Does the afterlife exist, or not? A heartwarming story, food for thought.
When my friend Michelle called to tell me that her beloved dog had died, I knew how she felt because I went through my heartbreak with Skai only a couple of years earlier. When he “decided” it was time to leave, I was away on a business trip in Norway, checking out the manufacturing facility for FeelGood Omega.
When I learned that Skai had suddenly declined following an injury he had suffered a few weeks prior, the whole world around me became foggy. In order to clear my head a little and process the intensity of my emotions, I hiked up a nearby hill. It overlooked the colourful neatly organized houses of the small Norwegian town, surrounded by the jagged coastline. I was thinking that I was about to face the moment I feared the most.
I took the first possible flight back to Vancouver, minutes seemed like hours, and hours felt like days. During the journey, I channelled my grief and sadness into writing a letter to Skai, not even trying to hold my tears back.
Originally, Michelle was one of my long distance clients from the UK, and her dog Tot was my patient. As time progressed, her mom Janet and her friend Andrea also came on board, and gave me their trust to look after their dogs. Gradually, through our common love for dogs, our friendship was born.
Despite being able to solve Tot’s health challenges, and adding a few years to his life, no one can escape the cycle of life, and one day Michelle had to make the hardest decision of her life. When Tot passed away, I was walking on the beach with our new puppy Pax, who was rocketing along the shoreline chasing the waves, happy as he could be.
Hearing the news struck me hard, as it was a reminder that at any moment life’s happiness could be interrupted by sadness and grief. Michelle was in shock, and similar to other dog lovers, she was trying to make sense of what just happened.
When people lose their dogs, they often find comfort in the possibility of an afterlife, believing that their dogs go on chasing bunnies and butterflies in the heavenly fields. I like the idea, but at the same time, I struggle with believing that an afterlife exists for sure. After all, there is no scientific proof of an afterlife, which makes me stay in the middle; it may, or may not, exist.
To say this, I love to play with the idea and talk about it with my grieving clients, because it helps them to process their grief better as it helped me when I lost Skai.
Oftentimes, people shared the most amazing stories of “receiving their dog’s messages” from “the other side.”
On the day Michelle called, she shared with me that her “spiritual teacher” told her that Tot would show up as an eagle. “There are no eagles where I live,” Michelle was objecting, as I was walking along the beach and then I looked up, and there he was, a beautiful bald eagle soaring above my head!
“Michelle!” I shouted in disbelief, “I think Tot is here, he came to say hi!”
My friend was quiet for a few seconds, and then she said something very sweet: “He came to say thank you for helping him.”
“No, no,” I replied, “he had to find a way to send you the message that he was fine, which meant he had to find a place where eagles live and a person who will pass the message to you!” At that moment, neither of us cared about the lack of scientific evidence in support of an afterlife. What mattered most was that it made us both feel better after being struck by sadness and grief.
One might think that this is where the story ends, but it isn't.
Less than a month ago, we visited the same beach in Tofino again. When we arrived, Pax was once more acting like a race horse, whining, ready to be ‘launched’ onto the expansive wild beach.
“Three, two, one, GO!” I let go, and watched Pax disappear into the distance like a bullet. I love seeing healthy dogs run! Then I turned around and started walking, and right there, about 30 meters away, I saw HIM again! A beautiful bald eagle, sitting on a huge log, watching us, regal and still. I managed to snap a picture and messaged Michelle. “Look, Tot is here again!” I wrote.
It made me so happy to be the bearer of this news. The eagle looked at me one more time, and then flapped his majestic wings, taking off, soaring high up above for a few minutes before he disappeared in the distance. It was as if he was saying, “All is good, I am happy, well, and free!”
When I woke up the next day I thought there was no way I would see the eagle again, but there he was, and this time he was with a friend! Two beautiful bald eagles, sitting next to each other, completely relaxed about Pax and I being there.
Perhaps it was his friend Archie, who was Michelle’s mom Janet’s dog, who passed on some time ago? Pax and I hung out with the two eagles for a few minutes, snapped a few pictures, and took a video of them soaring even higher than the day before, beautiful and free.
Living with dogs makes us acutely aware of the limited time we have together, and losing them is so hard. But my Tofino experience was a good reminder that just allowing for the possibility of an afterlife can be very healing, and perhaps it may even be true.
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© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM