I stayed home alone with Jasper on Halloween night. Just me and the dog I've called "buddy" for the past sixteen years.
I'm so glad I did.
Because there in the quiet darkness of our home, my dearest old friend and I said goodbye.
The timing was poetic.
Samhain, the Day of the Dead, when the veil is so thin. Perhaps he had someone helping him across from the other side. Maybe his old friend Shilo, our first dog and Jasper's companion for several years.
I like to imagine them romping once more.
His passing was peaceful and I held him in my arms (like so many – too many – other animals this year) as he let go.
And then I spent the weekend grieving the way you grieve the loss of any loved one. Not a dog, but a friend.
I grieved with tears, with stories, with memories, and also with a deep relief that he did not suffer and he was finally free of the indignities of old age. Because those last days were hard.
And the more friends and family I spoke to the more I heard the same message – it's so much harder than we expect. And that is something that most of us never admit.
There was a repeated story about shame and confusion at the depth of their grief when losing an animal friend.
But if you can count on me for something let it be messy, vulnerable honesty. So here it is: this has been deep and real and painful.
Yes, more than I ever expected.
It is the deepest grief I've felt since I lost my grandmothers. We don't talk about it like that, do we? But it's truth over here. That I loved this dog like family, because he was.
Without shame, without confusion, without apology.
Just love and grief around a timely goodbye.
And then we spent Saturday celebrating Jasper's life and laying him to rest in the forest.
I hope for us all a parting ceremony that matches our hearts and our families so well.
A hike, a campfire, a meal and conversation beneath the trees. Then gathering crystals and leaves to surround him.
And then – hardest of all – the walk back home without him.
But everywhere I looked in the woods that day I saw it – the cycle of life, death, and renewal.
Rocks crumbling into new earth, brown earth growing into new life. The trees, the lichens, the moss, the leaves, the sticks, the decay.
Everything is as it should be. We're all a part of this story.
I watched with awe the comfort of my own children around death. To them death is simply part of life. They grive too, and them move gracefully through. I have much to learn.
And it was time to go home.
But before I went I gave Jasper one last pat and one last wish. That through the lives of the coyotes, the insects, the ferns and trees, that he may forever romp through the woods we call home.
Run free, old friend. Forever more.
*Just a head's up – I do show discreet photos of my dog after he passed in the photo essay below. Like my kids I've become pretty comfortable with death at this point in my journey, but if this makes you uncomfortable I just wanted you to know so you can log off now.
Thanks for your loving support during this process. It means so much. Hoping to be back to our regular programming very, very soon.
I still have much to share about healthy teeth, peaceful parenting, juicy living, and so much more. Thanks for sticking with me.
22 thoughts on “Goodbyes”
Really lovely! We are in the throes of saying goodbye to our Jasmine…it won’t be long I know and I so appreciate your images!
Grace to you as you grieve, peace to your heart in the moments and corners of the house where the loss grasps you afresh. Thank you for telling this hard, rich real deep truth.
oh Rachel… So sorry.
I’m so glad that you got to have such a peaceful goodbye. That was taken away from me when I lost my 19 year old beloved cat. That is a long story, but I often greave more for the tragic ending, than the lost of him. We had so many wonderful years and I knew it was ending, but I wish I could have loved him and buried him peacefully. While the tears are less, that deep pain never quite recedes. May peace and love be with you now.
I’m so sorry for your loss of your beloved friend and furry family member. I don’t comment often, but want to send you all a cyber hug. My dog Violet is next to me and we send our love and best wishes to your family.
I’m sorry for your loss Rachel. This was a beautiful tribute.
The mutual love and devotion of a person and a dog is so rich and deep, profound and beautiful, and such a precious gift. I grieved long and hard for my dog Luna, and less than a year later, our dog Beans, who was Luna’s soul mate and dear, sweet companion. Luna was my first baby, and Beans was my husband’s, and they brought us together, actually, when they were both young, about two years old (it’s a long story!) My husband and I were both taken by surprise at the depth and intensity of grieving we both went through during their final illnesses, and helping them cross over. The image of them running wild and free and happy warms my heart and fills my eyes, anytime I think of it. I think it always will, so lasting was their imprint upon my heart and soul. I can sympathize with your grief, and wish you the time and space and gentleness to move through it, in whatever way you need to, for however long it takes. Luna stays with me, and Beans too, and I found myself sobbing as I read your words, looked at your pictures, felt your pain, and remembered my own. Love to you and your family.
So sorry for your loss. I’m sure that Jasper was comforted with you by his side as he passed on. My male Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix Radar and I send our love and understanding.
What I love most about you is your honesty, even in difficult situations. You have a tender heart and the way you make things so meaningful and full of the sacred is a real blessing to your children and even those of us who just watch it all unfold online. You are a remarkable woman Rachel. I admire you.
OH you drive me to tears. so precious are your words. blessed be.
I cried hard tears for your loss, Rachel. And you remind me to love my pooch, my first baby, a little more every day even when my days are completely taken over by our little one. Love to you!
Rachel the photo essay was truly beautiful. Love to you.
Again, I’m so sorry for your loss. Forgive me if I go off on a tangent here…the thing I find so wonderful and respectful of how you dealt with Jasper’s death is the fact that you allowed him to decide when to die. In my family, and probably in much of suburban life, we’ve always put our animals “down” on our terms, when its convenient to us. My mother always said she didn’t “want to see them suffer.” So we were doing them the favor or taking them to the vet who gave them a shot and made their bodies disappear so that we never be faced with them. In fact, your photos above are the very first dead pet I’ve ever seen. I didn’t find them disturbing at all. Just full of peace and love. Upon reflection, I think yours is the better way…All my love to your family as you grieve this furry family member.
I cry with you and for you and for the fresh realization of the loyalty and patience of our sweet canine family members. Big squeezes to you and yours through this hard season. And thank you for the reminder to bestow extra love on my own furry loves today (and everyday.)
We just went through this with our dog Jack who was a 15 year old lab. We are very fortunate to have a holistic vet who has shown us how to read the signs of when our canine and feline family members are ready to go. We had dug a hole for Jack ahead of time and let him see where he would be placed, near where our cats and previous dogs are buried. We were also advised by our vet to let our remaining dog see Jack after he died so he could grieve, instead of just having Jack disappear one day. These pets that spend so much time with us and support us through good times and bad are truly family members that have earned our respect at the end of their lives. Thank you for sharing such a personal time with us.
I am so sorry for you loss. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful soul. Hugs and love to you and your family.
I’m so sorry for your loss. What a lovely way to say goodbye. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m going to light a candle for you and your family tonight. So much love to you all.
Words are so hard to find sometimes.
Thank you for being brave and finding some.
Love and light to you today.
Thank you for sharing all of your story through your pictures. Life is a beautiful cycle that you captured with your photos. May you and your family find comfort and peace in the coming days.
Beautifully conveyed — Much love and peace to you and your family, Rachel.
I’m so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful picture tribute.
16 seems to be a magical number. We said goodbye to the father-figure of our feline clan this passed Thursday at 16 long wonderful years as well.
Wishing you peace and comfort in your time of grief. xox
Oh Rachel! Your photos of your beloved friend are so beautiful!! I teared up while reading and looking while I thought of my first pup that we said goodbye to 2 years ago. I still miss him but now but I am so thankful I had him. Peace to you and your family while you grieve.