Love letter to my dog

Love letter to my dog

I have written this love letter to my dog, Bunny, a thousand times in my head. It will probably be rewritten thousands of times over by the time I reunite with her on the Rainbow Bridge, but on this first anniversary of her crossing it seemed fitting to share what this letter is now.

The show goes on

It was mid-July in 2012 when my mother and I first met you, Bunny. We drove down from New York to Washington, DC for what was at the time our annual fundraiser. Just five days earlier mom’s companion Charles had died. He was a WWII belly gunner with 33 sorties over enemy territory and – along with mom – one of our original volunteers. He was a gentle soul, like you.

It was a solemn drive that felt far longer than the five hours it actually took to finally pull into the hotel parking lot. Actually, it was a painful drive. Mom isn’t much of a conversationalist to begin with, and it wasn’t as though I could blast my stereo to drown out the silence.

The next day was full of the kind of busyness you need when someone has died. Just enough to keep yourself pulled together, but not so much that your loved one strays too far from your mind.

Still, I remember very little of the countless tasks that filled the day.

The prettiest girl in the room

In all candor I’m a very shy person and uncomfortable in crowds, even one of our own making. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to meeting some of our veterans, as well as the many four-legged guests that were accompanying their humans to the party. One of our local shelter partners was bringing a few dogs who were available for adoption, and one guest brought a dog she had been fostering.

That dog was you, Bunny.

Love letter to my dog

I’m not sure how I first saw you; you were a tiny slip of a thing. Toe to head you were barely a foot off the floor, and easy to miss among the sea of people and much larger dogs. I remember crouching down on the floor to pet you (short of picking you up, that was the only way), and telling you everything would be alright.

Mom spied you as well. Throughout the evening she wanted only to pet you, to hold you, to have her picture taken with you.

Later that evening I learned that the woman who adopted you three years earlier brought you back to the rescue; she didn’t want you anymore. Everything about your posture, your face, your sad soulful eyes reflected that brutal, cold rejection.

A week later mom and I were driving down the New Jersey Turnpike at 10 o’clock at night to meet a man who agreed to transport you from DC on his way to Connecticut. He popped the hatchback and there you were. We handed over your adoption donation, scooped you up, and drove you to your new home.

Bunny, you would never be rejected or unloved for even a second, ever again.

A dog named Bunny

Mom held you in her lap the whole way home. We only learned much later that you really didn’t like to be held. But owing to fear and perhaps a sense of relief you surrendered to being a lap dog for the hour-long drive. She thought that your name was funny and that you were a bit fat. Both true. I insisted we keep your name – it was fitting – and vowed you would shed the extra pounds that burdened your then nine year-old frame.

Love letter to my dog

The first few weeks were filled with much newness. We learned that life had been very unkind to you.

I remember how terrified you were of even the smallest of everyday sounds: the chirping of birds, the scamper of squirrels in the trees, the buzz of a particularly low-flying and rather large fly. All I could do was tell you, “It’s okay.” That would become a common refrain in our life together.

You were a skittish little girl who appeared to have been mistreated, perhaps by that woman who did not want you anymore. While I hate that she didn’t love you, I’m grateful that she gave you up to be found by mom and me.

We loved you and became your family the moment we saw you.

The superstorm that changed everything

The early fall was a beautiful time. Every day we would walk a little farther. You went from being an obese little dog to a merely fat one. Progress.

Come late October there were rumblings of a possible hurricane. Just a year earlier the weather channels were howling about another storm and recommended everyone on the coast evacuate. I regretted ever leaving home for that non-event and decided to stay put for this one.

Mom – or grandma as she was to you – wouldn’t leave, either. The three of us decamped to my apartment, thinking it to be safer than her house. Superstorm Sandy turned out to be an historic calamity and the beginning of many profound changes in our lives.

After our little city was submerged by a 17-foot tidal surge and twenty-plus foot waves we evacuated north. When it was safe to return to the barrier island we all lived at grandma’s house. My building did not have reliable heat and was still all but empty.

Finally, early in January 2013, I was able to return home. A week later grandma had a stroke.

My little girl

At a certain point in life people don’t get better. Improvements are either temporary or illusory. Grandma’s stroke and subsequent health issues rendered her unable to care for you. So in the days that followed her stroke and for every day til we lost you, I became your caretaker.

