There are few things harder to bear than the realization that your best friend, your furry life companion, has aged faster than you have. One day you happen to notice a new maturity in your pet’s face – the eyes more thoughtful than you remembered, a trace of gray around the chin – or maybe it’s not that subtle. Perhaps your dog sleeps through breakfast and isn’t interested in walks anymore, or your vet just explained that your cat’s organs are failing. As this reality filters into your psyche – that the friend who loves you like no other and whom you have given your heart to without reservation won’t be with you forever – sadness overcomes over you.
The grief may last only a few seconds or it may alter your entire day and it can reach inside like a sharp-edged spoon to stir up past losses. In any instance, grief is powerful and mysterious, and it’s an emotion that deserves attention. So often in our busy lives we brush aside uncomfortable feelings and march on through our day and our “to do” list, but our spirits suffer when we do this. The more we can learn to live in the moment and appreciate the natural gifts of the grief expression, the more likely we are to invite love into our lives rather than turn away from it. After all, there are shelters filled with pets that need us.
So, what do you do when that realization hits? Take action! Say a prayer, write a poem, call a friend, or just cry. If you’re angry, throw rocks at a tree, scream out loud in your car or beat your pillow with a tennis racket. The simple act of doing something to address the pain instead of ignoring it is suggested by grief counselors in regard to any loss.
And for goodness sake, love your pet with reckless abandon before you have to say goodbye. It’s today that matters.
It’s a darn shame that each of our pets can’t be a total life companion, but it may just be divine that we can love and care for multiple pets during our lifetime.
Most cities have grief counseling for pet loss available through their local shelters or hospice centers. There are also numerous online resources for pet loss including Animal Hospice and Pet-Loss.Net.
Locally, the Santa Cruz SPCA, located at 2685 Chanticleer Avenue in Santa Cruz, offers a grief support group on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.