How To Prepare For Your Dog’s Journey Across The Rainbow Bridge

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
Our pets are family, there’s no doubt about that. It’s tough when our special, furry family members are sick, and tougher when we know they will be crossing the Rainbow Bridge soon. Here are five ways you can make the most of that time.

Today, I have been a hot mess.

No, really.

My beloved, almost-11-year-old Golden Retriever, Dixie, was diagnosed with bone cancer, and the treatment plan is basically to keep her as pain-free and happy as possible. Our veterinarian is wonderful and humane and doesn’t want to subject Dixie to the trauma that would come with leg amputation and chemotherapy (if she recovered well from the amputation). When you add in the fact that she’d just been diagnosed with Cushing’s disease a few months ago? The loving solution is to do just what he said.

But how hard is that? I’ve had two other dogs die from cancer in the last 10 years. Both retrievers; one Flat-Coated and one Golden, but in both, the cancer diagnoses were fast and their deaths came on suddenly. The ‘decision’ was not even really a decision for either as they were clearly in distress. Our veterinarian believes that we will know when it’s time for our sweet Dixie Belle to cross the bridge as well, guess-timating we’ll have no more than five months at best, most likely one to three, depending on how well she responds to the pain medicine.

Related: Study: Pet Parents Believe All Dogs Go To Heaven

So now, we wait.

Now, I spend wondering when her time will be and what we can do as we wait. It’s not like there’s a handbook titled “What To Do When You’re Expecting Your Dog To Die,” and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of guidance for the waiting. There’s much to look for in your pet–signs to know when it’s time and so on, but not much for me to do to prepare myself and my family as we prepare to let her go. Nothing can make her leaving us any easier, but I think that there are some things every pet parent can do as they wait for that day that will give comfort to hearts on the journey.

1. Love on her shamelessly.

Our Dixie was a gift to me from my first-grade class almost 11 years ago. She has been our spoiled-rotten baby since she was just six-weeks-old. But now, in her last days, we plan to give her just about whatever attention and affection she wants, whenever she wants it. We’ve always joked she’s a pet-whore because she can’t get enough pets from people and in these last days? We’ll happily oblige and soak it in.

2. Take pictures/videos and make memories.

Yes, the vet will send us her paw print and a little poem when we receive her ashes once she’s passed, but I want to ensure that we have just what we want while he still have the time to do so. We’ve not taken a family picture with her in it in a while; I am grateful for the opportunity to make that a priority now. I have a five-year-old son who will be heartbroken when she passes and including him on things we can do together with Dixie will hopefully help him feel like he has some control in a sad and uncontrollable situation.

Related: Memories Of Pets Who Have Crossed The Rainbow Bridge Live On, Online

3. Gather pictures and memories from days past.

Typically, when a pet passes, parents go looking back through old pictures to remember the good days and to share with friends and family. I want to do that too, but I don’t want to be frustrated at the same time I’m devastated about her loss, looking through countless pictures of God-only-knows what trying to find her in her Halloween costume from eight years ago (She was hilarious!). I am taking the time to do that now and have them accessible so that my family can have them exactly when we need them.

4. Crying.

Yes, I said crying. I am allowing myself to cry and to grieve and to mourn what I know is to come. Losing a pet is so hard on the heart, and their love and loyalty to you through the years is worthy of your tears. I will not be ashamed of crying about how much we’ll miss her because the truth is, we will. Terribly. And that hurts.

5. Honoring

When she passes, our house will be much more quiet and empty. This, we know. There are so many animal welfare organizations that need help and/or donations and helping and donating in her name will help her live on in our hearts. Today alone, I randomly received an email about these bracelets sold by I Heart Dogs. They are designed specifically for dogs who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge, and every purchase of one feeds seven shelter animals. When Dixie is gone, we will probably get another dog, eventually, but we will rescue a shelter dog, as they need our help so much. When you’ve loved a pet, the acts of service and kindness you do in their memory is what keeps them alive with us, and there’s no better way to honor your love than to serve and help other dogs.

There’s never, ever a good time to lose your furry family member. But, knowing that we do, and knowing that’s the hardest part about being a pet parent, I am grateful for the time to be able to make her last days the best days we can. Her love for us has been a gift in our lives, and we’ll do our best to return the favor before she joins our other dogs on the other side.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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