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Tripawd Tuesday: A Love Letter to Connor

In November 2016, a six year old dog named Connor became a Tripawd because of cancer. Over the next few weeks we had the privilege of sharing in the joy of his recovery via email, and we joined his large fan club that cheered him on. But sadly on February 1, Connor suddenly earned his angel wings. Hearts shattered around the world when got the news. And although cancer took his young life, it cannot take Connor’s sweet spirit.

In the spirit of Saint Valentine, the universal ambassador of love and devotion, we share this beautiful Tripawd Tuesday tribute to Connor. Written by his mom Nina, we know that if you love any animal, you will relate to her touching love letter to a once-in-a-lifetime dog.

Good Dogs Come Home

by Nina Hettema

Tripawd Tuesday Connor
Connor Hettema. Sept. 6, 2010 – Feb. 1, 2017

From the moment he crawled into my lap – twice! – and fell asleep there, the littlest rez dog pup, this runt of a sizable litter of bigger, stronger puppies, claimed me for his own, heart and soul. He let me look around at the other puppies, laughing all the while because he knew better. Because it was clear to him from the start, and then to me, that we were meant to be together; inseparable in fact. I was his chosen Mama, his Goddess, his entire world, and he would spend the next seven and a half years of his all-too-brief life proving to me every day that unconditional love is real, and its wellspring is in the heart and the eyes of the dog that adores you. There is no way to say how priceless a gift he has been to me. The best word for our mutual feeling was just…idolatry.

A Real Bodhisattva Canine

Tripawd Tuesday Connor
“The Will Rogers of Dogs.”

You know, I am sure I’m biased, but I’ve never known such a sweet-tempered, affable, kindly, loving critter. I often called him the Will Rogers of dogs – he just never met a man (or woman, child, dog, cat, etc.) that he didn’t like. He was friends with everyone, a real Bodhisattva of the canine world. But when it came down to it, there was only one person in the world that mattered to him – and that was me. And he made sure I knew it.

He would come up and wake me every morning with his cold nose against my face. “C’mon Mom, let’s get up and play!“. A day when I left him just went on hold until I returned to his rapturous greeting. Going somewhere with me was bliss – it didn’t matter where, he was my copilot, and you never saw a dog comport himself with more dignity and stature when he was beside me in the truck.

Tripawd Tuesday Connor
“He loved the world and everything in it.”

He was a fine traveler, and went to Oregon, Washington, and Texas (twice!) with all the good grace in the world. He took his job as watchdog and protector very seriously, and could scare people who didn’t know that this huge wolfdog was just a big softie. He loved the world and everything in it, but mostly, he loved leaping and dancing in the snow, running in the woods, rolling in leaves, eating delicious food (especially his nightly treat of licking out his kitty brothers’ cat food can), swimming in the creek, burying bones with the utmost stealth, playing ball with his best buddy Skye, playing tag and stick and hide-and-seek with Mom, snoozing on the biggest, softest bed he could slip into, and looking into his Mama’s face with his chocolate eyes, his big soft head on her knee, and telling her of his boundless love for her, while she did the same to him. She’d sing their special songs, and he’d be at her side while she stroked his velvet ears, and there was nothing else in this world that was better than that.

Spring Will Come Again

And that’s how we said goodbye today.

We had only the day before learned that his condition was far more critical than anyone knew. He needed us to act at once, to save him from pain and suffering that could come at any moment. Our time, which had been running out, was just suddenly . . . gone. But the immediate onset of grief and woe was a small price to pay, after the love and joy and happiness that was his gift to the world, to ensure that he made a good end.

And that he did. Singing, and whispering I love you, and lotsa petting and holding close, and looking into each other’s eyes, and big sloppy kisses-on-your-mouth-and-oh-now-what’s-with-this-teary-face, and “I’ll be back, you’ll see me again, don’t you worry!

Tripawd Tuesday Connor
“He runs on four legs, young and strong and healthy once more.”

The day had been grey, then the sun suddenly came out and it felt like spring for that last bittersweet half-hour together under the trees. And my world is very grey right now, but spring will come again someday, I know. He is out of pain now, and safe from all harm. He runs on four legs, young and strong and healthy once more in the Happy Hunting Ground. His love will stay faithful and true in my heart, and he’ll be leading the pack when we meet at the Rainbow Bridge. My last hours in this world will be sweet with anticipation of that blessed reunion.

