After 14 years of loving my 110-lb Rhodesian Ridgeback, Kenu, I was faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to put him down. I could not comprehend life without him, but I did not want him to suffer. I documented the logic of my emotional struggle in a poem. Several days later, he rebounded. A week later on November 6, 2006, my 42-year-old husband died suddenly from a heart attack. I am forever grateful that Kenu rallied to help me through the next few months, but in February I was faced with accepting that it was time for me to let him go. Below are three poems I wrote about Kenu crossing the “bridge.”

Before the Bridge
by A. D. Ripke

Yesterday all seemed fine
Or mostly, anyway,
Gray muzzle and silent ears
Excused his lazy days.

Today he’s sleeping in the sun
And walking slowly up the hill
His graceful gait is stuttered
His tail almost still.

Birds no longer taunt him
Squirrels withhold their chatter
Cats just sit and wait
The hunt no longer matters.

I seek his tired eyes for wisdom
A prophecy that cannot lie,
I find a quiet answer,
“I’m getting ready for good-bye.”

I wonder—
How will I know for certain when it’s time?
Do I wait and let it happen naturally?
Do I help him bow out gracefully?
When am I loving selfishly?

Questions find their rest
In the arms of my resistance
Answers seek their rightful place
Where emotions keep their distance.

Memories rope around each thought
Tying knots of indecision
There are no absolutes
No crystal ball or mystic vision.

How will I know when living is unkind? tears welling as I ask.
Then, from across the Rainbow Bridge*, a gentle voice unveils my task—

“Watch him live—
If his greatest joy is slumber
No response to your commands
His mind does not remember
His legs no longer stand
When his dancing eyes are resting
When he chooses shade instead of sun
When walks are just him dreaming
Your wondering is done.”

I ponder this simple explanation
Advice I could’ve given
But too much love, immeasurable love,
Is blind to answers never hidden.

So Reason’s awkward comfort
An argument still pending
Prepares me for good-bye
Unlike another’s tragic ending.

And in that final moment
As wisdom fights my will
I’ll know he’s found
His peace,
His place,
His friends,
When paws and tail are still.

Last Day
by A. D. Ripke

My day began with a slow, deep breath—
The last day,
His last day,
Our last day.

Last together
Last hug
Last kiss
Last smell
Last touch
Last look……

Last breath.

His last breath.
Our last moment.

I breathe.

I touch.
I breathe.

I touch him again.
I breathe.

Torrent of tears…
Torrent of tears…
Torrent of tears…

Peace at last…

Home at last…

Memories last…

Last touch…
More tears…
Breathe–just breathe.

After Life
by A. D. Ripke

Tears fall…
The moment after
The feeling after
The night after
The day after
The week after
The month after
The walk after
The couch after
The entryway after
The park after
The mountains after
The ocean after
The desert after
The summer after
The year after.

After tears
I live.

After more tears
I live.



After life
Memories live…


After life

Andrea from California