Saying goodbye to our toffee dog

Toffee's parting kiss before crossing the Rainbow Bridge

It’s taken me this long to share the sad news that on December 12, 2020, our family had to say goodbye to our precious Toffee Dog. For 13.5 years she was by my side. She slept in the crook of my bent knees, just slightly edging my husband out of his side of the bed. She was a 76 lb. lap dog, Rescue puppy golden furred Lab and Whippet mix that was gifted to me as a (very huge!) surprise for my birthday all of those years ago, by our three children. Our eldest, the main instigator, had decided that a puppy would fill the space in the house while she went off to college.

I had never had a pet and neither had my husband. My father had said that pets die after a short number of years and that he couldn’t bear to see me that sad. Well, he was right about the aching sadness, but I would have never traded those years of love that I had with Toffee.

Toffee nursed me through my lumpectomy eight years ago, and the unexpected death of my 91-year-old mother, all in that same week. She had a wild sense of humor and used to put herself in funny postures, often with props, and wait to be discovered. We took countless photos of her, as we would any family member, and she also had a seat at the table. She’d sit and look back and forth to whoever was speaking, as if watching a tennis match.

I know that many people have written about lessons from their dogs, but it’s because they’re among the greatest teachers of unconditional love. The depth of our love was palpable and yet she never spoke a word.

She was diagnosed with a malignant tumor on the side of her neck in the summer of 2019 and given two months to live. Among all of the things she taught me, was to be present to the daily gifts. Upon the diagnosis and the subsequent impending loss, I began to grieve. Each week that passed had me thinking, What if this is the last time we go to the park? What if this is the last time we sit in the garden together? What if…

I would hug her and sob into her thick fur. She’d lick my salty tears and look at me with her huge brown eyes as if confused because nothing seemingly had happened. It was in one of those moments that I realized I was grieving a loss that hadn’t occurred and that it was robbing me of the present joy. I discussed this with Toffee, as I did most things, well, everything really. I let go of bracing myself for her demise and set about just loving every moment with her fully.

We were blessed with a year and a half beyond what we were told and I truly believe that, in part, it was because we didn’t pour our energy into the bitter outcome and rather, cherished the journey.

Through a series of synchronistic events that tumbled together swiftly, one after the other, the ten of us in the family found ourselves sitting on the floor, lining the walls of a small room at the vet, masked and sobbing, while Toffee ate bananas and blueberries from my hand. She had lost 20 lbs. in four weeks, even though I cooked her 3 organic meals a day for the last month. She devoured them, though she was weak and tired.

In true Toffee form, she went around the room and gave a special goodbye to each of us. She’d lie down in between and then get up to go to the next one. We sent her across the Rainbow Bridge on words of love.

She has sent many winks from the other side and has continued to teach me more about love, being present, surrendering control when necessary, and the power of non-verbal communication than I have learned elsewhere.

Our sweet Toffee was featured in the humor portion of an AJT article I wrote last year. She also was right by my side during this past year’s Telemental health therapy sessions. Many of my clients cried when learning of her passing.

I’m grateful to share my memories of Toffee. We would both be so happy if your heart expanded by taking a few moments to embrace what she taught us about being present, showing those you love just how much you care, being kind, letting go of grudges, smiling and running to loved ones when they enter the room, and taking the opportunity to let love in when it’s presented to you.

About the Author
Dr Terry Segal has a Ph.D. in Energy Medicine, and M.A. in Educational Psychology and Theater. She’s a Psychotherapist, Board Certified Hypnotherapist, public speaker, and author of the self-help book, "The Enchanted Journey: Finding the Key That Unlocks You" and women’s fiction novel, "Hidden Corners of My Heart." She writes the New Moon Meditations column for the Atlanta Jewish Times and is a mixed media artist.
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