We’ve been listening to an audiobook called The Loss of a Pet: A Guide to Coping with the Grieving Process When a Pet Dies by Wallace Sife. After listening to 4 chapters, here’s what I know:
- I could write a better book for people like me, men or others who need help learning how to grieve; and
- Beth and I would be great audiobook narrators.
So, today, I am going to indulge in an exercise that was suggested to me by our friend, Erin. I did it once before and found it very helpful. Here goes:
It’s Bradley here – coming to you as your songs do – from a place in your heart. Thanks for allowing me to be here to help you. I don’t like to see you suffer and I definitely want to help you through your grief. I love you! Anything I can do for you is my pleasure.
The bond we share isn’t broken. I know you’re not loving the book you’re listening to, but that’s one thing the author got right. The love between us is a forever thing. I’ll always be here in your heart when you need to be reminded that I love you, that you were a great friend, and never let me down – ever.
I remember all of the times that you cooked food for me. I don’t know what I did to deserve home-cooked meals filled with yummy ground beef or turkey, but I can tell you this: mealtime was a joyous moment every day. Thank you to you and Beth for spending lots of money on me, for the time it took to cook the food, and for never missing my twice-a-day meals. I’m going on like this about food because I know it’s a passion we share!
We also shared a love for petting. You knew how to scratch that special place at the base of my spine. I’ll never forget how you would pause in your day, get down on the carpet and just pet me for a few minutes. I hope that you got some joy out of that, too. (BTW, the author of the book mentioned that petting is a two-way street. He got that right, as well.)
I know that not having me with you means that your routine, the one we had together, is going to change. This is going to take some time to heal.
From the time you woke up to the moment you went to bed, every day was filled with taking care of me. I have been your perennial small child, a being who needed you in order to survive. You and Beth cleaned up after me in many, many states and I’ll never forget it.
Speaking of states, thank you for taking me on Beth & Scott’s Adventure. In 2021, I saw the states from New York to Montana and back. And in 2022, we traveled for 7 months together visiting a heckuva lot of places. I loved being with you, sniffing my way across the country and enjoying waterfalls, other dogs and sleeping in the pickup truck. Boy, I’m gonna miss that spot in the truck. Thanks go to Beth for buying me a comfy rug and letting that be “Bradley’s Spot.” I felt like a King! (Please thank her, again.)
Beyond all of the places, the spaces, the food, and the petting was something more. I want to tell you this and have you really, really hear it. Are you listening?
You are special, not because you’re a great man (which you are) but because you treated me like a great dog. You do know how to love, nurture and give up your time and energy for others. I am saying this because I know that a part of you worries that you’re not enough, that you let your wife, parents, or kids down because you don’t love them enough. This is a bullshit story and I want you to let it go. There is nothing wrong with how you love or take care of others. On the contrary, you are one of the most gentle, caring humans on the planet. I should know. You cared for me for 14 years and ALL of that time was, in my opinion, absolutely wonderful because of you. Let that sink in, my fellow grey-haired being!
Good. You felt that. Now, that space where you felt it is where I’ll be. It’s at the center of you. And all of the other stuff of life – being a householder, musician, money-maker, etc – is nowhere near as important as how you love.
The game of fetch never interested me because I wasn’t here to play games. You and I enjoyed something more than chasing a ball: being with one another in that feeling place. I’d like to take some credit for being at your side (and at your family’s side) every single time the feelings flew around the house, the camper, or the truck, and all of the times that music filled the house. I felt it all and I was part of it all, too.
Remember how I got closer to you when you were upset or confused or sad or angry or happy? I do. That’s what I was put on this earth to be – a companion who didn’t leave you. Your dad left and I know you had the thought, “I wasn’t important enough for him to stay.” I know that this thought has troubled you. When a parent leaves and is selfish, the child suffers. That must be really hard for you humans.
I don’t remember my mother and I never met my father. As a dog, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about such things, but I think part of my sadness must be a memory of how I was left to die in a shelter in Alabama. Luckily, I came up north with a van full of other dogs, and your daughters, Steph and Helen, picked me to be your new dog. Thank God! (God is dog spelled backward, btw.)
Every time you pet me, I felt happier because deep down, like you, I think I carried some legacy of sadness from being left alone. We’re alike in that way. In fact, most pets and their owners relate on that level – even if they’re not conscious of it. Why else have a pet? And why do so many people get rescue dogs? I think we come together to heal our broken hearts and get stronger. I think we’re two gentle, loving species who need one another. That’s my canine wisdom and I’m sticking with it.
Let’s talk again. I have nothing else to do now except enjoy the memories. So, let’s agree to share more of them, soon. And remember – I’m not leaving. I’m here, always, and all you have to do is give a whistle and I’ll come running.