Mourning the Loss of a Pet

by Gregg Senko

It happens to all of us. It’s the worst part of having that lovable animal companion. Sure there are expenses like vet bills that can sting the pocketbook, the jaw-dropping moment when they chewed up antique furniture, but there is absolutely no comparison in having to say goodbye. What’s the best way to overcome that? How long should you wait before getting another animal? Should you even get another animal? These are all valid questions, to be sure, but the reality is there is no right or wrong answer for any of them.

This is something I’ve experienced more than once, as I’m sure that’s the case of most of our readers here.  When I was about 6 years old was my first dealing with the loss of an animal companion.  That was Fritzi, a black lab.  Years later it was a most awesome parakeet named Petey who passed in front of me on an autumn Sunday.  Then nine years ago it was Maggie, a yellow lab with a white coat and a heart of gold.  I balled my eyes out each time, shedding more tears the older I got.  Perhaps that’s due to spending more time with each pet as I grew older.  Perhaps it’s appreciating the relationship more.  Either way, it doesn’t get easier.

So how does one remedy that?  It always depends on the person.  A neighbor of mine has had a number of German Shepherds over the years.  She and her husband treat them extremely well and provide them with textbook training.  When one of these beloved dogs heads Heaven-bound, they usually have a pup not long after.  Some look at this in a rather cold manner, as if it’s to wipe away the memory of the pet they just lost with an instant replacement.  For me, especially after Maggie, I was not ready to have a dog for several years.  Some may look at that as not being able to get over the loss.

The truth is, others will always have their own idea on how you should handle it.  We all know the old adage about opinions and how everybody has one.  There is no right or wrong.  Who am I to say someone didn’t wait long enough for a new cat, dog, bird or rabbit?  If they provide a loving home and proper care, that’s all that matters.  My only advice is when that situation is looming that your pet is dying or may need to be euthanized, your primary concern with them should be them, not what your next pet will be.  Once they pass, then you can consider what happens next.  Note that the operative word there is “them” and not “you.”  Never keep a suffering pet alive who cannot be healed just because you will have trouble letting go.  In such a scenario, love is displaced and selfishness takes over.

Actually I have one other bit of advice.  Look toward a shelter.  Whether it’s FAPL or somewhere else, get acquainted with the animals in these facilities.  Breeders can be hit or miss.  They’re typically for-profit and not all of them are careful in how they handle their animals.  Plus, the ongoing inbreeding of dogs puts inherent health problems on a repeat cycle (hip problems in Retrievers, dental woes for Yorkies, skin problems for Sharpeis and so on).  So while all of our furry and feathered friends eventually part ways from this world to the next, just remember to be there for them in that transition as they were always there for us.  Take a moment to breathe before considering your next pet, if there will even be a next pet.  If there is, give them that same love you gave the last one and embrace the new personality you will be welcoming into your home.