Maggie was my first greyhound. She awakened my love for all things canine and was the start of my life with dogs. We spent ten years together. Then we found out she had congestive heart disease and probably only three to six months to live. She was on a cocktail of drugs that made her seem like a youngster again. I thought she surely would surpass that prognosis. Until that fateful morning. Maggie woke me early and I took her out to potty. She came back in and wanted up on the bed. I helped her up onto the bed and crawled in on the other side. She plopped herself down and we just started our everyday ritual: watching the morning news while I rubbed and loved on her. She started to pant, a heavy pant. “What’s wrong Mag?” I asked, and continued stroking her, giving kisses to calm her. Suddenly, all four of her legs tightened in a spasm and she was gone. In an instant she was just gone. Massive heart attack. I was devastated. But later I came to be comforted knowing that Maggie was exactly where she wanted to be, doing what she most adored: lying next to her mama, getting rubbed and loved on. We should all be so lucky to go like that!
Three weeks after losing Maggie, my Harry was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a diagnosis that is almost always a death sentence. Harry was on a pain management program of Fentanyl patches and Tramadol but the bone cancer was just too aggressive. Up to a point the pain patches seemed to manage the pain, but his fourth pain patch gave him no relief whatsoever. He cried out in pain and looked at me with pleading eyes. I told him I understood and not to worry because I wouldn’t let him suffer.
I thought it best to try to explain to him what was going on. How do you explain death to a dog? I laid on the bed with him and we were facing each other. I just started talking. I told him that he had a horrible cancer and I couldn’t make it go away. I told him that soon I’d have to release him, that Dr. Willis would be coming over and afterward he wouldn’t feel any more pain. And that he’d have a new home, even better than the home he had at our house and he’d get to see Maggie, Bella & Takala again. I told him how much I loved him and how I hated that dreadful disease; how very blessed I was that he came into my life and how very empty my heart was going to feel when he was no longer here. And on and on I talked, for what seemed like an hour, and his eyes NEVER left mine. Not once! I knew that he truly understood everything I was saying.
The next day, Harry was again up on my bed. When I came into the room he moved to change position and let out a painful scream. I moved one of the pillows that surrounded him –I had built him a little “fort” out of big fluffy pillows so he wouldn’t roll out of bed…which he so often did in better days!– and sat down next to him. He reached out for me with his front paw and put it on my chest. He looked up at me and I asked him, “Harry, are you ready to go?” He then reached over and kissed my lips with his nose. And I knew. It was time. He knew it too.
So for his breakfast I cooked him a big steak, a baked potato with melted butter and cheddar cheese plus a side of cooked carrots. For dessert he had some of his birthday cake (he had just turned 10 a few days before).
Harry was in his favorite spot, the middle of my bed, and that’s where he would stay until the end. When Dr. Willis called to say she was on her way, I thought about what music channel to put on, what music would Harry like most. I chose the Classic Rock channel because that’s what we always listen to and the dogs are used to it. I flipped over to that channel and Steve Miller’s FLY LIKE AN EAGLE was playing. “How neat is that?!” I thought. More astonishing is what happened just after the injection. When Harry’s heart stopped beating, Dr. Willis whispered “Look at what song is playing right now.” I looked up at the screen: it was Paul McCartney & Wings’ LET ‘EM IN. Just then the lyrics being sung were:
Someone’s knockin’ at the door Somebody’s ringin’ the bell Do me a favor, open the door and let (him) in…
And at that moment, I knew Harry had arrived safe and sound in his new Heavenly home.
Within just six weeks, I had lost two of my furkids and Dodgy went from being in a pack of three to being an only dog. He was depressed for quite some time and I was doing all I could to help him move through his grief. Dodgy loved to go for rides so I took him just about everywhere I went. And boy, did he get spoiled! He would come wake me in the middle of the night and I assumed he wanted to go out to pee but when I’d go out to the garage and open the dog-run door, instead of following me out, he’d go stand by the rear tire of my truck and just look at me. I’d say, “Dodgy, it is 3:00 in the morning. We’re not going for a ride right now.” I ended up saying that a lot!
As time went on, Dodgy came out of his depression and he really relished being an only dog. We had settled into a nice routine but sadly, seven months after losing Maggie and Harry, Dodgy died from a sudden Hemangiosarcoma. And then I found myself in a dog-less household. But I knew that my dogs were still around me. I had asked my angels to help me recognize when my dogs’ spirits are near me. The afternoon of Dodgy’s death, I was sitting on the edge of my bed when all of the sudden a cat, who I had never seen before (and haven’t seen since) came on my deck and right up to my window, looked in and we held eye contact for a few seconds and then it was gone in a flash. I couldn’t help but think that cat was an angel messenger, letting me know that Dodge had made it ‘home’ safe.
The following days I kept hearing collar tags jingle. Tags jingling in an empty house. One night I woke up to a rainstorm. I absolutely love storms and immediately felt heartache when realizing it was my first rainstorm without Dodge. I went out onto the deck and sat for a while watching it rain. I always liked to see the water pour off the roof in the dog-run so I went through the garage and just as I opened the dog-run door I heard tags jingling, as if Dodgy were coming around the corner. As I finished watching the rain, I closed the door and upon turning to go back in, something caught my eye. I walked over to find a long black feather lying on the garage floor next to the rear tire of my truck…in the same spot that Dodge had stood so many times in the middle of the night when he wanted to go for a ride. A message from my Dodgy!
Messages from our dogs come in so many ways.Just last week, I was thinking about Hannah, my foster dog who recently had to be released. I was outside working in the yard and she had been on my mind. I came back in and as I was about to slip my feet into my house shoes, I was stopped abruptly by the sight of a tiny white feather on the inside of my shoe!
Harry revved up the Harley Davidson motorcycle toy when no one was near the toy….and coincidentally, just after I had just been talking about him!
The belly-band that had belonged to my Finnegan, who passed from Lymphoma three years ago, was lying in the middle of the doorway one day when I got home. It had been on the chair when I left. Apparently he just dropped in to say Hi.
There is no doubt that my dogs are with me. They come to visit me in my dreams often. When your dogs appear in your dreams they have just paid you a loving visit. When Maggie died, one of my friends said that Maggie was probably up at the Rainbow Bridge with her tail wagging and her wings forming and that she would create movement with those wings and when she did, I would feel the wind on my face and the love in my heart. It happened to be magnificently and exceptionally windy the day after Maggie passed. And now, when the gentle breezes nudge me to awareness and a sudden gust roars as it brushes my hair, I feel the souls of my beloved dogs caressing my face.
Your dogs will always show themselves. May you always be open to the signs so you can know that your dogs are around you too.