Have you ever grieved the loss of a pet?
Animals become like part of our family, so why mourn them any less just because they had four paws and a wagging tail? I’ll never understand those people who tell you that it was ‘just a dog’ because they are never ‘just‘ anything to us.
Although I know that the loss of a pet is nowhere near the pain of losing the humans in your life, it still hurts. We still grieve and cry. When we lost our family dog we took his ashes to his favorite spot and scattered them along the ground. Each year we contact each other and recall tales of his life. Ben may not have been human, but he meant a lot to my family. He was also the first real experience that I had with mourning a family member.
Looking back, Ben died to prepare my family for the harder things to come.
On the 18th of July 2016, my family lost our beautiful Highland Terrier to what I now know was a fast-growing tumor in his abdomen. He had been ill since March that year. He was suffering frequent shaking fits and quickly becoming incontinent. This was written in my personal journal after his death, and while I can give you no advice, I felt it was important to share.
Paw prints on my heart.
“On Monday the 18th of July we lost our 13-year-old terrier. Since then life has carried on as normal while my family and I are suffering a heartache greater than I ever thought I could feel. It hurts immensely, and the thought that he won’t be there when I go home is unbearable. I can’t comprehend how the world keeps on turning when we lose loved ones.
I can’t understand how you’re expected to carry on and smile as if nothing has happened when your heart is in pieces.
I’ve had to put animals down twice before, each hurting just a little more than the first, but Ben’s passing was, and is, by far the worst. It’s as if someone has reached inside my body and pulled out my heart. Then there is the feeling of dread and overwhelming sadness which starts in my throat and circulates to my chest, my stomach, and eventually my eyes. When that feeling hits it takes several deep breaths and silence to make it go away. Sometimes it doesn’t and I just have to cry.
It may be difficult for my parents and sister to live in the house where Ben was, but I feel disconnected and lost because I’m so far away. They have each other to grieve alongside, they have each other for comfort, but I feel as if I’m alone in my grief and without any valuable comfort.
I miss Ben more and more with each passing day.
As time moves on I’m able to talk about him without crying, but I’m left with so much guilt. It’s not about putting him down but about not being home enough.
Although it may not have mattered much to him, at least I would have gotten to see him alive. Instead, I’m stuck remembering him sitting under the trailer, as far from us as possible. I’m stuck remembering his slow trek along the fence, digging for cover, as if he didn’t want us to see. I can still hear his final breath. I can still see my father crying as he placed his body gently into the back of the vet’s car. No breathing, no growling, no tail wagging; just still.
How long does it take to get over a constant companion of 13 years?
A dog who helped you and your family through everything? I hope the answer is never, but that the pain of losing him dwindles into happy memories.
Ben, you were truly a spoilt rotten dog. You growled at me every opportunity that you had, and you were a grouch. You helped my family through everything, and so it was only appropriate that we helped you through your final days. I don’t doubt that we did the right thing, and I think you would agree, I think you were telling us that it was time.
Thank you for existing, Ben, and thank you for being the grumpy wee pup that you were. You were there to help my parents through my illness, and you helped us all through my father’s.
Thank you for everything. Love you and will never forget you.”