I recently blogged about the loss of my greyhound, Gary (http://www.myzooanimalhospital.com/is-it-time). While the decision to euthanize is always a difficult one, the emotional challenge doesn’t end in the veterinary office once the procedure is finished. The survivors must continue with life and learn to move on.
It had been a long day at work. Over the course of the day, I had performed surgeries, taken radiographs, diagnosed and treated a number of pets. Unfortunately, I also performed a few euthanasias as well. As I arrived home, and opened the door, I was greeted by my little dog, “Ruby.” She is always so happy to see me when I get home. I looked up briefly to find Gary before I remembered he was no longer with me. Little moments like this happen to all pet owners who have recently lost a pet. When a pet isn’t where they used to be, you feel a little tug at your heartstrings – a little pang of grief. This is a normal feeling. I took a deep breath, and went to find my daughter. I picked her up and moved her to a blanket spread out on the floor. We laughed together as I made silly faces and tickled her belly. I looked around at my floors and thought “She’ll be crawling soon. I’m happy my carpets will be cleaner now.” Gary had so many accidents in the house; I struggled to keep the carpets clean. I stopped inviting company to my house months ago because I was embarrassed by my old dog’s accidents. Although I missed Gary, I also felt a measure of bittersweet relief. At times, the mixture of happiness and grief resulted in a feeling of guilt. Did I do enough to try to help him? Am I wrong to feel relieved that he has passed? Feeling guilty is a normal part of grieving.
That evening, I felt too tired to prepare dinner, so my husband and I called some friends from church to go out for dinner. At the restaurant, they offered their condolences for our loss. We are grateful to have support from friends who understood how important Gary was to us and ultimately supported our decision to say goodbye. If you are feeling upset about the loss of your pet, engaging in activities that you enjoy can help. In our case, we treated ourselves to a nice dinner with close friends. After dinner, as the sun started to set, my husband and I got our baby ready in the stroller for a nice evening stroll. Ruby excitedly bounced around our feet with her tail in full wiggle mode. “Sit!” She paused for just barely long enough to attach her leash, and we headed out for a walk. As we turned to walk around the block, I remembered this was the point where Gary would always start to limp, and a wave of melancholy passed over me. I reminded myself that his arthritic hips would no longer slow him down, and I felt a sense of peace. I reached down to love on Ruby, and she licked my hand. The next day, I decided to take Ruby into work with me so I could fully examine her and check on her weight loss progress. I want to keep Ruby around for as long as possible and preventative healthcare is the key. Every moment with my pet is a treasure and a blessing.
Remember to embrace every moment with your pet; their lives are so much shorter than our own. Despite this brevity, pets’ enrich the lives of their owners.