My neighbor saw me driving up the hill toward home and motioned me over.

“Callie is gone,” she said somberly, referring to another neighbor’s dog.

I swallowed hard as she told me the sweet-natured pooch of undetermined parentage I loved to spoil with biscuits on my daily walks had been suffering with kidney problems and no doubt had been in great pain. It was time. I agreed, but felt sadness nevertheless and wondered how her mistress was coping, a single woman who lived alone and had obviously lost her closest companion.

We’ve all been there, those who love dogs, cats, horses, and other creatures of the earth. We know what it’s like to take someone into our homes and hearts and share our lives, enjoy them for years, look upon them as family, and then lose them. It is never, ever easy.

Still, we know on the day we make that choice to adopt, that one day we will have to say “goodbye”; that’s the tradeoff you make for the years of joy and friendship and unconditional love. Those very wise folks at Westerly’s Stand Up for Animals know this all too well, so they’re ready to help you through this sad time and perhaps introduce you to a wagging, purring, furry newcomer.

If you’re not familiar with Stand Up for Animals, you should be. It is without a doubt one of Westerly’s local treasures because it’s a whole lot more than an animal shelter. It is a place of education, of ongoing assistance, of unbridled happiness when previously unwanted and abandoned animals are adopted to “forever homes,” and an organization fully committed to both instilling responsibility and celebrating at the prospect of having someone want to share their home and life with an animal. Check out their website (www.standupforanimals.org) for their hours and other information, then take a tour, and your eyes will be opened. The place is a place of positivity. It is light, airy, and always clean. There are no dark cages or horrible smells. Here animals are individually assessed and cared for not only by trained SUFA workers, but by veterinarians who donate their time, opening their hearts and not their cash registers.

You may indeed meet your next best friend, but if today isn’t the day and nothing clicks, that’s okay. Come back ... again and again. Please do not buy a dog or cat from a pet store or other entity that may not know the full history of the animal. At Stand Up for Animals no one is adopted without first being judged completely healthy, up to date on vaccinations, and micro-chipped. The professionals at SUFA are “matchmakers,” making sure that you are adopting the animal who best fits your living situation, your time schedule, and your family because they want this placement to be a permanent and happy one for all concerned.

An expert in the field of loss and grief, Hilary Stanton Zunin penned this, so apropos, not only for the loss of an animal, but for the loss of anyone you have ever let into your heart. “The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief. But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.”

So rest in peace, Callie, and the same for all those who have come before you and those who will one day follow. If you’ve recently lost a “best friend,” by all means take the time and give yourself permission to mourn, but do not feel that you can “never go through this again,” that it is too painful, that there will never be another Buddy or Merlin or Callie. Too many people feel that because no dog or cat can, or will ever, take the place of the one just departed, this leap should never again be taken. It’s partially true, it never will be the same. It can’t be, because they were they and you were you with them, and that relationship was an exclusive one never to be duplicated; but oh, you can certainly love again ... and if you give yourself the chance, and just reach out to a little soul that needs you as much as you need them, you will. The heart is a muscle, and muscles always stretch.

There are all kinds of love in the world, but never the same love twice.

Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 17 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at six07co@att.net or 401-539-7762.

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