Farewell, good and faithful friend! Farewell, my darling boy.

Good dog, time to go home now, Connor. Be a good boy, and wait for me. Mama loves you.

Here’s one of our songs, that I sang to him for the last time yesterday.

Connor Sends a Sign

P.S. I have to share with you the wonderful dream I had last night (it’s Feb. 2, the next day).

I had told Connor to come and visit me, if he could. Well, he did, the very first night. He came running up to me, panting happily, grinning his big goofy grin, young and strong and on all four legs again. This is where it gets interesting.

With him was a big white dog, of a breed I could not recognize – it looked partly like a white lab, but had long feathery fur and ears like a Saluki or Afgan hound. It was very large – tall but svelte, and its demeanor towards Connor I could describe as “kindly alpha,” like a big brother, and Connor was obviously deferential and quite smitten with him. As always, my telepathic communication with my boy was perfect.

Hi Mom! This is my friend!! We’re playing!! But I’m really busy right now, he’s showing me everything!! We’re having fun!! Lots of stuff!! I gotta go!!” and off they ran.

Checking in with me as he always did when he played with other dogs. It comforted me so much to know that he’s not alone, he has a friend and guide to mentor him in his new home.

So, be assured, not only do dogs go to Heaven, there are angel dogs there waiting to meet them.

Read All Tripawd Tuesday Stories

Now It’s Your Turn: Send Your Tripawd Tuesday Story

Each Tuesday, Tripawd dogs and cats from around the world can enter for a chance to be “Tripawd of the Week.” Just share your Tripawd’s story and you’re entered to win! On every Tuesday of the week, tell us about your three-legged hero. Just follow these easy steps:

  1. In a short paragraph or two (or longer if you’d like!), describe your three-legged hero’s story.
  2. Include photos or links to videos already uploaded to YouTube.
  3. Include a link to your Tripawds Forum topic and/or Tripawds blog, social media handles, etc.
  4. Email your story and photos to us.

All entries must be received by Saturday at 11:59 pm. One Tripawd story will be selected at random to be featured the following Tuesday.

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12 thoughts on “Tripawd Tuesday: A Love Letter to Connor”

  1. Nina,
    I have no other way to get in touch with you apparently so I am hoping you come back here occasionally and find this.
    I have wanted to thank you for your very kind words in my blog. I am no better today -going on two years- but your words made me feel like we’re two peas in a pod. Thank you so much for your kindness and for sharing. I will remember you and Connor forever.
    Biggest hugs
    without Manni

    • Hi Tina,
      Just got back here, first time in over a year, wish I checked in sooner to find your sweet note. My dear, how my heart goes out to you, I remember how I felt at two years of no Connor. Still raw and bleeding in my soul. It will be four years this February, and it was only this past summer that I was able to talk about my boy without breaking down completely and not being able to say a word. Please know that it does get better, it really does, hopefully you are feeling that now, a year and two months later. You have to just go with the loss and pain and let time do its healing work. I miss my guy every day, and this past May I had to say goodbye to the baby of my three boys, my Manx kitty Jonas. Three gone in four years. it’s too much. If you want to email me I am, or you can message me on FB, think I’m the only Nina Hettema out there.
      Sending you so much love, healing thoughts and prayers, blessings and hugs. Let’s have a play date at the Rainbow Bridge some day, the four of us, okay? xoxo,

  2. Exactly one year since last I wrote. Two years tomorrow that my boy is gone. And two weeks ago I said goodbye to Koko, my Siamese cat, who was Connor’s “brother” and my main support after he left us. It was hard to say goodbye to the greatest kitty I’ve ever known and loved, but he had a long and wonderful life, and while I miss him, the loss is nothing like what I felt when I lost my six year old dog, the closest thing I will ever have to a child. My Con was so young, and taken too early. After two years, I am finally able to talk about my boy without breaking down. I still think of him every day, still hold him close in my dreams, and tonight and tomorrow I will spend some time looking at photos and letters and emails, and remembering…love you my baby, Mama loves you so much.

      • Hi, Rene, thank you for your kindness in posting these. If there is any way that you could please message Tina aka Tinscsh and let her know I’ve found her note, I’d be so grateful. Don’t know if your rules allow for this or not but I’d love to get in touch with her. Thank you, sending love and best wishes,

    • Nina, it is good to hear from you on this bittersweet day. We are keeping you in our hearts and lighting a candle for Connor and Koko, always in our hearts.

