Five years ago, I agreed to take a stray cat into my household. I thought I was getting the black and white cat with a little goatee under his chin like Maynard G. Krebs on the 1960s TV show "Dobie Gillis" as a companion for my other cat Shadow. It turns out he was really for me. As soon as I went into the bedroom at night, he'd settle onto the blanket at the foot of the bed and snuggle beside me once I'd gotten under the covers. He was also a good friend to the young frightened collie I adopted a few years later, and really made the four of us into a family. This spring he started sleeping during the day on the living room couch near the dog, and I thought this change in habit was out of love. Then he lost interest in food, and started dropping weight. I tried to tease him with treats including baby food, but it didn't help. I kept hoping he would get better and I felt angry at how skinny he was. He was leaving me and I didn't want him to go. This is the hardest feeling, not wanting them to leave



Hazel, my cat, was lost through an accident on a night when I forgot to get her back inside before going to bed. A friend's dog was in the yard and in the morning I found her body next to the fence, her neck broken. I cried and felt guilty for years about her death. It was the hardest I had ever grieved over anything. I miss her



banjoAttached is the last picture we took of Banjo. This was his 14th birthday on Oct. 27, 2003. We were at Cannon Beach, Oregon. We had promised him that we would celebrate his 14th birthday at his favorite place. This picture is a true gift that he left us with. He passed on 2 weeks later. The sky in this picture is the most amazing thing. Those little white lights..........I swear they were angels he was looking at. No other picture in the entire roll of film had anything like that on them.

A. E.


You came to me as my pseudo-cousin, making me smile, along with my mom, each time you'd tilt your head with a look of anticipation, glee and pure goofiness that said you were just plain happy. Your easy demeanor made me love you like a sister and friend (which is to say I do not feel that way about many other hounds!). You will be greatly missed but I know you will always be around, bounding with us in the fields and mountains, waiting for another toss of the ball with your sweet smile and tilt of your head



I had never had a relationship with a small animal before. My entire life has been filled with affectionate dogs, independent cats, beautiful birds and magnificent horses. A stop in a local pet store nine years ago forever changed my perspective on the depth of love, commitment and relationship that humans can have with the 'littler guys' in the animal kingdom. My husband and I were in the animal store to pick up supplies. In the store there was a big cage filled with six young ferrets. I had never had an interaction with a ferret before and I remarked to my husband about how cute they were, and he said that we did not need any more 'cute' animals to join our family. As I watched them from a distance, the smallest of the ferrets left the group where it was playing and dozing with its siblings, and climbed up the side of the wire enclosure. She put her little hand out of the cage and motioned to me like a person waving and saying, "Hey, come on over here." I told my husband that the ferret was bidding us to come over and he noticed it too. We asked the store manager if we could hold her. She was soft, smelled distinctively different, and kept nuzzling my neck. I was hooked. I could go on for pages telling of all of her talents, joys, and loves. She would try to tease us into playing with her. She understood so many things that made her such an important part of my life. I learned a new respect for 'little' animals. I really did not have any idea that they were every bit as able to interact with humans as traditional 'pets' do. When she was eight years old, she developed adrenal problems. She had a loss of hair and slowed down a little. We decided that she had had such a wonderful and long life compared to other ferrets that she would not undergo adrenal surgery. She died during the day in her furry pouch made from a car-washing mitt. I carried her around in the mitt for several hours; I needed to accept that she was dead. I have not gotten another ferret. I want one, and my husband and I go into animal stores looking. We each hold up all of the ferrets in the cage, one at a time and then look at each other and say, "No, not any of these." It's not that they are not all beautiful and smell the same way that Frankie did, it is just that they do not have the same essence or sparkle or recognition of us that she did. How do you describe something that weighs only two pounds and has all of the love and joy in the universe within them?



