time was coming fast. So I planned a ‘Bark Mitzvah’ party the day before he was to turn 13.
The day Barney passed, he stopped eating and drinking. He could not lift himself up. I lay on the kitchen floor with him and talked to him softly. He lifted his paw, and we gazed into each other’s eyes. He was saying goodbye in a bittersweet moment I will cherish forever and never forget. He died 30 minutes later, with me by his side.
I learned this week that saying goodbye to your best furry friend never gets easier, but I am grateful to have had five weeks of extra time to help me reach acceptance about Benji's end of life. During this time, I stopped being afraid, and I had no regrets. I became Benji’s nurse and personal chef and was happy to fulfill this responsibility with love and compassion.
I knew Benji would let me know when it was time to go, and he did.
Two nights before he died, Benji climbed onto my mattress on the floor. He needed comfort. We cuddled. We consoled each other. And I gave him permission to go, thinking he’d pass on his own like Barney did.
But Benji hung in there to share Valentine’s Day with me, even though he had stopped eating and couldn’t stand up. The next day, the vet came to our home, and I sang our favorite “wings of spirit” song to comfort us both as he gently passed with his angelic wings into doggy heaven. It was a tearful, heartfelt moment that connected us and finally brought him peace.
There’s now a Benji-sized hole in my home, my life and my heart. Benji was my shadow, my companion, my therapy dog. His presence brought me comfort and helped ease my anxiety.
As Benji’s health was failing, I awoke each day joyful and grateful that he was alive. I became aware more than ever that every day was a blessing. PRESENCE is a gift.
Together, Benji and I appreciated the stillness and quiet companionship, right until the end.
Since Benji greeted me with daily gifts like shoes or stuffed animals – Golden Retrievers always have something in their mouths – here’s my gift to you in his honor:
I created two very special videos with Benji earlier this year: Wind-Down Yoga and Wake-Up Yoga. Feel free to download the handout HERE.
This Bedtime Yoga handout is one of hundreds of downloadable resources and videos available for meetings/conferences, workplaces and personal use. Click HERE to schedule a virtual tour and conversation about my online wellness portal.
I also want to thank you all for your support as Benji and I navigated this journey together. I am grateful for the positive vibes and warm wishes from you all.
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