Yesterday the vet clinic got a phone call. Once again it was time. A little dog called Mille, was to be sent on her final journey.
I had known the owner, Mrs Green, for many years, but she had not been at the clinic for quite some time.
She lived a little distanced away in a small apartment. Outside the apartment was a small terrace, where the dog had been let out for some time as there lately had not been energy to do more – neither for Mille nor Mrs Green. Mrs Green herself was very old.
Little Mille was lying on the sofa on a skye blue blanket with twinkeling stars on it. She slept heavily, when I came in.
I talked to Mrs Green about the fact that Mille, considering her illness, looked surprisingly healthy. She has had a good, long life.
Mrs Green told me, that she felt she could no longer care for Mille, as she herself was very ill.
Like Mille, Mrs Green looked quite healthy to me, but looks can be deceiving.
Mille got a wee injection for her to fall asleep. Mrs Green and I held hands as the dog dozed off. When Mille slept heavily, I gave her the medication to stop her heart from beating, and heaven received yet another little, shining star.
“Can I please have some of that as well?” Mrs Green asked.
For Mrs. Green there was nothing left to live for, now Mille wasn’t there any more.
At that moment I really wished I could do something for Mrs Green. The way she held my hand and the look in her eyes told me that when Mille was gone, Mrs. Green has not much left to live for.
The contrast between what we can do for our beloved animals, and what we cannot do for a beloved person, when life is at its end, seems huge.
Knowing that I cannot give Mrs Green the same medicine as Mille, maybe I can do something else?
Maybe the void after Milles passing can be filled with happy memories of her? Maybe talking about what the dog meant and the happiness, she represented right to the very end would make life more bearable for Mrs. Green?
It takes a particular ‘dog-heart’ to understand what kind of loneliness that strikes, when you say goodbye to your little shadow. Not all people have the privilege to be surrounded by friends and family when they need them.
Can we start up a network that can make a difference to some of our elders who lose their pet? You help by making a phone call, go on a visit, talk to them.
An action that can help keeping the memory of the animal. Other people may not understand how your fury friend has made life so much more fulfilling – and now that it is gone – nothing can replace it.
Within the framework of this story, Artemis’ Volunteer Visitor Service has been created. Read more here!
Follow up on Mrs Green
At last I got in touch with Mrs Green. The first three times I called her up after we had said goodbye to Mille, she didn’t pick up her phone. Finally she answered.
It took her a minute to find out, who I was. She told me that she normally didn’t pick up her phone. You never know who is calling. I had to agree; I usually didn’t pick up my phone either, so that was quite all right.
She told me, that she was sad, and that she had no heart for anything, since Mille passed on. Now she had no reason to open the door to the terrace. No little muzzle woke her up in the morning anymore. No little shadow who followed her around, just an empty mirror.
We discussed this. She would really like to have company, but these days she wasn’t in the mood for visitors. A call would be better. We arranged that I should call her back in a couple of weeks. I told her, I had not given up hope to come and see her.
The challenge is big, but not an impossible one. The people, who need to have you call on them, are also the ones who don’t have the energy for it.
Nobody wants their loneliness exposed. How is it possible to resolve the matter with dignity? For Mrs Green to feel that we are here for her because grief is universal for us all, when we love our pets? Both the ones we have, and the ones we have lost?
An effort has to be made to share the knowledge of this project. So that you know throughout the dog’s life, that when the time comes and you have to say goodbye, it will be followed up by a little visit and thereby the acknowledgement of your sorrow.
As powerlessness is not rational, people grieving their pet’s illness or passing can be very unreasonable. It can easily lead to the surroundings withdrawing or getting upset.