“I looked at photos of her, but that only that made me sadder.”
Fifty pounds of personality, black fur and glowing eyes, she stuck with me through a tumultuous period of my life. She listened patiently to my fears and sorrows, comforted and even made me laugh in the midst of misery. Bijou was my jewel.
I lost a beloved friend recently, a constant and loving companion. She treated me as if I was the most delightful, precious person on the planet. Imagine! Was she nuts? No, she was a poodle. It seems unbelievable that losing my dog, a pet, could evoke such depths of grief.
Did I lose my dog? Yes and no. What I really lost was unconditional love, daily laughter, moonlit walks, and fun in the snow. I lost a fierce and loyal protector when danger lurked, who raced to check on me every time I sneezed…jumping up as if to ask, “Are you alright?” Are you alright?” It always made me laugh and say “I’m alright”…and I was.
Her poodle enthusiasm for play endowed me with thousands of hours of time in parks and woodlands. There was pure beauty in the sight of her flying after a ball I pitched. She leapt with breathtaking grace over obstacles. It was a great incentive to work through my stiffness and pain from a surgery that affected my chest and arm muscles. Poodles and most dogs are great caretakers of our health if we let them. They use their wet noses, eloquent eyes, carefully pitched voices to declare “Let’s play! Get up! Let’s go!” I’m so grateful for that too.
I remember so many cold, dark nights, grumbling, as I suited and booted up to go out in inclement weather – only to gasp in pleasure at the gorgeous sight of voluptuous clouds slinking across the face of a golden moon. There were plenty of hot and humid evenings that Bijou took me sauntering into a twilit field, filled with the dancing fireflies of childhood memories. These sights and more were immensely more enchanting than what could be seen in the cold blue light of a TV or computer screen. I’d say Thank you, Bijou!, as she merrily trotted beside me. How many dawns and sunsets would I have missed without her guidance and her company? Thousands!!
Bijou was nearly 13 and vigorous almost to the end. I think I had convinced myself she would defy nature and live with me all my life. It’s been a few months now since she slipped away. I have shed plenty of tears, politely and not so politely asked God to give her back to me. I looked at pictures of her, but that only that made me sadder. I washed and stored her bed, toys, collar, and leash. Dullness overcame me, I couldn’t seem to shake it. Depression, anger, guilt, grief, came in waves. There were few in my life who could really understand the depth of my loss; or my need to talk about it.
One day, a few weeks after my Bijou’s death, I was again unable to concentrate on my work. I gave up “trying to get over it” and gave in to the darkened den and sofa. I decided to search for a movie that would distract me from my grief. I happened upon “Coco”, about the stories and memories of those we loved and lost. Animated in brilliant color, it tells of a boy who crosses over to the Land of the Dead. Charming as the story was, it was the presence of a dog, cat, and bird as spirits that spoke most strongly to my heart.
The next day I went into my neglected art studio determined to make a spirit portrait of my beloved companion. The first step was to find a photo that showed her personality. I found one that had her looking up at me with that “Let’s play!” expression in her eyes. Then I laid out a sheet of paper as black as the void I was feeling. While sketching her in with a white pencil, then shading in the drawing, a ghostly figure emerged. It was strangely comforting to see her that way. I think it was helping me accept her as Spirit.
Then, I had to figure out how to show her personality and our relationship. How could I create a unique memorial, a testament to my elegant, playful dog? Girly and beautiful, athletic and graceful, funny and lively, she loved being in the woods and fields. I was feeling rather blue still, so I began to color her shape with blue. Soon, however, memories of the acres of bright blue skies under which we walked and played so often entered and lightened my heart.
Flowers of the field and fantasy began to form in pink, yellow, green and purple. Bijou’s long, flying, furry ears became joyfully multicolored, her jaunty pompoms pink and blue. Ahh…then rainbow wings sprouted from her shoulders and a radiant glow flowed from her bottomless heart.
Many days of returning to the drawing were needed to capture the memories and embed them in the creation of a memorial to her unique spirit. I felt I was able to express the joy of our mutual love and care for each other. Through this new image of my friend, I found myself smiling again. Bright and beautiful memories flooded the dark days of loss and helped me remember the joy.
Through this new image of my friend, I found myself smiling again.
I no longer linger over photos of her now. I have Bijou’s Spirit Portrait where I can see it frequently. It always makes me smile and remember the joy of her spirit and life with gratitude and love.
Since then, I have had the honor and pleasure of creating Spirit Portraits of a gorgeous Siamese cat named Sheba and painted a rascal of a retriever named Rex. Hearing each of their stories and their owner’s memories, are an important part of creating their unique memorial portraits. As I do more, I love witnessing my client’s healing.
As a spiritual director, I have the opportunity to listen to many people as they seek to strengthen their own spiritual identity and to connect with unconditional love. It is undeniable that our pets are a divine gift in our lives. We can experience and learn the enduring wisdom of forgiveness, generosity, patience, tolerance, and a giving heart from them. Often the loss of a pet, no matter what the species, represents a deep wound to the spirit. I have created an opportunity for others to share their grief and memories in the
task of healing from loss and remembering the joy of the gifts of wisdom and joy bestowed by a beloved companion.
Commissioning your Bijou Spirit Portrait is an opportunity for your healing. You’ll share with me the spirit of your pet and that special relationship, to support you in the process. From your story, I will gain the inspiration to create a unique memorial portrait. We will meet again when the portrait is complete to celebrate the life and spirit of your beloved friend and companion.
Your beloved pet will always be with you in spirit and your Bijou Spirit Portrait will be your reminder of that unconditional love.