Getting through the loss of your pet
All animal lovers understand that your pet was special to you.My boxer dog Jack recently died of cancer. It was devastating; he was only five years old and he was amazing. Jack followed me everywhere I went, came when he was called, snuggled, cuddled and just all around made my life better. He was a great pet and when he got sick, I initially refused to believe it.
After weeks of being at the vet and having tests done, the truth finally had to be acknowledged. I watched as my happy, friendly, previously 120-pound, but now 70-pound boy wasted away. I kept him alive longer than I should have; I just couldn't bear to let go.
The day I made my decision, he was lying out in the backyard and refused to move. No treat, no kisses, no hugs made him stir and I knew I had to make the most painful decision of my life. I knew that by delaying the inevitable it might ease my pain, but it would also prolong his.
Like most pet owners, I decided that my love for my boy was greater than my own needs and I took the dreaded final drive to the vet. I cried as I held my beautiful dog's head as he slipped from life into death. I cry now as I write this, but I know that the decision I made was the only one possible, for me and for him.
Some of us don't have to face this choice; some of us lose our pets in sudden accidents, while some, like me, watch and worry and hope as our friends become ill and slowly leave us. Regardless of the circumstances, dealing with the loss of a beloved companion is one of the most painful experiences pet owners will have to face and learning how to come to grips with the sadness is important.
As with all kinds of loss, grief is deeply personal. How you deal with it may not be the way your neighbor would. These guidelines are only that; suggestions to help you cope - lessons learned the hardest way and shared by someone who knows how you are feeling.
Acknowledge Your Loss
The first thing to do is to acknowledge that you have lost a friend and not be ashamed that you feel heartbroken. There will be some who will tell you it's only an animal. While I suppose they mean well, animal lovers know that no pet is just an animal. The loss is one that is profound and allowing yourself to grieve is one of the first steps to healing.
Share Your Feelings
Talk to friends and family who understand. You will be amazed at the stories people will tell and the camaraderie you will feel when you share your feelings with those who have had a similar experience. Dealing with the loss of a pet isn't something you should have to do alone. Phone a friend or a family member, or join an online or community group. Sharing your feelings and talking about your pet will make the process of saying goodbye much easier.
Do Something Symbolic
Do something symbolic. When Jack died, I planted a tree in his favorite spot in the backyard. I chose a weeping willow and planted it in the very place my sweet boy liked to lie in the shade. The tree grew unlike any other and now stands tall and proud just outside my kitchen window. Sometimes when I look quickly, I swear I can see Jack rolling around on the grass, scratching his back and grinning. This image makes me smile too - and the memories of happier times are a great source of comfort.
Create a Special Place to Visit Your Pet
Insert a favorite picture of your pet in a nice frame and display it in a prominent place in your home, or write down your memories in a journal. Place a special headstone where you've buried your pet. If you had your pet cremated, bury the urn containing its remains in your pet's favorite spot in the yard. Do something that gives you comfort or gives you something or somewhere to visit when you're feeling lonely or miss your pet. Having something tangible to touch or look at will bring great peace.
Dealing with the loss of a pet is never easy, but knowing you are not alone and allowing yourself to grieve will help you come to terms with your loss. I will never forget Jack, but training our new boxer pup, Ruby, is keeping me good and busy. Remember the ones you have lost, but embracing those that are here today will help you on the road to recovery.