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The Reality of an Online Dog Friend Dying

Cocker Spaniel
Ginger, 9 years old, born on Valentine’s Day.

How many pet parents and friends do you have thanks to social media? Are they dog moms and dog dads who perhaps you have never met…and quite possibly, you never will? Using my own personal experience as a guidepost, I bet many of you who are reading this have tight connections with folks you have “bonded” with through social media.

There is a tendency to feel closer to people you cyber-meet on social media than perhaps one’s own flesh and blood family, especially because the social media friends understand your dog connection, the love and passion you have for pets, and maybe even they consider you part of their cyber family. There is no harm in this, unless of course, someone is “catfishing” you. Some people, however, are the real deal and they enter your life, your heart, and become a treasured friend. Does it really matter these days where we meet people: Isn’t the bond of connecting with someone ultimately what we all seek? Whether that someone is a friend, a partner, a lover, and/or maybe even someone you meet online who turns into a spouse…..don’t we all want to be accepted, feel cared about, give that love back, and bond with those who “get” us?

This blog is called Fidose of Reality because we keep things as real as humanly possible here and tell it like it is: The good, the bad, and the in between.  Sadly, I recently received a dose of reality that was very unexpected and quite frankly, in disbelief.

I lost a cyber friend, a Facebook friend, a confidant, a fellow writer, Cocker Spaniel mom, and genuinely good person. An online friend passed away suddenly and I found out through a Facebook post. This is a first for me and I am sure it will happen again…..and again….and again.

When you know more people and their pets, the loss of someone is a near daily occurrence. In the past month alone, the pets of five different social media friends have passed on to the Rainbow Bridge. I mourn these pets as I would the loss of an “in person” friend’s pet. That stops me in my tracks, too: IRL (in real life) friends versus online friends. Heck, both are IRL according to my definition of a friend.

double rainbow

Jan Beale will be a forever friend to me and now she is gone, yet I never had the opportunity to meet her. Is there a Jan Beale in your life? Is there someone with whom you communicate online and feel a connection to beyond the letters on a keyboard? Let me tell you this: Hearing of their loss and reading it through a Facebook post feels like an anchor dropping in the deepest pit of your stomach. You know that angst-shock-ohno-nauseating feeling that happens in the instant you learn of someone’s sudden and unexpected passing? I had that same feeling when I read this on my friend’s Facebook wall:

This is for those that knew her and I hope this news gets to you. My mom, Jan Beale, passed away on March 25th. I really wanted to contact everyone personally that knew her to deliver this news but I just can’t talk about it anymore. I hope you understand. For those that didn’t know her I can not even begin to explain how much she meant to me. She was the greatest parent anyone could hope for. I don’t know what there is beyond our own existence but I just have to believe that she is in a better place. I would not be who I am without her and am eternally grateful to be her son. Rest in peace mom. If anyone wants to know more about it then please message me.

Don’t ever forget to tell those close to you that you love them every chance you get.

I walked around in a state of fog for the next 24 hours and as I write this, it seems unreal. Was I really that close to Jan? We never met, so how is that possible? Is she a friend in real life? What will become of her Cocker Spaniel, who has severe separation issues and a malady of things? I never knew she passed, and now it is a month later.

This, my friends is what I call a dose of reality and one that will happen again….and again….and again. Jan IS a friend, she died, and I am mourning. In this day and age of social media, fast moving times, friendships found online, and relationships cemented electronically: Grief is grief.

There are things, however, you don’t know about Jan Beale that she revealed to me in the course of our several-year friendship. Jan Beale was a real person and now she is really gone until we meet again.

Did you ever wish you could replay a conversation with a friend or a family member who passes away? If only you had one more conversation with them, one more phone call, just a few minutes to tell them you care about them? I know I have those thoughts now and again when missing those whom I have loved and temporarily lost to the heavens….we will find our way to one another again. Hope springs eternal.

Cocker Spaniel
Ginger must be missing her mama. Grief affects us all.

Well, with Jan, and my other cyber friends, I have a trail with which to reconnect and revisit. I found our Facebook direct message exchanges. We were Cocker message forum friends before that and even e-mail pals, too. I have 39 pages of words between Jan and myself to cherish. I also have blog comments she shared. Rather than tell you about Jan, here’s a glimpse of a lady who touched my heart in her own words. She would be happy and in agreement of my sharing and re-sharing these words, as they are her own:

