Me and My Shadow

Yesterday I said goodbye to the most wonderful dog in the world. My heart is heavy, the house lonely and I feel as if I have lost my best friend.

My daughter and I adopted Belle, a small Rat Terrier, from the local Humane Society in Virginia (the town where we now live). Belle had been previously adopted, but was returned since she was unable to be housebroken. I learned she preferred a schedule and with that she learned quickly.


Driving to Pennsylvania the first time with Belle was quite the event. She barked at every tractor-trailer during the entire eight-hour trip. Belle settled in nicely and we quickly bonded. She was a happy dog and full of energy. She loved the wildlife and kept ‘predators’ from entering the yard. She loved chasing squirrels, chipmunks and playing with our neighbor’s dog Jade.  She loved being in the middle of things. She slept with me every night…burrowing at the foot of the bed by my feet. She was a great companion, watchdog and foot warmer. She followed me wherever I would go, waited at the door for me to return home, loved walks and was quite the entertainer. She loved removing labels off of plastic bottles and chasing balls…the bigger the better! I am so thankful we videotaped her playtime.

During her younger years, Belle swallowed a mouse (whole). I called the vet immediately and was told, “No worries, she will eliminate it properly,” which she did (whole). A few years later my daughter’s babysitter called informing me Belle had eaten an entire bag of Hersey’s Kisses, including the wrappers.  I called the vet and was told to give her hydrogen peroxide every 15 minutes so she would throw up. I was an hour from home so the responsibility fell to our babysitter. I was quickly informed that I didn’t pay her enough money to deal with situations like this. Needless to say, her Christmas check was a bit larger (thank you Kim for all your extra effort!).

Belle mellowed, as she got older, but still a constant companion and never a dull moment. She was happiest when she was with people. At 13 pounds, she was easy to carry and loved going places. She loved my husband and accepted him into our family. She had a few medical problems as she aged, but thankfully nothing that couldn’t be treated with medication. She didn’t exactly welcome our new rescue dog with open paws, but she tolerated him. When no humans were around he was her best friend.

Following my spinal cord injury, Belle knew something was wrong and never left my side. When I was at my lowest point, she laid next to me wagging her tail and letting me know she needed me…injury and all. I am grateful she was there when others turned their backs. Belle showed unconditional love every day and gave me a reason to get out of bed and get better.

When our family relocated to Virginia three years ago, she adjusted nicely.  However, her body began to give her problems. Two years ago we purchased a ‘wheelchair’ to help her get around. She wasn’t a big fan, but she knew it helped. As time passed, she wasn’t strong enough to use the assistive device, so we carried her when needed and she was grateful for the help. She required a lot of attention, but no one complained (especially Belle). She accepted her disabilities better than I did. She worked hard and I encouraged her as she did me following my injury. She walked laps around the yard on her good days; and on the not so good days, she rested. There were times when she would show a bit of spunk – chasing our other dog or just wanting to play. She continued to follow me everywhere! She could be in a deep sleep and as soon as I moved, she did too. Even at age 18, she amazed us with her fighting spirit. As she became frail, I always told Belle to let me know when it was her time to go. I said this to her since I knew making this decision would be difficult.

Yesterday my husband woke up and Belle wasn’t acting like herself. He took her outside and she immediately fell down in the grass. She began crying out and was losing control of her bodily functions. She could no longer see and was working hard to breathe.

We left immediately for the vet, whom she saw monthly. The tearful veterinarian entered the room; she knew why we were there. She examined Belle and said her vital organs were shutting down and she wouldn’t make it through the day. Belle continued to cry out, which I knew was the sign I had asked for. None of us wanted her to suffer any longer. She was surrounded by those who loved her as she took her last breath and quietly slipped away.

I miss Belle more than I could ever explain; my heart is heavy. As a Christian, I know she is in a better place…running freely and no longer in pain. The hard part is everywhere I turn I keep expecting to see her or hear her bark. There is an emptiness, sadness and a longing for my friend. It’s as if my shadow has disappeared.


A special thanks to Tina Hicks, 39 Design, for the wonderful professional photos of Belle. I treasure them now more than ever.

©My Unplanned Life and, 2013.


About mswd

I am an individual living with a spinal cord injury. How the injury occurred, how I found out how severe my injury was and how my planned life suddenly became 'unplanned' is included in this blog. Also included is how the injury has tested my family and me. I believe you will discover it has been both a mentally and physically challenging ordeal and I learned a few lessons along the way. While I am still defining my life’s purpose since the injury, I have uncovered those who are injured, live with pain or have other obstacles to navigate are never able to escape. However, come with me as I explore ways to improve my life, learn to live with multiple neurological conditions, educate others and look for the silver lining. I believe with a little willpower, my caring family and God's guidance I will learn to forgive, hopefully forget how I was treated and dismissed by a doctor and uncover life's new purpose. I pray for painfree days and answers to questions that keep swirling through my mind. I also pray for a cure for neurological conditions and for the doctors to treat their patients with respect. Welcome to my journey. I would love to hear about yours!
This entry was posted in Dr. Liar, Self Discovery, Spinal Cord Injury and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Me and My Shadow

  1. This is heartbreaking. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend.

    • mswd says:

      Thank you Colleen…it is an extremely difficult time, but we were lucky to have her in our lives for so long. I know I will see my little girl again. 🙂 Please forgive me for not keeping up with your blog…I am catching up now. Again, I don’t know how you write so often. I am jealous!

