A dog-walking buddy (someone encountered while we were both walking our dogs) recently lost one of her dogs to cancer. Holly was just two, really still a puppy, so my friend thought there was lots of time for treatment. There wasn’t. Holly died within two weeks of the cancer diagnosis.
People — mostly those who don’t HAVE a dog — will say, oh, it’s just a dog. But it’s never ‘just a dog’ to someone who has been on the receiving end of the total adoration that is a dog’s bond with his or her human.
When my husband and I finally gave in to the pleading and agreed to get a dog, I seriously thought about how old our youngest son would be when the dog inevitably died, reassuring myself that he’d be old enough to handle it. There was no question that my own ability to handle it would be iffy, at best.
There was a wonderful piece in today’s Toronto Star on losing a dog that eloquently captures how I know I will feel when Jake dies. Lauren Crothers writes:
“Grieving for a dog is an incredibly profound experience and no easier than the death of a human…While trawling the web for information on the process of euthanasia — so I would know how Murphy was going to die — I came across a comment left by someone along the lines of, ‘Who cares? It’s just a dog.’ It is for fear of this kind of reaction that many dog owners internalize their pain as they grieve. Just because it had four legs, chewed all the baseboards in the kitchen and perked up its ears at the sight of a bone doesn’t make the hurt any easier to bear.”
“Death is not easy to come to terms with. Losing a best friend is particularly difficult. It is never ‘just a dog.'”
I sent my friend a card to acknowledge her grief; it had a touching photo of an empty collar and leash on the front, which was enough to bring a lump to my own throat. Even though Jake, too, chewed all the baseboards in our kitchen, sheds so much that daily vacuuming is needed to keep the tumbleweeds of fur down, and has had me out walking in rain, snow and sub-zero weather, I know I’ll miss him when it’s his turn to go.
For now, thankfully, it’s just his turn to go for a walk.
YIKES! It’s terrible, terrible to lose an animal. My vet sends a card some time after euthanising a pet, and while a lovely touch, it brought up a wave of grief when I got it in the mail. More maybe later — my current dog is barking now because my sister & HER dog have just arrived…
Gloria, what a nice touch by your vet. At least you know your dogs, past and present, have the best of all worlds with a loving home and space to run free.
Oh Sue, it IS never just a dog. We have our first dog in our lives now, a Golden Retriever, and I am already thinking about how awful it will be to say good-bye to her. She is 3! I’m so grateful we got her and now understand the special relationship you can have with this marvellous creature.
Here is my favourite quote about dogs —
“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog.
You are his life, his love, his leader.
He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart.
You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.”
This quote gets me out in the wind and the rain with her – and I’m always glad that I did.
Angela, thanks so much for commenting. What a lovely quote, and so true. I get choked up just thinking of that “last beat of his heart.”