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Anatomy of a Grieving Dog Mom

I recently wrote a post about helping children deal with the loss of a pet. Carol Bryant of Fido Friendly read it, and sent me this article on how she dealt with the death of her dog Brandy Noel. It’s quite touching, and I’m honored to share it with all of you.

By Carol Bryant of Fido Friendly, Guest Blogger

There’s a hole in my heart where whole used to be. Those were the first words that came to mind when I sat down today to write this piece about grief, the power it spews into one’s life whether we want it or not. The great Emily Dickinson wrote so many passages about death, yet one resonates over and over, “Forever is composed of nows.” It certainly is. Are you loving someone today? Missing someone today? Wanting something today? Right now, you hold the forever that is the feeling. Right now. And today, now, my forever is grief.

It’s an odd thing grief. We fear it, dismiss it, try and avoid it, occasionally have brushes with it, and most often times without warning, it invites itself into our lives. No welcome mat but it comes nonetheless. Good ole Emily said it best, “Because I could not stop for death, He kindly stopped for me.” So when Lucy Maloney asked if she could have the honor of immortalizing my Brandy Noel in replica form with one of her miniatures, I hesitated.

Did I want to resurface those feelings? Would people think I was weird for wanting to have this forever keepsake? Would this set me back to day one when I let my baby girl’s frail, disease-ravaged body free to soar and me left alone without her physical presence? None of that mattered, I deduced. This is a gift for me. Some of us visit cemeteries. Some light a candle in memory of, others we suffer in silence because, after all, “it’s just an animal.” Nod your head if somewhere along life’s highway you’ve had that comment thwarted your way.

There’s no wrong way to grieve, my grief counselor told me. “You saw a grief counselor because your dog died?” Uh, okay. Yep, some people validate themselves and their ability to master the art of grieving by tossing eye rolls and handing out sneers like napkins at a cocktail party. Oh wait, that’s right anger is a part of the process. Some wounds run deep.

So I sent a locket of hair to Lucy Maloney with some photographs of a life well lived and forever painfully missed. It costs two postage stamps to send grief these days. Not bad. I figured I would see something resembling my Brandy in microscope thimble-sized form come back to me where I’d keep it in a closet until the day came I could face her likeness without melting into a puddle of hurt.

What did arrive changed me. Me, who knows all about grief has mastered the art of suffering through it and while not kicking its choke hold on me, overcame and carries it with her like a shield of sorts. The mailman delivered hope. Hope costs a few more than 2 stamps by the way.

I called a family member to come open the box for me. Same as the day I had to let my baby go at the vet. Please don’t make me do this alone. What surfaced was nothing short of a complete likeness of my Brandy Noel. Her fur intertwined with the process Lucy uses to make miracles come to life. She stands more than several inches high, she certainly isn’t thimble sized, but the gaze in her eyes, the ever so slight tilt of her head, the love in who she always shall be, those are the magical qualities in Lucy Maloney’s work that were brought to life. Many a tear fell that day and continue to do so. It’s my grief, after all.

“Are you going to sleep with it? Put it next to her ashes? These are some things people asked me. Contrary to popular belief, no I’m not sitting home with an Ouija board summoning her spirit nor immortalizing her with a dedicatory wing of the house. But even if I were, am I not a fully functioning adult? Don’t I pay taxes and live and laugh, earn an income and rescue stray dogs? Don’t I have the right as a human being to hurt and deal as I see fit? What is wrong with this world to diminish the handling of one’s grief?

My Brandy is home in the closest sense I will ever have her until again we meet. Lucy Maloney is a maker of miracles and far above the craft her hands create. She is sort of a Clarence to George Bailey. Well, at least to me. For that, I am forever indebted.

As for my hurt, if you’ve loved and lost someone, you are walking that path with me. I view my grief as a suitcase. Some days it’s a cosmetics bag full and others it’s Samsonite gorilla sized. In any event, I know my luggage always arrives and never gets lost. I’ve learned losing a loved one means gaining a new identity. Victim of grief, survivor of hurt, and eventually carrier of pain.

I was one of those people, by the way, who said “never again. I cannot get this close to an animal like this.” He sits at my feet daily and his name is Dexter, by the way. My never again. Thankfully I think with my heart and then ask my brain to double check my work. I could never not love this way again.

Carol Bryant writes the blog Fido Friendly. She also wrote Ten is the New Five about a dog’s health and Call Him Codski about a dog with disabilities who skis.

14 comments to Anatomy of A Grieving Dog Mom

  • […] more here: Anatomy of A Grieving Dog Mom « Pet News and Views Related Posts:Pet Memorial Stones, Urns, and Albums – Help Grieving Cat or Dog LossPet Loss | […]

  • This always make me tear up to read the love for our best furry buddies. So beautifully written.

  • Michele, thank you for sharing my story of grief and its ongoing challenges with your readers. It’s a lifelong process and one I know I will face time and again, as we all shall. The joys of living with and loving my dogs outweigh everything for me.

  • I agree Lucy, and Carol is a great writer!

  • Simply beautiful. I needed this today. So many dear friends have been lost this week.

