I never had a pet growing up and didn’t understand the attachment people had to their pets. But that changed a few years ago when my daughter adopted a red dachshund from the animal shelter. The newly named Penny quickly found a place in our family. But within days, we learned that something was wrong with Penny. An x-ray and ultrasound revealed that Penny had a terminal illness. With no pet experience, we came to the heartbreaking conclusion that after loving Penny just one week, we’d have to take her back to the shelter. I was shocked at how deeply painful it was to let her go.
In the days and weeks that followed, I found it hard to explain my sadness; after all, we’d had Penny just one week. Most people didn’t understand my grief but my sister was helpful. She’d always had a dog and she understood how I was feeling. My frequent calls to her helped me through a tough time.
Dachshund Rescue had taken Penny and because of all the care we had given her, they offered my daughter a healthy dog. When an abandoned and pregnant red dachshund came under their care, our daughter was offered the pick of the litter. But not just one, but two dachshund puppies joined our family, one for each daughter.
The pups, Charley and Gracie, have been an integral part of our family for almost four years. I now understand the bond pets have with their owners and I honestly can’t imagine life without them.
When a friend called last week and told me that her beloved dog had died, I shared how sad I was to hear the news. And when she said she was totally lost in the morning and after work, I understood that her routine had totally changed and it was unsettling. And when she told me she was not ready for another dog, I understood that, too; a new pet can’t replace the one you lovingly lost.
Pets are beloved companions and losing a pet is a significant loss. The grief is genuine, deeply felt, and painful. The loss disrupts our life and routine and it’s an unwelcome upheaval. So how can we help? We can express our sadness for the loss. We can listen and we can acknowledge how painful it must be to lose a beloved family member. We can share our memories of the pet. But most of all, we can validate the feelings of loss and the deep sadness that friends and loved ones feel when grieving the death of a beloved pet.