A few weeks ago, I received a message from a family devastated by the death of their beloved dog. Their dog had passed away from cancer at the age of 5-years old. In the message, the family asked if they could have done something to change the outcome, especially since I often write about wellness in my blog.
The death of a beloved pet is heartbreaking and the grief does not go away overnight. With dogs, we know we will outlive them before we bring them into our lives. Their lives are so much shorter in comparison to ours. But when we are grieving, it's easy to turn to the "shoulds" and question the decisions that we made:
Should we have provided a different/better dog food?
Should we have scheduled annual vet visits?
Should we have said good-bye sooner?
Should we have operated on him?
Knowing we could have done something different to change the outcome has to be the worse feeling. And trying to make sense of what happened and piece it back together wont help. Instead it overshadows the wonderful memories with our fur baby and the necessary energy needed to heal.
Over the years, I have bid farewell (and cried) for a rabbit, hamster, turtle, and two dogs (Roscoe & Thunder). When Thunder passed away, the challenge to move forward felt impossible, especially after I witnessed him having a heart attack in front me. Grief and loss are a part of life, but the psychological and emotional challenges they present can be enormous.
Thunder is our family's second dog. He had developed a heart murmur and hypernatremia about a year before he passed at the age of 12. He was on several different medications and the side-effects slowly crept up on him. There were days where he had an awful cough from the medication, which ended up destroying his trachea. However, he also had his good days where he acted healthy and normal. I had difficulty determining the severity of his illness and the right time to take him to the vet to say good-bye. Finally on the day after Christmas he passed away. I'd like to think he waited, so he could see everyone again. Dogs can be funny like that.
Some of us, dog owners, love our four-legged friends so much that we treat them like we would a child — and sometimes prefer them to some friends and family... or our own children! According to a new research, there's a scientific reason why we are fond of our dogs. Dogs treated with love and respect respond with the same admiration and display healthy attachment. And some dogs even offer blind adoration, whether we deserve it or not.
While getting a new dog sounds like the most enduring option after a death of another, it isn't the best for everyone. Dogs (young or old) require a strong leader in the home. Without that presence, they have a higher chance of developing behavior problems. Research has shown that dogs know if their owners are sad, nervous, stressed, happy, calm, strong-minded, confident, anxious, etc. However, they read negative energy coming from a human not in the true meaning of the emotion. The dog simply reads negative energy as weakness and reacts accordingly. This makes it critical for a home and all members of the family to be prepared if/when a new dog is brought home.
The idea of sharing our love with a new dog to alleviate the pain sounds like a good idea, especially when we come home to an empty home with doggie beds, toys, and unfinished dog food in the house. But it's important to remain honest with ourselves. The time-frame will be different for all, but we'll know when we're ready when we feel at peace with the situation.
***Here is one my favorite videos of Thunder greeting me when I came home from college in NYC. (Sorry for the quality of the video. Cellphones were so-so back then. Not sorry for the squealing.).