The worse time in one’s life is losing a loved one. It is worse for animal lovers. They have to endure the deaths not only of human loved ones but also of their furry best friends—their pets—who have shorter lives.
In the past two weeks, I silently grieved with those who lost their pets.
I silently sent (love) energies of comfort and emotional healing to an owner who lost three dogs to ehrlichia (a blood disease a dog gets from a tick or garapata) in two days, an animal rescuer who fought for a cat and successfully had her treated for a virus but lost her to bacterial infection, another rescuer who hoped for a miracle for a dog with cancer, and an owner who can not believe until now that his “baby” dog is no longer around to wake him up or lie on his chest and comfort him silently when he is sad or stressed out.
We cannot stop deaths. But we can honor our loved ones as we grieve, and hope for the day when the pain is less enough for us to move forward.
As rescuers, officers and members of animal welfare group Save Animals of Love and Light (Save ALL), have lost rescued dogs and cats despite all our efforts and prayers.
All deaths are painful, of course.
But the death of a rescued dog whom a rescuer took care of and fought with for months can be doubly painful.
It must be worse for owners who lost their pets as they took care of their pets most of their lives.
Mourning owners or rescuers get a number of suggestions to ease the pain and move on. But I will not suggest anything here.
I can only share something I did to ease the pain: I wrote about Holly, an 11- to 13-year-old stray dog we rescued and learned to love in the short time we had with her.
Holly taught me a lot about life, and moved me to act when I was at my lowest, and to continue my work even when rescuing seemed impossible already. In that sense, she rescued me.
Allow me to share her story which became an integral part of my life as an animal welfare advocate:
Heaven is waiting for its new angel, Holly. Cross the rainbow bridge now, baby. Go to the Light. I’m letting go… Kaya ni Nanay. Pwede mo na akong iwan. (Mother can handle it. You can leave me now.)
Nakiusap ako ng seven more years sa iyo, na sana 20 years old ka pa umalis, pero alam ko na pagod ka na. Okay na, anak… go to the Light. (I asked for seven more years with you, that you would die at 20 years old, but I know you are tired now. It’s okay, child… go to the Light.)
I accept you had to leave. Run free, Holly. In heaven, there is no pain, there is no cruelty, there is no suffering, there is no illness. You deserve to rest.
I’m sorry pinabayaan ka sa kalye ng napakaraming taon. Nabuntis ka ng ilang beses, nanganak mag-isa sa tabi tabi, at namatayan ng mga anak ng maraming beses. I can’t imagine how you felt when you witnessed some of them get run over by a car, and die in front of you. (I’m sorry people ignored you and left you alone on the street. You got pregnant many times, gave birth alone just anywhere, and lost a number of your pups.)
I’m sorry you had to go for days without food, had to drink water from the canal, and had to fight for food scrap from the garbage can with other dogs.
Please forgive me if we only had 11 months to make you feel safe, loved, and cared for. Kulang na kulang, anak. Pero naaalala ko na sarap na sarap ka sa kama mo, sa pagkain na hindi mo na kailangan pang hanapin sa daan or sa basurahan, sa lasagna na nabibili natin pag may extra money, sa Dentastix na bigay ng mga tita mo na admins at mga members at mga kapatid na tao… (The time we had was not enough. But I remember you loved your bed, the food that you no longer had to scrounge for or look for in the trash, the lasagna (for dogs) which we were able to buy when we had extra funds, the Dentastix your aunts who are admins and members or human siblings gave.)
Thank you, Holly. Dami kong natutunan sa iyo. Ang umasa nang umasa. Maging pasensiyosa. Maging malakas. Lumaban. Kayanin ang anumang dumating sa buhay. ANG MABUHAY AT NGUMITI KAHIT NA MAY INIINDA. (I learned a lot from you. To hope again and again. To be patient. To be strong. To fight. To endure the challenges that come my way. AND TO LIVE AND SMILE DESPITE WHAT I AM GOING THROUGH.)
Isipin mo ang dami mong dinaanan sa kalye. Mga 11-13 years old ka na pero ang dami mong kinaya. Ilang taon ka kayang mag-isa sa kalye? Nakatikim ka kaya ng pagmamahal sa isang tao nung baby ka? Bakit ka kaya napunta sa kalye? Sino nanakit sa iyo? (Imagine, you went through a lot of difficulties. You were already 11-13 years old but you had to endure so many challenges. I wonder how many years you were alone on the street as a stray? Did you ever feel loved even by just one person when you were a baby? How did you end up on the street? Who hurt you (or abandoned you?)
