Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support, Education & Remembrance

Pets and Healing

February 27, 2019 | By Suzanne Wells | General

The year was 1971.  I was just 2 years old on the day that my family welcomed a new puppy, our first pet, in to our home.  There were no photos taken on that day of my earliest childhood memory, but I remember it clearly – the anticipation, the excitement, and the beginning of a 10- year love-affair with our beautiful Shetland sheepdog, Sheena.  Thus, began my life-long affection for animals; after Sheena there was Sandy – a retriever mix who loved to play- then Bunny, the cat who slept with me all through my college years, despite my non-stop sneezing.  Each one left an indelible impression on me, and I remember each of them with great fondness.  But it wasn’t until I adopted my most recent pet, Roxy, that I experienced something unexpected, something beautiful.  She has touched my heart in a way that I never thought possible. 

A couple of years after we got married, my husband and I decided to start a family.  In what seemed like a ‘snap’, we were subsequently blessed with 2 healthy pregnancies resulting in 2 beautiful, precious sons who are now ages 7 and 9.  We had always hoped and planned to have three children, but sadly, we lost our next 3 pregnancies at various stages.  After three years filled with pain, tears, emergency room/hospital visits, and the discovery of an underlying medical condition that put me at higher risk during pregnancy, we ultimately came to the realization that we were ready to ‘dream a new dream’.  This new dream involved focusing on the abundance in our lives rather than the disappointment and pain of losing 3 precious babies.  Over time, our dream has become a reality.  Our grief has slowly given way to acceptance and even joy.  I am grateful that my sense of loss no longer consumes me; rather, it floats through me, then slowly melts away.  Of course, there are still times that I mourn the loss of my daughter and my other two angel babies.  During family events, I often feel like there is someone missing.  I know that will never change.  But now, the anger and sadness have given way to peace. 

Suzanne and Roxy

Enter Roxy.  We adopted her about a month ago from the El Cajon Animal Shelter.  A beautiful, sweet and gentle chocolate lab, she loves people and is slowly learning to overcome her fear of big dogs.  My husband, who grew up with black labs, was the one who first spotted her.  He was instantly hooked.  My initial thought was – “Labs are great family dogs, so I’m sure she’ll be a good choice”.  Still, I didn’t sense that instant connection that my husband (and kids!) seemed to.  In any case, we brought her home, gave her a bath and began the process of acclimating ourselves to her, and her to us.  It had been several months since we’d had a dog in the house (our Akita, Kaeno, had passed away in April at age 15), so we were a little out of practice.  Though hectic at times, it was wonderful to have ‘doggie’ energy in the house again.  But then something unexpected happened.  About three days after she came home with us, I was sitting by myself at the kitchen table eating a bowl of cereal, and she was lying at my feet (as she does most days, as she is right now, in fact!).  I looked down at her sweet, beautiful face, and all of a sudden, I began to cry.  The same kind of crying that used to come when I would think about my precious babies, the 3 angels as well as the 2 here on earth with me who continue to grow bigger by the day.  As the tears streamed down my face, I just wrapped my arms around her and said, “What’s this?  Why am I crying, sweet girl?  What are you doing to me?”  And all of a sudden, it hit me.  She’s my ‘girl’…my female energy conduit, in this house of crazy boys!  I just kept saying it over and over in my head.  “She’s my girl! She’s my sweet girl…” And just then, the tears gave way to a smile.  My heart was bursting.  I realized that this gentle spirit, this sweet wayward dog who found her way to us, has brought to my heart a renewed love-that special kind of love that comes from nurturing another soul.  I am not suggesting in any way that loving a pet is any sort of replacement for loving a child.  But what I can say, unequivocally, is that I believe it is possible to experience an exchange of unconditional love from a pet, when one’s heart is ready to receive it.  My sweet Roxy has brought joy and a new relationship to each member of our family, and for me, a sort of gentle female presence and companionship that I have been missing in this very loud, active, male-dominated family!  So Roxy, I want to say THANK YOU for your gentle love and your wet, sloppy kisses.  Thank you for helping me to honor the memory and love I have for my sweet angels.  I promise to take good care of you for all the days of your life, and to give you as much love as humanly possible.

And I know you will give me more love than I can handle, in return.

Originally printed in the Empty Cradle Newsletter April/May/June 2010

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