I don’t know where I have heard this phrase before. I am sure I didn’t make it up myself. But it has a new and very real meaning to me now that it never had before. This came about when I had to make that very hard decision about a Westie in the care of our Rescue. We took this little 11 year old girl in last spring. Her name was Paddington and she showed evidence of not having had a very good life, at least not in the last few years. Her surrendering family indicated that she had been living largely in their damp basement since their children had grown up and gone on their own ways.
Paddington had multiple problems that her wonderful foster family (Carolyn Spress) worked long and hard to “fix”. She came to us with the comment that her eyes were a bit runny and we were handed an out-of-date tube of medication. And she had had allergies that had caused her to chew off the end of her tail some years before. She was not being treated for these allergies but they had docked her tail so she could not chew it any further. Paddington came in the door of her foster home, looked around, saw the other Westie and various other dogs and animals, and what was left of her tail went straight up in the air! Shortly after the owner left, we went out in the yard and she seemed to be a happy camper.
Paddington went to the vet (Dr. Michalski) almost immediately and we began to get a grocery list of problems. She was put on medication to control her arthritis and allow her to be comfortable again. She was put on prescription dog food that kept her allergies largely under control. (Her foster mom learned quickly that she could not tolerate peanut butter at all!) Paddington was treated for various yeast and other infections on her skin and feet. She was almost totally deaf until we got her teeth cleaned and they were able to do a deep cleaning of her ears at the same time. After that her hearing seemed to be very good.
The big problem came with her eyes. Remember the eyes that were “a bit runny”? Paddington had serious problems. She had no working tear ducts and her dry eyes were allowing a series of infections and virus to create all kinds of problems. Her foster mom had to wipe her eyes many times a day to keep them clean. Various medications were tried, some were tried again by a second doctor. In the end, the only solution was to give her a fairly expensive surgery to move saliva ducts into her eyes. Until this could happen, her sight was failing and could be lost. We agreed to pay for the surgery and made the appointment.
But one final problem arose. When Paddington was first in this home, she began to attack another, much larger dog. Her foster mom worked with our wonderful Westie Trainer, Deb Duncan, and this problem was resolved. But as Paddy’s eyesight failed, this dog aggression problem reappeared and was much worse. Paddy began attacking another rescue dog. She chose to pick on one who was rather meek and would not fight back. And her attacks came without any warning…no growls or snarls….just an immediately attack. Our trainer helped to identify triggers so that the situations could be avoided but the day came when she again attacked this dog and did serious damage a second time. The foster home, which had hoped to adopt Paddy, had to finally say “enough” and gave her up. They couldn’t control her and couldn’t accept putting their other animals at risk.
We totally agreed with them on this. None of us would accept living with a dog that might do serious harm to one of our own. And we had to face the hard facts of adoption. Even after her surgery, Paddy could no longer be placed in a home with other dogs. Paddy would have to find an owner who was willing to take on an eleven-year-old dog with multiple medical problems and now serious socialization problems which meant no other pets in the home. Because Paddy had bitten the humans during the process of breaking up the one-sided fights, we had to consider potential liability problems also.
Paddy went to another foster home. Of course there were other dogs there too so she had to be isolated at all times. This made Paddy very unhappy. She was a little girl who wanted to have a human of her own and wanted that human to be with her at all times. Even when she was able to see the other dogs and the humans from another room, she was unhappy and very vocal.
This was so unfair to Paddy. Even if we had gotten the surgery, she would have been living in isolation for weeks or months while we searched for a forever home for her. Paddy had finally found a good home and was happy for that last year of her life. She was loved and she knew it. We couldn’t ruin that last year by leaving her in an unbearable living situation out of the mistaken idea that we were being kind to her. This is what I saw as a “terrible kindness”. In the process of trying to help her, we would have been hurting her horribly.
So we were forced to make that awful decision. This was the first time for our Rescue effort. Even though I knew what the right answer was, I sought the opinion of Dr. Theodoroff. I needed to confirm my thoughts through someone who has seen this many times. Dr. Theodoroff checked Paddy over, and explained exactly what would happen. He allowed me to stay and hold her during those last few moments. She was, at that time, much quieter and more peaceful than she had been since she left her foster family. It took only moments and she simply wasn’t there any longer. It seemed so anticlimactic.
Paddy is now waiting for her foster mom at the Rainbow Bridge. I am sure she is happier now than she ever was during her lifetime. She isn’t in pain, she can see and she knows how much she was loved. She knows that we did all we could for her and I can hear her saying “Thank you for letting me go”.
A VERY SPECIAL THANK YOU TO:
Her foster family for taking such loving care of Paddy.
Veterinarians, Dr. K. Michalski of Serenity Animal Hospital, Sterling Heights and
Dr. B. Theodoroff of Animal Medical Center, Rochester Hills.
And our trainer, Deb Duncan, COME, SIT, STAY ….canine etiquette
UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN
I will never know what I did to deserve such an awful life full of abuse and neglect.
My life had become so sad and lonely, it was like living in an endless, dark tunnel.
I remember looking up one day and seeing a bright light shining at the end of the tunnel.
The light was so bright that I thought that God must have sent an angel to finally end my suffering.
God did send an angel, he sent you.
The bright light I had seen was your smiling face.
You promised me that my days of neglect and abuse were over.
My battered body and broken spirit hardly dared to believe it was true.
You opened your heart and your home and gave me more love, comfort and safety than I had ever known before.
You gave me the softest bed my tired, aching bones had ever felt and more toys and attention than I had ever dreamed existed.
I no longer cringed when a hand was raised near me, because your hands had only kindness and treats to offer.
I no longer feared the sound of feet approaching, because your feet had never kicked me,
they had only taken me on wonderful adventures to exciting new places.
Although “quantity” of time can be measured in days and weeks, there is no way to measure the “quality” of time.
So there is no way to really measure just how deeply your love and devotion affected my life.
But sometimes, even love and devotion and all the medical attention in the world
can’t heal a body that has been battered and broken for too long. So please do not be sad that I am gone.
You performed a miracle in what little time we had together.
You made my spirits soar and helped my soul find peace and contentment.
From the day I met you I never suffered again, not even at the end.
Just knowing, that my memory would live in your heart forever,
gave me the strength to let go and find my way to Rainbow Bridge.
So go forward from today with only happy memories of me in your heart
and let them give you the strength to keep on lighting up sad, lost lives.
Remember I will live forever in your heart and in the stars up above
and my star will shine brighter with every life that’s touched by your love.
“Until we meet again…”