“Dogs never bite me. Just humans.”
— Marilyn Monroe
People love their pets, and most consider them part of the family. However, I am always surprised to learn how many people give the standard “it’s just a pet” line to someone grieving the loss of their beloved animal. As if that’s something that will help the other person move on. Could you imagine saying that to someone who lost a different family member? “It’s just a kid”. “It’s just your mother”. I would hope not. So why do so many people think that a dog, cat, etc isn’t as worthy of such grief as a human is? The world around me simply does not understand that Buddy was not “just a dog” and that I cannot “just get a new one.”
It got me thinking… Today marks 3 months since Buddy passed on to the Rainbow Bridge. The grief I feel for him is still so raw. I don’t think a single day has gone by yet that something hasn’t reminded me of him and forced me to fight back tears. More often than not, I wind up on the losing side of that fight. The callous way some people approach the subject of pet loss made me wonder – Am I doing something wrong? Am I not grieving properly? Is that even such a thing?
Realistically, I know better than that. I treat my pets as if they were my biological children. I celebrate their birthdays, confide in them when I need someone to talk to, carry pictures of them in my wallet. I have more photos of them on my phone than I do of anyone or anything else. So I can only assume that it’s natural that I would feel more intense grief than someone who viewed their dog as just that…a dog. I know that the grieving process is unique to each and every individual person. For some it may only last a matter of days, for others the grief may feel overwhelming for weeks, months, maybe even years later.
So what helps us to move through the period of mourning, to get to a point where you can remember your beloved fur babies with smiles instead of tears? For me, knowing that I work with some of the most incredible people in the world, who understand exactly how I am feeling definitely helps. They have lost their own pets, deal with the loss of loved patients almost daily, and most importantly for me at the moment…I know that they loved Buddy just as much as I did. It really helps knowing that when I’m at my wits end and don’t think that I can pull myself together for the remainder of the day without breaking down, that they get it. That I can talk to them and they won’t judge me. That they would NEVER throw out the “it’s just a dog!” line, because they are exactly like me when it comes to loving their animals…loving their furry children.
I also like to create little memorials for my pets. I have their ashes and paw prints close at hand, and pictures all over of them. It’s hard when looking at them still brings me to tears, but as time goes on, I can look at the photos and smile…knowing that as long as they are in my heart, they will always be with me. The memorial that was made for Buddy at the animal hospital is absolutely perfect. I sneak away fairly often to visit him here and talk to him. I can’t leave at the end of the day without stopping to say goodnight to him. Looking at his face in this picture brings me to tears every time. It’s just such a perfect capture of his personality and spirit. He was always SO happy, and you could always see in his eyes how much he loved you. How much he loved EVERYONE.
Ever since I was little, I have chosen to believe that shooting stars are a way that loved ones let you know that they are still there watching over you. My Grandpa was the most important person in the world to me growing up…I lost him when I was 10. Each year on his birthday there is a meteor shower (Geminids). The night that one of my best friends was killed there was the Perseids meteor shower. Each year it falls on/around the day I lost him. When I’m having a particularly rough night, I will always go outside for a walk, look up at the sky, and talk to one of the people or pets that I have lost. Almost always, I’ll see at least one shooting star before I make it back home. Even if in reality it may just be a coincidence, it makes me feel better. It makes me feel as though the person/pet I was talking to heard me, and that it was their way of responding. Maybe it’s a silly thing to believe in, but honestly…I don’t care.