On Religion and Worship

I grew up in a very strict religious home. My father was a diehard pentecostal…and  for those who may not have heard of this, holy roller. I was forced to go to church from a young age , several times a week at the least, until I could finally leave home at age 18. I grew up terrified of thinking or doing or feeling the wrong things that would send me down that inevitable road to hell. I was so afraid all the time. On top of that I grew up in a very abusive home, in every way possible. Even through all of this, I knew there was something bigger than me and all of us, “out there.” AND the one thing that kept coming back to me during those dark growing up years, was, “God is Love, ” not hate and anger and abuse. I have always been a very empathetic and sensitive person, and I attribute this to what I dealt with. My love for animals has always been very strong. I do not go to church, and over time, because I knew that I felt a deep connection to something more powerful and good that lived in my heart, I realized that this was my spirituality, and for me I didn’t need to go to church. I see God, or my higher power, not in a building, but in the hearts of so many people who give everything they have to rescue those precious lives that have been abused and tossed aside. I truly am a very spiritual person. I pray, I have conversations with God, I believe in him. I know there is something bigger than us all, I feel it, I have seen it. I try to be the best person I can be. When I do not have the money to give, I take time to say a special prayer, because I know it is heard. My Ginger has many issues around fear. She is not the “norm,” and to me she is one of the special ones. I feel blessed that God entrusted me with her care, because she is so gentle, so full of love and brings me such joy. I see God in the beauty of the clouds and the ocean, the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, in so many things. I just want to say, that I believe that God lives in our hearts, and we don’t have to go to a building that would not allow me to bring my girl, to feel his love and presence. I see God everyday in the amazing rescues that are done. God lives in our hearts, and if we listen we will hear him.

paws

On My Coming Out After 20 Years of Being Closeted

When I read this when you first wrote it, I was so overcome with joy and happiness for both of you that I cried! Congratulations on 20 wonderful years together! The pictures say it all, the love, the happiness the joy you share and of course your wonderful son, Dexter. My heart breaks for you that you live in a state that doesn’t recognize your right to be married.

I live in California, and everyone thinks it was an easy road here for same sex  marriage to become legal here. It was a long hard fight. Believe me, there are a lot of people in this state, who do not support this right. But thanks to a man named Gavin Newsom,  who had just become mayor of San Francisco  in 2004, issuing an order to allow same sex marriage in the city of San Francisco, the battle began, and finally just not all that long ago, through many ups and downs, it is now legal. I say this, because I do believe that you will be able to get married in PA someday. It is your right, and by golly it will happen. Don’t ever stop believing that!

You and Darlene are wonderful people, that someday I hope to meet. Your tireless fight to help the furkids that cannot speak for themselves is amazing! You are loving, caring, and spectacular people, that I love dearly. I am so sorry that this close minded group that exists in our world ever made you feel that you could not say what you felt and really be you. Shout it from the rooftops my friend!! You are special, and I am so glad to see the movement that is taking place in this country as states legalize same sex marriage. It will happen in PA too, and on that day that you and Darlene exchange those vows that you have waited so long to exchange, I will be right there with you even if only in spirit, cheering you on!

My cousin was able to marry his long time partner, last Dec, 12-12-12 to be exact, as Washington State approved same sex marriage in last year’s election. I am so happy for both of them, and I know I will be saying the same for you and Darlene.

I love you both and I love Dexter, and congratulations to an amazing couple that gives so much and does so much good. You are the best!!

With all my love and joy,
 Jan and Ginger

 

pawsOn Becoming a Writer

Hi Carol! First I want to say that I think you are amazing! Ginger and I both love Dexter, and I love reading your blogs. I admire you so much because you are such a talented writer, and being able to do what you love has to be just amazing. The people you meet, the travels, and of course Dexter, who is just so special.

I was always told I should be a writer, from grade school days, but never went that route. I always feel there is a book or something to do with writing in me, but I just can’t quite figure out what it is. I am 67 now, so I should probably hurry up!! Anyway, you are obviously a stellar representative for doing what you love and where it has taken you in your life’s journey.

On Guest Blogging for Fidose of Reality

I am speechless at your invitation to guest blog! I would love to! I don’t know what to say. What a special honor!

pawsOn Losing Her Heart Dog, Maxxie

Hi Carol, I just read your post about Brandy Noel. Brought big tears because, I so know how you what you were saying and feeling. I lost my Maxxie Dec 15th 2007. I so wanted him to make it through one more Christmas. But he gave me all he could, and I had to let him go.

I didn’t find out he was sick until late August. I took him in for his senior checkup, and I told the vet he had been coughing a bit. He was 12, and it never seemed bad, just occasional. She did an x-ray, and discovered a huge tumor. I was horrified. How could he have this without me knowing it? She didn’t feel it either, because it was up and under his rib cage. The blood work came back and the red count was low and the white count was too high for surgery. It would have been so hard on him anyway, just to find out what was going on, and what organs were involved. I couldn’t do that to him. She said he had a few weeks at most.

