I have watched people go through loss of a loved pet and can see how hard it is to say goodbye to those four-legged members of our families. Having seen friends through this heartbreak of having had to say goodbye to the very family member who loved constantly and without question, kept their children safe, guarded them from danger and brought joy into the home, I realized how important it is to send a love letter of condolence to families who are suffering this particular grief. Rosie’s death was a wrenching change, an agonizing absence and called for a memorial to her life to capture her living spirit. So, I sent the following:

“Dear Rosie,

Today I got the notice from your mommy and daddy that they had sent their little girl to heaven with wishes that you make everyone up there as happy as you made them and all who met you. So, I am writing this to you but sending it to the people who loved you best and longest because I know when they read it you will somehow hear them even while you are very busy in heaven making everyone there happy like you always did everywhere you were. The very thought of your not being here on earth with them and with all of us is hard to comprehend. I thought you would be here forever.

For years you were the one to answer the doorbell with gleeful yelping as you heard the ring. Little tiny tail wagging, your much-too-long-legs-for-a-miniature-poodle churning as you ran across that room with the grace of a tiger. And, when you propelled yourself high into the air and flew the last few feet right into my open arms whenever I came into the house, well, no one ever knew how you did that, but did it you did. You defied physics. No surprise. You defied so many doggie-laws to enter the realm of human and beyond, and I know you did that for us to let us know you understood everything we said. You had a way of making people feel welcome and necessary. How smart you were? How beautiful. The feel of your nestling into my chest and falling asleep was a lesson in how to trust. The feel of your soft curly coat that looked like an endless helping of champagne bubbles was a bonus. Could we see you smile? I am sure we did.

And, as I write all this and just bathe in all the beautiful knowledge of you, I can see that the essence of you has gone nowhere at all, really. You are still right here in my heart and the hearts of all who knew you. Always will be. With love to you and gratitude for all the joy of you.”

And, so the condolence letter on the passing of Rosie Fuller went. Should we send letters of commiseration to families who have lost a pet who has been loving without question, who has guarded children, protected family from physical harm, comforted them when they were sad (and yes, they always knew just the right moment to nuzzle into a despondent heart)? How better to express sorrow at the passing of the loving four-legged member of a family than a love letter of condolence?

Grief expressed is gratitude expressed, appreciation of all the departed have done for the living, and so we remember Rosie and her endless ability to make people smile just as we would any family member.

And, how comforting was that? Rosie’s mommy said, “omg Thank you so much Janet. You are so wonderful. You captured her perfectly. We are still kind of in shock but I know that down the road a bit, we will cherish your words about our sweet one!” I knew the gift had landed right where it should to bring hope of “down the road a bit” to the time when she could turn the pain of losing Rosie into the memory of loving Rosie.



Janet Gallin

I was raised in the clear air of the Hollywood Hills in the days when pregnancy tests involved the death of rabbits, before "smog" was a word, when street parking was plentiful and empty weed-filled lots dotted Wilshire Boulevard. I tell you this only to say I am no newcomer to Planet Earth. I don’t like to brag, but I do think experience is worth something. My time in San Francisco started 52 years ago with U.C. Berkeley, graduation, marriage and work as a juvenile probation officer for Alameda County. Life morphed from one stage to the next; two daughters (I wanted ten just like them but was advised not to be greedy), a stint as a fund-raiser for non-profits, single motherhood (hardly my goal, but I discovered that taking responsibility is uplifting and changes daily routine into endless adventure and infinite-loop joy) and then twenty-five years ago a lovely remarriage. I have always been hooked on the miracle of both spoken and written communication and a sucker for clarity. And, I lean toward the bright side of any story. So my course finally became clear. Writing that reflects a life in its truest light; the good, the bad, the funny, the sad and always the hopeful. I have for the past 24 years written personal and family histories most often in verse form (harder to write but easier to digest) to put the thoughts and feelings of others onto paper, written speeches, obituaries, eulogies, roasts, entertainment pieces, and guidance in writing emotionally difficult letters. But all work and no play makes Janet a dull cookie, so there is dancing (clogging - American percussive), playing the violin (badly but con brio), cooking, entertaining, reading, friends, family and my two heaven-sent daughters who have by example taught me most of what I know about life. I hope I have taught them half as much. For the past many years, I have hosted a radio talk show called Love Letters Live and have written a column for the Examiner.com by the same title. The joy of letting others shine is incomparable. I am very grateful that I have been able to translate this into a life's work.

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