Keisha’s Kyra

After Keisha (our nearly 5 year old pug) decided to hit the Angel Zone, we weren’t quite the same. My family and I busied ourselves in the busyness of life. I grieved ‘constructively’ by volunteering for the Rainbows Bridge, an online portal for families of deceased pets and service animals. 10 years ago, I would have failed to fully appreciate the need for such a service. 10 days in as a volunteer and it felt as if someone had granted me the belated right to consent that my fur-child had returned to Nature.

I began to begin my mornings as a ‘condolence writer’ for the Rainbows Bridge message center. My inbox received roughly three requests each day for condolence letters for a family who had lost a pet. The memorial page for each request shared a brief description of the family, the pet and his or her favourite things. It was a simple portal without the complexities of a personal profile or user stats or even a Facebook account linked to it. I imagine it would be easier to create an FB or Instagram memorial page for ones pet with no costs involved and a far more savvy interface. However, Rainbows Bridge seemed to be built on the foundation of an old fashioned need for a community sharing the same loss.

Every article or resource had been contributed as an act of service from one grieving parent to another. These were regular-people-turned-content-writers, as if on an errand to retrieve new meaning with each post. Perhaps, a little like Harry Potter’s character in the first book when he realized he was only one of two students who saw the white phantoms pulling his Hogwarts carriage. Death has a way of re-arranging meaning even after meeting it time and over in its many shapes and forms.

One family wrote of their loss of a 44 year old bird (8 years my senior) who had brought the pet-parent couple together. Another wrote of their deceased service dog in a family with special needs children. A third wrote of a cat who restored a woman’s faith in her God after a losing a child.

“Transition has a way leaving wisdom in its wake,” I wrote in one letter, feeling a little bit like a hypocrite and hating the feeling. I wasn’t feeling particularly wise myself, especially on that day. I signed the letter with Keisha’s name, as if writing on her behalf and from a second person perspective. I described death as liberating and beautiful, based on accounts of near-death experiences I’d read about as a medical student. I also went so far and typed “it’s important to live well and fully in his honour” to an anguished Brazilian couple. It was a paraphrase from the work of Bert Hellinger, a therapeutic idea I’d read of a few years ago after the passing of a close friend.

As I typed, I wondered how another friend had recovered from the loss of a child, but not from her 2-year-old Labrador who developed a failure in both kidneys. It seemed bizarre and yet made all the sense in the world.

In the meanwhile, Keisha’s friend Patch (also a pug) had delivered a litter of 7 healthy pups. We visited them with Keisha to lift her spirit and ours. Patch’s partner, a French bulldog was possibly feeling ‘fatherful’ at the time and contributed to two litters in the same month (yes, he has an appointment to be neutered next week and no, we’re not feeling bad for him at all).

Keisha seemed to take to one pup in particular and we decided to adopt a second fur-baby in the happy possibility that Keisha would pull through her illness, win over cancer and we would all live happily ever after amid dog treats and puppy poop.

However, Keisha seemed to have her heart set on sprouting angel wings. Even after her heart stopped beating and her lungs had given way, she looked peaceful and happy as she lay there, her eye-lids not completely closed over her opaque corneas, with a little light glistening in them as if they were twinkling. Peace and sadness sometimes take over the human heart at the same time, as if Nature had set aside different compartments for them until they consent to merge into a film of gratitude.

3 weeks and several phone calls later, Keisha’s successor whooshed into our home. “Whoosh” is the only word that quite describes Kyra’s movements. She is the ‘chosen one’ to carry forward the mischief and quite frankly, at the age of 7 weeks she is taking the role very very seriously. She has the stubbornness of a French bulldog and the resilience of her mother Patch. She also has the spunk of her predecessor Keisha which translates into near-zero sleep for us on any given day.

The 4:00 am mornings have kicked in once more, this time to the soundtrack of a whining and then wailing sound of the Bandit-Queen-Kyra. The nick-name came to us naturally while she bit (not nibbled) happily into our earlobes while we watched, half-nodded-off and then found ourselves jostled into wakefulness (or at least our earlobes were) in the middle of a favourite TV show.

Kyra thinks Keisha is still in the home and sniffs imaginary trails to find the source of this other doggy. Her search stops inside her little pooch bed, smelling mildly of detergent and of Keisha. She snuggles in, giving up her search for the moment.

The truth is that our home will always belong to Keisha; for home really is where the heart is.

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Shradhdha Shah

Shradhdha Shah

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Keisha’s Human + Medic (Hom.) + Loves longitudinal studies ❤