Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Grieving a Beloved Pet

Why does it hurt so much to lose a pet? It really does! It's happened to me twice, and I am still amazed by the bond with our pets! 
When Rick and I first got married, he and my son Corey got a dog. He was a 4 year old chocolate lab named Molson, and of course, I was the one who had to take care of him. I always said that having Molson was like having a teenager who wouldn’t listen to me! He ran off all the time, and he thought everything was a “keep away” game!  When you called him, he would look at you with his ears perked up, and wait for you to try to come get him!  He loved the water, as most labs do, but he would jump in and swim to wherever someone was playing AND he would not come back until he wanted to!  If you didn't pay enough attention to him, he would start barking until you did! It was exasperating!

After we had him for about 6 years, he got cancer. We removed tumors hoping for the best, but they kept returning, so, we had to put him down.  The day we took him to the clinic, he seemed so happy! He was licking our faces with his tail wagging when we were hugging him and saying goodbye. I asked if I could be with him during the injection but that vet said he didn’t think it was a good idea. I didn’t question it, I assumed he knew best.

It came as a complete surprise to me how sad I was to lose Molson. He was so aggravating sometimes, but also he was such a sweet dog who just wanted to play! I think it was the image of him with his tail wagging, and licking our faces before we put him down that made it hard.

It took about 4 years before I got another dog. She was a 7 year old female shepherd lab mix who I named Abbey (after Abbey Road by the Beatles, of course). She was so great with our new little grandsons, never nipping or barking at them. She let them crawl all over her until she got tired of it and then she just got up and walked away! Too my amazement, she didn’t like to run, so we started hiking together. 
When she was 10 years or so, she started showing signs of arthritis and soon she couldn’t jump into the back of my car, or negotiate a lot of climbing on our hikes. Then, about 6 months ago, she would simply collapse on a walk. I took her to see the vet, and he thought it was a low blood sugar issue. We changed her diet, but it would still happen occasionally. 
In June, she started having seizures. We found her outside lying on the driveway one morning after we had let her out to go to the bathroom. She didn’t seem aware. The next day, I came home to find her laying in her own poop and vomit. She was breathing, and her eyes were open, but she didn’t move. I was home alone, so I called my dad to come help me get her to the vet, and when he got there to help me she had another big seizure. We got her in my car, and I took her to the animal hospital. She started moaning really loud in the car and continued at the hospital. They gave her something to calm her, and told me all the tests she would need to figure out what was wrong, and that still it may be so advanced, it wouldn’t help her anyway. So, I said no, I wouldn’t put her through that. I decided to put her down.
The vet asked if I wanted to be there during the procedure, and I said yes. They brought her in, she was calm with her eyes closed but breathing short fast breaths. I whispered in her ear that I loved her and would miss her, and she moaned a little bit like she heard me. The vet said once she gave the injection it would happen fast, so let her know when I was ready. After a few minutes, I thought I was ok and while the vet administered the euthanasia I was talking to her and petting her until she stopped breathing.

Note: I had to take a 2 hour break after writing that last paragraph, which is the point of this post, why does the death of a beloved pet affect us so profoundly?

I think it affected me so much is because she was with me all day.  I had her at home with me, she was my shadow! I took her with me everywhere, or if I couldn’t, never left her for more than 5 hours. I talked to her all day, I lay on the floor with her often, took her on walks or hikes, we were always together. After she was gone, every time I looked in the corner where she used to lay, I was sad. I still won’t give her things away.

When one of our family or friends pass away, of course it affects us, even more than our pets as it should be, but I think because others come in to comfort and grieve with us, it helps. When you lose a pet there are some, usually those who have lost a pet, who express sympathy, and that does help, but it's a different kind of support than you get with the loss of family. After Abbey died, I spent the day in bed crying. It took me a week to want to do anything, and here 6 months later, I cry like a baby just remembering her last moments.

One difference that is unique to our pets is we usually have to decide to end their lives. That is tough. We wonder if it’s the right thing. Even when we know it’s the right thing, it still is a decision we have to make but we don’t want to.

I am definitely a “dog person”, so I love the temperament of dogs. All they want to do is be with you, love you, have you love them. They give their love completely and wholeheartedly! It feels like they are the truest friend you have ever had, and that they understand you and will love you forever!

I miss Abbey every day. I may get another dog someday, but not right now. In the meantime, I will just love on everyone else’s dogs!!
Sept 2003 to June 2016
In my heart always.

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