The death of a pet is never an easy event. Most, if not all, pet parents have experienced this most traumatic incident. There are just never easy words of comfort you can offer the person who has lost a beloved animal companion that they have cared for and nurtured probably since their infancy. They came into your life, and brought this incredible joy and unconditional love that fulfilled your life, and gave you an even greater sense of purpose. The one thing that I am often reminded of when a friend informs me that they have lost their beloved animal companion is the mortality of my own pets. We absolutely dread the day when they have to leave us. Because an animal's life span is much shorter than humans, the possibility that we will outlive them is more likely. Either way, it never gets easier.
In my book, "The Fur Beneath My Wings: Our Relationship with Animals and The Valuable Lessons They Teach Us," I dedicate a particular chapter to the loss of a pet. Even after so many years, when I wrote that chapter, I found myself crying because although I accepted the process, I just missed my beloved animals. In the past fourteen and one half years, I have been blessed to care for and love five animals. Four cats and one dog. Two of them are still amongst us, but I recently went through the loss of yet another beloved feline companion. I can't begin to tell you how hard this pill was to swallow (as it has been with all my animals), but this was different. I thought my beloved Charity (that was her name) would be around several more years. I envisioned her being here when we moved into our new home. I saw her around for my graduation, as well as other events in my life. There was so much I had planned on doing, and I always thought she would be here for them. God had other plans.
The death of a pet affects us on so many levels. I have carefully studied the Five Stages of Grief, and briefly expound on them in my book. We all must go through these stages, whether it is the loss of a parent, a friend and yes, even a pet. There is one particular stage that many of us have a hard time getting to. It is acceptance. Eventually, you must come to this stage, understand it, and embrace it. If not, you will find yourself stuck. This can also lead to an unhealthy state of being. Depression can grip you and you will not be able to move forward. This is not good. Life is for the living. When it comes to our pets, we must look at this stage in the same way as if we were dealing with a human. Ask yourself a couple of questions. Would the person who died want me to be like this? What would they possibly say to me if they knew I was not moving on past their death? The same with our pets. If you had a loving cat or dog (or any other significant animal that you cared for). You knew them. They knew you. Your personalities were intertwined. They knew what made you happy or sad. They also knew how to lift your spirits when they sensed you were down. The same for them . You knew bringing them a treat or taking them to their favorite park brought them joy. Because they were familiar with you like this, they would not want to see you down. Not living or enjoying life. They brought you so much joy and unconditional love. They would want you to embrace that and move on. Learning to accept their death as a part of life will help bring you back to state of normality. No one wants to be down. Your beloved animal companion would not want that either.
Another level one is affected is in the changes that occur around you and learning to embrace it. We must not see change as an enemy. If we have accepted our pets loss of life, then we must see that as a change. They are no longer suffering. They are free and this should comfort your heart and give you some degree of consolation. There can be other aspects of change that may occur in your life. You may relocate. Start a new job. Even begin a new relationship. These are all changes that can occur after one has lost a beloved animal companion. I remember when I lost my two beloved cats, Belvedere and Guffy. I needed a change. That change came in the form of me getting a new job, relocating to the Bay area, and getting a brand new home. I made those changes with my two remaining pets at the time, Ginger and Charity. The change was good for all of us. We accepted our new environment, and continued our journey together with a bright , fresh outlook. Now some may not have these changes in their lives, and just move forward from where they are. However, they will experience change. Coming home to a house where your dog does not greet you at the door anymore. Having a cat jump on your bed at night to play with and have you stroke him/her as they purr ever so gently. These kinds of changes can hit us emotionally, as we really feel their loss and miss their presence. You may shed a tear and have a moment, but your heart can be consoled as you remind yourself, "they are free now and at peace." You don't want to remember them suffering. You want to fill your mind with happy, positive memories. These will help you continue to move on.
Death is never a welcome visitor for anyone. We don't want to think about losing a loved one or a beloved animal. Death does have an assignment, and whether we like it or not, that assignment must be completed. I have said that when Death comes, it takes something away from us. I had to rethink this and change my perspective. Many of us remember the television show, "Touched By An Angel." In the show, one of the angels represented Death. However, this character was never seen as some dark, morbid being that was frightening or horrific. He was seen as a messenger sent to help the person dying to make their transition. They did not have to be fearful or worry. They were embraced by love and hope for what they were to enter into. In the world of pet parenting, when we lose our beloved animals, we refer to them as crossing "The Rainbow Bridge." It is a wonderful thought to ease our minds as we do not see them in pain or agony as they die, but healthy, vibrant and running about until the day we are reunited. I see a special angel transporting them over that bridge, and allowing them to be happy and carefree. We who remain are reminded of them though rainbows ,a song, a poem or just a simple memory that though they were in our lives but for a season, the love we've established with them will abide forever in our hearts and minds. Losing a pet is never easy, but what a wonderful consolation to our frail hearts at the time of loss.