My heart felt the familiar drop today when a dear friend of the family shared the loss of his beloved dog. It has been a year of that; so many friends have encountered it; few words can provide solace, but no words, are far worse. I can so easily recall the wrenching pain, the moments that led up to the passing of Rafferty, Legacy, and Impulse, each of them vastly unique, but embedded in my heart. Each experience called upon an inner strength reserved for those of us willing to love an animal for however long their earth destiny would link them to us, knowing of the strong likelihood we would be ushering them through a transition away from us; that familiar comfort of their bodies only one stroke away. It is inconceivable, until it happens.

When we are called to be the voice, the caretaker that must think of the absolute well-being of our animal, when we would do just about anything to keep them here, we must rise to the occasion, and let them rest from the active, all encompassing, no- holds- barred love so many of them give without a blink of an eye. No judgement. Just love. If our adored pet passes on his or her own, it leaves a different kind of mark on our hearts, but in either case, it hurts.

In the wake of this event, an emptiness often hovers; a deafening silence where clanking chains, barking, lapping at a water bowl, and one of my favorite sounds, dog crunching, once lived. It becomes broken routines, an empty lap and the lack of being admired by our canine counterparts for walking back in the door after going to the mailbox, as though we have returned from a trip around the world.

We enter into a contract of the heart when we realize the capacity to give and share our world with a furry animal. It will be met with challenges as they transition into their new lives, if they have not been treated well in the past, have disabilities or need training, but most often, a level of mutual admiration will grow and eclipse the hardships. Our daily lives are so filled with opportunities for comparison, fear, self-criticism, and wondering, are we enough? Even though a more enlightened perspective reminds us comparison is the thief of joy, fear is a lack of faith, and self-criticism is ego edging out our clearest, cleanest, inner voice of light, many of us still face this challenge. Our beloved dogs remind us we are more than enough. We love them for so many vast reasons, but I believe this is one of the most crucially important messages they leave with us when their earthly bodies are no longer here. From my own experience, I can say, the passing of a loved one is never goodbye. It is a shift, not an ending; a pain that is also the companion to the deepest, immeasurable love we were privileged to know.

Adoption of a homeless animal is a life-affirming experience; so many are just waiting to start their lives with hope, safety and validation. If you have a pet that has departed, consider adopting an animal that will be a legacy to honor the one that has passed; when you are ready. It ignites a flame that can be everlasting.