“I will never get another pet … I don’t ever want to go through this again.” As a veterinarian, I hear this painful exclamation many times during the later stages of a pet’s illness or after a pet has died. As someone reading this book, that expression may be what you are currently experiencing. What brings this feeling on? What is it about the death of a pet that causes emotions so raw that we feel as though we might never get through them? Losing a pet is different than losing another “possession”. No one grieves the loss of their cell phone or cries when their favorite jacket is irreparably damaged. When a pet dies though, we may feel as though there is hole that cannot be filled.
None of us can understand why we bond so deeply with animals, most of who, cannot share our lifespan. Our pets die long before we are ready for them to leave us. Perhaps, though, when the pain is not quite as fresh, we can see that pets come and go in our lives for a reason. Over the years I have begun to understand each pet has something different to offer. The family that has lost a hyper lab that taught them to look for the rainbow in any situation may later get nervous a yorkie who shows how we have to demonstrate trust to gain trust. An older man who never would have considered having a cat when he was younger, slows down and unexpectedly bonds with that special feline (who then goes on to take over the house!)
Animals can change us for the better. They show us the beauty of unspoiled Creation. In them we see what we can be without our fallen nature, demonstrating virtues like loyalty, honesty, joy and unconditional love. It is this loss that we grieve. It is as though we have gotten a glimpse of something beautiful and pure, but can’t quite seem to get it back. Pets are more than our companions. They are more than beasts of burden or guards. They show us how the world could be, if we could focus on what is important.
I always tell my clients to never say “never.” Many times those same people who stated that they would never get another pet will often come into the clinic a week, a month or even a year later with a sheepish grin or nervous laugh. It may be a puppy a well-meaning friend was sure they needed or a lonely 4-legged soul that “just showed up.” I have seen some truly miraculous arrivals – a pet they never would have intentionally gotten, but that has helped them heal in ways they could not imagine. However they arrive, the new pet, little by little, begins the process of change and bonding all over again. Not a replacement, but another gift for those who are open to it. Our hearts soften and we are again allowed to become part of the supernatural bond that our Creator offers to show us that there is more to this world than what we see with our eyes.
Use this book to cherish your pet’s memory. Celebrate the fact that you would not be grieving if this animal had not changed your life. Work through your grief at your pace, but do not get stuck in it. Your pet would not want to see you sad. Let it be of comfort that, one day, all of Creation will be made new and we will see our friends again.
Renee Sykes, DVM