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Chasing the Light


Chanukah, the Jewish festival of lights, started on Tuesday night, and it feels like it’s coming along at just the right time. Chanukah is a holiday for celebrating miracles and light (and a few other things that I choose to ignore, because violence and gore are not my thing). The miracles are about the survival of the Jewish people, and a light that shines longer than it ever should have. Of course, in celebrating that light we have to take it too far: if one candle is nice, eight or nine are nicer, if one Menorah is nice, twenty or thirty, or one twenty-foot tall Menorah, is nicer.

menorah21 brooklyn

In Brooklyn (not my picture)

I have been impatiently waiting for some light, especially since Miss Butterfly died, because she radiated light. I’ve tried so hard to generate enough light to fill the void she left behind, but what she did effortlessly I struggle to match.

pix from eos 020

Butterfly, radiating internal light

In a strange coincidence, or not, on Tuesday afternoon we received an envelope in the mail form Butterfly’s clinic, with her collar and tags. They’d lost track of them for five months, but on the first day of Chanukah, they were found (or at least received). Mom took it as a sign that Butterfly wants us to find a new sibling for Cricket. I want to see it that way too, but looking at her little pink Butterfly charm just made me sob.


I want to believe that bringing a new dog home will add light back into our lives. There is a new puppy across the hall, a little black ball of fluff who hops and cries and looks into your eyes until you melt. He makes me think that maybe I could manage a puppy again (I can’t); then there’s his sort-of-sister, Hazel, the mini-Goldendoodle, with her evanescent joy and uncontrollable peeing; and Teddy, our sometime boarder, who went home to find a new sister in his house, a Shih-Poo named Rosie who is doing her best to catch his eye. The light is everywhere, but I can’t quite catch it and hold onto it; I just keep seeing it run past me.

This past weekend, the first snow of the season brought out Cricket’s joy and light. She loves to run through the snow and catch snow balls with her mouth, and dig for hidden snow balls in the snow. I gladly reached down (with my gloves on) for handfuls of snow to keep her entertained. Her capacity for joy is extraordinary, and extraordinary to watch, even in the freezing cold.


“Look at the snowy light dropping from the sky!”


“Throw the ball, Mommy!”

I’ve been trying to look at, but the pages and pages of dogs in nearby rescues and shelters overwhelm me. How do you choose? I want a puppy, but I don’t have the energy. I want a senior dog, like Butterfly, but I can’t go through the trauma of loss again so soon. I want a Great Dane, but I don’t have the room, or the strength. Whenever I see a cute dog who is the right size (no bigger than Cricket), and age (three or four), and doesn’t look too much like Butterfly, I get excited, and then terrified, and then I start crying.

I’m going to need all of the light I can get in order to help me see clearly in the next leg of this journey, and I’m hoping that Chanukah will start me off well, bringing light, and some joy, and maybe even a little bit of hope.


Butterfly leads the way.



About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

114 responses »

  1. Oh, it is so difficult to know what to do to fill that void in our heart.

  2. I’m a little embarrassed at how behind I am in my reading. I hope that your Chanukah was full of light. Miss Butterfly, and all your other loved ones, will always be with you.

  3. Clearly, you were meant to be a pet mom. Take all the time you need to grieve. When the storm has passed, you will find the right pet. We cannot replace a loved one. But we can find room our hearts for a new and unique treasure — foibles and shortcomings included.

    If it is any consolation to you, Scripture is filled with references that suggest we will be united with our animals in the hereafter:

    Isaiah 11:6, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.”

    Isaiah 11:7-9, “The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea”

    Isaiah 65:25, “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.”

    Have a Happy New Year!

    A. ❤

  4. Rachel, this blogging thing of reading history in reverse, can get problematic at times and I am just touching on losing Butterfly. I’m so sorry. When we lost Bilbo six months ago, it was very hard. I felt myself choking on heartache. Although we still had Lady, she is very different to Bilbo. He was an incredibly empathetic dog and we’d had him since a pup and he’d been through so many ups and downs with us. Lady was 2 when we adopted her and while she’s very friendly and loving, she lacks that touch of melancholy which helps you feel deeply understood. The real clincher, however, was that Lady doesn’t fetch or chase the ball, stick nothing and in our grief seemed rather defunct. Bilbo was the ball chasing champion of the universe.
    It’s not an easy decision to know when to get another dog and what to get. Some people just stick to the same breed, which keeps it easy. WE are a Border Collie family but now have border collie crosses and the short hair on the pups, which I’d initially not wanted, is great, especially with the beach and the heat.
    I have become a volunteer at a pet rescue service and we were fostering our pups before we adopted them. That gave us the opportunity to try before you buy. Then, we fostered four week old kelpie pups until they were 13 weeks old and they left just before Christmas. The pups were largely toilet trained by the the time they left here. Pulling on the lead is a problem with our pups and they almost become airborne on walks and it takes 3 of us to walk the dogs…two hands required for the pups, but they are working dogs.
    My recommendation for a more mellow dog would be a cavalier. They’re designed to sit on a royal lap and look cute. They are known for being easy going, but also quite dopey.
    We have found getting our pups has eased our grief. I sometimes feel guilty because that raw grief has passed, but I also know that he would want us to have new dogs and have that dog compartment in our hearts filled.
    Take care!
    xx Rowena

  5. It’s a hard decision. We lost our rough collie Angel Joy on November 26, two days before my spinal surgery. We want another collie…yet we feel we’re not in a good position for another dog. Yet when I clip my fingernails and Angel Joy isn’t there to bark at the clippers…I fall apart all over again. When I see someone walking a dog that looks like her, I rush over to the dog owner so aggressively that I’m sure they think at first I’m a stalker. It’s tough. God bless and guide you. Any dog would benefit from the great measure of love you have to give it.

  6. Butterfly certainly looks like a hard act to follow. Of course, we never actually try to replace one pet with another, but they leave a specific shaped hole in our lives.

    Even before our last cat, Monster, entered into that long, final cat nap, we knew we were through with having pets of our own. Too many reasons not to have a pet. Still, it’s quiet in our house (and so litter-free!).

    I hope you find the light you seek.


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