      • Forgiveness not needed! Life and love are more important than a blog. 🙂

        I’m glad you had Belle in your life, your world. You wrote beautifully about her.

  2. Lisa Sullivan says:

    Oh my dear friend, I am so sorry. I know nothing I say is anything new you don’t already know, being of strong Christian belief. You know she is waiting for you dutifully and will be there for you on the other side when that day comes for you.

    You also know that dogs DO go to heaven, and her body is only a “rental” here on earth. I know you know that too.

    So I just want you to know that you are the BEST pupParent she could have ever asked for and I know she is thankful for your love as much as you are for hers. Perhaps she and Shanna are playing right now? There is only love there.

    Remember Sam & Major and how we all carried Sam outside each day on the stretcher when he lost use of his front leg due to the cancer? You were so good to us then. Thank you again. I will never forget my gratitude regarding that time.

    Sam knew we were trying to help and did all he could to stand up off that board when it was time to do his business. People thought we were crazy to “hold onto him” for more time than THEY would have(and some calling us cruel) but we too, waited for his sign, and when he looked like he could no longer stay “awake” , I told him tearfully that I understood if he wanted to go, and we would be ok. And that it was ok. He looked around as if to say “I think so, its time,” he put down his head and fell off peacefully into the next part of his life where I am sure that he met Major and got right up and ran hard and fast for the first time in months

    ! But what I liked was that it was HIS choosing. Like when Christ chose to let go of His own body on the cross when He said “It is finished…” and He gave up the ghost.

    Christ is the example we have– that WE CAN choose our time. I am happy you let her choose for herself and she let you know when it was time. I know she is grateful.

    Always remember, when you are sad, that Jesus will take such good care of her until you meet again.

    After all, He loved her first.

    Love Lisa

    • mswd says:

      My wonderful friend Lisa, thank you so much for your very thoughtful message. I remember fondly the conversations we had about pets in Heaven and knowing this has helped me with my grieve more than you know. I do believe Belle found Shanna in Heaven and the two are best friends. Following Shanna’s death at age 16, I said I was never going to get attached to another pet. God had an entirely different plan. Belle was supposed to be Hilary’s dog, but she bonded with me immediately and began following me just as Shanna did. Their fur coloring was similar, they weighed the same, they had similar personalities (other than Belle being more active and her love of eating unique things!) and they both loved to be with me. I calculated today between Shanna and Belle, I have had a wonderful friend tagging along by my side for 34 years. The past two years Belle needed a lot of assistance and looked for me for the help. She loved everyone, but was the most comfortable with me. Last Thanksgiving she had a small seizure and I was sure her time was limited. I rocked her the entire day. Her vet was surprised the seizure came from an infected tooth. Belle was a fighter and after a few days of antibiotics, she was as good as new! She battled high liver enzymes, a heart murmur, and nerve damage to her back and hind legs. But she never let any of it stop her from doing what she wanted and needed to do. I could write a book about how she continuously amazed us! But you know all about how pets and their ability to do the incredible!

      I remember all you did for Sam, and admire you and Jack for remaining steadfast in waiting until it was HIS time. People often said I should have Belle put to sleep due to her back and nerve problems; however, we would never end her life because she became lame. I am disabled and I hope no one is talking about ending my life. 😉 She and I were two peas in a pod…and she knew it. She was never scared of my cane or when I would fall she was there licking my face motivating me to get up and try again. I did the same for her when things got difficult for her.

      I often think back to your animals and wish people loved their pets as much as you and Jack. I am sure your boys have learned from you and will be terrific pet parents as well. You know the emptiness I am feeling. I keep looking and listening for her. Seeing her empty beds, her water bowl and not doing our regular routine together is so difficult. She was little, but a huge presence and I feel empty. However, I do have comfort in knowing she is in good health again and that she ‘told’ me it was time to let her go. It was her nature to fight and she did until her little body couldn’t do it any longer. I loved her for that and so many other things.

      Thank you again for your lovely message and for reminding me to hold on to my faith. God has a plan for all of us and I am honored and blessed he gave me Belle, Shanna, a loving family and friends. It’s time such as these when I need the support. I also know his timing is perfect even though I am struggling. I also thank you for your support in waiting for Belle to tell us when it was time to let her go. You are right, finding that support is difficult. I love you my dear friend and I treasure your friendship. God knew we were going to be fast friends…again, His timing is perfect! Continued blessings! XO

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