When you lose a pet, you will see that everyone thinks they know the best idea on how you can move forward and “get over” your loss.
Whether or not you had to euthanize your pet or lost your dog in an unexpected manner, the grieving process will be different for everyone. The one thing that people do have in common is the feeling of great loss. Coping with the loss of a pet can feel like losing a child, a friend or a part of yourself.
On January 16, less than three weeks ago, my service dog, Lynal, was run over by a truck and was killed. He was 3 and had a long life ahead of him.
Dealing with his sudden and unexpected loss has made me somewhat wiser on the topic of grieving, so I would like to share some of the things that have helped me over the past few weeks. Please remember that although these things have helped me greatly, everyone goes through the grieving process differently.
Friends and Family
I called people I knew would be there for me. On the day of the accident, two of my best friends, my sister and my boyfriend all came and stayed with me.
No one really knew what to do in such a tragic situation, but just having the continuous support and love that my friends and family gave me helped me feel like I wouldn’t be alone in the grieving process.
My mother took my dog to the veterinarian to be sent out for cremation. Before he was taken away, I asked the vet if she could clean him up so I could say goodbye. Since my last image of him was of him lying on the road, I knew I needed a better last image.
When my vet called me into the examination room, Lynal was lying flat with a towel draped over his midsection and his head was exposed. I was able to caress his face and kiss him goodbye. This image was much nicer than what I had remembered.
Even though eating seemed like the most impossible thing for me to do at the time, I was able to keep down small pieces of muffin and hot tea. I was also lucky enough to receive an Edible Arrangement, which made eating much easier.
If you are having trouble eating while you are grieving, try to find something you can tolerate and don’t push yourself to eat more than you can handle. After a week, I started craving strawberry cheesecake again, so I knew I was making progress.
Getting Another Dog
This is probably where you will see the most variation in how people cope with the loss of a pet.
Because Lynal was my service dog, I knew I needed another dog. I went to three SPCAs and temperament-tested about 40 dogs before finding the right dog for me. I ended up adopting a young female chihuahua/miniature pinscher mix from Perfect Pets Rescue who I named Addisen. She fit the personality needed to be a good psychiatric service dog, and her goofy big ears made me smile.
I highly suggest if you are going to adopt another dog right away, you don’t get the same breed, gender or size of the dog you just lost. Beginning to create a new bond with an animal helped me move forward and see my future as a new chapter.
I still grieve Lynal’s loss and don’t see Addisen as a replacement dog, only a new dog. No animal could replace Lynal in my life — and once I was able to accept that fact, I was able to start creating a new type of bond with Addisen.
Realistic Expectations and Talking About It
I had adopted Lynal from Good Shepherd K9 Rescue. When I called the owner to give her news, she told me wonderful advice about how people are going to react. She told me that not all people love their dog the same way and a lot of people see their dog as “just a dog.” These people who care for their dog as “just a dog” will not understand the extent of your grieving.
When you’re choosing whom to talk with about your loss, choose people who love their pets like you love yours. For me, this meant talking with friends who see their pets as their children and who also feel that losing a dog means losing a part of your soul.
I am working on choosing an urn for Lynal’s ashes. There are so many ways to remember your pet and tons of urns/memorials available for people to choose from. Selecting the right memorial may take a lot of time, sometimes even years.
Losing my dog shattered my life, and I am still learning how to cope with my loss. Every day presents itself with new challenges in a world in which my service dog no longer exists. I know I will have dozens of dogs in my lifetime, but Lynal will always be my first dog and the dog who taught me so much about myself.