There was a time where I didn’t care or even like dogs. If someone I knew had just lost their dog I would simply tell them: “It was just a dog. Just get another one.” I’m sure you’ve heard people say that to you or someone you know. That’s something that only someone who isn’t a dog lover or doesn’t understand the bond between human and dog would ever say.
Losing a dog is not like forgetting your gloves on the bus or losing your favorite watch. Losing a dog has a much larger impact. The reason is because dogs generally are with us into their teens, but also because they integrate themselves into our hearts and become a major part of our families.
For these reasons, losing a dog represents multiple losses, all at the same time.
The greatest loss is the unconditional love that they give us, which we have earned over their lifetimes. We have few relationships, especially not human ones, with such a high level of trust and respect as those that we develop with our dogs. So, the loss of that can be especially devastating.
Losing a dog can be as painful as losing a child, especially because our dogs rarely live to reach the age of a human adult. In a way, you can say that our dogs always die as children.
Also, even though it’s never a good idea to treat our dogs like humans, who can honestly say that they have never had “conversations” with their dogs. Dogs are excellent listeners, and this is one of the reasons why they are like therapists to humans.
Dogs are always there for us and even though they can’t give us advice, they give us hope and support while we share our thoughts and concerns with them. Losing this support system adds even more grief when our dog dies.
Dogs make us create routines and force us to be responsible. We have regular duties to carry out in order to care for them and their well-being. Losing these rituals and routines can throw the entire rhythm of our life completely out of kilter which just adds to the stress of losing our dog.
And if that wasn’t all hard enough, our own emotions often amplify the guilt. That’s because often we are the ones who have to make the tough decision to end a dog’s life. This, of course, is due to old age or illness. It’s always easy to second-guess that decision. “Did I do enough? Should I have waited to see if he got better? “Were there other options?” This is why it’s so important to develop a good relationship with a veterinarian who you trust and who cares about your dog as much as you do.
Because we are responsible for our dogs’ safety and well-being, this feeling of guilt comes with any type of loss. It could be euthanasia or death from an accident. After all, if your dog gets out and is hit by a car, it’s easy to blame yourself for leaving the door open, not training him properly or not keeping an eye on him.
Lastly, our society does not have the same support systems in place for the passing of a dog as we do for the passing of a human. Wakes, memorials, and funerals are the way when it comes to human deaths. Police and military dogs do often have full-fledged funerals. Civilians do not generally get the comfort of giving their dog a ceremony. So generally, we have to say good-bye alone or just with our immediate family.
However, if you’ve ever lost a dog, you don’t care if he had a funeral or not. All you care about is that he was with you forever. But even though it’s really hard to let them go, being there for that pain is probably the best way to prepare for the grieving process. And by seeing you until the very end, your dog will always see you as their best friend.
Always remember: BP4 – Be: Patient, Positive, Peaceful & Persistent
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