Love, Hazel

To my mom, Shelby.

If you’re reading this, I have fallen asleep for the last time. But since I couldn’t tell you in words before, I wanted to tell you now all about how you gave me the best year of my life.

Confusion struck the moment I was abandoned along the side of a road in January. I don’t know why I was left. And I don’t know why no one came looking for me; I know I’m a good girl. Although it was hard, I believe, as you’ve told me yourself, that everything happens for a reason. I was relieved yet terrified to find myself in a shelter. It wasn’t a scary place itself, it was just scary that I was left by my family whom I loved and now I was in a small enclosure, confused as to what it all meant and what would happen next. The people there, I could tell, cared about me. Like they wanted me to find somewhere wonderful to go and not let this be my final stop. I recognized the sense of urgency emanating from these nice people to find something called a “Rescue” to take me out of this place and find a warm home for me to sleep in. It took weeks, but they seemed determined. That determination paid off. Finally, I met a wonderful woman named Leslie. I heard her talking with my caretakers that she was from somewhere called Ruff Start Rescue. She said that I had a foster mom waiting to take me. I was elated! Little did I know I would end up with someone who would show me a world I didn’t know existed.

After an exhausting few weeks, I was about to meet you. I heard you pull up to Leslie’s home, heard your car door open, and heard you talking to Leslie as you came in. Your voice was warm. I could tell you were nervous. Eventually, I would come to find out you hadn’t had many fosters before me, and you had never had a senior with as many issues as me! But without knowing you, I could tell you were up to the challenge no matter what. I hopped into your car, and our 10-month adventure began.

It started with one of my most memorable and meaningful moments; when we arrived at your home, you let me up on your couch, which I was hesitant to jump on, but you insisted. That’s all I remember. You told me literally days later that I just slept. And slept and slept and slept. I was introduced to my first fuzzy blanket and felt like I was being softly tickled while wrapped in a warm hug. I had never felt like this before. Your other furry kids, who I have built strong loving relationships with, would cycle through to both, I feel, check in on me but also check me out since I was new. It didn’t take me long to settle in; it’s like I was always meant to end up here, with your family.

Hazel posing for the camera
Cat sleeping on Hazel
Hazel wearing a lifejacket on a boat

Mom, I wrote this to remind you of the amazing things you introduced me to. Our journey allowed me to play my favorite game of fetch, explore our neighborhood in my stroller, travel to countless state parks while strapped to your back, go on boat rides in my life jacket with more loved ones, see the North Shore… and the list goes on. You gave me the tools to see the world for what it is; not what I grew up thinking it was.

You always told me you wanted to show me more; you had big plans… some of which we couldn’t complete. But you need to know that the most important times spent with you, were just that; just being with you. For a while after my passing, I have no doubt you will look for me whenever you leave the room as I have always looked for you; expecting to hear my nails on the kitchen floor trying to catch up to you as you go to the bathroom, check the front door, or go upstairs. It became almost comical, didn’t it? Visiting guests or Dad would laugh about you leaving the room and me springing into action to follow. Even in my last days, when my legs didn’t work as well, I never let you get far before I was under your feet. The silence will be hard, but know that now I’m able to follow you wherever you go without pain.

Mom, I wrote this because I want you to remember and focus on how unbelievably happy you made me. I don’t want you to be sad when you look under your desk and I’m not there. I don’t want you to be sad when you see the sunlight moving across the floor and I’m not basking in it. I don’t want you to be sad when you lift up my favorite blankets and I’m not under them. Instead, remember that you gave me the opportunities to do these things. Little pleasures that I never thought would be possible in my life.

Hazel getting scratched on the head
Hazel resting on a cat
Hazel receiving a piggyback ride from her owner

Mom, I wrote you this because I want you to go and tell everyone my story; about how important it is to care deeply about all animals in every stage of life. I want more people to stand by the side of an animal that enters the hospice program. For them not to be scared of what’s inevitably coming.

Mom, I wrote this to tell you that I wish I found you sooner. However, our time together wouldn’t have been as meaningful as it was if we came into each other’s lives any other way. I always wondered why you chose me; a hospice dog with not long to live. Why would you put yourself through the pain I know you’re feeling? But you told me the day you let me go that you felt a hot blaze take over your heart when you first saw my picture while Ruff Start was looking for a foster. You said the need to bring me home was instantaneous and overwhelming, like you felt an immediate connection. I want you to know that when I met you, I felt all of these things, too.

Mom, I wrote this to tell you I love you and will always love you. Thank you for letting me see and experience the good of this world. You, Dad, Sully, Loki, Freyja, and Kvasir changed my life. The strength it took to make this decision must have been hard to muster. But I need you to know you made the right one. You said your heart was shattered into pieces; if you give me a piece of yours, I’ll give you a big piece of mine. That should help mend it. Thank you for holding me until the end. Until my last breath, you were on my mind and in my heart. I can’t wait to see you again.


We were able to say “yes” to Hazel because of support from animal advocates like you. Make a gift today so we can continue to save the abandoned and neglected and help find them loving forever homes.

Hazel had ten beautiful love-filled months with her foster family. She experienced warm snuggles, boat rides, and adventurous hikes (where she got to hitch a ride in her foster mom’s dog backpack). She was able to retire in peace, knowing she was fiercely loved to the very end.

Please consider supporting Ruff Start Rescue this holiday season to help animals just like Hazel live out their lives with dignity and love. Thank you!

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