by Carmel MacPherson
A few weeks ago my son, Callum, rang me to tell me that their beloved Aussie bulldog, Bella, had just been diagnosed with cancer and was not expected to live for more than a few weeks. Everyone was devastated.
My grandchildren had known Bella all their lives. In particular, it was Bella who had stood guard on the family home whenever my son was “out bush” with his army comrades. Bella slept under my daughter-in-law’s bed, just to be sure that she need have no worries about who stood watch over her and the children in Callum’s absence.
In thinking about Bella, I was reminded of a very moving video I saw recently where residents of an Aged Care facility were each given an animal to care for. The health benefits were marked for both animals and residents. Residents spoke of the sheer joy in having a living being to hold, touch, and stroke. They felt needed, loved. They remembered what laughter was.
So, how do you prepare for the imminent loss of a beloved pet?
Bella is still bringing joy to the family even though she is in her last days. She is happy—never complains. She is being carefully medicated to control any pain, however her movements are slower and she is tiring more easily.
So what is it that creates this special bond with our animals?
At its best, they take us back to the carefree days of childhood when we could laugh, play, be silly—no matter what our current professional status. They don’t care about our tough days, but they do care about us when we bring the results of those days home. They are waiting with unconditional love, reminding us that we are important. We are valued. The relationship reinforces all the best in terms of recognizing and nurturing the values all families and communities need to thrive: loyalty, commitment, trust, forgiveness, compassion, discipline.
I don’t know how Bella’s final days will be. But I do know that she will pass away surrounded by those who loved her deeply for herself and for the joy she brought into the family. For my grandchildren it will be a rite of passage that will be one of the most important that they will go through: thanking Bella for what she gave them over her 12 years with them and learning how to deal with grief.
Thank you Bella.
You made us all better people.
You brought us joy.