When we make the decision to have a pet, we create a responsibility for ourselves that is, in some ways, similar to that of caring for a child. Our children grow up, become independent and outlive us. Pets do not. They are bound to us for everything, all of their lives. As our pets become more endeared to us, this responsibility becomes a routine. We bond to them permanently and in a very real sense, they become a part of us.
Unfortunately, all living things die and although you can never really be prepared for that eventuality, it is part of the celebration of the joyous life and very special love you had together.
The shock of loss and bereavement is one of the most profound emotional traumas we can experience and should be nothing to feel ashamed about. It is important to know that the feelings and emotional periods we go through at this time are a common symptom of intense mourning.
There is no easy answer to how long the deep grief of mourning will last. It often helps the healing process if we change or modify our daily routines that formerly involved the deceased pet. We need to allow ourselves to speak about our loss and grieve freely. As we let some of the pain out this way it will make room for healing. Healing our pain is a responsibility we owe ourselves and if our companion animals could speak to us that is exactly what they would ask us to do.
It may help to create a keepsake in the form of a memorial box. There are different types available that can display photos, as well as contain pet’s ashes, ID tag or other memento. A memorial stone under a tree or somewhere in your garden may offer some comfort.
We humans are not the only ones who grieve the loss of a pet. If you have other pets, they often go through their own type of mourning, especially if the animals have been together for a period of time. It’s important to give the existing pet plenty of attention and love. Do not feel you are being disloyal to the deceased pet.
When you feel it is time to open up your life to another animal, be careful you don’t try to make your new friend into a replica of your deceased pet. This cannot be done. You will be making a new, wonderful relationship. Give your new pet a chance to be wonderful too, on its own merits.
When I lost one of my beloved dogs and called my parents to tell them about his passing, I said to my dad, “It hurts so much when we lose them”, his response was perfect. He said, “Honey, if it didn’t hurt so much, we didn’t love them enough.”
I hope you all have many happy years with your pets, but know that when you do suffer the loss, you are not alone in your grief.
Rest in Peace Betsy Prim 4/2014 and Pinkie Lee 9/2014
Renee Jones-Lewis is a certified professional dog trainer, having received instruction from canine behaviorist Dr. Pamela Reid, plus nationally acclaimed trainers: Patricia McConnell, Pia Silvani, and Jean Donaldson, to name a few. She serves as a Pet Marketing and Canine Specialist for JeffersPet and JeffersPet.com. Questions about this article, training or non-emergent health concerns are welcome.
Renee can be reached most days from 9am – 5pm Central Time (Mon-Fri) at 1-800-JEFFERS (533-3377) ext 381 or by email rsjones@jefferspet. com.