Monday, March 21, 2011

Did we do the right thing?

Babe waiting for Norma Jean to come home
The last week I spent with my sister Norma Jean, I insisted that we go out and find another dog to begin to fill the incredible void in her life, after losing her husband on February 10 and her six-pound chihuahua Moose five days later. It was the reason I came to spend three weeks with her, to be able to cry and commiserate in depth. But now I'm wondering if I did the right thing. Today, it's only been five weeks since Moose was run over and killed right in front of her eyes. She relives it over and over again, usually in the middle of the night, trying to find a way to get a do-over. I call this the "what if" and "if only" phase of grief.

It was a hard choice, that of trying to help by forcing a needy creature into my sister's life, or allowing her to grieve for awhile over her losses before attempting to rescue another dog. She's always had a dog, with only a few weeks between the loss of one and the adoption of another. But this was different. Pete, her life partner, had helped her through their shared loss with each one, until now. Norma Jean is the only one left behind, and I could not bear to think of her walking through that empty house, alone, once I left to come back to my own life. So I insisted, and she didn't resist.

Babe was in need of a lot of TLC that first week, and gradually as she began to recover, it was obvious to me that she would fill an important role in Norma Jean's life once I left. And the other dog she is fostering, Chester, a 9- or 10-year-old chihuahua, is resilient and will be fine whether she allows him to be adopted into another home or if she adopts him herself. She doesn't need to decide right now.
Chester, whose original owner died
Chester was in danger of being euthanized for space in the pound. Nobody had shown any interest in him during the month or so he was there, mostly because of his age. I was captivated by the strength of his character the first moment I saw him straining against the leash, not sure where he was being taken as we brought him home. Norma Jean agreed to foster him, and for the last month she has had these two dogs as companions. Every morning she takes them for a long walk, which they all love, and when I talk to her on video chat, they are always there.

But you know, they are Babe and Chester, not replacements for the loss of another dog, Moose, that Norma Jean grieves for and still misses every single moment of every single day. She was ready to lose Pete, because they had had years and months to prepare for the moment he died, and all the necessary words and farewells had been shared between them, and his expected passing was peaceful. He even told her how glad he was that she had Moose, what a comfort he would be for her. It was not to be. In that cruel instant when he ran after a rabbit and into the path of a speeding car in front of their home, all that changed. She screamed helplessly as all the pieces fell into place and ended Moose's life.

We are all still grieving over the loss of our beloved Pete, that goes without saying. We Stewarts will gather in a week's time in Texas to laugh together and share our memories of him, and Norma Jean will be brave and strong. Her daughter Allison and her granddaughter Lexie will be there. We will all be there, but Norma Jean would have traveled to Texas with Moose in her arms and would have stroked him as she allowed the tears to fall. It was not to be.

Did I do the wrong thing by rushing the introduction of these creatures into her life, thereby skewing the grieving process? I am consumed with dread, now wondering if my desire to have my sister not be alone caused a ripple of pain in the universe that would otherwise have healed up much better without my interference.
:-(

34 comments:

  1. Yes. Plain and simple... yes.

    When we lost our beloved Mocha, I grieved terribly. I had just lost my mom a month or so before. I was able to stay strong for my kids, and my dad, but when our dog died, the floodgates opened. I asked our vet how long I should wait before getting another, and her response was, "Wendy...go now." I am glad that I did. It took the sharp edges off the pain.

    You did well.

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  2. No, I'm sure you didn't do the wrong thing. Your sister needs someone to love right now. She needs a warm, beating heart next to her own and she needs to feel wanted, needed and loved, right there, in her home. When she gets up in the middle of the night because she can't sleep and the grief is overwhelming, she needs someone to nuzzle up to her and say, in their own special way, 'we love you'. She has that with the two little dogs. Don't regret what you did. It was a very kind deed.
    Star x

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  3. Don't give this one more minute of thought. Whatever has been done, trust that the Universe will handle any corrections that may become necessary. You don't have to do anything but let go. And have a great evening!

