My Pet Died And I Can’t Stop Crying

If we can handle losing the ones we love, we can cope with anything else that life brings our way.

Some twenty-five years ago, I attended a seminar presented by a child psychiatrist. He professed that the most significant challenge during our life is separation and loss. His simple but profound message was that if we can handle losing the ones we love, we can cope with anything else that life brings our way.

Losing a beloved companion animal is such a challenge. The unconditional love an animal brings into our life means a huge loss when the time comes to say goodbye. For some people, the pain is so great that they decide not to bring another companion animal into their life.

Personally, to honor the companion animals who have taught me so much about love, I prefer the advice Maude gives to Harold in the cult movie classic, Harold and Maude – “go and love some more.” To that end, I have devoted myself to improving the lives of animals however I can, including adopting more strays whose paths have crossed mine.

In speaking about cats, Theophile Gautier penned, “Who can believe that there is no soul behind those luminous eyes.” The same could be said about dogs. For me, the grief I feel over the loss of companion animals is tempered with the faith that we will meet again, for I believe as a wise man once said, death is but a horizon and a horizon is but the limit of our sight. Put another way, as a pet cemetery epitaph proclaims, “O heaven will not ever Heaven be Unless my cats are there to welcome me.”

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Each must do it in his or her own way. For those who are comforted by reading, I recommend one of the following books: When Your Pet Dies by Quackenbush and Graveline, Goodbye, Friend by Gary Kowalski, Preparing for the Loss of Your Pet by Myrna Milani, DVM, and The Loss of a Pet by Wallace Sife, Ph.D.

The impact that animals have on our lives is not necessarily tied to the amount of time that they spend with us. It is the quality, not the quantity, of time spent that matters. As Barbara Diamond writes, “I will always remember the olive-eyed tabby who taught me that not all relationships are meant to last a lifetime. Sometimes just an hour is enough to touch your heart.” Those who volunteer at an animal shelter can attest to this.

Recently, an e-mail arrived with a story by unknown authorship showcasing the wisdom of a child over the loss of a companion animal. I cannot improve on the sentiments of this four-year-old, so I will let his words speak for himself. The story is entitled, “Why Dogs Don’t Live as Long as People” and goes like this:

As a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron and Lisa, and their little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker and they were hoping for a miracle. I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family there were no miracles left for Belker and offered to perform euthanasia for their pet in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for four-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt Shane could learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker’s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting his friend for the last time that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.

Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, “I know why.”

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me – I’d never heard a more comforting explanation.

He said, “Everybody is born so that they can learn how to live a good life, like loving everybody and being nice.” The four-year-old continued, “Animals already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

Be sure to give your animals an extra hug today.

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