As we begin the New Year, I always try to keep focused on looking forward. However, there are certain things in life that make you glimpse back.
In particular, the one event from last year that makes me glimpse back is New Year’s Eve 2014.
The day before New Year’s, I left my brother’s ski house in Vermont, which is a 7 hour car ride back to my apartment in New York City. I have always liked to spend New Year’s Eve at home. I’m introverted in many ways and my introverted ways particularly come out on major holidays. I love to be quiet and comfortable at home doing whatever I enjoy, which is why after 5 days of skiing I headed home, leaving my parents, a number of siblings, a niece, nephews and two dogs (Blake & Bernice) at the ski house.
I was in my comfy pajamas with my pup beside me when at the strike of midnight I text my Mother, “Happy New Year!”
She texted back, “Pray. Bernice is missing.”
“For how long?”
“Over 3 hours.”
It was 20 below out.
“The fireworks went off and she got spooked and sprinted off.”
My adrenaline had already kicked in.
The ski resort consists of a number of townhouses and two hotels, so it covers a vast amount of mountain area. I stayed up until 4AM on New Year’s Eve stone sober making up a flier and calling the hotels to see if they could get the info out to their security immediately. I slept for 2 hours and was up again by 6AM (because it was light out up in Vermont) and I was hoping to hear she turned up. My intuition even told me to email a worldwide psychic to see if she could tell me where she might be. My intuition was correct to email because on New Year’s Day the woman out of pure kindness and concern called me and said, she is still alive, she ran down and over to the left. My sister who does not believe in psychics didn’t say a word to this news.
This went on for days until the weekend hit and I went back up to the ski house with my other sister to help in the search. It was hard. Everyone was already four days into the search, was utterly exhausted and had to get back to their jobs. I always try my best to be a compassionate person and put myself in other people’s shoes as best I can. I really had no idea. That is, I had no idea the amount of stress involved in missing a pet. There was no time for sleep. Time was of the essence because of the frigid temperatures, and everyone was exhausted from searching for days, which in turn influences your ability to think straight.
We were knocking on every door going from house cluster to house cluster handing out fliers and asking people if they had seen Bernice. We were skiing and snowshoeing down the slopes slowly, yelling into the woods. No luck. There were possible sightings and then what seemed like legitimate sightings, but still no Bernice. I went up with my sisters each time the weekend hit as much as possible. It’s a devastating feeling to have to leave an animal you love, not knowing where they are. But we had to keep moving forward. And we did, but it was a struggle. We all had to leave and place our trust in the locals to keep an eye out. My brother and sister-in-law would look every weekend they went up to the house and my sister would go up whenever she could, but Bernice could not be found. Winter passed, the Spring came and we kept in contact with locals who had taken up the search and were literally, angels on the ground. They would leave traps, search any lead or any random idea that we could think of all hours of the day. This was a true testament that there are good, loving people out there who care for other fellow souls. That is, there are truly people who step outside of themselves for the benefit of a stranger. I wonder, is there any greater love that exists?
That April, we received a call that Bernice had passed away, so my two sisters and I drove up to bury her. She was curled up as peaceful as any being could be, just as if she was going to take an afternoon nap. She knew, she was one with the earth and passed on peacefully knowing that. I tear up as I type this because it is all still very raw. The generosity and compassion that those many local individuals extended to my sister is one of the most powerful lessons I have learned in life. They dug Bernice’s grave before we got there, they brought flowers and balloons and stood there as if Bernice was just as much a part of their hearts as my sisters broken heart. I must look forward and know that what this pup taught us is more powerful than even her physical presence here. That is, one cannot always make sense of tragedy, but one can always look forward with the lessons that teach them the boundless capacity of love, only to glimpse back for a reminder of this very fact.
In Memoriam of a very special pup, Bernice (2012-2014).