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.
Many who have pets have been through sickness and death with them, be they furry, feathered, or finned. You who have lost a pet you love dearly understand that grieving the loss of a pet is as real and can be as difficult (or even more so) as other losses. The sad news is: pet loss is often not taken seriously. If we, as a society, do not deal well with grief when we or someone we know loses a beloved person, imagine how little compassion and understanding is often given to those who have lost a pet. Too many people say things that hurt ("Oh, you can get another dog." "It's just a cat.") or worse...they just ignore the loss. 
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.

Consider how many pets are left outside year round tied with a rope or chain or how they are mistreated in other horrendous ways.

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.
One needs to be sure when searching for articles on loss and grief that the authors are current with the research and knowledge. Here are some sites  and articles that you will find helpful.

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief-loss/coping-with-pet-loss.htm

http://thegrieftoolbox.com/article/pet-loss-it-different-kind-grief

http://www.griefhealingblog.com/2014/05/pet-loss-is-it-different-kind-of-grief.html

www.petloss.com

The Death of a Pet Can Hurt as Much as the Loss of a Relative

 


Comments

05/08/2015 1:38pm

You already know that I agree completely with every word you've written here, dear Mary ~ but I thank you for saying it so beautifully. You are a wonderful mom to Bentley, and he is just as blessed to have you in his life as you are to have him in yours. I am thinking of you both this weekend, and wishing you a Happy Mother's Day ♥

Reply
Mary Friedel-Hunt MA LCSW
05/08/2015 6:41pm

Thank you, Marty. Being a mom to Bentley is my privilege and as I go through caregiving days with him, I find myself being tender and gentle and loving. I feel good about that. And a Happy Mother's Day to you also. Peace, Mary

Reply
Anne Gorman
05/12/2015 9:21pm

Thank you for such a sensitive, informative article. It is a devastating blow to those who have lost a pet that we loved dearly. And it is so true that most people do not understand how deep the grief truly is. Some people are even so insensitive that they tell you that you can just get another pet treating it as though the pet was an object rather than a member of the family!

Reply
Mary Friedel-Hunt
05/13/2015 9:16am

Thank you, Anne. You are so right. Peace, Mary

Reply
10/19/2015 9:01am

Pets are always very important for the people who grow them from very little age. The should of the society should know the importance of the animals and pets. This blog is very informative and important.

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