Tragedy struck in October 2017.
My elderly golden retriever approached me one morning with the deepest, saddest expression on her face. Her head hung low, as if it felt too heavy for her, and her eyes were pleading as she stared at me.
“What’s wrong, old lady?” I asked her.
It occurred to me that she hadn’t been eating as much over the past few days and was slower to get up.
I called the vet and brought her in for an exam. They took some blood and ran some tests. Then they called with the bad news.
She had developed cancer of the spleen, which had ruptured, causing internal bleeding. This was why she had become weak, even to the point of finding food to be too much effort. Surgery would be costly, painful, and pointless, since the cancerous blood from the ruptured organ was now circulating throughout her body.
“How long does she have?” I asked the vet.
“Not long,” came the reply. “I would say no more than a week, at best.”
She explained that if left to run its course, the bleeding would intensify to the point where she would bleed to death internally.
I didn’t like the sound of this.
What if she died alone, while we were sleeping? Supposedly, it wasn’t painful to die this way, as they pass out from blood loss before passing, but the vet also said that sometimes, they know what is happening to them and feel fear before they pass out. I didn’t want that. No one should die alone and afraid, especially my loyal and sweet family dog.
I asked her how many days I had before she reached that danger point. She said no more than two days.
I was shocked.
How had this happened so fast? One minute, she was fine, and the next, she was dying.
It hit all of us hard. We cried and loved on her and cried some more.
It didn’t take long to decide what I had to do, however. I arranged for an in-home euthanasia in two days’ time. The vet would come to our home and give her a powerful painkiller and sedative, and once she was asleep, they would inject a drug to stop her heart.
It was the most comfortable, pain-free death imaginable, and she was worth it. She had loved us with all her heart, and I wanted her to have the best.
As soon as I made the appointment, I went to work on her body, using some of the alternative healing techniques I had learned over the last couple years. They worked. She became stronger, her appetite increased, and she was able to move better.
This made it easier to pamper her those last two days. She ate all her favorite human foods with us, slept in our beds, and got all the cuddles and doggie massages her heart desired.
Kiani and I wondered what would happen when she passed. Would she know that she had died? Would Kiani see her? Would her spirit stay with us or move on?
What we kept forefront in our minds was that she wasn’t going to cease to exist. She was simply transitioning from one form to another. This gave us comfort in the days and weeks to come.
When her transition day arrived, it turned out to be even more beautiful and peaceful than I imagined. We fed her bits of tuna and even pizza (something she had never been allowed to eat in her life) off a plate while we waited for her to get sleepy. I have never seen her so happy! Her last apparent thought before she fell asleep and before the final injection was, Yes! That bite! The big piece! Oh, yum!
When she closed her eyes, that giant piece of pizza was still sticking out the side of her mouth. It was truly beautiful.
Our questions on whether we would see her again were soon answered.
That night, Kiani and I were sitting in my room, playing on our devices, when Kiani suddenly sat bolt upright.
“Mommy! I just saw Luna!”
“What? What happened?!”
“I looked up from playing for a second and saw her back and tail. She walked past me and over there.” She pointed to the left end of my bed. “But I looked away because I forgot she was dead and then I realized what I saw and looked again. I can’t see anything now, but I saw her! Solid form!”
She was grinning from ear to ear, and I couldn’t help smiling with her.
Just then, one of our cats, who had been sleeping next to Kiani, suddenly stood up and stared in the direction that Kiani had said Luna had walked.
Her eyes were bright and focused as she stared at the spot for a few seconds. Then she jumped down and walked over to it. She began pawing at the carpet and walking back and forth, much like she used to do while greeting Luna; that gentle glide that cats do along your legs.
“Look!” Kiani said. “I think she sees her!”
I had to agree with her.
Two more incidents happened over the next few days.
While Luna was still alive, it had always been her habit to go downstairs, into my son’s room, when Kiani and I would leave on errands.
A couple days after Luna’s transition, Kiani and I came back from a store run and went into my son’s room to bring him his requested ice cream.
