Individuals who suffer the loss of pets go through the same emotional pains as those who suffer the loss of a human loved one. But unlike people who suffer the loss of a human, sometimes people who suffer a reduction of pets are ridiculed by people in their own lives. A co-worker may state, “It was only a dog” A partner may say, “She lived a fantastic life.” Even though a buddy may encourage you to go get another dog straight away.
Just other pet lovers really understand the pain related to the reduction of pets.
Whether your pet reaches the end of life or dies unexpectedly, grieving is no simpler either way. Allow yourself to go through the phases of grief at your own pace so that you may heal emotionally.
When my 14-year-old gold retriever, Jake, could no more stand by himself, once up couldn’t squat to go to the toilet, I knew it was time to end his suffering. He was also starting to have problems with memory loss. But, I might see he didn’t know where his water or food bowl was which door to go outside. As difficult as it was, I made an appointment with the vet a couple of days down the road and spent 48 hours entirely spoiling him. I slept on the ground together at night. I fed him spaghetti and pizza (his favorites!) I took two weeks off work to be together with him.
Once we went to the vet she laid a blanket down for him to lay on. However, with his paws, he pushed it aside to lay on the cold tile flooring. I laid on the floor with him, my arm over his chest as the vet administered the meds that would finish Jake’s life – and that his suffering. I sobbed. Even when he was gone I put with him and cried.
That has been over a couple of decades back and even as I recount this, tears are welling up in my eyes.
The five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) were identified and articulated in 1969 by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book, On Death and Dying. In the days following Jake was euthanized, I don’t recall ever being in denial. It’s not denial as in not thinking the deceased is gone but denial as in denying your feelings of sadness. When I went to work and somebody would say, “How are you?” I would burst into tears and say, “Just dreadful. I had to put my dog down earlier this week”
I did not feel the next phase, anger, possibly. The life expectancy of a golden retriever is 10-12 years. I was fortunate to have Jake more than average. And because I had him long, bargaining wasn’t a part of my grieving process. But I can see how people who suffer a loss of pets could easily do this. It’s that negotiation with a greater being. “Just let him pull through this and I will make a monthly donation to the local animal shelter.” Or, “His 15th birthday is only four weeks away. Let him live until then and I will…” fill in the blank.
No, I skipped over steps two and three and landed head-first in Phase Four: depression. I was very sad. I was so very lonely. I had heard the expression”heavy heart” earlier but I didn’t understand until then that it is more than an expression; it’s a physical feeling. My heart actually felt heavy. The house was eerily quiet when I got home from work. My well-meaning buddies kept saying I need to find a different puppy. But no dog could replace Jake.
It took quite a while before I could walk into the house, not expect him to be lying on his mattress in the center of the family room. My approval (the fifth period of grieving) started when I got his ashes in a wooden box, wrapped in a blue velvet bag, a plaque with his name along with dog print, and a certification that said, “I will be awaiting you at the close of the rainbow bridge” But this was just the start of the point. I placed his ashes onto the bookshelf in his favorite area – the family room. I handed them each morning when I went to work. Sometimes I would touch the velvet bag and say, “Bye friend” Other times I would only say goodbye to him. You may also visit providence vet for dog vaccinations, just check them out here.
Like those days when I’d say good-bye became less regular, I knew I was on the road to recovery. And six months after I was prepared for another dog.
Some people who suffer a reduction of pets have the same strain as the puppy who passed away. I just couldn’t do that. In reality, I went to about the opposite end of the breed spectrum. I got an Olde English Bulldog puppy. Where Jake was she was rebellious. Where Jake was furry, she was stubbly. Where Jake was royal, her beauty was”she’s so ugly she’s cute.” When she was a small puppy I used to look at the blue velvet bag on the bookshelf from the family area and say, “Jake – I wish you were here to teach her the ropes”
two years old, I adore Jes just as I adored Jake.
When it is time to say goodbye to your very best furry friend, allow yourself to pass through the five stages of grief. No timeline fits everyone. Only you will know when you are ready to advance to the next stage. Whatever you do, don’t allow anyone to marginalize the pain you feel when you endure the loss of pets.