It’s Hard for Them Too: Help Your Dog to Understand Death
By Amanda Ringnalda
Sasha came out to greet me as I approached — an 11-year-old female old Border Collie mix. I was immediately drawn into her large and especially round, coppery-colored eyes and pretty face. Her tail was swingin’ with delight at meeting a person who immediately recognized the soul within her. And she knew it.
A couple feet behind Sasha stood the delicate figure and huge smile of Marjorie — the most vibrant and joyful 93-year-young woman I’ve ever met. I was visiting this dynamic duo for the first time, having been contacted by a caring family member to come in and provide support through this difficult part of their journey together as bonded souls: one human, one canine. This powerful pair was facing the reality which all of us will one day face… the end of life in this body.
In December 2016, Marjorie (the human companion) was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Considering her age, treatment wasn’t suggested. So she’s spending her time at home now, with support from hospice. She’s feeling amazing some days, not so great other days. Marjorie’s perspective on the whole thing remains the motto she has held her whole life: she’s “taking it as it comes – there’s no need to get all upset.”
Sasha kept one eye on Marjorie every moment I was there. She was like her short and furry nurse. Marjorie is a tiny yet strong woman, and didn’t seem to need or want much nursing with the energy I saw! Yet, there was a secure tie between the two at all times. Marjorie explained that following her adoption 10 years earlier, she and Sasha have been together almost non-stop ever since.
Needless to say, both beings were deeply affected by Marjorie’s illness. To help support the pair in their energetic healing and balancing, I had formulated a custom flower essence blend for each of them. After I brought out a tiny bit of lavender essential oil to invoke a more calm and grounded environment, I also put 7 drops of Sasha’s flower essence liquid on a little dog biscuit, let it absorb, and fed it to her. She kindly accepted. Actually, she was drawn toward the bottle of essence before I even got it open! Initially, her actions were more likely from curiosity – what will this interesting new human pull out of her purse next?! Yet after she caught the initial whiff, and processed the information she had received, she came right in for more, holding her nose directly against the bottle. I’d say that’s a good fit!
After another 20 minutes or so of conversation about their relationship – building the energetic bond even stronger – I applied Sasha’s essence to her external body by putting a few drops between her shoulder blades, which is an especially receptive energy center for animals. Being that it’s close to their heart region, it’s of particular importance when balancing emotions. Now, everyone was at ease and ready for some settling in.
Together we prepared for our meditation… some time for us to move beyond the thoughts, words, and doings and allow our awareness to relax into the stillness and peace which lies within us. Within all of us, no matter what kind of animal. When we spend more dedicated time in this peace space, we’re reminded that we are more than our bodies – our true essence is timeless, ageless, and beyond the reach of death… a deeper existence in which we are all one.
The intention of our meditation was to provide a tool to help Marjorie and Sasha stay established in this oneness. The quiet practice of meditation provided an opportunity for communication without words to flow to and from each of them. This communication can provide comfort, ease, and relief from the fears around the change we are all destined to face.
We sat for a few minutes in the silence and stillness. Then I opened the idea of sharing, through the voice of the heart, and from a space of feeling as opposed to thinking. I guided them to send any messages they’d like to each other. Then we let the potential of silence remain. Tears filled my closed eyes as I felt love embrace us.
The ease and grace in which Marjorie is handling this huge life change is remarkable. Following our meditation, she was comfortably open to me sharing these suggestions for helping Sasha the dog, or most any animal, understand the process of death and dying, as well as grieving:
Tips for helping a dog process the loss of a loved one:
- Talk to them. Speak from your heart. Explain what is happening. They don’t need to know the words to understand your message. Keep in mind, they already know from their highly-attuned senses that change is in the air.
- Be sure to tell them the plan when the time comes – where they will go and who they will live with. Do your best to share this with an energy of safety and being very well cared for.
- Allow the pet to either be present during the time of passing, or, as strange as it may sound, allow them to smell the body afterward. Dogs live their life through their profound sense of smell. They receive the information they need through smell.
- Keep an item of clothing or something that holds the scent of the departed one. Place it in or near their pet’s bed – someplace where they can lay on it.
- Use supportive tools like flower essences, energy work, animal communication, and meditation before and after transition to fortify the eternal bond.
- Recognize that beings who love one another are forever together and able to stay connected on the spiritual plane. That’s why it’s ideal if the dog can be taken to do things or visit places where they used to go with their beloved human companion.
To me, it’s times like this where the holistic approach is so amazingly rich, fulfilling, and essential to living a truly integrated life. Body, mind, and spirit are who and what every one of us is. The sooner we come to embrace the energetic and soulful side, not only of humans but animals as well, the sooner we get to enjoy the most enriching relationships and the most gratifying life we can imagine.
This article is dedicated to the inspirational Marjorie and her forever friend Sasha.