Those who know me know that my buddy and companion Golden Retriever Bentley, was diagnosed last summer with a slow growing form of lymphoma. When the UW (University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine) could not determine the cause, they recommended I send his blood to Colorado State University (CSU) where research to determine why 60% of our Goldens die of cancer when the rate is 40% for other breeds. They are both too high but that is a subject for another day. The Goldens in the CSU study diagnosed with this newly identified form lived 6 to 33 months and some did not die of lymphoma. This length of time is quite unusual. They also see, now, that some of their symptom free (i.e. normal) subjects (sweet Goldens) also have the cells found in and used to diagnose Bentley. This is early in the study for them to know all the pieces of this newly identified form of lymphoma. So far, one year later, I am blessed to have Bentley with me and doing fairly well. He is happy, eats well and outside of periodic rounds of infections, hot spots and loose stools, he is comfortable and I believe, pain free. As I write this on May 8, he and I are dealing with his fourth round of problems in as many weeks.
Losing a person we love deeply knocks the wind out of our sails and changes us and our lives forever. That is what happened when my beloved husband Bill died five years ago and I am still working to rebuild a life and deal with my grief. Losing a beloved pet is also incredibly difficult. Actually it is no different than losing a person we love. Our grief depends on the love and the relationship we had with that person or pet. Our pets love us, cuddle with us, respond to us, and bring life into a silent house (especially following a loss). They greet us when we arrive home and become, become our confidants, read our feelings, and become our constant companions. In many instances, like my own, a pet is the living link to a significant person we have lost.
When Bill died, Bentley jumped up on the bed, licked Bill's hands, made three circles and settled in with us for the next two hours.
It was peace lover Mahatma Gandhi who said:
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress
can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
I hold that, the more helpless a creature,
the more entitled it is
to protection by man from the cruelty of man."
Hopefully when a friend loses a pet, we can reach out with compassion and non-judgment, just as we would if it was a human being who died knowing grief is unique to each of us. Hopefully when we lose a pet we can give ourselves permission to grieve that loss just as we would the loss of a significant person. I know when Bentley dies, be it this year or next, that the silence that followed Bill's death will once again be deafening; that my tears will fall for a long time; and no other dog can ever replace him even when I am ready for another dog in my life. I will be forever grateful for Bentley's life and personality. He has graced my days for many years and helps me through these years of grieving Bill's death. I will be forever grateful for his presence and I will miss him forever.
In the meantime, I plan to enjoy every minute and day we have together. I care for him, deal with his symptoms, provide the best medical interventions I can provide and when the time comes for him to leave this plane, I will not delay his leaving for my sake. I will, with the help of my kind veterinarian, assist him to Rainbow Bridge trusting he will be waiting there for me some day, with Bill at his side.
The Death of a Pet Can Hurt as Much as the Loss of a Relative