One of my sisters lost her wonderful 14-year-old dog a few months ago. Harold was a charmer. He was also what we referred to as a “gentleman dog.” Harold had great dog manners. He never jumped up on anyone, he never barked too loudly or too long and he was always ready to jump into my sister’s car and go for a ride. Harold was always very tolerant and patient with children and adults alike. Even other dogs and kitties were no problem for his gentle nature. In other words, Harold was an amazing boy. His love and devotion for my sister knew no bounds. He was her sounding board, her listener, her companion, her barometer, her watch dog and her front-door greeter. They were bonded together with the stickiest permanent glue ever made. And even though Harold is gone now, I believe the glue that held my sister and Harold together is still partially in place.
Rosie has always been a great animal lover and has had many dogs and kitties over the years. She has also had to say good-bye to many of them when they became sick and simply could not go on any longer. Those of us who have helped our pets to pass on know that it never gets any easier, no matter how often we’ve needed to be a part of this difficult process. Each animal’s death hurts us to the core. It reveals in us a vulnerability in watching a loving companion grow old and get sick. And we are powerless to stop it. When the end finally comes, the grief is sometimes more than we can bear. Our hearts are broken and the sadness we feel seems like it will never end. Then one day, the grief lessens and we are able to remember our dear friend with smiles instead of tears. And even though we know that we will eventually have to face an end of life time with another pet, that doesn’t stop us from going back for more of that furry love and affection. So, we take another animal into our lives and promise to always care for them. This says a lot about the kind of people we are and about our need to have a warm being in our lives who knows who we are and what we’re about and still loves us unconditionally – no matter what we say, do or believe.
In trying to help my sister find an older dog to adopt, I spent hours combing through websites of shelters and rescues; the big ones and the little ones. Just when I thought I had found a good dog for her, something always changed my mind. After looking at many, many dogs on line and feeling that I just couldn’t find the “right” dog for my sister, I stepped away from my computer so I could rationally think about what I was doing. What exactly was I looking for? There are so many wonderful dogs who need homes. Surely there is one who would be a good companion for my sister. After several days of thinking about my problem, it suddenly dawned on me that what I was looking for in all of these shelters and rescues was “Harold.” As much as I wish I could find a “Harold” clone for my sister, I know this just isn’t possible. Nor would my sister want this. There’s only one Harold who lives in her heart and in her memories. And this is the way it should be.
After having this revelation, I decided to start the search again. But this time I will use new eyes and new expectations. There is an older dog somewhere who will fit into my sister’s life and who will be a wonderful, loving companion for her. And in return, my sister will love and care for this dog because of who he/she is and not as a replacement for her dear Harold.
There are some animal communicators who can probably talk with shelter animals without a problem. I am not one of them.
You may be wondering why I haven’t tried talking with some of these dogs to see if one of them would be a good match for my sister. The short answer is that I can’t. When I get a request from a client to talk with their pet, I can feel the bond between human and animal. I can feel attachment. I have “solid ground” under my feet when connecting and talking with a pet. With shelter animals, there is no bond, no attachment to a loving owner. Without this bond and attachment, there is no structure in which I can frame a conversation with an animal. It’s like a boat floating free of its mooring, not connected to anything or anyone. The boat may have had a previous owner and even own a name, but now, in the present moment, it’s floating in the sea without an anchor.
Clients will sometimes contact me about talking with a pet they just adopted from a shelter. Bonds and attachments can take some time to form between humans and pets… especially shelter pets who have been placed in the shelter for all sorts of reasons, some of which are very troubling. So while I’m happy to talk with a new pet, I’m hesitant to schedule a conversation until the pet has lived with their new family for at least 3-4 months, or longer in some cases. Waiting allows some time for the human and pet to get to know each other and start to work on those essential building blocks that will eventually lead to a firm attachment to each other.
There are some animal communicators who can probably talk with shelter animals without a problem. I’m not one of them. And I’m not sure I want to be. The dear volunteers who work at the many animal shelters and rescues do angels’ work. They take care of homeless pets (many times at their own expense) and give them a chance to be adopted into safe, loving, forever homes. But talking to an animal who is stuck in a cage or if they’re lucky, living with a foster family, wouldn’t give me a true picture of a pet’s personality and demeanor. So I choose not to do it.
I’ll continue my dog search for my sister. And soon, she will have another wonderful pup in her life. Harold will always live in a corner of my sister’s heart. Memories of his love and devotion will never leave her. But now it’s time for new stories to be told and new memories to be made.
Blessings to you and your furry friends.