By choice I never had children. And although I take care of grandma in ways large and small, I never had someone who was totally dependent upon me for their very existence. I know that many people will not understand, but then again many will: Bunny, you are my child and I am your mom.

A love letter to my dog Bunny

Like any good mother I rejoiced in your happiness, cringed when you were in pain, and marveled at your sense of wonder as the world became a less frightening place to you.

Love letter to my dog

I loved to watch your round little belly rise and fall when you slept. I loved introducing you to new things like chickpeas, Greek yogurt, canned pumpkin and, on special occasions, grandma’s matzoh ball soup. I loved watching you take your nightly snack onto your patriotic floor mat, eyeing me in return as you chomped away.

I loved sleeping in the daybed in grandma’s den and listening to you snore. I loved stroking your insanely soft fur – “stuffed animal soft,” I would tell everyone. I even loved how stubborn you were about our daily walks, locking your little legs to protest walking in one direction and turning your head where you wanted to go. I came to learn that these were your walks, not mine. And in time I noticed something remarkable: we never walked the same route twice in a row. Until one day we did.

The winter of our discontent

The winter of 2016 was cold in more ways than just the weather.

You were not yourself. I could not really say what it was, other than that something was not right. After a few visits to the veterinarian it seemed that you had a soft tissue injury to your neck, on the right side. You responded well to the medication and my anxiety subsided, albeit briefly.

In a matter of weeks the medication seemed to be wearing off more quickly. Mornings were difficult for you. More often than not you would almost waddle to the door with your head hung low, wagging your tail reluctantly when I called your name. I took comfort in the fact that you were still eating well, though were occasionally more particular about how I boiled your baby carrots. They never seemed soft enough anymore. You stopped eating the fresh green beans that I bought and lovingly chopped for you into the tiniest of pieces.

But we still took our walks. Every day for at least 45 minutes, more often for an hour or more. And as was your tradition, never the same route twice in a row.

The doctor will see you now

It was a miserable, early spring day at the specialty veterinarian when we learned that you had squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsils. It was very advanced. I wondered how we could have not known sooner just how sick you were.

Love letter to my dog

Although I am a very private person, I cried for hours in the waiting room while you were in recovery, without any shame. No one spoke to me except for a lovely older lady, who told me she believed everything would be okay. I wanted to believe her, but didn’t.

The doctor showed me your scans. There were enormous tumors all over your head and neck that seemed impossibly large for such a little girl. I wondered how you were able to pick up your head at all. I asked the question no one ever wants to ask – “how long?” – and got the answer no one wants to hear – “weeks, maybe.”

Six days later grandma and I said goodbye to you, Bunny, our sweet little girl.

But before that day you did something you never did before. We were on one of our wonderful long walks through grandma’s neighborhood. You were insistent that we cross over the boulevard to another neighborhood where you loved to walk, but we were already walking for 45 minutes and had at least as long til we got home. Somehow I convinced you – stubborn as you were – to return home.

The very next day our walk started to feel familiar. I realized that you were taking me on the very same path we walked the day before, and were headed for the boulevard. What a clever girl you are, I thought, as we made our way to and across the six-lane road to the other neighborhood you so enjoyed.

That was the only time we ever walked the same path twice in a row.

Til we meet again

In my mind’s ear – where I hear myself talking to you – this is indeed a love letter to my dog. Yet at the same time I don’t think I could ever put into words the profound love I have for you, that I still have for you and always will. No matter how I say how I feel, it feels unworthy of you.

This thing called the Rainbow Bridge – I don’t know if it exists, but would like to think that it does. And for now, that’s enough, because I know that you are with G-d. And someday, hopefully not too soon, but someday He will reunite us. Will it be on a Rainbow Bridge? I don’t know, but by then I won’t care, either, because I’ll be with my little Bunny girl again.


  1. Rhonda Redmond

    This love letter has me crying my eyes out… I too have loved a furbaby this much. September 10, 2017, it will be 10 years ago that I lost my precious 13 1/2 year old boy Beckett. It doesn’t seem to get any easier, the pain of losing him. In fact, as time goes on, it seems to be getting worse, if that is possible. As crazy as that sounds. Thank you for sharing. I thought so many times of how i could immortalize his memory and do it justice. I never could…????

    • bethz

      Rhonda, thank you for sharing how you feel about your precious Beckett. If the pain of his loss is getting worse we may suggest that you might consider speaking with someone professionally about it. As your beloved friend and family member, we’re sure that Beckett would not want you to suffer for his parting.

