Expanding Hearts

The hardest part for me was the change of routine, followed by having two less birthdays to celebrate, and then the fact that our house seemed too quiet, too clean. Every time we went for a walk, no companions. Every time we’d come home, no wagging tails. Every time we’d wake up, no pitter-patter of paws. Even though I put all the bowls, blankets, and toys away, reminders were everywhere. The couch under the front window where they would lounge and watch the world go by. The spa they climbed up onto where they laid on its cover to soak up the sun. The waterfall where they ambled along rocks and stepped into the flowing water.

Kashi and Capers, 2020

We miss them. They treated us like rock stars, always greeting us with such fanfare. They showed their affection, cuddling up next to us or on our laps. They invited us to play, bringing us their favorite toys. The two of them brightened each day just by being with us.

It’s been 13 months since we had to say good-bye to our beloved beagle, Kashi only eight years old, who suffered from spinal meningitis. And only five months prior, Capers at ten, died after a short bout with cancer. Both deaths were unexpected, both sudden. There wasn’t much time to process the first passing, before the second happened. The loss felt heavy, profound, overwhelming. 

It is often expressed how unfair it is that these beings who bring us so much happiness, always leave us too soon. It doesn’t matter how long they have spent with us, it never feels long enough. Agnes S. Turnbull said, “Dogs lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” Many times upon hearing of Kashi and Capers deaths people asked, “Are you getting another dog soon?” I know these folks were well-intentioned as no one wants to see or feel another’s pain. And while some owners get a new pup right away, we needed more time. More time to work through the shock, disbelief, sadness, then gradual acceptance.

From my journal: January 8, 2022, Newbury Park, California

“This is an awful state to be in…I feel physically and emotionally very sick right now. We don’t want to bring Kashi to the vets, but it’s the right thing to do…I don’t want to play God with her life, but if she can’t function, then I don’t want her to suffer…”

Once home from the vets that day, we just cried. Not only because we had witnessed the end of her life, but that’s when the gut punch feeling hit. The one that says maybe we made a mistake. Then the doubt crept in. Leaving us to wonder, could she have recovered?

Remembrance Beagles

Not long after Kashi’s death, my sister Donna sent us a solar light beagle statue. We put it in our Zen garden in remembrance of her. Then we decided to buy another to honor Caper’s life, too. They sit on a chair and face our dining room window. After a day in the sun, they light up in the dark. Each evening as we sit down to have our dinner, we can see them out there shining bright. It’s like their spirits are still with us.   

A few months ago, I came across the 1996 summer copy of Fetch the Paper, the issue my first article was published in. Perusing the pages, I began reading the Letters & Words section. In it was a letter from a person named Shiloh. She was responding to an article the editor had written about the loss of her dog. Shiloh said she often wondered why our pets have such short life spans compared to people. Then she offered two thoughts. One, if our first pets had lived on, then we wouldn’t have experienced the lives of the ones that came later. I’d like to think that’s true. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on spending time with and learning from each of my childhood pets, Clyde, Ringo, Tobie, Caesar, Hannibal, Zeppelin, Ziggy and Jean. And second, she said maybe each pet’s life is the right length for “them” and our respective lifetimes are in alignment with the great cycle of life. Perhaps, we are always at the right place, at the right time, together.

Kashi and Capers aren’t our only dogs who have crossed the rainbow bridge. Our first beagle, Bagel and second one, Lox lived long and happy lives along side us. Their passings felt a little different, maybe because of the amount of time they were on this earth and how long ago they graced us with their presences. But a loss is a loss and it’s sometimes hard to find solace.

Bagel and Lox, 1992

We’d been toying with the idea of getting a new member of the family for awhile now. Recently Robert showed me a website from a breeder in Fresno, a 3 ½ jaunt north of us.  On it we saw many beagles, but one in particular clicked with us. Not one of the younger pups, but the only one not adopted from an earlier litter. We made the journey to the farm and I’m happy to say, we are fur parents once again welcoming a 6-month-old male beagle named Kippers, into our home and into our lives.

Author Erica Jong said, “Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love. They depart to teach us about loss. A new dog never replaces an old dog, it merely expands the heart. If you have loved many dogs, your heart is very big.” I’m not sure how big our hearts are, but I do know they are beginning to fill once again, with love. Pure, sweet, puppy love.

Welcome Home Kippers!

8 thoughts on “Expanding Hearts

  1. Ooh, Kippers is a beautiful boy! He’s lucky having you as his owner/fur parents as he’ll lead a wonderful life; no dog will be loved more.

    The loss of any pet is tough and I get a lump in my throat when I think of an expression I heard once, “when you die and go to heaven, all the pets you’ve ever loved come running to meet you”. Such a lovely thought!


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