I did my best to explain to Eleanor that I could not possibly grant her request. Just imagine, Mrs. John Q. Smith opens the paper to read the obituary of her recently deceased husband and finds his picture side-by-side with Brutus, the St. Bernard who choked to death while eating a Volkswagon. To say the very least, it would be slightly inappropriate.
Eleanor understood this, but it was quite obvious to me that the bond she shared with this animal was anything but common. I asked if I could come out to her home and she could tell me all about her pet that had recently passed away. She said it would be fine.
I share with you now what I learned during our visit.
Eleanor, now 75, received Tiffany on her 63rd birthday as a present from her three grown children — James, Teresa and Rene. The three had pitched in together to buy the toy poodle for $350. Eleanor’s husband, Johnny, had passed away about 8 years earlier and they hoped that the little black pooch would keep their mother company.
Eleanor fell in love with the dog right away. She named it Tiffany because she was “so prissy and dainty.” The affection, it appears was mutual. Tiffany quickly took to Eleanor and before long the two were inseparable.
Eleanor would regularly take Tiffany to a groomer in Bennettsville to have her curly black coat washed and trimmed. She would have her nails painted, usually in bright red. It was not unusual to see Tiffany prancing around the house with a ribbon or bow of some sort attached to her head. She also had her own wardrobe, wearing colorful sweaters when the weather turned chilly outside.
“She slept with me at night and kept me company,” says Eleanor. “She was the most wonderful pet you could possibly imagine.”
Eleanor recalls times when the grandchildren would come over and play with Tiffany.
“Oh, she enjoyed the company, particularly the children,” Eleanor says. “She just loved all the attention.”
For close to 12 years, Eleanor and Tiffany grew especially fond of one another.
About two weeks before this past Christmas, Eleanor noticed a change in Tiffany’s demeanor. She was not as energetic and was not eating.
“Tiff loved fish and she loved fried chicken,” Eleanor says. “I was cooking chicken tenders and I broke a piece off and gave it to her. She ate a little bit of it and then threw it right back up. That wasn’t like her at all and I knew then that it was time that we went to go see the doctor.”
The veterinarian in Rockingham, N.C. ran several tests on Tiffany. He then told Eleanor that her kidneys were working properly and that she did not have long to live.
“When that doctor said her kidney’s were not functioning properly, I about fell over,” Eleanor says tearfully. “I said, ‘Are you telling me that my dog is dying?’ and he said ‘Yes, that’s what I am telling you.’ I didn’t know what to do.”
The vet told Eleanor that he could put Tiffany on a machine and keep her alive longer, but she chose instead to bring Tiffany home for her last days. She said she did not have the money to pay for the machine, but more importantly wanted Tiff to be comfortable and at peace.
Tiffany made it to 11:45 p.m. on Christmas Day before she passed away.
“I had her wrapped up in my arms, talking to her and all,” says Eleanor as tears begin to form in her eyes. “I told her what a good puppy she had been and that I loved her so much. I said I know you’ve got to go, so go ahead now. She puffed three times and then she was gone.”
Eleanor called her son, James, to tell him the news. He came over and comforted his mother and told her everything would be okay. He then grabbed a shovel and buried Tiffany, wearing a red and white sweater, in the backyard, just beside the light pole.
Tiffany’s resting place is now marked with engraved stepping-stones and flowers. Eleanor goes out to visit with her friend when the weather is not too cold.
“I miss her so very much,” says Eleanor.
Eleanor recently received a sympathy card in the mail from Tiffany’s groomer. Inside it was a very nice note and a beautiful plastic encouragement card with photos of animals and flowers and some words that touched Eleanor’s heart.
In flowing cursive letters, the card read:
“Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends, so that the can run and play together. There is plenty of food and water and sunshine. Our friends are more than comfortable. All the animals that were ill or old are restored to health. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again. Just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing — they miss someone very special to them who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. The bright eyes are intent. The eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to break away from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. You have been spotted and you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face. Your hands affectionately caress a beloved head and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet. — so long ago from your life, but never absent from your heart. Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together.”
Eleanor cherishes the card and her photos, but not nearly as much as she cherishes all the wonderful memories that she and Tiffany shared together.
Eleanor, this is not an actual obituary, but I hope it will do.