Paw Prints On My Heart

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Over the last 36 hours I’ve experienced pain like never before – and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. Our family lost Safari at 4:02am on September 20, 2013 after 16.5 years of ecstatic joy, unlimited play and unconditional love. She was a golden retriever/basset pound puppy – a surprise gift from my husband right after we moved into our first home. She loved every human being and learned to love children even more after we had Griffin and Morgan in 2004-2005.

Dogs are so emotionally responsive – the major reason I am and always will be a dog lover. When I was sick at home laying on the couch, she was at my feet. When I left for work in the morning, she always knew I’d return and would wait patiently in the sun room in front of the big palladium window keeping a watchful eye. And when I was on the deck grilling, she would hang out waiting for a taste test. She was consistent, resilient and ever-faithful. She loved to relax in the sunshine on the screen porch at our lake house. She was always super quick to scoop up any type of food that dropped to the floor – except for lettuce. My heart aches beyond expression.

But I will also describe to you a few key experiences within the past week that are key indications she was saying good-bye and it was time for her to cross over the Rainbow Bridge. These realizations are helping me heal and I hope maybe they do the same for others.

Dog-Gone Daisies

Every year, my perennial daisy bush blooms in late spring and again in late summer. For some reason, this year, we had no white daisies in March and April. The bush itself was full, green and lush. Just no blooms. My husband and I often commented how odd that was. Then, 3 days ago, last week before Safari passed, I saw the first speckle of white in a bud about to burst open. And don’t you know by Friday morning, 4 hours after her passing, I counted 10 full daisies shining in the early morning sunrise. It was a sign. Those were a gift from Safari and a present I could share with my children. I sent each of them to school with a daisy on their binder to remind them how special Safari will always be…even when she is no longer with us.

Let Us Rejoice and Be Glad

I’m a Catholic school girl and remain to this day a very spiritual, faith-inspired person. On Thursday, September 19th I re-tweeted this: “@Scripture_Truth: This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. -Psalm 118:24”. I added the comment to this re-tweet that I say this every day. This verse has always resonated with me. I loved singing that hymn every Wednesday morning in school mass. It reminds me that every day is a gift. That same September 19th morning, I mentioned this verse to my kids in the car, who attend a wonderful Christian school, and how much it meant to me during my school years. At lunch, I went back to school for a gem-mining science exploration project with my daughter. While in the classroom, I randomly glanced up over our minerals, rocks and gems to see a huge wall banner decorated with rainbow butterflies. Inscribed in the middle was Psalm 118:24. I was rejoicing. I was glad. And now I will always remember that Safari spoke those words to me several times that week. Priceless.

A Safari Sleep Over

My kids are ages 8 and 9. Reading is a very big part of their studies as they no longer learn to read, they read to learn. We are required to spend at least 15 minutes a night reading and we love doing it. On Tuesday, September 17th, Morgan was reading to me on her bed and Safari softly sauntered in. She stood in the middle of the floor, intensely looked Morgan straight in the eye for about 45 seconds – enough time for Morgan to notice. Morgan said, “Mom, look at Safari. She’s listening to my story.” You see, about a year and half ago, Safari lost her hearing. But Morgan was right, Safari was there focusing, listening and hanging on every word that child had to say. Noting this, I got up to get her dog bed from beside my bed where she ALWAYS slept and bring it into Morgan’s room. Safari immediately curled up and in minutes, was snoring softly in a satisfied sleep. It was her first and ONLY sleep over with Morgan. How special.

Star Light, Star Bright

At dusk, on Friday, September 20th, 15 hours after her passing, our family gathered in the cul-de-sac at our home for a heart-felt balloon launch with love notes to Safari. We quivered and tearfully read our messages to one another while the crickets chirped in the silent late summer evening. On the count of 1-2-3, we released four helium balloons into the sunset and stared into the sky watching them rise up into the heavens –  one step closer to the dog we will always love. About 90 minutes later, I’m on the phone recounting the day to my parents with respect and reverence. I look up outside that same big palladium window where she always sat to see a huge, single bright star in the sky. At first, I actually thought it was an airplane landing since we sit right in the flight path of the local airport. But this light was not moving or blinking. It was incredibly bright and staring me straight in the face. It was a symbol. A message stolen in time speaking to me that Safari had made it to the other side with confirmation that she received the balloons with our messages.

Star light, star bright,
The first star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.

I will never be the same without Safari. But I wouldn’t give up one glorious memory, one crazy day mess or one precious moment I spent with her. Safari made permanent paw prints on my heart, with several obvious clues that even loss produces miracles.

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3 thoughts on “Paw Prints On My Heart

  1. Mary – the themes of the sermon at my church today were about grief and a ballon, a symbol for letting go, but not pushing your grief away. So you and your family and especially Safari have been in my thoughts all day. I remember hearing about her when you first got her and thinking what a perfect name for a perfect pup. May the universe bear witness to all the ways she connects to you for the rest of your time here on earth. This piece is a wonderful tribute to her. ~lisa

  2. Lis ~ our message at church today was about signs and symbols, most importantly making covenants. I think both are so insanely relevant to our family experiences here last week. Once again, divine intervention acting in ways to help me realize how special and fragile life of any kind really is. Thanks for your comments. Miss you! ~ Ma

  3. I know that pain all too well and had similar experiences when Goldie passed away. She died in my arms on June 12, 2002, two months after we moved into our house here in OH. I was so homesick, and losing her felt like the last cord to my Southern life was cut. I was devastated and inconsolable. The next morning, I was sitting on my deck having coffee when a beautiful white butterfly landed on a flower in front of me. It sat there for a long time and I just knew it was Goldie’s way of telling me everything was going to be okay. Every day for the remainder of the summer, the white butterfly appeared whenever I came into the backyard (where we have a big garden). Even the kids noticed it. Eden and I went to the store one morning, but we didn’t see the butterfly. She remarked that it was odd, and don’t you know when we pulled back into the driveway when we got home, the butterfly lit on the windshield directly in front of me. The butter fly has been there every summer since. Fast forward 3 years later when Ripley passed, Michael and I were sitting in the garden and saw 2 white butterflies circling and playing together. We both smiled, knowing our sweet friends were together again.

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