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Tecumseh climbs the side of a hill high in the mountains of Utah.
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Five Things That Healed My Grief
   
         
   
If you have read some of my earlier stories, you know that Tecumseh was born with serious hip problems. At five years old it looked as if he would not be able to walk by the time he was six. And yet, miraculously, I found a way to manage his dysplasia so that he had a pretty painless and happy life, and even outlived some of the younger dogs we knew.

As he approached the end of his fifteenth year, one day Tecumseh fell down the basement stairs. I'm not sure how or why that happened. There was nothing down there that he wanted or needed, and I had never known him to go down those stairs before. Now it was like all those years of containment had exploded all at once. He clearly was in pain and limped emphatically. For ten years I had avoided giving him pain killers, but now he desperately needed them. I put him on medication and watched him for a month, but failed to see any improvement. One day I took him for a walk around the block and it was quite obvious that he was not enjoying life. He was in so much pain that he didn't care to sniff anything or look at anything. It was at that point I knew we would have to pay our final visit to the vet. The following day I left the veterinarian's office in tears, Tecumseh's lifeless body on the table, the last image embedded into my memory.

The next day as I was sitting in my computer room working at my desk, I got a very strong feeling that Tecumseh was sleeping  on his usual spot at the foot of my bed in the other room. I felt there were two reasons for his visit. First, he wanted to rest before moving on. True, he wasn't in his physical body and wouldn't need a physical rest, but he had been in so much pain lately that I sensed his spirit needed a rest before moving on. Secondly, I felt that was his way of comforting me. About six times over the next month or so I would feel his presence beside me so strongly that I felt I could reach down and touch him.

That was the first thing that made me feel better about his departure. Next, I started wearing his tag. When he was still a pup I had special ordered a metal tag that dangled from his collar. Circular, like a coin, it was a beautiful silver, with his name, address, and my telephone number engraved upon it. After he died I attached it to a silver chain and wore it from my neck. That was uplifting. It made me feel like he was with me. It even made me feel that Tecumseh was there looking after me and protecting me. I wore it for years until one day it dawned on me that I no longer had it. I didn't know where or how it had disappeared, just that it was gone. For some time I really felt its absence.

Thirdly, I replaced the backgound on my computer with the picture of Tecumseh sleeping on my ski boot (click here) The last time I saw him, he was lying lifeless on the veterinarian's table. But now I could replace that sad image with a sweet memory. Every time I brought my computer up, or returned to my home screen, I saw him sleeping peacefully and contently on my boot. It was a happy image, a happy time, and very much expressed his bonding to me.

Fourthly, I spread his ashes in Middle Basin (click here) This was always one of my favorite places in the world, and it was a place where he roamed while he was still young and healthy, where he ran freely with great vigor and strength. Several times we hiked the eight miles in, roamed the basin the entire weekend, and then hiked back out. Magic occurred here when he appeared in that photograph, which I still proudly display on my website. Now his ashes have been absorbed by the grasses and trees here, so that in a very real sense a part of him still lives here. I have already told my brother that when I die, I want my ashes to rest with Tecumseh in Middle Basin.

Some will declare that I am misled, that everything must have a scientific explanation, that there is no life after death. Some very devot Christians will say that they believe in heaven and earth, in life after death, and that we all have spirtits, but that animals have no spirit, nor life after death. I am quite sure that animals do have spirits, and that dogs can be reincarnated. I can't tell you whether a dog will always be a dog, or whether an animal of one form can evolve into something of a higher form. What I can tell you is that I am pretty sure that I knew Tecumseh in his previous life. I often suspected that he was the dog of my teenage years. One day I felt moved to test that concept, so I looked at him and addressed him as "Bee Jay." The way he responded, the look he gave me, the feeling that passed between us, convinced me that he was indeed the same dog that I had loved as a teenager. The only sad thing is that after Tecumseh died I was sure he would come back to me again in a year or two, but 19 years have passed now and I am still in Thailand, a country that is, in my opinion, much too hot for any dog, let alone the sled dog breeds that I dearly love. During that time perhaps he has already gone to another family, has lived out his life, and is ready to return to me again.

These are the things that I believe, the things that happened to me, and the things that I did, all of which healed my grief and helped me to adjust to loss and to changes in my life. I hope that some of you find something in my story that is helpful and worth keeping. I hope to eventually get my website set up for comments. I would love to hear stories about your pets, and the things that helped you through rough times. Until I have comments set up, feel free to email me at  "friends@silentnature.com".

 
   
         
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