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  4. DJan: I feel you did the right thing, a pure and gentle gesture straight from the heart.
    I would have taken the same path, encouraged your sister to offer a home to a little dog ( or two ) who by no fault of their own, were possibly facing euthanasia, and in doing so, help fill a void in her own heart.
    She grieves because the memories of her little Moose are still fresh and foremost in her mind. Time will help remember her sweet Moose with fondness, not pain.
    You are a loving sister.
    Hugs,
    ~Jo

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  5. I don't know, I've seen people do it both ways. In our family when we lost a dog unexpectedly we went the same day and got another one.

    I can't imagine this was a wrong decision, she just hasn't finished grieving Moose. These dogs weren't meant to be Moose#2 and #3. They are who they are and will soon each fill their own space in her heart.

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  6. I've always felt that dogs are our Earth angels...and somehow they choose us. We go to pick them up of course...but they've sent out the message for us to do that. I picked up my dog Sophie, and days after getting her thought it might not have been such a good decision. But now that I've had her for a time I realize why she was the dog that I brought home. Dogs have feelings and they can read our feelings so well...and that's going to be a huge help to Norma Jean. You did the right thing in making sure your sister had these two angels by her side...and the rest will work itself out. Dogs can sense our grief and tears.
    Don't worry DJan everything will work out just right. I think you did the right thing...because you did it out of love for your sister...and no wrong can come of that. xo

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  7. I think you did the right thing!! She can grieve but taking care of the new dogs keeps her from being alone and I believe helping with the healing process!

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  8. Absolutely you did the right thing!!
    I cried everyday for 4 months after I lost Piper. The only thing that helped was getting Riley. I have had dogs all my life too and it is a lonely experience without one. Norma Jean needed her new dogs to keep her from feeling so alone. I am sure she would tell you she is glad she has them.

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  9. I think you did the right thing too. You acted out of love and compassion. She can still grieve for Pete and Moose, while having two little dogs to keep her busy. I don't think she thinks of them as replacements for Moose - just little dogs who needed help when she had some extra time to give. You are a wonderful sister; the fact that you are agonising over this just shows how much thought you put into things. Trust your instincts. You are an admirable woman!

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  10. Oh my goodness, Jan... don't second guess yourself. Trust that those dogs appeared in need precisely when they did for a reason. That reason is your sister. She needed them, and they her. Adjustment takes time. Grieving is such a varied process. Your sister will still grieve for Pete and Moose while giving love to these two little darlings.

    Yes, you did the right thing because you did it out of love. And three beings will benefit directly from that. Trust your judgment. I suspect it rarely fails you.

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  11. I think you did the right thing. I don't think Moose can be replaced, but you helped her have another dog to learn to love and to share time with. I can't imagine her being there without a dog while she is going through so many losses.

    We had to put our beloved Buster down, quite unexpectedly, just three days after my daughter's unexpected death. I could not believe that we were having to go through this one loss upon another. I still miss him so much. We haven't gotten another dog yet, but the time is coming. I know I won't replace Buster, but I am really looking forward to having another dear canine companion.

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  12. no you did not...she will take the time she needs and the process is different for everyone having that companion, even a dog is hugely important....

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  13. You're beating yourself up DJan. Yes, what you are saying about grief is true. But filling an empty life counts and your intentions were good. It will work out.
    My Dad remarried less than two years after our Mom died. He'd have got married much sooner if our stepmom had been ready. It turned out to be the very best thing for both of them and us.

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  14. You are grieving for your sister's loss. You acted out of love, knowing that you would have to leave her. You wanted her to not be alone.
    These are pure motives, not to become a burden on your mind. You did well. Let it be.

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  15. I have always believed in replacing pets soon after I lose them, but it is different for different people. Some need more time to mourn than others. Your sister would not have done it if she didn't feel it was the right thing for her. They won't replace her losses, but they will be grateful for her love and attention, and sometimes that helps, too. You have a good heart - the intention was a good one.

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  16. It's not for us, your readers, to determine whether the decision was write or wrong. It's up to your sister. What does she say about this?

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  17. Even while grieving, your sister is her own person and made the final choice. You did not force something on her. To have second thoughts now is counter productive. Just my opinion since you asked.

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  18. I'm so sorry for your sister. Life sure can be harsh. But I think you did the right thing. There are so many pets in need of care. And they will surely bring comfort and companionship. Even if they are not old friends quite yet.

