Rescue Journal

Keeping the flame alive

Alison  ·  Sep. 11, 2006

Now that some of the animals are going elsewhere to finish their life journey's, I wanted to talk about loss and how we can survive it and not feel sad every moment of every day. It has to do with setting our goals for them, understanding that all life ends and what our purpose is in participating in it. Death is the natural progression from birth and billions of trillions of living creatures have walked that path before us. It is not something that animals fear, nor should humans. It is just as much a reality of life as every other challenge and change. For those who choose to provide palliative care to the SAINTS animals, it is a rocky road of joy, and sadness and hopefully, peace. The peace comes when deep in your heart you know that you helped that animal find peace too. Death is not the heart breaking monster, life is. It is their barren lives and the possibility of their lonely cold deaths, unwanted and unloved that is the real monsterous thing. Once they come to us, whether for a week or a year or even a moment in time, we have slayed that lonely monster and bandished it forever from them. The SAINTS do not die in lonely backyards, or cold, cement kennels, or shelter back rooms, or afraid in sterile vet clinics with strangers around them...they die in our arms with our tears upon their face. And that moment of death means nothing, except the gentle end of this life that they had. And with us, the life that they had as they meet the final end is one that is warm, and loved, and full of peace. This is what we focus on, and what we remember each and every time we bear witness to their passing. Their death is our loss, and yes it wounds our hearts, but it is a little wound that heals quickly because it is a wound knowingly accepted to give them a life that they felt was cherished. I don't worry about the animals when they go out into palliative foster care, the ones we have chosen will give them the very best. But I worry about their caregivers as they learn that some pain is necessary to give them the ending that they deserve. People ask me does it get easier...and honestly, it depends...did we meet our goal and were they happy, did they have enough time to feel truly loved, did we plan their end well enough to meet their needs and how deeply did they bury themselves in our hearts til we got there. They never really leave us, we carry them each and every day and they help us to find what we need to be there for the next one. Thinking of all of this and remembering each life's ending as I wrap my heart around them, and mostly remembering every single smile upon their face before they left us...that is how I get thru each day and not fear tomorrow.


Judy B

I am truly grateful for all Carol's words of wisdom, I have learned a lot from her stories over a short period of time. I agree that it is a final gift to help them pass when the time comes but still a very hard decision to make. I had to make that choice
only once, so I can't imagine what you go through as I'm sure it really does not ever get easier. However, it is comforting to know first hand that they are never really gone from your life as they do live on in your heart forever.


You know Carol when Barney was sick and it was time to make the final decsion you made it so clear for me to be able to realize when he had finally had enough. It was difficult because I knew I would miss him but I wasn't sad for him ,it for my loss. You made me realize that I had to look at his quality of life. After my tears subsided I was able to see that it was a gift I was able to give to him and to be there as he left. He was surrounded by people who loved him and finally he wasn't struggling to breathe. That's what it's all about being able to have the strength to say goodbye when it's time and to let them end their lives peacefully finally without pain.

Chris Thomas

Yes, very timely and wise words. Thanks Carol. You give so much to us as well as the animals.


Thanks for that Carol. Reading your posting this morning was comforting, as I woke up last night in a panic, thinking about Howard's and my last moments with our Beagle Bear, as our vet assisted him into death at home (in March of this year). Even though he was surrounded by loving arms, my subconscious is obviously still wresting with whether or not it was the right thing to do, or whether we should have waited for him to go on his own.

Your posting reminded me that we made the best decision that we could during that emotional and traumatic time (Bear had lymphoma) and I have to leave regrets behind. If anything, I can focus on how our experience caring for Bear in his palliative stages has given us a bit more wisdom for the future, when another aging or sick creature needs our care as they leave this earth. Thanks again for your wise words.