Dearest Blog,

Shortly after my nephew Jason’s girlfriend, Kormassa, went into labor on June 13, 2009, sending my sister, Diane, into paroxyms of joy over becoming a grandmother for the first time, I had to call and break the news to my sister that her beloved dog-nephew, Mortimer, would have to be put to sleep the next day. I can be such a buzz killer.

Talk about the cycle of life being illustrated in High Def! There we were, delighted and devastated by turns.

My new grand nephew, C.J. (either Christopher James or Christian James, I don’t know if they’ve decided yet), probably came in the same spiritual doorway that was, just hours later, held open for my baby, my West Highland white terrier.

Not being one to suffer in total solitude when I know I have a fabulous support system, I reached out far and wide to obtain that much-needed succor. I mass-emailed the following message:

Hello Everyone,

We have very sad news. Our darling Westie boy, Mortimer, age 12+, swiftly declined after contracting a severe eye infection that rendered him blind in mere days despite antibiotic treatment. He’d already lost his hearing some months back, and now, because he was suffering great pain and because there was no hope of recovery, we had to put him peacefully to sleep this afternoon (Sunday, June 14, 2009).

As you may know, I’m in the process of publishing a book I’ve written called Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss. I believe Mortimer timed his departure from this life precisely so he could give a poignant sense of closure to this book. I’m certainly being compelled to practice all I’ve “preached” about coping with such loss, and I can promise that what I’ve learned in researching and writing this book IS helping me and Anthony both stay strong and at peace even as we openly weep over Mortimer’s death.

Please hold our boy and us in your thoughts for a moment, wishing us all gentle passage into the next transformation in our lives.

Thank you in advance,
Sid and Anthony

By the next morning, I had to sit by my computer, alternately answering the literally HUNDREDS of messages of condolence I’d received (and forwarding them to my husband, Anthony, at work so he could benefit from them just as I was) and nearly short circuiting my keyboard with my torrents of sorrowful/grateful tears. I could have used one of those buffet-style sneeze guards about then to spare myself a call to First Tech for repairs.

I got to thinking about the old adage: “Be careful what you wish for; it just might come true.” I’d surely wished to finish my book, on which I’d been working for more than a year and a half, since the autumn of 2007. Accordingly, I proceeded to batter about my wounded heart, wondering, “Did I make Mortimer leave us right now because I’d just finished a book on grieving pet loss? Am I my own dog’s killer?”

Then, reexamining the logic that went into that conclusion, I decided that if I really had that kind of power, my next book was going to be called My Life as a Lottery Winner! and gave up the self-imposed guilt.

Finally, I arrived at what I believe is the most truthful conclusion: My former Westie, Ludwig, who had died the day before Thanksgiving in 2005, had been the initial inspiration for my writing a book about pet loss; and he sent us Mortimer—a stray picked up by the police alongside a road and delivered to the James River Humane Society in Jamestown, N.D.—just months later, in January 2006. Mortimer had signed on for a relatively short but intensely loving stay with us for a reason. His job was to top off my life’s work (to date anyway) by providing a beautiful, heartbreakingly poignant epilogue to my book.

Our companion animals often decide to leave when there is a huge change in their human’s life, be it a divorce, birth of a baby, marriage, move to a new home, etc. Mortimer died so that my book might be published and a new and very, very different chapter in my life might begin.

And so the cycle of life continues…

…as does the ceaseless love underlying everything and everyone at every moment.

Blessed be,
Sid

P.S. You may have heard of the writer’s rule is: Write what you know. Apparently, I know pets and death. What a combo.

I am reminded as I am preparing to promote the heck out of my book—even as I actively memorialize Mortimer’s too-soon demise—that, when I was in high school in the late 1970s and they’d administered those goofy professional aptitude tests, I’d laughed my butt off when mine came back saying I was fit to work in advertising and/or as a funeral director!

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