Many of us have been there…handling the grief when you lose your canine companion. I recently had the misfortunate of losing my two oldest dogs within three weeks of each other, and boy, handling the grief and trying to process it has been a challenge. On the one hand, I was blessed to have been surrounded by dog owners and dog lovers who have been through it and could lend an empathetic ear. On the other hand, I have been surrounded by dog owners and their wonderful dogs in my job who continue to remind me of the amazing human/dog bond that I have lost, not once, but twice over the last month. It is a challenge.
In the cards, texts and loving emails I have received from caring colleagues, family and friends have I read some of the sweetest and most inspirational poems and sentiments of what it is to have lost a pet. One post I read recently summed it up best for me, I have lost “a reservoir of selfless love” that filled me up for years. You see, I think at the core, many of us animal lovers and owners are care takers. We derive fulfillment from giving care and love to our pets. They are absolutely an extension of our human families and the loss we feel when they are gone is profound. They sleep with us, eat with us, walk with us, and as my husband very astutely pointed out, they mark milestones in our lives. With the passing of my two oldest dogs went the memories of our life in NYC together, a chapter of life that had ended years ago for me after moving to Georgia, but they were definitely a lasting piece of that time in my life. There is a certain finality of those days that their passing has brought to me.
One of the hardest things I had to do yesterday was finally wash the dog bed. My sweet 17 year old Minnie girl had claimed a bed I bought for one of the other dogs as her own this past year. I had decided after she died that I would just not wash the bed, however my remaining 12 year old Shih Tzu Connor decided the last week or two that rubbing dirt all over it would be a good idea. He never went near that bed until about ten days after Minnie left us. I believe he is handling the grief too. We may never be able to scientifically prove that one way or another in my lifetime, however behavioral changes speak volumes.
Minnie’s bed, pictured above, now sits empty and sometimes when I look at it I still expect her to be laying there in it. A bittersweet reminder to me that 17 years just does not even seem long enough, even though I know I was more blessed than many to have had her in my life that long. I know that she and Cosette, her buddy of 15 years are now up in Heaven probably greeting every person they come across. That is what these two NYC raised girls did on the street on their walks….they never met a stranger and they never stopped pouring out the love. My heart aches but my thankfulness of having them in my life for more than a decade is great. I give myself the gift of tears and time everyday. I am handling the grief. Cathy