  3. Dear Rene, dear friends,
    A year has passed since my darling boy breathed his last in my arms. To say that I have missed him would be the greatest of understatements. There has not been a day when I have not thought of him, whispered to him, held him close in my mind and heart. The first half of the year, in fact up until August, seems like a blur to me now – looking back it seems like I did nothing but grieve. I would spend entire days and nights howling with pain, to the point where family and friends worried about my mental state. To some it just seemed weird and excessive. Others advised me to go on antidepressants, or “Just get a new dog”. But Connor deserved all of my tears. Now, as the full cycle of the year turns, I see that my grief, though still present, has changed. Outbursts come, like a sudden rainstorm; I let them take me, give in and sob and cry my eyes out, and then the storm passes after a while, and my life goes on. He seems further away now, and while I see the inevitability and the rightness in that, see that it’s part of healing and letting go, yet there is a part of my heart that is fighting this, still wants to hold on, is saying, “Oh please don’t go, I will bear the pain, only don’t go!”. I know that I will move through this painful stage, and gently let time and distance bring an end to the struggle. In any case, his memory has not dimmed – it is clear and bright; in waking hours I will picture our happy times, his happy grin – oh how that dog could smile! – I will see before me. In sleep, he comes to me in joyous, ecstatic dreams, that leave me warmed for days. And I thank God, daily, for the gift of my dog, who taught me what love is. I think back on his illness, the decision to go ahead with surgery, and even though we both suffered, and there were dark days and nights of sickness, worry, fear and exhaustion, even though I am now struggling financially as a result, yet if I had to do it over I wouldn’t change our course. I am convinced that the surgery bought us time, not very much, but a few more weeks; each and every day of these brought us moments beyond price. And it gave me time, too, to accept what was happening, to have the chance to give my all to try and save him, and at the last, to somehow find the strength to bid that Dark Angel, who I had fought so hard against, to come – yes, come, Blessed Friend, you are needed – and take him from my arms into yours and gently release him from his pain. Thank you all for your kind and loving comments, they meant a great deal to me when I first read them a year ago, and they mean a great deal still, and telling our story here has been a huge comfort to me. Give your pup a kiss on the nose, for me and Connor, and do not let a day go by without gazing into the adoring eyes of your best friend. They are our loving Creator’s kindest gift to us.
    Nina Hettema 2/1/18 Covelo, CA

    • Nina, you so beautifully articulated what it’s like to grieve the transition of a forever dog. Connor is proud that you have come so far in this past year, and grateful too. For only in allowing ourselves to move through the grief transition and see it for what it was, are we able to open our hearts to other creatures and give them the love that they deserve. Connor will always come to you in spirit and never be far from your side.

      Thank you for letting us know how you’ve been. What a beautiful letter to us all. I promise you we are giving our critters extra smooches in honor of your unforgettable boy.

  4. Tears falling allmpver the place! Oh Nina, your tribute to you pr sweet Connor is absolutely beautiful! Every si gke word is so heartfelt,

    Thanknyou for allowing us the privilege of getting to know Connor, the WILL RODGERS OF DOGS”! What a special Soul!

    And those pictures! Such a handsome fella’! Heu undoubtedly is I e of zTHE cutest puppies on the Planet!

    I know your heart is broken into a million oieces right now. Yes, your world is grey right now and you hurt so badly, so very badly. But we can all promise you this, the thousands of happy memories you and Connor shared will slowly, but surely, add some color back into your day. Connor IS forever in yiur heart and he WILL make his presence known while he’s snuggling in a corner of your heart!

    Yes, Connor definitely chose you so he would know what love and joy and happiness felt like!! And when Rocky got to the Bridge, he told everyone how fortunate he was to have you as his human! He told them he had THE BEST RIME EVER with you!!

    Thank you again for the privilege of getting to know Connor and the special bond you have.

    With love

    Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!

  5. Oh wow… what a love story! A true love story with so much pain and joy all in one. Thank you for sharing. My heart sends you love until you meet again with your heart dog.

    And yes, tears here too.
    alison with spirit shelby in her heart (and little Jasper too)

  6. I am looking at the dog at my feet with tears running down my face, I am so thankful that he is still with me and I cannot imagine a world without him. This is beautiful, but I really need to stop reading these things.


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