A few days ago I received a phone call from a friend who was crying and quite despondent. When I asked her what was wrong, in between sobs, she said her beloved golden retriever had passed away that morning . Having gone through this same journey with our golden retriever Belle in 2004 this news brought back a flood of emotions. The news of Missy's passing reopened wounds that I had been able to suppress over the past seven years.
Our sweet Belle was diagnosed with cancer in November 2003. It seemed to have come out of nowhere. One day she just quit eating and within days started losing weight. We had noticed her activity was not like it was, but she was ten years old so she no longer had the vim and vigor of a puppy. We were shocked to hear the diagnosis. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought dogs got cancer. She lived another three months before we had to make the toughest decision in our lives and that was to put her quietly out of her suffering. Let me tell you it was the most difficult part of the whole journey, but our vet was the best. She allowed us to stay with our beloved Belle until she took her final breath. To go home with just a collar and leash was devastating. In fact it was just a few months ago that I was finally able to let go of her collar and leash and surprisingly it still had her smell emanating from the purple 'necklace' she wore for years.
For those of you who are pet lovers and have ever lost a pet you understand the emotional toll this can have on your life. Losing a pet can be just as emotionally crippling to one's life as losing a family member or friend. Belle gave us unconditional love. We used to say that if anyone came to rob our home, Belle would be more than eager to help, but first they had to play her favorite game of toss and fetch. She loved life and she taught me how to love life.
And for those who say, "she was just a dog" I beg to differ. Belle was more than a dog. She was friend and a companion but most importantly she was a member of our family for over ten years. No one would ever think twice to say to someone who lost a loved one, "oh he was just your Dad" or "she was just your sister."
Grieving is a part of the process. For some it comes gradually over time and for others it can be quite intense, but we should never feel ashamed or guilty for the emotions we are feeling. It's OK to feel sad, angry, even depressed, especially when the death comes suddenly.
There is no time limit on going through these emotions either. I remember our first Christmas after Belle passed away. It had been ten months since she died and we were putting up the tree when I came across an ornament with Belle's photo on it when she was a puppy. The emotions surfaced and yes, tears were shed. I quietly found a special place on the tree to hang her ornament and to this day we still put that ornament on the tree as a reminder to us that she was and will remain in our hearts forever.
For those of you who are walking through the journey, know that you are never alone. Sharing your stories of your beloved pet won't make the pain go away, but don't let anyone ever tell you to get over it. Allow yourself to cry, if need be, and know that while time heals some of the sadness, you will always have the memories of your pet to hold close to your heart.
Have you ever lost a pet? Did you receive sympathy from your family and friends?
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