He told us that a minute or so after we left, his pet bunny had startled, ran into a wall of his cage, and then started thumping his foot in alarm, staring at a spot near the end of his bed (the place Luna used to lay in).
I told my son that I felt quite sure it had been Luna. He blinked at me in amazement and then nodded, smiling.
“I think you’re right!” he said.
It made me happy to see him smiling like that. It wasn’t just Luna having been there. It was also his second encounter with a spirit (he didn’t remember the first one, which had been the playset being lifted off the ground a few years ago), and he was thrilled about that. Before this, he was used to just hearing stories from Kiani and myself.
After this incident, Kiani saw Luna a couple more times in a mist-like form, walking around the house.
Then I experienced something I wasn’t expecting at all.
Luna’s favorite food of all time was tuna. She always thought of herself as more of a cat than a dog and had been especially excited over the cans of tuna we occasionally fed to the cats (of which she was always given some).
One morning, there were zero cans of tuna left in the house. The last two had been fed to Luna on the day she passed, and what remained of the tuna had been cleaned up days ago.
But as I was standing in my kitchen, trying to think what to cook, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the strong odor of tuna fish. It was so strong, in fact, that it was as if someone had opened a fresh can of it and passed it under my nose!
How could I be smelling tuna?
Any remains had been thrown out a while ago. Then I suddenly recalled reading that spirits are often accompanied by scents that were important to them when alive.
I dropped down into a squat and held my hands out to the space around me.
“Luna,” I said softly, “I miss you, baby girl. I hope you know how much I love you.”
Tears slid down my cheeks. I took a shaky breath, then continued.
“You can stay here with us, if you like, or you can go into the light and wait for us there. Whatever you want to do, okay?”
I felt and heard nothing, but the smell was as strong as ever.
After a few moments, I stood up and the scent faded.
We think that it took her a few days to understand what had happened. She must have left her body and then just kept right on doing what she always did.
I feel that at some point, she thought, Why doesn’t anyone see me? Why does no one talk to me or touch me?
I think that when she realized what had happened, she came to me for direction. I believe that her soul understood what I told her, and she decided.
Luna visited us twice after this, always accompanied by the smell of tuna.
One day, we came home from a trip to a pet store, and I opened a bag of little, green bone treats in the kitchen. They also used to be one of Luna’s favorites, but I hadn’t thought of her in a while, having been so busy.
Well, when I opened that bag of green bones and stepped a few feet away, to the top of the stairs, there came again that overwhelming smell that accompanies her: tuna fish!
After my initial shock at smelling her again, I came out of it, placed one of the bones on the floor, and said, “Here, Luna! Treat!”
At that point, Kiani and I heard the distinctive sound of her collar tinkling a couple times. I hope that food has a spirit replica of itself in the spirit world! Wouldn’t that be neat? Maybe it does. After all, many cultures around the world leave gifts of food for the spirits. Maybe they know something I don’t.
Another day, I was especially missing her and expressed some regrets about how I felt I hadn’t truly appreciated her enough for all that she did and wished I could tell her. That night, Kiani and I both dreamed of her. She came to us and put her head in our laps, and we held her and cuddled her for a long time. I believe this was her way of saying, “It’s okay, family. I loved my life with you. I would do it all over again if I could. Don’t be sad. I’m crossed over now, but I’ll come visit you sometimes, and when you’re ready to cross over one day, I’ll be waiting for you.”
I feel, without an ounce of a doubt, that I will see her again. I once read something online that makes me tear up to this day.
It said that when we pass into the light – into the place where we are greeted by our loved ones – we are quickly rushed upon by a crowd of our pets that have passed on before us. It said that, in typical animal fashion, our pets are the first to see and hear us coming and the first to get to us. Our human loved ones have to wait patiently behind the crowd of wagging tails, delighted meows, chirping, and wing-flapping before they can get in for that long-awaited hug.
Can’t you just picture that? What an amazing moment.
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