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.