  • Carol, you are far more eloquent than I am at expressing all of the emotions of love and loss, thank you so much for sharing your story. And giving me the opportunity to share mine…
    I brought Kuma home at 7 weeks old, hoping to have a friend to hike with and maybe to keep my feet warm at night. What I found was my soul mate. Kuma and I spent 12 1/2 years together, we cried, laughed, talked and hiked…..I took care of him and he took even better care of me. I don’t know what my life would have been like without him, and I thank him for teaching me so much about love, forgiveness and strength. In January the vet came to the house, and Kuma died in my arms at home. He left a hole in my soul that will always be there, raw and painful. Kuma brought so much love into my world, and I know he sent me Jenks. Jenks will never be a Kuma, but he loves to hike, and he keeps my feet very warm at night. He is creating his own place in my heart, and someday he will be another painful hole in my soul….but that is a very good thing.

    <a title="Kuma, Jenks & Cocoa" href="http://simplylife.browndogdesigns.net/the-dogs/"Simply Life – the dogs…

  • Pam Knapp

    Oh, this is so beautiful. I understand completely. My heart has broken many times, and I know it will break many more times. But we keep that happening because we know there will always be another animal who needs us. We have three dogs, and I’d have ten more if we could afford it!!


  • Carol, thank you so much for sharing your story. I had to wait a few minutes to write this because I couldn’t see through the tears! Oh how I relate… I am currently Mom to 4 cats and 2 dogs (4 of whom would be considered ‘geriatric’ but still very much loving life!!) So I definitely live in those ‘now’ moments… I’ve lost a few dear, dear pets over the last few years as well and they each have their special place in my heart – a heart that grows and expands with each of them. It may contract temporarily in grief, in the constriction of that anguish of loss… but when I can again take that deep full breath, I know that the cavern is that much wider and deeper. Love and blessings to all of you and your sweet pets. Maureen

  • Thank you so much for commenting. Grief unites us all. I really learned that through the losses in my life. I also know that without these amazing dogs who share their short time with me, well, I wouldn’t know half the people I do now. So today I have my suitcase and the same with tomorrow. In fact, I know I will carry my suitcase with me to my grave. Love never ends.

  • Janine Fout

    Thank you Carol for sharing your gift of writing with others. I too have a long list of furry friends who have given me great joy in my life and my dogs have earned my right to grieve for them. Just last year, and it’s been a hell of a year for me and my daughters, my husband of 24 years died. My dog Copper has been such a great comfort too, more so than friends because they are too uncomfortable with my grief and don’t know what to say. So they say nothing, which is very hurtful. But Copper will be at the other end of the house, will hear me sobbing and comes running down the hall, jumps in my lap and licks away my tears. I can see the grief in Copper’s eyes wondering where her Daddy is, but I know she also knew he was sick with cancer. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that animals do not grieve, because I have seen first hand, that they do. It always floored me when people would make flip comments about “it was only a dog.” People have that same attitude even regarding people because afterall, “it’s been a year.” People who say stupid things like that have never lost a pet or a person in their life and have no idea how painful grief is. I liked your analogy about the suitcase because I know slowly I’m finding a new identity yet my grief, memories, pain and love will always be with me. That suitcase has always been there with my pets, but the tails are wagging because my husband is with them too. I just purchased a Lady and the Tramp miniatures from Lucy Maloney in celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary. She does wonderful work and later I will commission her for my pets. As you can see, your article touched me in more ways than one. God Bless You.

  • Janine, You wrote so eloquently that it touched my heart. I am sorry for your loss. You have had 24 wonderful years with your husband, and it’s hard losing someone so special. Tomorrow will be the one year anniversary of my dad’s passing, and it still feels raw. I also agree about people not always knowing what to say. When my cat of 20 years died, some co-workers remarked that it was only a cat and that I should get over it. On the positive side of all this, we know that we are fortunate to have known the love of some wonderful beings– both two and tour legged. Michele

  • Dear Carol,
    I can say with some confidence that I know how you feel! So I also feel your pain…
    I had to put my beloved Charlie down a few years ago now after a long and escalating illness. Charlie was one of those strange looking mix breeds that looked like someone had put the pieces together incorrectly, or as a bit of a joke…But such a distinguished dog – He became known as “Charlesworth” A sort of funny British pompous style name…but it reflected the ‘pedigree’ he more than richly deserved.
    When at the vet for the last time I saw this poem on their wall…No author’s name, but oh how I cried!
    I think it expresses the best in what we have to do at these times, and truely how all involved really feel!
    By the way I too have 2 new ‘best friends’ in my life…You never forget the bond you had…There is never a replacement…Just a new friend!
    Warm regards

    Treat me kindly my friend, for no heart
    in all the world is more grateful for
    kindness than the loving heart of me.
    Speak to me often, for your voice is the
    worlds sweetest music, as you must
    know by the fierce wagging of my tail
    when the sound of your footsteps falls
    upon my waiting ear.
    And my friend, when I am very old and no
    longer enjoy good health, do not make
    heroic efforts to keep me going.
    I am not having any fun.
    Please see to it that my life is taken gently,
    I shall leave this earth knowing with
    the last breath I draw that my fate
    was always safest in your hands.