Our Departed Animal Companions Would Want Us to Keep Living Our Lives

Just over three years ago, it became clear that my wife’s and my role in our former dog’s life was changing: we were transitioning from adoptive to foster parents.

The goal was to re-home Louie to a place with wide-open spaces, far away from the blind corners that evoked his aggressive startle response - one we were not able to quell with all our love and behavioral intervention.

We struggled with our new role at first, then collapsed into it as one does when facing the inevitable. By doing so, a miraculous thing happened: my wife and I loved Louie even more freely than we had before.

Personally, I stepped into beloved activities with renewed abandon. The desire to create a permanent archive of our boy inspired this technophobe to learn how to use the video setting on his camera. I began stringing harmonious notes together on my piano keyboard while Louie lay curled up at my feet. There was this strange liberation in the face of oncoming doom.

Before we knew it, Louie was off to that horse ranch - and the life that had swelled inside me drained away. I stopped making videos. My covered piano keyboard became a draped coffin collecting dust.

In the ultimate cruel irony, I’d learned how to live my life before Louie’s departure, then promptly forgot how to live it once he left.

Only with the support of my incredible wife and the pet-loss grief group I attended was I ultimately able to ask myself one pointed question: would Louie, who lavished us with unconditional love, have wanted our surrender to hopelessness to be his legacy?

Of course not. Never!

This blog - this entire website - in part represents my stepping back into life. Louie’s universal legacy is to enhance the chances that every animal companion adopted into a family is always a part of that family and that that companion is treated like a full-fledged family member. And that’s exactly what’s happened with our new girl, Lilly.

Louie may be living with another family, but he will always be a part of ours. We hear that he has adjusted well to his his adoptive home, happily streaking on the heels of a galloping palomino.

My wife and I are re-learning how to be happy, too.

Last year, I took video of a red-tailed hawk soaring over the Alaska wilderness.

Perhaps one day soon, I can sit down at my piano and play the sounds of life again - just the way Louie would want me to.

If you are experiencing the pain of losing a pet, consider seeking out individual and/or group counseling. The Association for Pet Los and Bereavement is an excellent resource. Pet Loss Partners serves the greater Los Angeles area.