Sebastian was my 24th birthday surprise – I opened the door and there he was already revealing his independent regal self. For the past seventeen years, he saw me through the loss of relationships, family drama and all-night study sessions. I am grounded in ways I never thought possible and, because of Sebastian, I have been a single-girl-homeowner for almost ten years. Most of all, he changed the path of my destiny.
As time evolved, and Sebastian and I got older, I realized that there is a stigma attached to people and their pets. I understand that not everyone appreciates the love of an animal and became privy to peoples’ attitudes to the subject of pet loss. For example, a colleague would disclose to me how they had to put their dog to sleep and the incredible sadness they were experiencing, but would ask that I keep it confidential. After a while, I started to realize that this was the perceived norm. That is, you take your beloved family member in to be euthanized on a Friday afternoon and, most often, are expected to return to work on Monday morning. And, G_d forbid one should show any outward emotions of loss or grief.
I knew the day would come when Sebastian would leave me, but somehow Sebastian’s American Cocker Spaniel afflictions always evaded us – he experienced them quickly and then they left him, literally within days. Throughout the years he experienced many scary health problems, such as swelling of the liver, seizures, colitis (and the list continues). Yet we got through those times with the help of two of the most dedicated veterinarians, in addition to Reiki received from a lovely lady named Susan and my own personal prayers. Sebastian enjoyed seeing the staff at each office and would wag his tail in anticipation of seeing ‘the girls’. One time I phoned the veterinary clinic and the receptionist answered with “Sebastian’s office, how may I help you?”! Today, the joke is that Sebastian had Chevy Chases’ vet (it’s true!) and he knew where the treat jars were in each office.
On Sunday, February 12th, 2012 I woke up to a sick little boy. My dear friend, Lisa, had advised me, “When the time is right you will just know and you will have no doubts”. My one promise to Sebastian was that I would never let him suffer and I knew in my heart that this was the day I tried so hard to prepare for. On the way to the veterinary clinic, Sebastian was his true regal self; he sat in the passenger seat as he always did, and we even stopped at my mother’s to say good-bye. Already deaf due to old age, he normally ignored me when I said, “Say bye to Grandma”, but when I said it that day he turned to her and she gave him a big kiss. The staff at the veterinary clinic was truly amazing and for that I am forever grateful. They turned a very scary and sad event into something that was both peaceful and beautiful. I cannot think back to that day without a sense of gratitude. I have had this beautiful little soul since he was four weeks of age and I was able to be with him when he transitioned over to the other side almost seventeen years later.
Since that day, life has been different. I am so grateful for my other dog, Dolly, a miniature Dachshund that I rescued in October 2011. I cannot help but wonder if Sebastian had something to do with her coming to us, as I could not imagine what life would be like in this house without the presence of another. The positive aspect is that the good moments far outweigh the bad and I feel incredibly blessed that Sebastian chose me. Furthermore, while I was cognizant of the stigma of pet loss, I never imagined it would really affect me – after all, everyone knew how I was about my dogs. Yet it did. Some of my closest friends have not acknowledged my loss and I have learned that losing one’s pet does not make you eligible for missing work – even within the first couple of days after his death. Moreover, I recently contacted the instructor of a ‘yoga for grief’ class and, upon realizing it was not a human loss, I was told that she could not support me joining the group. While I try to understand this without judgment, I do not understand. Love is love.
I know this much is true – Sebastian and I had an unspoken bond of love and understanding. And, I will never underestimate the love between a human and their dog. He taught me that a pet’s love is unconditional. Many people do not understand nor accept the love of animals, and while they cannot be faulted for this, I believe that our pets are valuable members of society. Today, I am beginning a new future with my dreams in hand, without Sebastian. It has never felt more important to me to be able to support those that suffer from the loss of a pet, whether it is a dog, cat, horse, etc. I don’t know what this will look like, but I know that this is what I am meant to do. And, once again, I only have Sebastian to thank for this.
I will love you all of my life, my little funny bunny ♥