I didn’t know what to do. I was so upset. He was my boy, my heart. I could not lose him. He hung on, and had quality of life. And my vet said he is not ready yet. It became increasingly difficult for him to eat, as the tumor was growing and pressing on his stomach and the food was being pushed out too fast for him to absorb it right. But he was still doing okay, and ate, and I fed him a special diet, and he followed me everywhere. I could see him going downhill though, but he was not there yet.

I remember that last Tuesday, I thought he needs a groom, and he loved riding in the car, so we took a drive to the groomers, and we had a good day. He was doing good that day, and even my groomer said, he isn’t ready yet. He enjoyed his day and our outing, and home we went. I talked to him along the way, pointing out beautiful hills, and birds and things I saw, and he looked at me and listened as if he understood.

The next day I could tell he was not doing well, and by Friday, I could see he was not okay. I called the vet, and she said to bring him in Sat am, Dec 15th, and she would check him over. My son drove me, as I held him in my arms, something he would never have let me do otherwise. He just snuggled against me. My son went with me into the vets, and I laid him wrapped in his favorite blanket on the table, and my vet came in and checked him over, and said he may have a few more days, but I don’t know. I was thinking, oh good a few more days, and my son said Mom, you need to let him go. He has been here 3 months, and was only supposed to be here 3 weeks, and he stayed for you, but know you have to let him go. I knew that, and I said okay. My son could not handle staying in the room, which is alright, and I stayed with him.

I am sure they thought I was crazy. I had to have the curl at the tip of his tail, and a curl on his ear and some more of his fur. After words I kept thinking I should have gotten more, and why didn’t I think of getting his paw print? I still am sorry about that one.

I know that emptiness and that pain you talked about, and I too said never again. I just can’t. He was heart, my soul, and even though I know he is pain free, and playing at the Rainbow Bridge, and yes I truly do believe in the Rainbow Bridge, I miss him still everyday. A good friend gave me a precious gift too. She went to a site and had a star named after him, and it came with a beautiful certificate that she had framed, and it hangs on my wall to this day. There is a star named Maxxie out there, and that is so very special.

paws

Well, Jan’s words are finally able to shine as brightly as that star that she calls Maxxie. Ironically, I have a star that was dedicated to my Brandy Noel, whom I lost in 2008. I imagine the stars of the universe are aligned in a more perfect order now, and when my time comes to join them, how bright that galaxy will be. I see those stars waiting for me, shining at night, casting their glow on my heart.

Jan, you will not be forgotten. Your words will live on. The presence of your life in mine will not be forgotten. Until we meet again, my friend, your Ginger found a re-home with someone who loves her dearly, I’ve been in touch with your son, Mike, and you are right: He is a special person, just like his mom. I never saw a photo of Jan until this past week, when her son was kind enough to send me some. It didn’t matter what Jan looked like, but it was nice to match the loving personality with this beautiful friend, inside and out.

janbeale
My beautiful friend, Jan Beale.

I wish I got to meet you, but your online friendship will remain a special part of my life. Thank you for writing, thank you for embracing me, thank you for not being judgmental, and thank you for just being you.  You are a writer, my friend, and trust me when I say this: I will carry your writing passion on through my words. You will not be forgotten.

With love,

Your fan and friend,

Carol

 

sunset
One of the last pictures Jan Beale took and posted on her Facebook wall.

Comments

  1. Connie says

    I lost an online friend, but he chose to end his life. I too was in a fog, wondering if I could have said or done something to help.. but he never opened that door for me, letting me know he was even considering it, and for that I will always hold a ‘what if’..

    My condolences on the loss of a dear friend.

    • Carol Bryant says

      Oh Connie, that is so devastating. Those of us left behind are left struggling with anything we might have been able to do…. and I totally can understand. My deepest condolences. My heart goes out to you.

  2. allison kroland says

    I just am totally speechless…what a beautiful tribute to Jan I cried through the entire reading of hers to you about loosing her dog. I cried with the words you wrote about her and just wanted to say you Carol Bryant are a very special person you can feel it in your writings I feel it through my computer all the time. I read what Jan wrote to you about coming out and I have a son who is gay and has explained to me the pains and the hurt he endures with not being excepted. I too live with that pain because as soon as I say the truth to someone when they ask if he has kids and I say he is gay the look I get is beyond words and at those moments I can only imagine what he feels at times. I have 4 children and he has the biggest heart is the most sensitive and shines so bright. Not many people on fb know any of this because sometimes I see their comments and I just shutter.
    Carol Bryant and Darlene Bryant….love is love….and very hard to find true love…you are both a very lucky couple.
    I did not have the opportunity to know Jan but after reading her words I so wish I had the chance to have known her…maybe in another life <3

    • Carol Bryant says

      I am speechless back – little ole me, speechless. Jan would be so happy to read what you just wrote, Allison. In some way, I think she knows.

