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A tough goodbye: Death of a pet is losing family member

My last column in this space back on Sept. 28 included mention of having the chance to pat Nero-Bob during the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter’s Strut Your Mutt event along with a photo of the handsome dog.

Nero-Bob had been the subject of several stories in 2014 after he had been lost, then found badly injured. The community rallied to help pay for surgery that saved Bob’s life.

The morning after the column appeared, I came in to work and found an email which told me something that brought tears to my eyes: Nero-Bob had passed away Sept. 26, two days before my mention of him. He had become ill and despite efforts to save him, he crossed the rainbow bridge.

Recently, I reached out to offer my condolences to Amanda Bertucci, Nero-Bob’s human warrior mom, who fought so hard to keep him with her and her beautiful young daughter, Phoenyx, who’s 6, and Bob’s “brother” Jasper, a mastiff. And I asked Amanda if there was anything she’d like me to include in this column.

As anyone who has ever lost a pet knows, there’s an intense level of grieving one goes through after saying goodbye to a beloved animal who is a member of the family. But despite her sorrow, Amanda, bless her heart, wanted to share some thoughts as she knows that Nero-Bob was special to many in the community.

Amanda emailed me this: “There’s so much gratitude to be shared even in my time of grief. I went the last five years not knowing exactly what Nero-Bob meant to me. He was my emotional support, my security blanket at night. I don’t know that I will ever get to bond with another animal as much as I had him.

“That boy lived for me but truthfully it’s probably for the best. As I stood there and watched Dr. (Tim) Hunt do everything he could for my Bob-dog. I thought maybe we should end his suffering, but it’s so hard to give up on something that fought so hard to stay with you. Sadly he wasn’t strong enough to make it through his last procedure, and it was devastating not just for me but for everyone who fought so hard and supported us.

“I’m so grateful for Dr. Hunt and his presence and who he is at his core. Even though I lost my best friend there was such a comfort being at Bayshore (Veterinary Hospital in Harvey) and knowing they would do anything in their power for us. Dr. Hunt himself made the loss so much easier just in the respect he showed for my pain and the sympathy in his eyes. He is a wonderful man and I’m grateful that Nero was in his care. I want to express to Dr. (Tracy) Nyberg how much I know she loved my boy almost as if he were her own. I’m so sorry for her loss as well.

“My Bob was a one of those dogs that touched so many lives, and he was just always so happy. I wish I knew what exactly to say but frankly it’s taken me two weeks to even be able to talk about it.”

Amanda: You said it quite eloquently. Amanda wanted me to be sure to offer special thanks to Kerri Willey, a local woman who goes above and beyond to help when pets are missing. Amanda said Kerri’s compassion and encouragement were immeasurably important.

The tough part of having a cat, dog or other creature as part of the family is the lifespan is never long enough. Watching them leave is agonizing. And adjusting to their absence is gut-wrenching.

My prayers go to Amanda and her family and to anyone who has dealt with the loss of a pet, be it yesterday, last week or 50 years ago. Part of your heart keeps the memory of that pet with you. Getting to the point where that memory changes from a pang of regret to a smile in remembrance takes time.

Amanda, here’s hoping knowing the memory of Nero-Bob – the dog who fought long and hard to stay with you – will remain with many people brings you a measure of comfort.

Editor’s note: Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 240.

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