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  19. Sure, you did the right thing! Those little dogs will be great company for Norma Jean as she grieves for Pete and Moose.

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  20. Yes, you did the right thing. When I lost my beautiful Bichon a few years ago I had to go right out and get a new toy poodle, even though I still had a toy poodle at home. I still to this day miss my little Dorian so much, but Little Fergie makes me smile when I'm feeling down about Dorian.
    Norma Jean will still grieve and miss Moose, but the new dogs will help her through it.
    Oh, reading about Moose being hit by the car just made me cry!

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  21. I wouldn't try to judge whether you did the right thing, but your motives were the best. Time will tell. Personally, I am a coward about pets. I love them a bunch but they are around so long, it is hard when they go. I have never been able to replace pets when they are gone. We had two cats for their lifetimes, and a dog, but have no pets now.

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  22. I'm so sorry that your sister is going through such a painful time in her life. She is very fortunate to have you for a sister. You acted out of love and concern for her welfare, and that is honorable. The new pets in her care will give her a heartwarming distraction from her grief, forcing her to do a routine and care for something that is in need of love. They in turn will give back to her. It won't take the grief away, but it will slow and soften the process in the long run.

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  23. even if it is, with the aid of hindsight, not the best thing to do, it was out of love and those decisions are usually work out

    I have both adopted immediately and waited after the loss of one of my furry loves
    both ways worked and didn't work

    the sudden horrible way that Moose died will probably make the grieving process last longer

    overall I think that animals bring so much love and understanding into our lives that it really can't ever be a bad thing to have them around

    hugs

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  24. Of course we did the right thing...as some of the commenters said, it was as much my decision as it was yours. You didn't MAKE me do anything. I have to grieve and get my bearings about what happened to Moose, but I also realize probably both these dogs would be dead if not for us making the decision we made.

    They will (and are) making me love them, too. They give me a reason to get up in the morning. So...stop worrying.

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  25. Hey DJan.

    I've finally found some time to catch up on your blog. Well, most of it. An hour later and my fuzzy brain is forcing me to stop (have a head cold, ugh!).

    I'm so sorry for your family's loss! I can believe that your sister must have felt very empty after successive heartbreaking events. It's wonderful you were able to go to her and spend some time and help her not feel alone... (and your grand-niece IS adorable!)

    As for the dog question: YES, I believe you did the right thing. There's no replacement, but who can avoid falling for a loving furry companion who needs you? And that feeling can help fill some of the void. It's much better than being alone. And it's the added bonus of having saved a life.

    lots of hugs to you and your family from the other side of the pond!!!

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  26. I was glad to see Norma Jeans comment:) you old big sister worry wart..I know you love her..and I think that is why you worry:)

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  27. I'm sure if it was not the right thing, your sister would have told you. You gave her a spirit to love and care for again. I'm so sorry she has gone through such anguish. I can imagine how painful it is for you to see her suffering.

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  28. There is nothing about this that feels wrong. Your sister is going to grieve her losses no matter what. Doing so with the comfort of sweet warm (and sometimes demanding) critters will only give her the strength she needs to walk through the pain and darkness. You are a great sister.

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  29. There is nothing gained in revisiting your action/decision after having made it. It's done.

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  30. A pet gives unconditional love, a chance to touch and be touched, is company and will keep her occupied. I can't think of any negatives to any of those facts. She will still go through the grieving process, only she can now hug a pet while she does have those low moments and be comforted. You did the right thing.

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  31. You did the right thing DJan. It is much better for her to have living and breathing pets with her than being alone. Of course she is missing her partner and her dog, but now she has to go out with the new pets, if not she might stay at home.

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  32. I just read Norma Jena's comment, you did good.

    Look at it this way, Chester didn't have time to wait. That little sweetie is around today because of your insistance.

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  33. Without a doubt in my mind, you did the best thing for her. Animals do so much for our souls...I like what wendyytb said, "it took the sharp edges off the pain." She described it perfectly... Also, like maggie, I do believe animals are fur angels. I also believe animals keep us from being too preoccupied with ourselves...

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