      And your words to me have me getting goosebumps. As a writer, I try to affect people and put my heart into my words. Knowing those words affected you in this way: Well, suffice it say I am touched. Thank you. And thank you for being so proud of all your kids. You are a shining example of what a loving mom is in so many ways. <3

  3. Christine Aiello says

    Thank you for making me cry at work, Carol! OMG what an article! Such a great article and tribute to Jan. I wish I knew her. She sounds like such a wonderful person from what you wrote and from reading the things she wrote to you. She definitely should have went into writing. She was such a great writer as well and you can tell it was all from the heart just like when you write. I wish I knew her. I’m glad Ginger has another good home and I hope they take just as good care of her as Jan did. I hope she is doing okay. I’m so sorry that you lost a dear friend and never got to meet in her person. At least you have a ton of good memories to cherish forever! xoxoxo

  4. Kim Kiernan says

    What a wonderful tribute to Jan. I think she would have been very proud to have such a loving memorial written about her. I’m so glad to hear her Cocker has found a new loving home.

    I agree that friends are friends. Some people thought I was a bit nuts this past summer to travel cross the country to visit Facebook friends, but to me there’s no difference whether I’ve met you in person or not. A connection is a connection.

  5. The Swiss Cats says

    Before diving into social medias and pet blogging I couldn’t imagine you could friend someone online. I was wrong. That’s a beautiful tribute of a friend for another missed one. Claire

  6. Tharice says

    I am crying for so many reasons not pity but joy and happiness of what you shared with her and her with you. It stirred up so many emotions I cannot even talk right now and can barely hit the keyboard to type this note…you just never what tomorrow wil bring and it saddens me so I brush tomorrow off the calendar and live for today as the now is what is important. You are so special thanks for sharing…as always my heart is beating hard with love and affection..<3

  7. Nancy C says

    Carol, again, you bring me to tears. This is a beautiful tribute to Jan and well as a reminder that even though many of us our “cyber” friends, we are friends none-the-less. It is so true, many of my friends on line have been based upon our love of cockers and animals in general. They have been the folks who have mourned with me when I have lost and I have mourned with them when they have lost. I have lost cyber friends, who I have had the opportunity to meet before they were gone. Those are moments I will always treasure. And Carol, thank you for being there. Your words hit home so often.

  8. Jackie Preas says

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful tribute to your friend,Jan Beale.I believe from what I have read here that she thought as much of you as you did her.I could not help but cry as I read your tribute and the messages that she sent you.I think you were both honored to have known the other and it doesn’t matter that you never met.Friends are friends.Hugs to you on the loss of a dear and precious friend.

  9. Michelle Olsen says

    Jan was a dear friend and to hear your remembrances of her..bring her back to life for a minute. Her sweet disposition, her love for her dogs, and her devotion to Maxxie through his illnesses…all speak of a dear friend. Thank you for this tribute. She was a beautiful person…inside and out.

  10. Laura says

    Thank you for your lovely post. Jan and Mike and I used to be neighbors and you are absolutely correct about what a dear lady Jan always was! Thanks for sharing your feelings with all of us.

  11. Annette @PetsAreFound says

    I share your sentiments Carol, it’s really tough coping with the passing of online friends. We are always relieved if we see a pal re-emerge tweeting from the bridge, but are still coming to terms with the pals who can no longer tweet as their human has passed away. It’s a whole new emotional journey, thanks for your post on this – it’s a great help.
    Annette, Isagold & WallasEKatt x x x

  12. Edna says

    What a beautiful tribute. I am sorry for your loss Carol.
    Your post had me thinking of all the friends I’ve met online since AOL went unlimited. Many of us are still in contact today, 15+ years later! We cheered. laughed, shared, vented, and grieved together. We supported each other thru the good and bad, and still do these days. They were there for me when my husband passed and when I had to send Miss Cookies, The Bandit, and Cherie to the Rainbow Bridge.
    I think of my friends as friends. There is no difference to me that we’ve met online or face-to-face.
    Edna and the Panfurs Panky and Troyer

  13. Stacey says

    Friends are friends. I have online dog/rescue friends I’ve kept in contact with for over 15 years from the early AOL days. You do not have to meet someone to be friends, you just have to touch each others lives. It definately sounds like you and Jan shared that type of connection.
    I cried while reading both your and Jan’s words. A very touching tribute to a special woman and friendship. I did not know Jan but my deepest condolences to her friends, family and loved ones.

  14. Lee says

    Carol, thank you for lovely words and beautiful tribute. I too remember Jan’s thoughtful and kind words on Zim forum. What a wonderful cocker Mom she was!

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