Friday, December 4, 2009

"The Yearling"...On Missed Animals...The Hardest Loss...The Sweetest Comfort

Losing an animal leaves us in pain that is unlike most others....I have wondered many times why this is....  I found this picture from the 1946 film "The Yearling",  and I think the deep regret and emotion the film stirred up provided the key to why the death of a pet feels unlike any other of life's losses.  The bond portrayed in the film betwen Jody and his fawn is a primal one.  The deep feelings I experience whenever I witness the boy's tragic loss of his pet, his running away from home, and his eventual return as an innocent child no longer, are more intense than the film alone warrants.  By this point in the movie, Jody is accepted by his distant mother, who finally embraces him.  We know then that Jody's fawn provided the love he desperately needed elsewhere.    The final image,  a dream of the boy's, of his romping with his animal friend,  carefree in a time forever gone, affected me profoundly.  It's the finality of the loss, like one's innocence, or a childhood that you can never return to again....that is what the loss of a pet feels like.

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I have a reason for writing about this tonight. 

My friend's cat died last week. I didn't know the cat, but I know my friend, and how he accepted love from this creature, and how he freely gave back to the cat much affection,  and how that filled a deep innocent longing in his complicated life.  So I grieve.  My friend would not want me to dwell on this.  I have respected his wish not to show the cat's photo here.  I'm creating this page as a sanctuary, a place to visit for catharsis, reflection...and in time, however long it takes, acceptance.  Anyone who has ever lost a loving animal understands.
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I miss Maggie, our departed Basset hound, especially in the wintertime holiday season.  I promised back in September that I would recall here only happy stories about Maggie.  So now, here, it's my readers' turn to remember, to be sentimental, to share  stories at the end of this post.
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Joni Mitchell wrote a line for the song "Hejira" that seems so appropriate here..... "There's comfort in melancoly, When there's no need to explain..."
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At the end of Maggie's life, our veterinarian gave us a copy of  the prose poem "The Rainbow Bridge".  It creates an image that our animals are no longer confused at having to leave us, no longer suffering the pain that ultimately claimed them.

"The Rainbow Bridge is the theme of a work of poetic prose written some time between 1980 and 1992, whose original creator is unknown.
The theme is of a mythological place to which a pet goes upon its death, eventually to be reunited with its owner. It has gained wide popularity amongst animal lovers who have lost a pet.
Although no major religion specifically refers to such a place for pets, the belief shows similarities with the Bifröst bridge of Norse Mythology"
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Even though I have my doubts, I want to believe that a place exists where animals and their human friends can reunite in a quiet gentle meadow somewhere...And I understand, then, how heaven was invented.....Here it is....The Rainbow Bridge...

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 they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; 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 each 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. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when 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 again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....


  1. That was a beautiful! Made me tear up a little.

  2. Thanks Dave...I appreciate your kind words.

  3. Cool post, Tom!

    Few among us have been spared the heartbreak of losing a loved pet. And for those of us who are particularly sensitive to our animal friends, the grief is no different than that of losing a friend or family member. Some movies are great at bringing up this swell of emotion in us, which is why I try to avoid them if or when I can. "The Yearling" sounds like a sweet movie, but like "Sounder" and others of that genre, it only serves to remind me of past losses and of the inevitability of future losses. When all is said and done, I'd rather laugh than cry.

  4. Hey Tom....our vet also gave us a copy of The Rainbow Bridge. I really loved your post and it does help. When we lost Brad last week it was hard. But knowing that he is in a better place and in no more pain also helps. Thanks for understanding and for writing this. Hugz....Thom