By Dr. Kuhu Roy

Style, grace, enigma and a magnanimous heart is what best defined Princess Butter. Our daughter, a rescued stray, was too much goodness packed in one soul. Home meant Butter and Butter meant home. She was the constant. Her presence ensured the resilience we needed to counter the challenges that come complimentary with looking after stray dogs on a mass scale on the roads. Butter was a witness and a victim to all the hostilities and negativity that came our and her way. We together sailed through the thick and thin. What Butter did for us, no human in the world could have.

It was after thirteen years and two weeks of togetherness that we lost Butter to medical negligence. None of us were around here. There was guilt, anger, frustration, and the ifs and buts. We continued to serve the stray dogs and the ones who were at home with the same dedication. It kept us occupied, but the dreaded end of Butter was always there in the back of the mind. Though close friends were a huge support, there were also “That was just a dog.” “Had she not lived her age already?” “You have so many, why brood over her death?” remarks. It spoke volumes about the huge disparity in the human-human vs. human-animal bond. Maybe that is what silenced most of the grieving parents of companion animals and pushed the conversation around ‘grief of loss of an animal companion’ from being labelled as normal. We started to look for resources that could help us navigate through the loss. It came as a surprise that there was nothing in place for the grieving parents of companion animals, let alone a support group in India. Our grief suddenly had a new dimension. There had to be a safe space to openly talk about and celebrate the timeless human-animal bond.

To memorialize Butter, came into existence Bridging Rainbows initiative on what we took to be her fifteenth birthday. We cannot undo the dreaded end Butter met, but we are doing all in our capacity to celebrate her legacy and the goodness she had to offer to the world. Although it is still a big taboo, today there is a system in place, a safe space for the grieving parents of companion animals in India. The support group meetings run full. Kindred souls from all walks of life, age groups, ethnic backgrounds, men and women are unified together by their love for non-human children; not only for homed (pets), but un-homed (strays) companion animals too to accord them the status of equality, love and respect they as much deserve. Butter’s purpose was larger than life. Maybe, the only thing that time has done is to make the pain of her loss bearable while the wound is still as painful and raw. Our bond with Butter is eternal.

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