“Doc, I can’t do this again. I will never get another dog (or cat). It’s too hard to lose them, to say goodbye for the last time.”
Veterinarians commonly hear this or very similar statements of grief when euthanizing a pet. The owner has formed a strong bond and the pain is almost too much to bear.
There is no doubt that grieving over a beloved pet’s death is normal and expected. Our pets can become members of our families and when they die there is a huge hole that remains. This hole can never be truly filled, just like the death of a human family member or close friend. The best we can hope for is to learn to live with the void.
The above client statement always bothers me. The person who says this can obviously love deeply and greatly benefits from the companionship of the pet. I think this person needs a pet’s unconditional love more than most. It helps to make them whole.
I try to help these people recognize the importance of that relationship. After all, if there were no bond with the pet and it was easy to say goodbye, why would you have the pet in the first place. It is exactly this strong relationship that makes welcoming a pet into our homes worthwhile.
The reality is that the average life expectancy of a human is around 7 times longer than for the average pet. So over a human lifetime, a person who owns one pet at a time can expect to have several pets. There really is not much escaping this fact. However, facts do not make the loss of a loved one any easier.
Simply getting another pet will not heal the wound. Each of us grieves in our own manner. Some people find a new pet almost immediately, others in their own time and yet others will never get another pet.
The pain of loss is strongly related to the importance of the relationship. If I don't mourn when my pet passes away, there was no reason to have had the pet.
All of us here at Bobtown Pet Clinic continue to mourn the loss of our pets. The memories of our time with our pets never leave and we share those memories frequently. My Penny is always with me, often in the exam room. Others here at the clinic include, Rizzo, Trapper, Mousey, Josie, Silly, Sasha...