The loss of a pet is inevitable. Some of us spend too much time trying to figure out how it might appear, and get ahead of it. You know, maybe prevent it, or delay it. Death, however, is inevitable to us all. Hindsight fills us with guilt via the clues of which we should have taken notice. While we try to circumnavigate the end, we also try to hide it from ourselves.
Knowledge is perceived as a good thing, except in the rare cases that cause discomfort. That discomfort is the point at which we stop listening to the clues. And, that is okay. Look, it’s our brain trying to cope in a reality we know can be cruel. More importantly, it’s imperative to understand that not everything can be helped.
This spring, I lost my dog to cancer. Sadie had her own show on my YouTube channel, and it was a hit with my social media followers. The format had taken on exciting new changes, which I was certain would take us forward for years. In her memory, Shagbottom Theater will continue. But, how? That’s the question that plagues me to this moment. Something will crop up. Of that, I am assured.
Sadie was not my first dog. My family raised dogs since before I existed. My grandfather was a breeder of German Shepherds, Collies and Shetland Sheep Dogs (Shelties). Fancy was my first dog, a red Sheltie. The rest were: Eno (mixed breed), Max (the golden retriever), Lucas (Lhasa Apso), Nikki (Doberman), Maximillian (JRT), and Sadie. I fully expect more wonderful dogs in my life, and the terrible vacancy they leave when they go. So how do we cope?
Accepting that your pet’s life is short will go a long way to helping you cope. You enter into this contract eyes wide open. There are no promises of permanence. Thus, you’re more likely to make every moment with them really count. The 8 years I had with Sadie were 8 lifetimes, of which I could greedily gulp down 8 more. Yet, I understand that what I had was amazing, and I am thankful. No regrets, except for the creeping guilt that is gnawing at me, as part of my grieving process (somehow, I should have known this was coming and been able to stop it).
Do the best you can by your pet. In my other posts, I advise pet parents to be mindful of how they care for their dogs, and the steps they can take to improve the relationship. This way, when the time comes, you should have few or no regrets. We all lose our shit and holler, but don’t make it a habit. Your dog isn’t a human and they don’t perceive of or interact with the world like we do. I’m pretty sure Sadie understood English fluently. Still, she was a golden retriever, not a people. I can’t say that absolutely, so yelling at her was ludicrous. Instead, I lectured, because that makes so much more sense! She would sit with ears back sometimes, understanding I was displeased, or stare at me, give me kisses, or even walk away. Ha! Whatever had me upset would quickly become trivial and I’d turn the lecture onto myself, mocking my attempt to Dr. Doolittle her.
Trying to talk to my dog, as silly as it sounds, speaks to the level of respect I had for her as another sentient being. Some people will laugh at that, because they think animals are dumb. Science has already proved that thinking wrong. Everyday, it proves how little we know about those we share the planet with.
I will miss sitting with Sadie, stroking her head and gazing at her, telling her how much I love her, and making plans for the next day. Settling down to bed, and cuddling was a highlight each night. I find it hard to fall asleep without her. Don’t try to get around these things. They should matter. It’s another thing we have to come to terms with.
Loss isn’t something you can get around.
If you think you can’t accept loss as part of pet parenting, I’d recommend not having pets. This is an absolute fact of having animals in your life. You will be their family, and you will bury them. If you cannot love them as family, you don’t deserve them. Their short lives should be respected and cared for with compassion and real affection. They’re not toys, or stand-ins for until something better. It’s sad that such things need to be said, but we still live in a world that regards animals as disposable commodities.
That’s not just my grieving anger talking. Not wasting the life put under your care is fundamental. To do otherwise only increase the loss. If you have given your dog the best life you were capable, then your heart and mind will reward you in the end with a lot less guilt. Those who don’t find a problem with using pets as accessories aren’t exempt. Sociopaths, because you really have to be one to feel that way, still have feelings for themselves, though they don’t recognize feelings in others. They lose everything they desire by being abusive, because it ultimately ends in the loss of the abused and their being revealed, disempowering them (not to mention that they become a failure in their own eyes). I’m not advocating for sociopaths, but instead highlighting the snake-eating-its-own-tail.
There is no magic that can be done to rest easy an aggrieved heart, or bring back the missed pet. I wish that there were (every time I loose another). Some find comfort in bringing home another immediately. Others swear off pet parenting for years, even the rest of their lives. All I can say is, we each process our grief in our own manner. I look forward to another dog in my life. My heart has a great deal of love to give. There is a daughter in my home who would benefit from the life lessons only a dog can impart. But, Katie and I will take our time finding that next pet. There are a lot of factors to consider.
Right now, I’m going to process this loss. It’s the fair and healthy thing to do, for myself, my daughter, and for Sadie’s memory.