  2. Alyson

    So sorry for your loss.

  3. Anna

    Beth, Your tribute to Bunny is beautiful. And yes, I know you will see her again sometime and go on a long beautiful walk everywhere.

    • bethz

      Thank you, Anna. Bunny is a beautiful soul, and it’s hard to truly capture that in words. I’m glad that I did her at least some justice. 🙂

  4. Christine C

    My eyes welled with tears as I read yours and Bunny’s story. I am so happy that she got to know love in the last years of her life. Every pup deserves that. In some photos, she really does look like a bunny with her big round eyes and long floppy ears. Adorable. I’m so glad you found each other. Thanks for sharing your beautiful story.

    • bethz

      Thanks for your kind words, Christine. She really did look like a bunny! Her name was perfect, as was she.

  5. MaryLou Lindsey

    I, too, lost my sweet Mia (jack Russell) last year. Her ashes sit on my mantle along with her photo. I talk to her all the time. You see, she was my first dog. I never thought I could love you so much! Thanks for your story even though I am crying like a baby. Mia lived one month from being seventeen. She was mine since she was ten weeks old. And, yes, I hope that someday I will be reunited with her, too. Thanks for your loving input….

    • bethz

      Thanks for sharing, MaryLou. Mia was as lucky to have you as you were to have her.

  6. Susan Zemanek

    Thank you for sharing your love letter to Bunny with us, Beth. I wrote my story in the Pets for Patriots blog when I lost my dog Lola. After Lola’s cancer surgery in February of 2015, my aunt told me, “We make a contract with our pets that we will safely and kindly see them through life and then to death. It’s the cycle of life.” I will never forget her words of wisdom. In thinking about your love letter, I realized that animal lovers represent the best in humanity because their pet’s love opened their hearts in ways they never imagined. I think we define compassion. We animal lovers are a community, a family, and so we all collectively feel joy when an animal is saved and profound loss when one of our beloved pets leaves us. And we imagine that the Rainbow Bridge is a massive pet community, a family, enjoying each other’s company while they wait for us. I find that comforting. I know your loss and I know the special place Bunny holds in your heart. She was a gift and you were blessed. Thank you for saving her.

    • bethz

      Thank you, Susan. Your story of Lola remains one of my favorites, and I know that you understand the nagging sense of loss.

  7. Cody McGraw

    Beautiful story Beth. I wish I could have met Bunny. Powerful pictures too. Thank you for sharing.

    • bethz

      Thank you, Cody. Bunny was a very photogenic little girl; her sweet soul really shines through.

  8. Christina

    I don’t have the words to express adequately how this made me feel. Years ago I lost a dog after caring for her for 12 years. I was broken when she passed, not yet equipped with the tools to cope with the loss. I now have another dog that is in her senior years. Increasingly I try to ‘prepare’ myself for losing her, but I know it’s futile. When she passes I will once again break, and have to learn how to live without her. After reading your words I went to her and stroked her fur, trying not to confuse her with my tears. I’m sorry for your loss. Bunny was one of the lucky ones in the end. Sending warm feelings to you.

    • bethz

      Thank you Christina. I don’t think it’s possible to prepare, unless preparing means loving them with abandon while they are with us.

  9. Mary J Armbrust

    I had to read this several times before tears would stop to allow me to finish. Gumby licked them away when I read this moving letter to him.

    Only a year ago, a very gracious and kind Beth and Pets for Patriots arranged to help me financially with intense “cyber knife” radiation treatment for my beloved Rocky the Magnificent. On this day last year, Rocky was undergoing his initial treatment.

    I hope you understand what I mean when I say, if ever there is someone who could have been a great soldier, it is Beth. She really held it together while her own life was coming apart, and stepped up to help me save my boy even as she lost her girl – to the same hideous disease, cancer.

    Beth, you and Bunny will always have a place in this soldier’s heart, as well as at my table, in the boat if the balloon goes up, or in the bunker if the balloon stays up.

    I’d like to think Rocky and Bunny are playing games together at the Rainbow Bridge right now while they wait for us.

    Every blessing to you on this sad day and always.

    • bethz

      Mary, I imagine that Rocky and Bunny are in fact hanging out on “the Bridge.” Appreciate your very kind words; I remember our reversals of fortune on that day and would be honored to join you at your table (or boat, balloon or bunker)!

