I have a neighbor who lives in a building next door whom Dea, my poodle and I saw multiple times a day as we both walked our dogs in the nearby Riverside Park. Her dog, a German Shephard mix was a sweet and docile dog who was also a therapy dog to children who have emotional problems. Dea loved to sniff her face and butt and this dog was always respectful and friendly to Dea allowing her to do all the sniffing without even a grumble. My neighbor was attached to her dog like an appendage just like I am to my wonderful dog, Dea.
A few weeks ago, I noticed that my neighbor’s dog had terrible difficulty walking as her legs would slide almost like she was skiing on the pavement. I observed that she was wearing special pads on her paws and I asked my neighbor what they were for. She told me to help her dog to not slip on the pavement. “Is it helpful?” I asked, so hoping that it was. She said “yes, a bit.” Then suddenly a week or so later I saw my neighbor across from her building with her dog who was lying on the ground. She mouthed to me that her dog couldn’t get up. I felt a pang of terror inside of me as I witnessed my neighbor getting her dog into a car with the help of the driver, to take her to the Vet.
The next morning, I saw that my neighbor had posted on Facebook her beloved dog had gone to the “Rainbow Bridge.” The tears steamed down my face like a heavy rain dripping down a window pane as I held onto Dea tightly. The “Rainbow Bridge” is where these beautiful spirits we call dogs go when they die from this earth. We believe that they go to this picturesque place in Doggie Heaven where they are free of whatever illness or ailments that had taken over their bodies. They are eating, running and playing together, and many of us believe that one day we will be reunited with them too. That is the hope, anyway.
I was not a close friend of my neighbor but I immediately reached out to her and offered anything I could to be helpful even though I knew there was nothing I could do to assuage her grief and pain. It is a pain so profound and deep it causes your body to ache as much as your heart feels heavy and broken into pieces. My neighbor thanked me every time I wrote her as I tried to offer solace but I understood how difficult this grieving time would be. She lives alone and her dog was her world. I know that feeling all too well. When my first dog Alba died, I was also alone and the pain of her loss became part of my DNA. I was so overwhelmed with grief I couldn’t get out of bed nor did I want to go out for weeks. Plus, the constant rumination that maybe I should have waited before I ended her suffering. But, I understood, that when a trusted Vet tells you your dog, who is like your child, is in distress and there is nothing anyone can do, you instantly go into the helping your dog mode to just take away their suffering. Then you immediately experience a grief unlike any other because you were their voice. You were all they had.
After a few weeks my neighbor agreed to take a walk and have a drink with me and Dea. I knew it was important to let her vent about the loss and pain as we walked aimlessly in the park, with Dea pulling on the lead wanting to walk next to her. I told my neighbor how much Dea loved to go on the swings down by the Hudson River and we all sat on a swing for a few minutes, Dea on my lap, me holding her with one arm and pushing the swing with the other. Dea in the Lalaland of happiness was at complete ease lying in my lap. Then we all went to an outdoor café in the park and sat down for a glass of wine. That’s when Dea began her magic. She knew she was desperately needed.
Dea is an enchanting dog. She is also the most outwardly loving dog I have ever had. I have written about how Dea gives strangers knee hugs for minutes at a time, clinging to their legs like a Kuala bear, and they tell me that hug was the nicest thing that happened to them all day.
When we were all seated, I asked my neighbor, “would you like Dea to sit on your lap?” And she said and emphatic yes.
In the beginning Dea was squirming on my neighbor’s lap, kissing her all over her face, ears and hands. When she finally settled down, Dea was staring a me from across the table, making sure it was all OK with me. “Good girl, Dea” I said as I nodded my approval.
As I watched my neighbor pet and caress Dea I knew how important it was for her to feel a dog in her arms again. Simply the touch of a dog helps so many people with illnesses, phobias sadness and loneliness. But mostly I noticed that my neighbor’s face slowly changed from anguish and pain to softened and relaxed as she felt the love from Dea. It was like peeling the layers off an onion, for those few moments, when I watched my neighbor becoming peaceful and calm, at least outwardly. This was all due to Dea’s spirit and loving behavior. My neighbor told me that our outside visit with Dea helped her and that was the best feeling of all.
My dogter, Dea came to the rescue and answered her SOS call. I am some lucky dog mother.