I have not had many pets in my life. As a child we had a puppy for about two days when it died. I don't remember much about that. As an adult I had a cat named Toby and later I fell in love with dogs. Our first dog, a Golden mix, was a throw away. Our neighbor saw its owner slow his truck a bit near a dump and throw Buffy (pictured left) out the window. He was 4 months old and became our family member for 13 years. He roamed our woods with us, curled up with Bill or me (or both of us) as we watched television, listened to music or slept.
In 2003 Bentley, another Golden, came into our lives and as he now approaches his 11th birthday I wonder how I will deal with his death. I have learned that one can not anticipate the grief we will feel with a loss. Bentley has been there through Bill's struggles with Alzheimer's and my grief following Bill's death. A registered therapy dog he is present during the grief counseling and psychotherapy sessions I do with clients. Most clients greet him before they green me and pet him as they talk or weep. I am not sure which of us is the most effective therapist.
Pet lovers are aware of how much we depend on the unconditional love our pets offer us. What much of society is unaware of is that the grief of losing a pet is basically the same as losing a family member. A bereaved pet lover is hurt and put off when someone says: "it's just a dog" or "you can get another cat". We would never say that to someone who lost a person they love. Why would we say it to someone who lost their companion pet?
"The measure of a society can be how well its people treat its animals." ~Mohandas Gandhi
Related to: pet loss, general grief, healing