If you’ve ever loved an animal so unconditionally and had that love returned then you’ll know how impossible it is to release them when their time has come to leave this planet. It wrenches the heart in all four directions and until I read this, which I have shared below, I have never been able to truly break the chains that hold me bound to my beautiful, Holly J who was my canine ‘daughter’ for eighteen years. Not a day passes when I don’t visit her. She lies under a frangipani tree she chose after her death in the garden.
I’ve just read the book and I feel more peace than I have known since January 3 2007 when my sweet old girl called it a day. It is said the spirits of animals we have loved continue to visit us because love is the most powerful force in the universe. It cannot be severed by death.
Excerpt from ‘An Angel Called My Name’ by Theresa Cheung
“My wife Rebecca and I shared nine years of our lives with our beloved dog Martin, an Alsatian. He was our first child really and our best friend. He was so full of life and energy and love.
Martin was about a year old when we first brought him home. He was so tiny, frail and underweight that he looked like a newborn. The dogs’ home we collected him from told us that he had been abused as a puppy. He had been left outside all day and all night by his owner with three other dogs who were older and more aggressive. They had eaten all his food, so he had chewed on items containing lead-based paint and then started to suffer seizures. The kennel owner suggested that I take a healthier dog home but there had been an instant connection when I looked into Martin’s eyes and I knew he was going to come home with me.
In the nine glorious years we had him he suffered uncomplainingly through the treatment for his poisoning. He was as steadfast a companion as life could offer. He never complained as he travelled to where the work was. He enjoyed chasing a ball, though I always felt he was humouring me, because nine times out of ten he would get distracted by birds flying overhead or daisies in the field.
I always knew that Martin’s life expectancy would be shortened by the abuse he suffered as a puppy but it was still a shock when about a year before his death, his legs started to crumble underneath him. The vet told me he had neural failure in his back legs which meant he had problems shifting one limb in front of the other. The vet was unwilling to say when the pain would end. My wife and I discussed it and we couldn’t bear to be Martin’s executioners. We loved him like he was our child.
A few months later, Martin’s front legs began to crumble too and it was pitiful to watch him trying to drag himself along the ground. It was my wife who finally called the vet – she’s always been stronger than me – and the vet agreed to come around the following day.
I slept fitfully with Martin on the floor of the front room on his last night. I didn’t want to cut short any of the remaining time I had with him. When we got up I fretted over his breakfast and then I remembered the futility of it all. He would be dead before it was digested. Half an hour to go and he snored loudly with his head in my lap as I stroked his head. I felt like a traitor. I heard the vet arrive. Martin was panting with pain by now trying to get his body to stand. I rubbed him and started to cry. I felt selfish as I cried as I should have been the strong one – supporting him. I picked Martin up and took him upstairs to the spare room which over the years had become Martin’s room. All his favourite things were there. I opened the window and a refreshing breeze blew on my face.
I heard the vet and my wife coming up the stairs. There were just moments left. The vet was a kind and gentle woman and she told me exactly what to expect. Martin didn’t struggle when he was given the injection. His soft eyes gazed into mine and then began to glaze over. I held him tight, consoled by the fact that he was with someone who loved him. Yet when I took off his collar I felt as if I had betrayed him.
I carried Martin downstairs. We buried him in our garden. Afterwards the house was so quiet my wife and I decided to drive down to some fields nearby to get some fresh air. We had often taken Martin there. We were both silent as we got into the car and when we arrived I felt tears sting my eyes. I turned the engine off and my wife gave me a reassuring hug. We sat there for quite a while. We didn’t get out of the car; we both just needed time and space to think about Martin. Even though Rebecca kept telling me I had done the right thing and deep down inside I knew she was right, I still couldn’t help but feel I had betrayed him.
Eventually we decided to leave. I turned the engine on and the radio started to play. I remember thinking it was strange as the radio hadn’t been on when we drove there. What was even more astonishing was that the song playing was ‘Cruel to be Kind (in the Right Measure)’. I smiled at the coincidence. It was really as thought Martin was sending me a message.
Even more miraculous, Rebecca got pregnant a week after Martin died. We had been trying for years to have a baby and after three unsuccessful attempts at IVF, had decided that becoming parents wasn’t our destiny. She had a tough first trimester and our doctor was unsure if the pregnancy would last. I was terribly anxious but Rebecca never was. She said she knew everything would be fine. She told me that she’d had a dream of Martin and that she believed he was our baby’s guardian angel and always would be.
David Martin was born the following March and is now a healthy, happy two and a half year old. Sometimes I’m convinced that little David is playing with Martin. He’ll often head straight for Martin’s grave even though there is no gravestone on it and play near it watching the daisies and trying unsuccessfully to catch butterflies just like Martin used to.”