“You have to get it through your head that the dog won’t live forever.” This was the advice my dad began offering up to me as my dog approached double digits. And my response was always the same.
“Nope. We will always be together,” I would say back to him. And then I would hear the sigh of resignation. The sound he has made so many times before when he realized there wasn’t any way to convince me I might be incorrect.
No big surprise to this story, right? I lost him. I had to make that decision every pet parent dreads. And on Valentine’s Day 2012, I made good on the promise I gave my sweet dog two weeks prior when the vet told me he had cancer. I looked at this dog that I knew wasn’t going to get any better, who wasn’t himself anymore, and whose suffering was beyond the level I could bear him to be in. The vet assured me afterwards that he wouldn’t have made it through the night.
I walked away from that encounter in the most visible and physical grief I have ever experienced. So, when I began getting cards from people, the idea of the Rainbow Bridge cropped up. I hadn’t really heard of it. Most of you, particularly those who have experienced this loss, probably have. This is where your pet goes when they die and wait to rejoin you.
Deborah Barnes, author of Purr Prints of the Heart (and a Facebook page of the same name) started Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day. It is celebrated annually on August 28th, the date she lost her cat in 2013.
Barnes told positivelywoof.com that “Rainbow Bridge Remembrance Day is a special day for pet guardians to honor the memory of those beloved pets in their life they have loved and lost, but have never forgotten. Whether fur, fin, feathers, scales or something else, this is a day to remember and honor them.” She added, “I know it’s a sad day for many, but it’s also a beautiful day. The outpouring of love I see is so touching as people share the love they had (and still have) for their pet(s). It’s a time we can all take a moment to collectively come together and comfort one another.”
You can share your photos or memories by using the hashtag #rainbowbridgerembranceday.
As for me, I picked out a copper urn and saved my dog’s favorite toys and his collar (including the blue puppy collar I bought him when we fell in love with each other). Every February 14th, I celebrate Spooky Remembrance Day with a treat he would have enjoyed and talk to people who loved him as much as I did. And in a way, once I tucked my once-in-a-lifetime dog deep into the crevices of my heart, he really is always with me. So, I guess I’ll have to tell my dad I was right when I said we would always be together.