I was leafing through the local Advertiser newspaper when I saw this notice. The event was one I knew well, but there was something else:

This is an annual event held at Nassau Vet–a night to remember the pets lost that year. I’d been to this event before, sadly, a few too many times. But what caught my eye was the dog in the picture. Our Brooks. Our first senior rescue, the one who started us on the journey of adopting senior goldens, and changed our life. The angel ornament pictured was our ornament we’d hung on the tree five years ago to remember him. Seeing his angel wings again was like a gift from heaven.

And now it was time to make another ornament–two more, in fact.

We’d lost our senior golden Ike this past March, and then our 16 year old spaniel Kelly 5 days later. We think of them every day, but most people know, the holidays are always especially emotional. Having a special night to remember and honor them at this time of year is comforting. We decorated our new ornaments and hung them on the tree in the veterinarian’s lobby.

Ornaments we made for Ike and Kelly this year.
As we walked in the door, we were each given a bell on a ribbon. The room was dark with candle light and a beautiful Christmas tree adorned with angel wing ornaments. Before long, the room filled to overflowing. So many others missing a pet, just like us.
 It began with a reading from Dr. Lisa Dietrich, called If he wakes in Your arms about when it’s time for a much-loved pet to go to heaven. Then other veterinarians read poems and short essays about loving and losing a pet. I was already having trouble keeping back the tears.
Next, the names of the pets lost this year were announced, and when each pet’s name was read the families rang their bell. At each soft jingle I felt the depth of someone else’s loss.

pet parents and family members stood up and shared stories and
fond memories of their pets. Mike shared about Kelly’s dementia, and how
Ike became like a therapy dog to her in her final months. Some people
told funny stories, most shared about the end, and each and every story
showed how much we are all connected to the cats and dogs in our lives.
think of Kelly and Ike all the time, but the evening helped me share and connect
with other pet parents. It felt comforting to observe such understanding
from the veterinarians at Nassau Vet who knew and cared for our pets so well over the
years, and in many cases helped us gently say goodbye.
As we left, we drove past beautiful luminaria lining the long winding driveway.