The Loss of a Pet

By: Christine Hersom

(4 mins)

About 70% of households in the U.S. have a pet. I am (or was) one of those households. I have had pets my entire life. If you were to ask my parents, husband, or children, I have had too many pets in my life. I am one of those people who feel they need a pet.

I have had cats, dogs, fish, horses, cows, mules, donkeys, goats, sheep, etc. I love animals.

In my adult life, I have limited my pets to a dog and a cat. Losing a pet is hard, but like losing a relative…it’s part of the circle of life. I usually mourn for a bit and then remember them with love.

At the end of August this year, I lost my beloved dog, Allie. She was a Catahoula Leopard dog, and she was beautiful. She was a rescue from Louisiana and the first part of her life had been very hard. She lived on the street, got pregnant before she was a year old, and almost died from heartworm. All her puppies were adopted out immediately. It took a while for her because everybody wants a puppy.

She was the love of my life as far as pets go. She loved on me when I was sad, sick, or the happiest I have ever been. She would do anything for me and I for her.

The morning of her death she was fine. Even though she was 11 ½ years old, she was playing with dog toys like a puppy. No signs of being sick. Around 11 a.m. she got up on the couch, wrapped herself in my blanket, and passed away.

As far as death goes, she hit the jackpot. There was no pain, no suffering, and she was where she felt safest…on the couch, wrapped in my blanket. I can only hope to die like that.

I couldn’t believe she was gone. I still can’t. I have a hard time sleeping at night because she is no longer at my feet. Every morning I look for her to take her out…then remember. I would have the greatest conversations with my dog. She listened to me babbling, complaining, or talking with excitement about the day. I still find myself talking to her even though she isn’t here.

I now find myself stopping in the middle of the day and feeling lost because she isn’t here to chat. Many people think I am weird for reacting this way, and maybe I am. I still have my husband, children, and grandchildren to talk to. What most people do not understand is that my dog was my best friend. She was like my secret diary. I could tell her anything (and did I ever) and she never told a soul.

As I stated before, when I was growing up, mourning the death of a pet for a short time seemed normal and then life went on. It has been six weeks since my best friend died, and I am still in a funk. I know this sounds horrible, but I cried more for my wonderful pup than I did for either of my parents. It leaves me wondering if I was more prepared for my sickly parents to pass. My dog never had a sick day in her life other than the heartworm when she was young.

At first, I tried to tell myself that I was being ridiculous. Now, I am accepting that I am grieving for my dog as many people grieve for their family members. It may seem like I am being irrational, but losing my dog was losing my best friend.

I continue to have people tell me that “it was a dog”, but when it is your pet, it is never “just a dog.” It is a family member. Someday people will recognize the strength of the bond between a person and their dog. When they do, grieving over a pet will be normal.

Our relationship with our dogs is often more satisfying than with other humans. This is because our dogs are never critical. As the old saying goes, “May I become the kind of person that my dog thinks I already am.”

The death of a dog is heartbreaking. Dog owners become used to the reassuring and nonjudgmental presence of their dog. That is why many dog owners will get a new one at some point.

S0… while I miss my dog so much, I am sure that someday I will put myself through the joy and heartbreak of owning another dog.

Christine Marshall Hersom
All Things Wellness, LLC

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