Valerie Shaff: Honoring Rex
Since experiencing the great loss of Biscuit, many people have shared their stories with me. I thought that the blog would be a nice forum to share these important stories.
My friend, Valerie Shaff, a photographer, whom I interviewed here, recently shared her story with me about her beloved Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rex, shown below. Val shared with me her deep bond and unique relationship with Rex, since she learned about Biscuit’s passing. Val truly understands the depths and unique relationships with furry family members. Val was willing to share here how she honored Rex to help inspire others who share this difficult aspect of dog love.
Val photographed dogs for many years before inviting one to share her life. Rex was offered to Val at the age of six weeks on a photo shoot. After the photo shoot, Rex fell asleep in Val’s arms. Rex was born without his ridgeback ridge, and he would have sold for considerably less money. However, Rex’s breeder told Val that she could see that Rex would have an excellent home with Val. Below is a photograph of Rex taken by Val on the first day she met Rex as a puppy.
Val lost Rex in 2012, after thirteen years together. Val shared and sent photographs to me illustrating how she has honored, commemorated, and memorialized her beloved Rex. I was very touched by Val’s openness and kindness, and I feel very fortunate. As shown below, I believe what Val has done to commemorate and memorialize Rex is very touching.
Val framed one (of many) of her puppy photographs that she made of Rex that sits proudly on her mantle in her living room in her home. Val wrote, “There too he gazes right back at me. I will miss him for the rest of my life. That’s just the way it is…but I can carry on. We will have another dog. I thank God everyday for the time that we had together.”
Val also wrote, “When I die I want to be cremated and have my ashes mixed with Rex’s ashes…I made a box of decoupage photos of him and his ashes (some of them) and his collar are in that box on my dresser.”
“They say time heals all wounds and here it is months later, almost a year, and I still miss my boy like he’s just gone. I find consolation in remembering that he was no longer comfortable living in that body. I find comfort in knowing that when it’s my time to go, I will somehow, in some way, be with him again.”
A photograph of the box Val made for Rex is shown below, which sits on Val’s dresser. I thought this was a really beautiful and creative idea — one that I had not thought of before seeing this image below from Val.
Val wrote, “Plant something for Biscuit too. That helped me. I planted a weeping willow…and yes, I go there and talk to him and shed a few tears, too.”
Val told me that she took some of Rex’s ashes and placed them at the tree roots when the tree was planted. Below is an image of the beautiful weeping willow tree that Val planted for Rex. I think that this is a really splendid idea, and I had also not thought of this idea until Val shared planting a tree to Rex — something very visible and accessible — a constant memorial and reminder of her beloved Rex.
I think what Val has done to commemorate and honor Rex is very heartfelt. This gives us some ideas to consider as well.
Since Doug and I are currently in transition as we are waiting for our new home to be completed being built in the coming weeks, we had Biscuit’s body cremated. Last week, we brought Biscuit’s ashes home. I have not had the courage to actually view the ashes. At this time, Doug and I are not sure what we are going to do with Biscuit’s ashes. I am sure, in time, we will figure out what we would like to do with Biscuit’s ashes. It will take some time.
Val wrote, “He [Rex] has been gone almost a year now and just last night I was crying over the missing feeling that still arises when I focus in and bring my bond with him into sharp focus.” I can certainly relate to these feelings as I experience them often.
Val also wrote me, “They say the only way to heal a broken heart is to fall in love again. There will never be another Biscuit. There will never be another Rex. But our hearts have been so deeply touched and open and we must continue to share our love where it is needed. I know you need some time, but I know that you and Doug will have a new love before too long. Think of it as another tribute to your love for Biscuit. Try and remember that true love is eternal. This much I know is true.”
I am sure, in time, as Doug wrote here, Biscuit, our first dog love, will send us another love, another Sheltie friend.
Please note that all photographs and images contained in this post are courtesy of Valerie Shaff.