**Guest post from Ellen B.**
For those of us who have experienced losing a beloved pet, we know the grief is real and deep. The emotions of going through pet loss are personal and everyone grieves in their own method and speed.
One thing that helped me was to talk with other people who had also experienced the loss of a beloved pet. They listened to me, shared my grief, and shared some of their own insights based on their personal experience. I think these select few people were what helped me grieve my loss, and to move on to being able to savor the memories.
Talking about fond memories of my dog still helps me “Keep the Joy Your Pet Gave You Alive”, as Dr. Holly suggested. Let me tell you about my dog, Lucky.
Lucky was a black lab mix that we adopted at our local shelter when he was 6 years old. At first I wasn’t sold on the idea of a dog, but my son was very persistent. After many visits to the shelter, many talks with pet “people”, and many family discussions, we decided a dog would be a good addition for our family. Lucky brought a new type of love to our family. He adored everyone in our family, but particularly liked to follow me around. He also was like a personal trainer-he motivated me to go on our daily walk…even on days when I thought I was too tired. Other than our walks, one of my fondest memories of Lucky was how he was ALWAYS in the middle of the party whenever one of my children had friends over…like a chaperone! To Lucky, a sleepover was a little piece of heaven right here on earth. We were lucky to have Lucky.
One morning, we were totally caught off-guard, had no idea of the cancer rapidly growing inside him. The night before, he nosed me and insisted that we go for walk. Tail wagging, he lead me on our normal route sniffing and happy. Never in my wildest dream would I have thought the next day his veterinarian would be telling me cancer had taken over his lungs and was shutting down his central nervous system. Never would I have thought he’d be crossing the Rainbow Bridge the next morning.
As Lucky lay in the veterinarian’s office, unable to stand and struggling to breathe, we had a decision to make. If he would survive long enough, we could try a treatment to extend his life…maybe a few months at most. As much as I loved him, we decided that we did not want to have our Lucky dog, who had always been strong and active, to lay immobile and struggle for every breath. What was right in our family was to let him pass peacefully. I truly feel that Lucky understood and was ok with us helping him to die with dignity. He passed in my arms that day at the age of 12 ½.
Like I said, that decision was right for our family. It may have been the wrong decision in other families. I hope if you question a decision you made in regard to your pet’s health, that you accept it as OK. Pet loss is difficult, but I firmly believe our pets know we make decisions with love.
If you are dealing with the loss of a pet or an imminent loss, I hope you’ll connect with a supportive friend. There is a group of us here at Drs. Foster and Smith who have shared our personal experiences of pet loss. We welcome you to connect with us by leaving a comment sharing your insight, fond memories or questions. Let’s “Keep That Joy Our Pet Gave Us Alive.”
Other resources that you might find helpful in dealing with pet loss: