A Tender Message Posted in a Park

This weekend while wandering through one of the wonderful nearby off-leash parks where my dog loves to play ball and chase squirrels I saw a slip of paper attached to one of the trees. Out of curiosity I approached it to find out what was written and read a beautifully written poignant message from another dog lover who earlier in the week sadly had to say goodbye to her companion of more than 15 years. Her words impacted me so deeply that I felt an urge to contact her and express my condolences even though I did not know her or her departed canine friend. Fortunately she left her e-mail address on the note she had written. Below is the message I sent her. Life is precious and all too brief…be sure to let those you love know how important they are, no matter what their species.


I was in Dracena Park this weekend and saw the notice you had posted about the loss of your beloved Sequoia. Even though I do not believe I ever met you or Sequoia I was deeply moved by your message and wanted to write to express my condolences. It was evident from your words that obviously you loved her enormously and must be experiencing a terrible sense of loss, emptiness, and sadness. There’s very little that those close to you much less strangers can say or do to help you get through this tragic period in your life other than let you know that they are thinking of you and hoping that time will ease your pain.

 8 ½ years ago I had to say goodbye to my beloved Sheba, a Border Collie/lab mix that we adopted when she was 4 months old and who was a cherished member of our family for 15 years. In my life I have lost many close family members and very dear friends; yet having to make the horrific decision to end her life was the most painful experience I have ever endured even though I knew then and now it was the humane thing to do. Despite the passage of time I still think of her often and have pictures of her throughout my house including a favorite one on my desk. It took me a long, long time to heal; I was a true basket case for months. Even now on the anniversary of her passing I become very withdrawn and downhearted although I have found that making a donation to one of the many worthwhile animal welfare organizations is a worthy way of honoring her memory as well as helping me to deal with my sorrow better. I still think of her often but now those memories are mostly happy ones. One thing that has helped me is knowing that both my life and hers were ever so enriched by the years we spent in this world together and I am ever so grateful for that time, as brief as it was.

 I mention my history and my handling of Sheba’s death without knowing anything about you other than the poignant words you left for all your fellow dog lovers in the park. You wrote “she changed my whole life and taught me so much” and “she will be in our hearts forever”. That so echoes my sentiments about Sheba and tells me how deep the love was that you shared with her. Allow yourself to grieve. There is a wonderful quote from the movie “Shadowlands” that so well sums up the feelings you are forced to endure now. Anthony Hopkins’ characters comments “The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.” Sadly that is the deal – to not be feeling that hurt now you would never have known the joy she brought into your life.

 You ended your message on a very positive note. “I will see you back here when I find my new doggy soul mate.” That is the hopeful, healthy outlook that will help to get you through your dark days. It took me 8 months to heal sufficiently and to find my new best friend, a lovable, energetic, playful 8 week old Border Collie mix that we named Aries. I swore when we got him that I wouldn’t allow myself to love our new boy like I had loved Sheba. And yet of course I did and he is now the sunshine of my days. He will be turning 8 years old in 2 weeks. I’m sure your doggy soul mate is out there waiting for you to fall in love with him or her now or sometime in the foreseeable future. You’ll know when you’re ready and when you are I wish you much joy and happiness. I’m sure you’ll be a wonderful mom to the loveable and lucky pooch.

My Best Wishes to You

Ed Hartnett