  10. Ronald Capek

    Thank you. You have to be brave to be so open.
    I think that each of us who have read that do understand everything you said.
    Like you once said. “They rescue us.”

    • bethz

      Thanks Ron. It’s definitely not in my nature to be so open, but I figure if we’re asking veterans to share their stories it was time for me to ‘man up’ as well!

  11. Karen Schlabach

    Had to wipe away tears, as I lost my perfect, sweet abandoned cocker at age 5. He had IMHA and after fighting that for 4 years, a large mass was discovered in his chest, no doubt due to extensive and horrid drugs to fight IMHA. We had to say Goodbye 11 days later…. he cheated death once before when he was taken to a pound as a puppy and scheduled to be gassed to death. Fortunately a volunteer saved him and sent him to Illinois Cocker Rescue where I was fortunate enough to become his MOM!
    We, too, will reunite at the Rainbow Bridge….

    • bethz

      Thanks for sharing, Karen. Five is so young, but thankfully he was saved and knew your love.

  12. Karen Schlabach

    Had to wipe away tears, as I lost my perfect, sweet abandoned cocker at age 5. He had IMHA and after fighting that for 4 years, a large mass was discovered in his chest, no doubt due to extensive and horrid drugs to fight IMHA. We had to say Goodbye 11 days later…. he cheated death once before when he was taken to a pound as a puppy and scheduled to be gassed to death. Fortunately a volunteer saved him and sent him to Illinois Cocker Rescue where I was fortunate enough to become his MOM!
    We, too, will reunite at the Rainbow Bridge….

    • bethz

      Thanks for sharing your story, Karen. We definitely are the lucky ones to have these beautiful creatures in our lives.

  13. Victoria

    Dear Beth,
    Your Love Letter to Bunny really touched my heart & soul! What a beautifully written tribute recalling your time with her and without. She was very fortunate to find you as were you, to find Bunny. Funny, how we rescue each other when we adopt a dog. My heart pours out to you and plez continue to share your love for animals.

    • bethz

      Victoria, I’m glad that our story touched you – and thank you for your very kind words. It is I who feel like the lucky one. For now I share my love of animals by volunteering at our local city shelter to walk the homeless dogs.

  14. Pat Shook

    Yes, you were a wonderful mom to Bunny. The love you gave her in return she gave back to you.
    It brings back the memories of our sweet, sweet loves too.
    The tears fell for you, thank you for sharing,

    • bethz

      Thanks for your kind words, Pat. Bunny’s love is abundant!

  15. Tammy Browne

    Thank you for sharing. What a lucky girl Bunny was to finally find you, and how lucky you were to be loved by such a special little soul xx

    • bethz

      Thanks, Tammy; we feel very blessed to have had Bunny in our lives.

  16. Candis Stern

    Beth, this is so beautiful. Bunny was a soft, sweet creature, just as you describe her. Anyone who has loved an animal — a dog, cat, horse, rabbit — can understand the loss you felt, the pain you experienced. And the joy while she was alive. Thank you for sharing her story with us — your readers, donors, and friends.

    • bethz

      Candis, thanks for your kind words. Bunny was an incredibly sweet girl, and her soul is equally so.

  17. David

    This is beautifully said my Friend. Yes, our furry friends can break our hearts when they leave us, but it teaches us how to love the next one better. I now adopt older dogs, and you can feel how thankful they are that their lives have been spared.

    • bethz

      So true, David; the older ones in particular really seem to know that they are saved. Thank you for adopting the seniors, who need saving most of all.

  18. Sarah

    Sending such a big hug, as I wipe away tears and recall memories of my own days with a anxious, fearful mutt who tried to let me help her heal as she healed me. They go too soon.

    • bethz

      Thanks, Sarah; and you’re right – they go way too soon.

  19. Audrey Jones

    What a wonderfully sweet tale of a beautiful soul. I know the love of a dog and how they make you all warm inside. I do know that when the day comes and I know longer have my best friend that my heart will be as empty as I feel yours is.
    You were a good and loving mom. Bunny was lucky to have you and you her.
    There are a lot of others out there who would love a “loving mom” like you. I believe that Bunny’s wish would be that you show another that love. Until you meet again “over the Rainbow Bridge”. Best Wishes

    • bethz

      Thanks for your very kind words, Audrey. I struggle with what Bunny would want, and for now volunteer most days walking dogs at our local city shelter. For the time being that’s how I show my love to other dogs who need someone to be their champion.

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