When I was a small boy, my family lived on my grandparents' farm in rural Mississippi while my father was serving in World War II. My grandfather had this big, gentle, brown mule that he used to plow the fields with. He would set me up on the mule's back and I'd ride for hours holding the harness collar while my grandfather walked behind holding the leather reins. I always carried the memory of that warmth and joy that I felt in those fields with my grandfather and his mule. Life was slower there and everything was more appreciated. Someday, when I grew up, I would have a mule just like my grandfather's. I first saw Mr. Jones, the mule, in 1975 when a neighbor bought him. He was big and dark brown with a light colored muzzle, huge ears, and big soft brown eyes. As fortune would have it, my neighbor had to relocate and Mr. Jones was put up for sale. Mr. Jones joined our family as a pack animal to help carry us into the mountains for camping, fishing, and hunting in the beautiful Idaho wilderness. He excelled so much in everything that I would ask him to do, that I soon moved him up to the place of my favorite riding mount. I always knew that anyone that was on him was safe. Mr. Jones took his job very seriously. He seemed to know that he was responsible for the person that he was carrying. We survived snowstorms, mudslides, and mountain blizzards. When the going was tough, I would always tell him to find our way and I would let him make the decisions about which path to take. When he was in his early thirties, he was given the new responsibility of teaching my grandchildren how to ride, love, and respectfully care for riding animals. He was like a proud grandparent with each of the three kids. He would move so slowly for the small child and act like a frisky colt with the 10-year-old boy. Mr. Jones died last year. He had been a part of our family for 27 years. The friendship and the love that I felt for him cannot truly be described in words. During his last year of life, he began to get very thin. I decided, bec ause of his age, that no extra measures such as surgery would be taken. He would live out his life with his four horse friends, near the house with the humans that loved him so dearly. One morning last winter, when I went out to feed, he was lying down in his stall all sweaty and very uncomfortable. I called our veterinarian to come and give him a euthanasia shot. While I waited for the vet to arrive, I sat on the ground with him and told him how much that I loved him. I thanked him over and over for all of the joy that he had given to our family. I reflected on all of the years that we had been friends. When the needle went into his neck, before, during and after the fluid was injected into his wonderful brown body, I just kept saying, "Thank you Mr. Jones, thank you so much, thank you so very much for being you and sharing your life with me and my family."



My husband had two fan-tailed goldfish that loved him deeply. Every time he'd come into the room they'd dance. They even enjoyed Sparky our cat. Sparky would sit right next to their aquarium like a babysitter. You could really feel the love in the room. When Dan fed Molly and Goober he would stick his finger in the water and they would both scoot up to touch him, with the gentlest of affections. He had a special connection to those golden beauties



My dog Ditto has been my companion and close friend for 11 years now. He is a border collie that worked with sheep in the mountains of Idaho and ended up abandoned. I picked him out from the other dogs at the local animal shelter because of the challenge he seemed to offer me. Our times have been mainly good. His joints are a bit stiff now that he is 12 years old and he jogs with a limp, so I am trying massage and oils to relieve any pain. This makes me sad



Clarry was sent to us by my husband's sister who called one day and said that, the vet said she was going to have to put her eight puppies to sleep, because the mother had a breast infection. I ran down there and by mid-afternoon I had found homes for all but one. They were not even one week old, which meant in addition everyone had to bottle feed these little ones. I took the last one, a little girl. I was going to get her strength up and then find a loving home for her when my Auntie Clara & Uncle Harry came to visit. They couldn't see how in the world I could find another home better than this one for this tiny little dog. So, they were her namesakes as I named her Clarry. When she took her almost last breath I revived her with mouth to mouth resuscitation, yet she was only able to come back long enough to tell us she loved us which, later I was so grateful for. I waited four years before another loving animal energy was attracted into our lives. Clarry made me realize that even if I only got to have her love for one day, that that one day would be accepted in gratitude



Annabelle is a dog and yet she is known to me as "My smallest girlfriend with the Biggest Heart." She is one of my most important teachers. It took me 7 years to figure out how to truly communicate with her, yet persistence paid off, double fold. She showed me so much while she was on Earth and is still a constant reminder of the beauty of the truth within myself. I see and hear her messages still with infinite gratitude.



