Approaching this blog entry had to be one of the more difficult tasks that I had to complete in my life. At the time of this entry, I had just experienced one of the most difficult losses I ever had to deal with in this life- the loss of my beloved animal companion, Ginger. I have been mulling over this blog for months, and as time moved on, there just seemed to be more tragic loss that came my way. It also came for others who experienced a death in their family or the loss of a pet. Between the tears and overwhelming emotional grief, I knew I had to pen this blog. It would not be just for me but countless others who share in a similar fate. I initially wrote a blog entry in August of 2018, after the death of my beloved cat Charity. It was entitled "Losing a Pet is Never Easy." This gave me pause to think about her and the relationship I had with her, and the friendship she shared with Ginger. Eleven years of companionship, love, dedication, pampering, trips to the vet, vacations and just filling our home with her presence and a name that defined exactly who she was - love. She left me and Ginger after a brief illness, and we gradually accepted her passing and did all we could to move on with our lives. Never, in all my days, did I think I would be facing that type of loss again (so soon) with the passing of my beloved Ginger-girl. Talk about a hard pill to swallow. I didn't know how I was going to get through this one.
Ginger became ill after developing an infection that would eventually end her life. I knew she wasn't doing well when she was continually throwing up and her pace had slowed. She simply was not herself, but in a very special way, she was also letting me know it was her time. She was slowly preparing my heart for what was to come. In times before, I would avoid these thoughts and go to a happy place, filled with good times and memories. I did not want to think about my best girl being sick and the possibility of her dying. Though I was in denial, life has a way of snapping you back into reality. Ginger was that representation of life and gave constant reminders that her time was coming to a close. I needed to prepare myself.
As pet parents, we understand that in the adoption and rescue process of an animal companion ( be it a dog, cat, bunny), a part of the deal is the inevitable fact that our beloved animal companion may pass on before we do. Their life span, being much shorter than ours, only allows us so little but very precious years with them. Lately, so many of my friends and relatives have been dealing with this, and trying to make sense of it so they can get their lives back to a state of normalcy, without their best friend. As I had to deal with my own grief, I was also dealt another blow that unhinged me, and shot straight to my emotional core. I used to walk another dog that occupied our house. It was my landlord's beloved beagle, BJ. He could not walk him on his own due to his own health issues and limited ability to do as much with him as he may have wanted. BJ started walking with us almost six years ago when I first moved into the house. He could not have been a happier dog. Getting to go outside, walk, play with other dogs, chase squirrels, and run in the park. I did my best to give him as much happiness as I gave to Ginger and Charity. I know in my heart, BJ accepted that, and he was grateful for our presence in his life. We were grateful for his.
The day before New Year's Eve, a tragedy occurred that involved BJ, and one that would also change my life forever. I witnessed this beautiful creature mowed down by a drunk driver. This heartless person didn't even stop to help, but sped off. Just a few weeks after losing my own beloved pet, now I was faced with another blow for an animal that I cared for deeply. I would have taken several hits for him not to have been the victim of such a heartless act, and there was nothing I could do. I rushed him to the hospital, but he passed as a result of his injuries. Another night of weeping, pain and hurt I had to face, and he was not my dog. I loved and cared for him as if he were.
How do you push through the pain? I have always found after an immediate tragedy, the first night is always the hardest. You are still in some form of shock that your beloved animal companion is gone, and now you must face a world in the days ahead without them. No longer will they be at the door to greet you when you come home. No more will they race you to the car and jump in their favorite seat for a ride to wherever you are going. No more will they cuddle up to you on the bed or the sofa and give you constant devotion and unconditional love. That pain of loss runs so deep I have found after the first night has passed. After crying all night until your eyes are puffy. Every waking thought brings them back to your remembrance, and their absence cuts you like a knife. I have found that when you get up the next morning, you simply have to move. You have to get up. Regardless of the tragedy that ensued the night before, you find that life is still moving on. You must move with it because YOU are alive. If you are blessed (as I was) to have other pets, or in the natural sense, have other children, they need you now. More than ever. A tear soaked face as you rise in the morning after, and there is a sudden numbness. You must rise, take one step forward, and push through the pain. The pain of not seeing your fur baby in this natural life. The pain of saying goodbye. The pain of living in a world without them. As you push through the pain, and begin the process of grieving, you must now seek out some form of comfort and help. This is where time is not a determining factor. Take as much time as you need to process your loss. Your other fur babies will also be feeling the sense of loss as animals do have emotions, and they will know sadness. They will look around for their furry companion, and find him not. Here again, they will look to you for consolation, comfort and strength. You must give this to them as their emotional needs will need consoling too.
Loss can come in many forms. The loss of a loved one, a job, a friend and yes, a pet. Everyone will experience loss at some point in their life. It is never easy, nor will it ever be. I have found that the key to processing loss is moving forward. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said of pushing through the struggle as he fought for racial equality, “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” You will find that dealing with loss is a great struggle, but the essence of his quote is to keep moving forward! That pain will be very real, and on certain days, almost unbearable. However, if you keep moving forward, you will find your way towards comfort and healing that will allow the love you felt for your animal companion or the person you knew, to heal your heart and treasure the time you spent together.