Hindi ko na malalaman ang mga sagot sa mga tanong ko pero saludo ako sa iyo. (I will never know the answers but I salute you.)
Nang makuha ka namin, hirap kang mag-balanse ng katawan. (When we got you from the street, you cannot stand straight or balance yourself.) You were limping. We knew a car hit you and the driver didn’t stop to help you. But your fracture healed yet it left you limping.
And you were having difficulty moving your bowels then.
We brought you to the clinic where your spleen and cervix were removed kasi nabubulok na. (The organs were rotting.) You survived the surgery, babe. We were so happy.
You had heartworm and we had that treated. You endured months of injections. But you survived that, too.
You had bacterial infection—something a senior like you is prone to—and you survived once again.
Sabi nga ni Doc Anthony Prado Basa, para kang pusa, ang dami mong buhay. (As Doc Anthony Prado Basa said, you’re like a cat, you have many lives.)
Then you stopped eating and we learned you had hardened poop and hairball as big as a small frisbee in your colon. Despite your age, you survived the surgery.
You were in and out of the clinic but you stayed longer at “home,” you liked being at the adoption center, you liked watching the dogs and people pass by, you liked running around the garage and the garden, you liked simple things. Yes, simple things pleased you and made you smile.
And all this time, you were never free of illness. Your life on the streets battered your body. But it failed to kill your love for the simple things in life, it never killed your love FOR LIFE ITSELF. This is my greatest lesson from you, my dearest one: Love life. Every moment is a treasure.
When we first met you, ang tapang mo! (You were aggressive.) You growled and snapped at us. Hirap kami bigyan ka ng pagkain. (We had difficulty giving you food.)
But we knew you just didn’t trust people, that people must have hurt you many times in the past, that you were not really aggressive, that you never intended to bite us. We knew you only wanted to protect yourself.
You would keep to a corner of your cage which you would hesitate to leave for a long time and we knew your cage became your sanctuary, a place to be left alone for once and be away from people who would hurt you or dogs as fearful as you who would fight with you for food out of hunger. You would snap at us to keep us away because you feared humans. But never, not once, did you bite any of us.
So we waited for you to trust us.
We gave you a bed and you enjoyed the softness of the mattress inside. We gave you natural food which you liked so much or dry dog food with water which you can chew more easily, Dentastix, and liver or banana-oatmeal muffins and you started to believe we do not mean you harm.
The waiting paid off.
You started to warm up to us.
You started to lick our hand.
You smiled and smiled and smiled.
And finally, you allowed your human Ate Nicole Benedito, a Save ALL admin, to carry you.
And then you would walk towards Save ALL officers with that charming smile on your face every time they would go to the center.
And then you would greet me with a wagging tail and would even go round and round your cage or the garage of the adoption center in joy. That beautiful smile always made me so happy that we—Loribert Sobrio Bersabe, Nicole Benedito, Candy Galero and I—rescued you on July 27, 2015 in Don Antonio, Barangay Holy Spirit, Quezon City.
Eleven months have passed. Eleven months full of wonderful memories from a dog whose gentle face, soulful eyes, and beautiful smile captured our hearts.
About 12 days after your successful surgery, you were diagnosed with ehrlichia. Your body temperature went down, your creatinin and bun (these indicate the condition of the kidneys) levels went up, and your kidney was giving you too much pain.
When you were given a medicine to ease the pain, and when I was told your condition this afternoon… na wala na… na hindi ka na nag-re-respond and may neurological symptoms ka na (that you were no longer responding and had neurological symptoms already)… part of a song entitled Wild Flower kept playing in my mind..
“She’s faced the hardest times you can imagine…
Let her cry, for she’s a lady
Let her dream, for she’s a child
Let the rain fall down upon her
She’s a free and gentle flower
And if by chance that I should hold her
Let me hold her for a time
But if allowed just one possession
I would pick her from the garden to be mine.”
My wildflower, my Holly, I love you so much.
Enjoy Heaven, dear. You deserve it.