“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. ” – Anatole France
I received a message from a dear friend last evening. She had said goodbye to her fur friend after more than a decade of loyalty and companionship. There are not many times when I find myself at a loss of words, to try to offer comfort. For me, I think it is because it depends on how fresh the loss is, but also, as appreciated as the words are at offering consolation, the words do not take away the hurt.
Many may never understand the extreme grief we feel when we lose a pet, especially if one has never owned a pet. And I will say, the loss of a pet can cause the same intensity of pain, as when we grieve the loss of a human loved one.
“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” – Roger Caras
To understand and accept what someone who is grieving the loss of a pet is going through emotionally, it helps if you realize and acknowledge the role that the fur friend played in the life of its owner. Perhaps the pet was not just a pet, but a caregiver, giving comfort to someone battling a serious illness. Police canine officers whos “partners” pass on, lose more than just a co-worker. Our pets rely on us, to make the decisions for them, what is best for them.
“A pet is never truly forgotten until it is no longer remembered.” – Lacie Petitto
But there is something about adopting a pet that actually provides a feeling of fulfillment. A bad day at work will not last when you come home to a dog who has not seen you in “who knows how long” because dogs do not have a concept of time. But that tail is always going to wag, and there will be a smile because he believed that you would come home. And you would never be questioned where you were or why. All that mattered was that you were there.
Remembering places that were travelled by pet and owner can bring up lots of happy memories that will not necessarily make the pain of the loss go away, but rather provide comfort through happier memories than in the final days. Romping in snow, running on a sandy beach, a splash in a pool, or pretending to be a 100 pound lap dog. There are always going to be plenty of memories to remember happier times.
“He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds. He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for being; by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him. (I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to care for me.) When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive. When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile. When I am happy, he is joy unbounded. When I am a fool, he ignores it. When I succeed, he brags. Without him, I am only another man. With him, I am all-powerful. He is loyalty itself. He has taught me the meaning of devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant. His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things. He has promised to wait for me… whenever… wherever – in case I need him. And I expect I will – as I always have. He is just my dog.” – Gene Hill
I am far from done grieving for Pollo. Long before he went to the Rainbow Bridge, my children had already been discussing “who would replace him.” My oldest was actually quite rational about it, “I know you will be sad when he dies, but you have a good heart and Pollo would want you to have another dog.” Well, my children do have another dog, with their mother up north, but as for me, I am still not ready yet. I want to make sure that I am not “replacing” Pollo, only to be disappointed when the dog does not turn out to be “Pollo.”
I know that some do not understand grieving a pet. And I am careful about who I discuss my feelings with, because I do not want someone taking the feelings away from me, or dismissing my feelings of loss as irrational. I am not embarrassed at all about shedding a tear when I remember Pollo. I have had so many friends reach out to me who have also lost forever friends (you have a pet for their life – that makes it forever) because they understand. I have not forgotten Pollo and I think of him daily. I have a lot of pictures of him during his healthier and happier days which gives me some solace in the decision that had to be made.
We had cats that needed our attention as well. At least one of them could be found regularly sleeping in Pollo’s crate after he passed. It is normal for other pets who interacted with the departed will also go through grieving, and it is just as important for us to remember that.
I feel very sad right now, not just for my friend’s loss, but for the loss I still feel for Pollo. But she and her family know that there are plenty of friends close by, who know the pain that is being felt right now, and we are here for them. Because that is what friends are.
He was a very good dog, friendly, and great with children. That is what I was able to experience with Cocoa in just the short visits I got to meet him. But for his family, he was so much more, and they have so many good memories to keep him in their hearts forever.
And Pollo? I am certain he is having a great time with his new friend Cocoa.