~ Beloved Riki ~ From Riki's diagnosis in August - Everyone said "I would know" I seriously doubted. I looked at my beautiful kitty through rose colored glasses - how could I clearly see the truth? Each morning meditation, I prayed - Please let me know when. Please let me hear Riki when she tells me. Please let her need only tell me once. Please let her be comfortable, happy and safe - and let her choose her departure. I told Riki daily to feel free to leave. To not mask any pain for the sake of her son Jag or I. To not hold on for any occasion. 13 November 2002 Riki looked great, ate her breakfast, jumped on the counter to her water fountain, went potty and again jumped up high on the barstool (covered with her heating pad), I kissed she and Jag, told them I loved them - and was off to work. I returned at 6pm. Riki looked her beautiful and happy self. 7:30 pm; sitting in my chair - candles lit, music on. Riki fell off her barstool in a seizure. I scooped her up, held her tight and told her to let go. I love you. Thank you. I love you. We'll be OK. I love you. Thank you. The three of us will be together forever and always. My Beloved did not want to leave in this way. I realize now this episode was her way of making certain I was clear on her request to leave - the following day. The seizure lasted for 1 - 2 minutes and soon thereafter Riki stabilized - her fur became thick and shiny, her eyes clear as a bell and her 60-70% diminished hearing was restored; sharp as ever. This is true not imagined. We spent the evening - staring into each other's eyes, barely blinking. Savoring each moment. I thanked Riki for her (very) clear message, and keeping up my end of the deal - promised to put the system in place first thing in the morning. 14 November 2002 At 9am the vet confirmed she could arrive at the apartment at 11am. Riki and I continued our morning as we spent the previous evening. Promptly at 10:45am she went to Jag. I then witnessed the most beautiful and profound exchange of love between the two. At 11am, the intercom buzzed. My Darling received a pain sedative. I held her, and kept her cradled throughout. 10 minutes later she received the shot to cause her sleepiness. I knew the shot to follow by 15 minutes would stop her giving heart from beating. It was between these two shots, with Jag at our side - completing our family circle, I repeatedly told my Beloved - "I love you. I thank you. Circles of golden light are here to carry you and guide you. I love you. I thank you Riki. All our angels are here. We'll be together always. Always and Forever. I love you. Thank you. Thank you for showing me life. Thank you for the privilege of sharing in your life. Thank you for giving Jag life. I love you Riki. Thank you for the privilege." The VMD then confirmed her heart had stopped. She let herself out. Later I thanked her for her kindness, compassion and respect for our privacy. I held Riki for awhile longer and then on the same spot stretched out - with Riki curled on my chest in her beautiful sleeping position. I fell fast asleep - and awoke 4 hours later. Riki's body was cold and hard. This was no longer my Darling - but it was the vessel that contained her unconditional love. It kept her safe, healthy and vital for nearly two decades. It was the fur every tear of my adult life was cried into. It was Riki's pretty toes - with nails (always) painted bright. It was her generous whiskers and one-fanged smile. Riki had passed to an-other place - filled with light and love, and beyond my comprehension Jag, I, and her shell were quiet throughout the evening. Wrapped in Riki's blanket, I wrapped her vessel in a larger blanket, took it into bed and slept throughout the night. 15 November 2002 The morning brought a clearer reality. I left the apartment and purchased two large bundles of myrtle and three sterling roses. I laid a thick layer of myrtle on my kitty's blanket, then a number of rose petals. I placed Riki's vessel on top - placing more petals on and around. Jag and I blessed it, gave thanks and kissed it goodbye. I covered the extraordinarily black shiny-furred body with another thick layer of myrtle - adding a bit of hair from both Jag and I. Taking up the corners of the blanket, I made a neat bundle-bouquet, tied with two bows. I told Jag I would be back shortly - to begin our life without her. I drove to the crematorium. I thanked Riki's vessel for how it honored her and for all it meant to me all these many, many years. My tears saturated it - for the last time. I handed the bouquet over, to a nice stranger. It was perfect.



~ Beloved Jag ~ It took so long - Then came so fast. October 6, 2003 my kitty Jag told me was to be his last day in this realm. I called the Animal Center and made Jag's last day known, and that assistance would be required. I then turned off the phones and focused on quality time with my Beloved. The Long Time Sun will shine upon you Jag You will be surrounded will All Love The Sacred Light within you will guide your way home God disguised in a beautiful black suit. I thanked Jag for his unconditional love for which there are no words. I thanked him for his many heroic efforts in staying with me. I told him how often after a being passes, people easily turn their loved one into a saint who did no wrong. I told Jag no one's going to believe me in how willingly and courageously he consistently took his pills, accepted his insulin injections and how calmly and gladly he received his Sub Q fluids. I told him that I didn't care that some may think it's an exaggeration. I know the truth. I know the truth forever and my gratitude transcends language. Holding Jag dear, we walked around the house; we looked at pictures of Riki and talked about many memories. The vet arrived. I held my lovely Jag - and soon - it was over. I held my Beloved's extraordinary vessel - that had given so much. Swaddled in his froggy blanket - we sat on the kitchen floor for hours, below the counter where the shot had taken place. God no longer disguised. Into the evening I wrapped the still exquisite suit in his froggy blanket - with roses, sage, a daisy and a bit of my hair. I tied the bundle with two rich blue ribbons. Our last night together was now unfolding exactly as I had visualized for months. The Long Time Sun is shining upon you Jag You are surrounded with Riki, All Love The Sacred Light that was within you is now Free You are Home Morning came too quickly, as I knew it would. Today is the last day of my life that I will ever again hold this glorious body. Never again will I wet this fur with my tears, never ever again. Taking Riki's shell to the crematorium, difficult as it was - I knew I was coming home to Jag. Walking out the door this time, I realize I haven't the capacity to fathom... . I have never been alone - as I don't remember my life before Riki and Jag. I drove the Beautiful Black Suit and myself directly to the Labyrinth. I walked the maze; again clutching my Beloved Bundle. Wax was still in the center of the labyrinth from Wendy, Sheila and I for our World Pet Memorial Day service just a month before. Slow as my gait was, the maze was seemingly completed quickly. I couldn't stall any longer. I drove half a mile further down the road, walked in to the Animal Center and handed over what felt like the very fiber of my being. My only comfort came from knowing Riki and Jag were together. I returned a week later. I was handed the small pine box containing my beloved Jag's ashes. On the box is the words: "What we have enjoyed we can never lose; all that we love deeply becomes a part of us." Helen Keller