Heaven’s Legacy

By Creston Rudolph

For many pet owners, their pet is more than just an animal – they are loving and loyal companions that leave a lasting impact on their lives. When it comes time to say goodbye to an adored pet, it can be a difficult and emotional process. However, choosing to honor the life of a faithful companion by celebrating their legacy can provide comfort and closure for pet owners. Taking time to celebrate their life can help keep their memory alive and bring a sense of peace to those left behind.

When Judy Crump’s beloved dog Heaven crossed the rainbow bridge in December 2021, she wanted to do something special to honor her life. Heaven was adopted from the Dartmouth SPCA in 2012 by Judy and her late partner Catherine. Some of our loyal supporters may remember a touching story written about Heaven that appeared in the May 2021 edition of the Paw Print. It’s an uplifting tale about the life lessons an animal can teach us about living in the moment, being patient and showing compassion for others. For those who didn’t read it, I would encourage you to do so; click here.

“I wanted to do something special in memory of Heaven because of the impact that she had on Catherine’s life and mine. She brought great comfort to Catherine who was declining from Alzheimer’s when we adopted her. Heaven was a great (though unofficial) therapy dog. She visited the nursing home with me many times to visit Catherine, happily greeting the residents, waiting patiently for their pats and cleaning up all the crumbs on the floor! She was an exceptional dog,” Judy said.

She added, “Heaven also made such a difference in my life. She taught me patience, the value of slowing down and savoring the little things.”

While Judy had previously supported the SPCA when they had urgent needs, they were typically smaller gifts.

“I wanted to make a bigger commitment this time around.”

After meeting with the SPCA to discuss the possibilities, she decided to make a generous financial pledge to the organization’s Sunshine Fund in honor of Heaven. The Sunshine Fund was established in 2019 to help families who couldn’t afford urgent medical care for their animals. In 2023, it was used to treat more than 1,500 animals by providing over $138,000 of medical care. It covers everything from helping with surgery costs, dental care, and other urgent care that family members may not be able to afford. The fund allows our hospital team to help depending on each unique situation.

“I think Heaven would be happy that in her name I’m supporting the Sunshine Fund, so that other animals can get the care they need. She had so such love to give.” Judy said.

Judy added, “I wanted to make a gift that would directly impact animals. I try to live according to my values and the Sunshine Fund aligns with those values. I feel privileged to be able to do this. Catherine and I worked very hard to be able to do this.”

To recognize Judy’s donation in honor of Heaven, a permanent display was hung in the SPCA Veterinary Hospital in Dartmouth. The display includes a beautiful drawing of Heaven with a heartwarming tribute message that reads:

“Heaven was adopted from the SPCA in 2012. Her loving, kind, and forgiving nature matched her name and inspired others to turn compassion into action. She was a great (though unofficial) therapy dog that taught her parents so much. To honour Heaven’s life, a generous donation was made to the SPCA’s Sunshine Fund so that more animals can get the treatment they need and be reunited with their loving families.”

Judy encourages others who have pets (rescues or non-rescues) to connect with the SPCA to discuss ways they can honor their loyal companions like she did. She hopes that it won’t be long until Heaven has other furry friends on the wall keeping her company.

“Heaven was such a social dog. I look forward to the day when I hear there are more animals up there with her on the wall. Heaven would be so happy to see another cat, dog or critter up there with her. Her tail would be wagging like crazy,” Judy said with smile on her face.

The memorial display is one of several ways that Judy has been able to keep Heaven’s memory alive. Soon after Heaven’s passing, Judy started painting again. This was something that she hadn’t done for years but found very therapeutic when she was grieving.

“I hadn’t painted since the early 80’s. I started painting again shortly after Heaven passed to help me grieve. I now paint every day. It’s a way that she continues to give to me. It’s been a gift. It’s meditative and has a form of spirituality for me. I particularly like painting animals. It’s an incredible experience for me.”

One of Judy’s most cherished creations is a beautiful four squared painting of Heaven.

A New Addition

Judy had no plans to get another dog after losing Heaven but a year later, she found herself searching for adoptable dogs on the SPCA’s website.

“I didn’t even think that I was actively looking but I obviously was. I jokingly sent my friend some pictures of dogs and she started to get excited about the possibility of me getting another one. I saw Stella online and visited the Shelter the next day to meet her. I immediately fell in love with her when she came out to see me. Her whole demeanor was like …… I need to have a home. I took her home the same day and we spent our first Christmas together a few days later.”

Stella is a beautiful 11-year Amstaff mix that is part of the SPCA’s Palliative Care Program. The program is about ensuring that senior pets and those with compromised health get to live out the rest of their days in a foster home filled with love, caring, comfort and happiness.

Judy feels fortunate that she can provide Stella with a loving home for the remaining years of her life. They’ve created a special bond since Judy became her permanent foster in December 2022. Judy is a great doggy parent and takes Stella to her regular monthly appointments at the Dartmouth Shelter’s hospital. Their favorite activity together is relaxing in the living room enjoying each other’s company. This usually involves Stella chewing on a hearty bone that Judy’s prepared for her.

When asked whether Stella shares any of the same characteristics as Heaven, Judy said: “Well, that gentleness. She’s just super gentle with other people in the same way that Heaven was.”

If you’d like to discuss ways that you can honor your loyal companion(s) like Judy, please contact Creston Rudolph at 902-209-4003 or crudolph@spcans.ca

Creston Rudolph

Creston is a Development Officer with the Nova Scotia SPCA. He and his partner Terri are proud parents to a cat named Tony (Colchester SPCA alum) and two Shiba Inu dogs named Charlie and Kuma. He loves connecting with SPCA donors to thank them and to let them know how big of an impact their gifts are making.