When I was 22, I learned one of the hardest lessons a dog lover will ever learn and had to make the choice to put down an only 8 month old puppy I raised and co-owned. He's the number one reason I am so completely adamant about proper breeding practices and the reason I will ALWAYS put health before beauty.
As an atheist, I sometimes find it difficult to find the right thing to say or the right way to impart my feelings in these kinds of situations. I don't believe in heaven or a rainbow bridge or any of the other things people will often reference when a beloved pet passes. It's certainly not that I think there is complete finality in death. I don't believe that at all. It's just not my faith that lends to the idea of an afterlife.
The human brain is a most amazing thing. Because of the ability of the human mind to retain memories and voluntarily revisit those memories, it stands to reason that as long as we continue to remember someone - they can never be truly gone. And the amazing thing about memory is that we can choose to remember the most important things about those we love - what brought them joy, the special connection we had with them, the favorite things we did together...
Fact: Every time you recall a memory or have a new thought, a new connection is created in your brain.
I find that this very connection is precisely how those we love remain a part of us.
I may have learned some very important and difficult lessons from Cain's death, but the way I remember him is the way I imagine he would want to be remembered.
It's not that I believe Cain to necessarily be an angel or to be waiting for me in the afterlife, but that when I remember him - I remember a happy bouncy puppy. I remember him free from the pain his joints came to cause him. The lessons he has taught me will continue to inform my decisions and I hope that his short life will serve as the foundation for the long and healthy lives of many dogs in my life to come.
The same goes for Bailey. The number of lives he will continue to touch long after leaving this earth as a result of the lessons he taught me are innumerable. He has changed every man, woman, and dog to ever meet him and because of that, he will live forever.
Remembering Travler... doing one of his favorite things.
And Dora, who gave everything she had... because that's what dogs do. :)