Coping With the Loss of a Pet

           cat

     Just Remember

We shall always remember

     Those summer days gone by,

When ‘neath the trees, on soft green grass,

    We watched the clouds float by—

And by our side, our kitten played,

     Smacking at a bumblebee,

Or chasing a butterfly across the yard,

     Or a bird from nearby tree.

We shall always have those memories,

     And she will always be with us,

For in our memory our kitten lives—

    The one we love so much.

(From, ‘The Hobo and the Dog’)

Not just once, but several times in my life I have lost a pet. Each time the hurt and sorrow has been almost overwhelming, leaving a certain void that will never really be replaced. Of course you can get another pet and you will come to love that pet as well, but the memory and love you have for your lost pet will remain.  Through the years, I have known so many people who went through this ordeal, and each time it was the same response, “You know, it was like losing a family member.”  Those of us who have loved a pet and experienced this loss share this sentiment exactly!  My most recent experience was the loss of Missy, our 19 year old cat. Shortly before that her 22 year old mother, Kiki, died. Kiki’s death was expected as she had been sick for some time, but Missy’s death came on quickly. She simply stopped eating and, in about two weeks, she was gone.

The major dog loss in my life came a few years ago when Taylor, our Golden Retriever, died just before her fourth birthday. I was devastated! I loved this dog so much! She was my companion and my friend. She even tried to take care of me when she thought I was in danger. When I would dive off the diving board in our back yard pool, she would immediately hit the water, lock onto my arm and try to pull me out.

taylor

Being Saved by Taylor

     When she died of kidney failure, I grieved – – – really grieved! According to Helpguide.org and the article ‘Coping with Pet Loss’, everyone grieves, but people do grieve differently.  Sometimes it hits you suddenly like a ton of brick, or it may come on gradually. You may feel sad, frightened, depressed and alone, but this is normal. The question is, really, how to cope. Some helpful suggestions:

1-     If you have other pets, hug and love them all the more. This alone is a big help.

2-     Spend time with friends and their pets, making friends with those pets as well. The Bible (Proverbs 18:24), says “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly – – “.  This works with animals as well! Animals somehow know if they are genuinely loved! Love is the universal language.

3-     Visit and support animal shelters. You can’t take them all home, but you can make their existence more pleasant.  You may even find a new pet that you can hold close just as the one you lost.  No pet will really replace your lost one, but as time goes by the hurt will slowly turn into beautiful memories. However, do not move too quickly on adopting a new pet. Give yourself time to be truly rational on your needs and the right pet to fill that need. This is more fair to you and the animal.

4-     Reach out to others who have lost their pet. To lose yourself in caring for the needs and hurt of others is a proven therapy that helps both parties.

5-     Memorialize your pet in some manner. Reserving a paw print in plaster,  having several pictures or even writing a poem is a good way to do this.  After the loss of Taylor, my Golden Retriever, I first wrote a long poem and later (around that poem) wrote a full lenth book, “The Hobo and the Dog”, which has blessed many people’s life and I hope will continue to do so for years to come.

I would be remiss  in my duties if I failed to to mention prayer. Thank God for the time you had with your pet and thank Him for all the wonderful animals that He has chosen to place in our care. We have indeed been blessed by their presense.


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