What Gifts Can I Bring You?
We met him over 16 years ago. We saw him in the cow pasture on a parcel adjacent to our then rural home. A small, white dog, lingering close enough to the cattle to stay warm but not so close as to bother them. It took my husband weeks to gain his trust in order to feed him. We hadn’t planned to keep him originally. Snake, our coydog, wasn’t good with other dogs and we feared she would hurt him. But he came to trust Rich, Rich fed him and we housed him separately from Snake as we tried to find a home for him. One day during a “let’s hope she won’t hurt him session,” Snake decided to chase the puppy around our dining room table and they developed a sort of friendship. We named him Asp and he became a member of our family. The bond between Asp and Rich was really beyond description. They were like two peas in a pod. After Snakey left us, the bond grew even stronger and it was as if they were two parts of the same person. Rich often joked that they could speak to each other telepathically and teased me about the fact that Asp sometimes didn't listen because I was speaking "with a cat accent."
I have told people over the years that I think there are times when animals enter our lives as part of some bigger plan. Believe what you will. This is my belief and I cannot be convinced otherwise. Sometimes we cross paths with animals because we are meant to help them in some way, even if it’s just to be a stepping stone to some new life. Sometimes we are meant to share our lives with them and they are meant to share theirs with us as they teach us what we value and how to be better versions of ourselves. We know all along that they cannot last as long as we want and we accept that as part of the relationship. We know they will leave us some day. We just try our best to focus on the present and how very much they enrich our lives just by being there to accept us unconditionally, make us laugh, make us cry and help us cope.
Asp had a stroke last September and it was debilitating. We were less than 24 hours from having him euthanized by our veterinarian and had even called the local business which provides cremation services. We didn’t want him to suffer and we were prepared to put his needs first, as every animal lover must. We decided to go for one last R-I-D-E and when he rebounded, we decided to let him stay and see if he could recover. He slept in a child’s playpen for days so he wouldn’t hurt himself trying to walk on his own and Rich boiled chicken to feed him because he had trouble chewing kibble. As the days and weeks went by, he improved. Life got back to normal for the most part and he was happy and eating and back to being our boy. We knew it would not last, but we followed the lead all dogs show us: try to live in each day and just enjoy the now.
I think most people can count on one hand the worst days of their lives and we are no different. The 4th of July holiday was one of those days for us. Aspy had a seizure on Sunday night and it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. It didn’t last too long and we took him to an emergency clinic for help. The vet who ordered his ultrasound gave us the grim news. Aspy had a mass in his liver, a mass in his spleen and it was likely that the cancer had moved to his brain. We took him home and hoped for the best, but it was not to be. We let him go on Independence Day after a prolonged seizure, the vision and sounds of which will surely be seared in my memory for all time. Did we do the right thing? Did we wait too long? Did we not wait long enough? Such are the questions which haunt and plague every animal lover who has ever had to make what Marion Hale once described as That Terrible Decision.
I know we are blessed. I have faith that the soul of our little man was saved and that he is not in pain. Each day was a gift and while life will never, ever be the same, our focus has to be on what was best for him. No matter the cost to us. Some people have never known the type of bond we have shared with our dogs and for them I feel sorry. With great and powerful love also comes great and powerful loss, but we wouldn’t miss any of it for anything. We love him. So we gave him wings.
He asked her, "what gifts can I bring you
to prove that my love for you is true?
I want to make you mine forever.
There's nothing on this earth I would not do."
She said, "anything I've wanted
you have given willingly.
So now there's only one more thing I need.
If you love me, give me wings
and don't be afraid if I fly.
A bird in a cage will forget how to sing
If you love me, give me wings."
Lisa - bears Mom
7/6/2016 02:18:16 pm
Brie you have a,pure,way with words. Even if it is with a cat accent. :)
7/7/2016 11:14:35 am
Such a pure & beautiful tribute you your precious Asp. I have loved and lost a few myself. They leave a large hole in our lives, but I will take the pain of loss if it means having the love they give. God bless you!
robin, busters mom
7/7/2016 04:58:57 pm
We were just given the news this a.m. that our boy,Buster is in late stage kidney failure. This post has been very comforting, thank you for sharing.fly free
7/8/2016 07:40:28 am
Robin, I am so very sorry for your news about Buster. Try to treat each day as the gift that it is and do your best to remain in the present. I do encourage you to have a Plan A and even a Plan B in the event you need help right away. When the day comes that Buster cannot stay, having a way to let him go peacefully and as trauma free as possible is very important. We had some care issues because it was a holiday and they made a very difficult situation moreso. Kiss your boy for me.
7/7/2016 05:16:44 pm
Beautifully, beautifully said. All who have been blessed with fur babies can appreciate and understand every word of this! So so so hard to say goodbye but having been blessed by having them in our lives is worth all of that
7/7/2016 07:22:49 pm
Your love for your special angels brings tears to my heart. I do understand those dreadful last hours, but I also know that your precious boy left knowing how very much he was loved. My guess is that, when you least expect it, he will send you a sign that he is at rest and at peace at the Rainbow Bridge. Bless you as you grieve his passing. Love never dies, Brie.
Shirley Rachael Bethel
7/7/2016 10:23:32 pm
This was so beautifully said. I have a chihuhua named bell that will turn 11 in August. April 18th I took her for an ultrasound and it showed she has a liver tumor 5cm. Everday we have with her is a blessing and I can't imagine what life will be like wth out her. I'm trying to prepare myself for when that dreaded day comes I will always remember how much love and joy she has brought me. Reading your story helps me realize that I'm not alone and our little furry kids deserve to be at peace.
7/8/2016 07:43:11 am
Years ago when we were told Snakey's days were numbered, I spent far too much time looking at her and crying when I should have just focused on each day. With Aspy, we did our very bust to remain in the now and to not look too far down "the road of what if." I hope you are able to do the same. Your dog is living in the moment and doesn't fear the future. I hope you can do the same for the most part and that when the time comes, you will know that you are doing the right thing. Not for you, perhaps, but for Bell.
7/8/2016 09:29:50 am
7/8/2016 10:13:29 am
Love you too, sweetie. Such sorrow. I know we are blessed, but it's just hard.
7/8/2016 09:39:17 am
I am so sorry about the loss of Asp. I'm sure you did the right thing and he is not suffering anymore. This decision is the hardest thing and the questions remain, as well as the horror of seeing our babies sick. I have had to put down 3 cats, and with each one I cried and thought I'd never be able to move on. Adopting again was good for me, although I didn't think so at first. The next one was not the same, but of course not! They are a different being. But you love them and they love you and that's what matters! Praying for you lives to be filled with love again!
7/8/2016 10:04:15 pm
Aubrie we were raised by Mom and Dad with an understanding that our families are all inclusive of those we share our lives with. This family bond creates in my opinion some sort of understanding and presence that lives forever in our souls.
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I am an animal welfare advocate. My goal is to help people understand some basic issues related to companion animals in America. Awareness leads to education leads to action leads to change.
image courtesy of Terrah Johnson