About Letters to PushkinRead about:
On Sunday morning, February 1, 2009, Pushkin the beagle went to sleep in my arms for the last time. Three and a half weeks later, it was Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the Catholic Church’s Lent season. When you’re younger, Lent is usually about giving up something, such as giving up chocolate for forty days. As adults, though many still opt to give up something, others take a more proactive approach: perhaps making the effort to say one kind thing to their partner each day or to volunteer at a local soup kitchen. Lent, in this way, becomes a time of ritual and reflection culminating in the observance of Holy Week and Easter Sunday. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to commit to writing a letter each day to Pushkin. The collection begins on Ash Wednesday, February 25th, and the final letter was written on Easter Sunday, April 12th; all together, there are forty-seven letters.Read More
The letters, as a collection, document one experience with grief. These letters were never intended for publication; they were intimate conversations that I wrote out each day in a journal. However, a friend suggested to me afterwards that I share my letters and experience to possibly help others grieving over the loss of a companion animal. With Pushkin as my inspiration, I pondered the big questions of life and death, welcomed the love and support that sometimes came from unexpected places, and embraced the changes that inevitably come with such a dramatic life event. Reading back over the letters myself, it is interesting for me to see how my own mind works, moving as it did from a state of abstraction to a restored state of equanimity, and finding a way to become more hopeful and joyful again. Ultimately, that is why I decided to share my experience in writing them. Pushkin was not a story; Pushkin was a real life, and a life that touched me and changed me. At the end of this all, I am still not quite sure what heaven is like, or if he can hear me when I speak to him, but I do hope that somehow he knows -- every time someone visits this site, writes a letter, and reads through the letters shared here -- how very much he is missed and still loved.
To read the first letter from Letters to Pushkin, please click here.
Pushkin Discorfano Webster
Pushkin and I first met each other on Thanksgiving weekend in 1999. I’d already been to the animal shelter on 110th St. in New York City. I was eager to take on the responsibility of caring for a dog, but I needed a smaller dog that would be suitable for my Upper East Side apartment. At the time, the shelter didn't have any small dogs, so I left disappointed. However, a staff member suggested I contact Bideawee, a humane organization located in midtown. The next morning, I called their center on 38th St., not far from the United Nations. I asked if they had any small dogs, to which the person replied, “Well, we have a beagle...”Read More
“A beagle! I’m jumping on the subway right now! Do not give him to anyone else, please!” I will never forget that first time our eyes met. Pushkin was about two and a half years old and called “Dennis” at the time, and he was being held in a pen with a few larger dogs. He looked up with his big deer-like eyes, and I became an instant believer in love at first sight. But there was a catch: he was undergoing treatments for heartworm, which meant he couldn’t come home with me for several weeks. So until I was able to bring him home on January 22nd, we got to know each other during my lunch hours, when I would go to the clinic and take him for walks; and on the days he wasn’t feeling well or was quarantined because of the treatment, I just sat with him and sang to him. Pushkin proved himself, this time and many times thereafter, to be a resilient but gentle soul. He was feisty. He was peaceful. He was funny. I hope that his many inspiring qualities come through in the letters as I’ve written them.
I was blessed to have Pushkin in my life and in my home for just over nine years. The last pictures of him that I have were taken at his birthday party on January 22nd, 2009. The penultimate photograph shows us gathered around and singing Happy Birthday to him, with the candles on his cake lit up. In the very last picture, he's still in my arms and we're leaning in closer to the cake, with the candles just extinguished by everyone's combined exhale on his behalf. After another week that included a few good runs and some nice naps in the sunshine, our time to say goodbye had come. Pushkin remains a part of our family and home... always.
Sharon Discorfano, a graduate of Rice University, has an M.A. in Literature from
Georgetown University and an M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from New
York University. She received her J.D. from the University of Arizona, where her
personal focus was on animal-related legal issues and animal advocacy efforts. She
currently resides in New York with her husband and Pushkin’s brothers, Otis and Galileo.
For more information, please visit sharondiscorfano.com