One Essay That Has Touched Many
Essay by Crystal Ward Kent
Purhase "The Journey" in poster format (16" x 20") that has been published on over 35,000 websites!
Many of you have discovered my essay, “The Journey,” which I wrote in 1998 after the sudden loss of two beloved pets. Since then, “The Journey” has taken on a life of its own, appearing on countless websites around the world, and reprinted in hundreds of humane society newsletters, books, and more. Because of its popularity, I decided to create a website devoted to “The Journey,” and to offer, after many requests, the essay as a keepsake, available in poster form. Read on to learn more about “the journey of ‘The Journey’” and how you can order a keepsake. A percentage of all sales benefits the New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Cocheco Valley HumaneSociety.
The Story of “The Journey”
1998 was a tough year for our family’s animals. Katie, my beloved companion in play and woodland walks, was a smart, joyful, gentle dog who loved tennis balls, squeaky toys, and romping through mud and water. A mix of Labrador Retriever, Springer Spaniel and terrier, she was a compact black and white dog, given a slightly comical look by her scruffy terrier beard. A lively dog at 10, she suddenly began to go into a decline, though the veterinarian initially could find no cause. By late summer, she was finally diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. But by that time, she had been robbed of much of her vitality, her sight, her love of treats, and even some of her memory. Her last day, she slowly visited all the places she loved--her “grandpa” at his greenhouse, which was right next door, the field where she raced after so many Frisbees, and the blueberry bushes where she loved to lie. She then returned home, where Oliver, her dear cat friend, came and lapped her face. It was good-bye, and they knew it as well as we did.
Katie’s death left a huge whole in my heart, both because of her passing from my life and because I was tormented by her suffering. But I soon had to face another blow when my dear cat, Pippin, died only one month later. Pippin was a slender, long-haired calico who came to me when my sister died suddenly of meningitis. She was a feisty kitty, mischievous and playful, and initially gave my other cats fits. As the years passed, the older cats died, and only Pippin remained, active even at 14. She loved bouncy balls, toy mice, and crinkly bags, and was quite a hunter despite living inside. She had caught praying mantis, mice, frogs, and snakes without ever leaving the house--somehow finding these creatures in the attic or basement! Time had mellowed her into more of a cuddler and less of an imp, and she loved to stroke you with her long slender paws.
We fully expected her to have many more years with us. Her last night with me, she was up to her old tricks, knocking over waste baskets, and rustling papers on my desk so I couldn’t sleep. I scolded her, and she quickly hopped up on the bed, talking all the while. She curled up to cuddle, plainly asking me not to be cross. I think now that she was telling me she was ill, and maybe even saying good-bye, but I’ll never know. The next day, she stayed under the end table all day long, facing East, and seeming almost in a trance. She would not respond to food, or petting, or our urges to come out. The vet diagnosed kidney disease but thought she would respond well to treatment. She stayed for an initial round, but that night died of a blood clot, a not unheard of complication due to the thyroid medication she was on.
I couldn’t believe that within 30 days both of my beloved animals were gone. For the first time in my life, there were no animals in the house. The sight of an old tennis ball and half-chewed Frisbee in the yard broke my heart. In the house, I’d see bits of Pippin’s long white fur on the carpet, or step on a toy mouse while vacuuming, and be reduced to tears. My heart was broken and I wished nothing more than to follow them both on whatever journey they had taken.
And then, one golden October day, warm as summer, some words came to mind. I sat on my front steps with a legal pad, and the words just flowed. Like a gift -- from God, from Katie, from Pippin. Thus, “The Journey” was written.
On a whim, I shared it with the NHSPCA’s newsletter, and from there, it took on a life of its own. The local paper picked it up, and unbeknownst to me, people then began downloading it from the paper’s website. They e-mailed it to family and friends all over the country and all over the world. About three years after it’s initial writing, a friend called and said, “You’ve got to go to Google and see this.” When I typed in my name, there was “The Journey” on 35,000 websites worldwide. It had been picked up -- with credit given to me -- by thousands of animal welfare websites all over the United States, Canada, England, Germany, Australia, and more. Today, a pet loss group (Petloss.com) holds a candlelit vigil every Sunday and Monday night for bereaved pet owners worldwide. As they light a candle, they scroll down through “The Journey.” A monk in Pennsylvania used excerpts from “The Journey” in one of his sermons, and contacted me for permission to use segments in his book of essays. “The Journey” has been read on “The Today” show, and featured on their website, thanks to the interest of Dr. Warren Eckstein, contributing Pet Editor on the show. Renowned animal communicator, Carol Gurney, author of The Language of Animals: 7 Steps to Communicating with Animals, has included it in her training and lecture materials.