Loss and Love

Categories: Uncategorized

Dear Friends,

I had intended to write a story this month about the experience of losing my two cats, Bijou (17) and Meesie (16). I planned to share how, for the first time since I was a child, I’m not a cat mom – and how strange that feels. I was going to write about the perils of having four senior pets at the same time, knowing I’m likely to lose them all soon, and how sad it makes me to think of saying goodbye to any one of them. The youngest of the old is my dog Mei. I wish I could say that I had a few years left with her, but that is likely not the case. My dog Mimi is 18 now. She is incredibly thin and sleeps a majority of the time, but she still smiles, she can walk on her own, and she’ll greet me at the door if she actually hears me enter the house. I am positive that Mimi will be the hardest one for me to handle, and I sense that loss is very near.

I had planned to tell you all about my little crew, and the impact they have had on my life. How Mimi helped raise more than 20 foster puppies for the Napa County Animal Shelter. How Meesie taught each one of those puppies how to respect cats. How we joke that Bijou must have been a 100th generation feral, because even though we got him as a tiny kitten, he was skittish and afraid of all people, and lived virtually his entire life in a dresser drawer or closet. I’m not sure my kids even realized we had two cats! I was going to write about how lucky I feel that my boys got to have Mimi and Mei as their childhood dogs, because my childhood dog Buffy has forever had a special place in my heart, and I hope that Mimi and Mei will live forever in my children’s memories.

I had everything planned and decided for this newsletter. But the only thing I’d planned to write about that I will actually share today is grief and loss support information. Losing a pet is haaaard, and feelings of grief can be overwhelming at times. If that is the case for you or someone you know, helpful resources are here.

When I woke up today, I decided that instead of all my personal pet stories, I wanted to talk about a little dog named Mondavi. 

A few years back we noticed that my dad was having some significant changes in his behavior; he was later diagnosed with ALS and dementia. My parents went from an amazing retired lifestyle of volunteering, traveling, and a large social network, to a constricted one of illness and caregiving. Enter Mondavi.

My parents brought this little dog into their lives to provide companionship, and he rose to the occasion, 100%. As my dad lost more and more of his mental and physical abilities, Mondavi remained a faithful companion, always nearby, radiating love and companionship. Though we originally thought Mondavi would be good for my dad, he quickly became a great comfort to my mom, as well.

On Thursday, October 15th, my dad took his final breath with Mondavi right by his side. Mondavi would not leave him, even after his death, except to come check in on each of us periodically, and then go right back to my dad’s side. At one point after my dad had passed, Mondavi even lay right across his chest, which is not something he did while my dad was alive. It was beautiful. While I’ve always known dogs to be sensitive and intuitive, I was amazed by how Mondavi exemplified this – knowing in that moment exactly what each of us needed, even as he seemed to feel a loss of his own.

Since my dad’s death, Mondavi has started sleeping on my dad’s side of the bed. Quite possibly it’s just because he’s moved into the empty space available, but I wonder whether he’s there for other reasons. When my sister and mom were going through my dad’s closet, Mondavi came and curled up on the pile of clothes. Many, many piles of laundry have been folded in the three years my parents have had that dog, and he’d never lain on the clothes before. I have to believe that Mondavi, like the rest of our family, was wanting to feel closer to my dad.

One of Napa Humane’s vision statements for our mission says: “An increased animal understanding allows people to form life-long, healthy, loving bonds with their companion animals.” I believe that anyone who watched Mondavi with my mom and dad these past three years would have recognized this incredible bond between human and animal, and the enormous value it brought to everyone involved.

As painful as the end of life can be, it happens to all living creatures. I feel blessed to have had so many amazing years with my furry family of Mimi, Mei, Meesie and Bijou. And I am incredibly grateful that my mom and dad have had Mondavi in their lives during these last few really tough years.

Recognizing how much animals enhance our lives is what drives me to work in a job that helps ensure we enhance theirs.

Through loss and love, be well. ~Wendi

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