The associated grief was surprisingly intense. It was so intense that I was embarrassed I could feel so deeply about pets – Tammy…Sprite…Silver.
They were Goldens and like family.
Is that kind of grieving normal? Is it healthy? Am I saying that pets are on par with people?
The Passing of a Pet
Some people assume that pet loss shouldn’t hurt as much as human loss, or that it is somehow inappropriate to grieve for an animal. They may not understand because they don’t have a pet of their own, or because they are unable to appreciate the companionship and love that a pet can provide.
The sudden and unexpected death of a good friend’s dog brought to mind the passing of our Silver in 2011 – which seems like only yesterday.
Failing Obedience 101
Silver slept in our room; begged at our table; barked when she shouldn’t have and failed too often to retrieve. She flunked out of obedience school but we loved her just the same, knowing it was more our failure than hers.
When she was left alone as a pup she expressed her separation anxiety on our drywall. Her hair was the literal “fur” in our furniture. She came at the expense of friends with allergies.
Seeing her expectant face at the window after even a short absence was an unrivaled welcome.
Down This Road Before
One warm September morning in her seventh year, she laid in the shade on our patio and was reluctant to come inside. That was out of the norm for her, so with deep trepidation it was off to the vet. We’d been down this road before. She was filled with cancer.
We took her home for one last night. She was medicated to relieve some of her pain. There was no medication for our grief.
We stayed up all night, wishing the morning would never dawn. We remembered her as a pup and were grateful for all the goodness she brought to our family. Even knowing this outcome we would have chosen the same path.
The vet was empathetic, compassionate and gentle. Our final goodbyes were said. We held Silver as she received the injection and then in what seemed like seconds she was gone. We knew we did the merciful thing but if that was the case why did we feel so cruel?
The Test of Friendship
Our vet gave us a poem as we left her office. One stanza reads,
“If it should be that I grow frail and weak,
And pain should keep me from my sleep.
Then will you do what must be done;
For this, the last battle can’t be won.
You will be sad, I understand,
But don’t let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.”
Writing this simple memory brings unexpected tears.
The drive home that day was in silence. There was too much silence for the rest of the day. That night there was two of us in the home but it felt empty.
The first night without her…
And the first breakfast without her…
And the first return home without her…
Our first walk without her…
It wasn’t until the first Thanksgiving without Silver that we laughed again at remembering her devouring a previous Thanksgiving’s turkey when we were preoccupied with taking a family photo.
It was her way of getting into the picture…one that would last forever.
(This one was for you, Tim.)
RESOURCES: An excellent article on helping family members and especially children, cope with the loss of a pet. “Coping With Pet Loss“
Ideas on sympathy gifts is completely free and you can find it here: Your Dog Advisor.
APPLICATION: Have you experienced the loss of a pet? Please share your story below. Thank you.
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