Losing a beloved companion can be devastating, crippling, even overwhelming. In April, I euthanized my beloved Doberman Kaz, one of my constant companions for the past twelve+ years. It was one of the most painful things I’ve ever had to do. The crushing sense of loss, the void, the emotions that followed were unavoidable. He had cancer, and I knew the time would come. Even with that knowledge, it did not make it any easier. What I DID learn is, grieving is important. It’s all part of the healing process. The loss of a dog can trigger countless intense emotions.
- Guilt: The decision to euthanize your dog is not an easy one. And even when you know in your heart it’s the most humane thing to do, the question of “Did I do enough” will rear it’s ugly head. This is a common, painful emotion that most pet owners experience. When you have discussed with your vet, perhaps consulted a second or third vet, exhausted your resources, and you see your dog is clearly in pain or distress, you know it’s the right thing to do. It’s one of the most selfless, compassionate acts of love you can do for your best friend. Their agony ends, and yours begins.
- Mourning: Allow yourself to mourn. This beautiful creature has been a constant part of your life for years. It’s not something you will get over easily. Weeping, irritability, sadness, the sense of loss, loss of appetite, insomnia, even depression are all part of the mourning process. Do not allow anyone to diminish what you’re feeling, or tell you you’re *over reacting*. You’re not. Our love for our pets is deep, profound and life changing. They are, more often than not, a member of our family. They eat with us, they sleep with us, they travel with us and they give us boundless joy and unconditional love. What you’re feeling once they’re gone is real. The grief will sometimes wash over you like a wave. It will happen at the least expected moments when something or someone can trigger a memory. Mourn them. They were an enormous part of your life. Talk about them. Remember them. Cry for the emptiness you feel now that they’re gone.
- Memorialize Them: When Kaz was euthanized, I chose to have him cremated, along with a blanket he had since he was a pup. He was returned to me in a beautiful cherry wood box with his name engraved on top. He is home with Murphy and I, and sits in the family room with us, where we spend most of our time. I also have a paw print in clay, and a clipping of his fur. There are photos of him and Murphy on my wall. There are many ways to memorialize your dog. Make a donation in his/her name to a rescue group or other favorite charity. Create a stone for your garden. Add his/her initial to a charm bracelet. Plant a tree. Publicly acknowledge his/her passing. You will know what is right for you.
- Should I Get Another Pet? This is a question only you can answer. But one thing to remember, you are not being disloyal or “replacing” your friend. Once you own a dog, you will understand your heart has an endless capacity to love these beautiful creatures. Some may think they will never own another, because the pain of loss is just too unbearable. Don’t let this decision be clouded by your grief. Some people intuitively know they want the unconditional love of a dog in their lives. In others, it may take a while to realize they’re *missing something*. There are literally millions of dogs waiting to be adopted. No other creature will compare to the companion that you have lost, but you never know when your heart will open up to a twinkling glance, a wagging tail and a dog that would love to become part of your life. Coping with the loss of a beloved companion is never easy. But know the heartache will diminish with time and you will eventually find some peace in your memories and many of these times, will make you smile.