Dogs don’t live long enough. I think that’s a statement reflected by dog lovers worldwide. But, as part of the cycle of life, dogs will all pass at some point in time, whether tragically in an unforeseen accident, through illness, through neglect or through natural aging. And sometimes we choose to have our dog euthanized because they are suffering with no hope of an improvement in the quality of their life. Personally I found that one of the toughest days of my life was when we decided to have our black lab “put down” a number of years ago, even though we knew in our hearts that was the right decision for her. She had aged a lot in the last few months of her life, was suffering with acute arthritis and sleeping all of the time. She had lost the will to live and was physically uncomfortable all the time. It was only when we realized we were keeping her alive for the wrong reason (we didn’t want to lose her) that we were able to live with our decision.
Whether your dog was with you a short time or for many years, the cold reality is that they are no longer there. The paradigm on your window of life has changed. No more tail wagging greetings on returning home, no more cuddles on the sofa with Fido, no more trips to the dog park: on it goes. But whether you like it or not, life has to go on.
It is critical at these times to let yourself grieve. As with the loss of a human family member, you need to take time to let your mind and soul heal. This can take various forms as the process of grieving is different for us all. Some will prefer to be by themselves to recall happier times with their dog, others to be with close friends or family so they can express their feelings openly. Depression, whether mild or severe, may arise or worsen and, as such, professional help may be required. Whatever transpires, acceptance of change and putting together a “go forward” plan is helped by allowing ourselves the indulgence of grieving. Moreover, there is no fixed period for grieving, no set amount of time after which you have to be “over it”. Each to his own.
I have met a number of people who say they could never get another dog as the impact of losing a dog was so upsetting they would never want to experience that again. Others will give themselves time to reminisce, take stock of their lives and get another dog when the time is right for them. This is what happened with us. By allowing ourselves time to grieve, we accepted the change in our lives and were able to think about getting another dog. Our previous dog, Kali, will never be forgotten but we have accepted Finn into our lives and I’m so very pleased we have.
To anyone who has recently lost a dog, our thoughts and prayers are with you.