Coping With the Loss of a Pet and Adapting to a New Normal
January 26, 2021
Getting a pet at a young age quite literally changes your life. It can feel like having another sibling growing up, but it can leave you heartbroken after their inevitable passing. On Dec. 2, 2020, I had to put my dog down due to a fast-growing malignant tumor. In the span of a few hours, my life completely changed, and I no longer had a dog.
When I was four-years-old, I was desperate for my parents to get me a puppy. Since my parents continued to refuse, I told everyone that they were getting me a puppy. One day, my elementary school principal called my father and told him that they had puppies at the school. She said that I had told her that my parents were getting me a puppy and that he was expected to come pick one up. My father came home with this little black lab puppy, who we decided to name Bella.
Bella was a small puppy, but since I was also small, she seemed massive to me. I couldn’t play with her alone, because she could easily knock me over. When she would knock me down, and I would start crying, she would come over to me and cry next to me. She would then try to make it up to me by hugging me, since she felt so bad for hurting me. After some time, she learned that jumping on me would result in injury, so she stopped.
Every opportunity she had, she would run inside and roll on the floor. If she was lucky, she would get away with jumping on the couch and the beds. On multiple occasions, we would come home and find her sleeping on our couch instead of her own bed. We were never able to get her any squeaky or soft toys, because she would destroy them in less than five minutes. All of her toys were meant to be indestructible, but they never lasted long. Since her fur was so dark, all you would see were her eyes and her bright pink tongue when she would go out at night.
“My dog was the glue that molded our family. Her love was infectious and we always have happy thoughts as we remember the memories” said Lexi Rios (‘21).
One of my favorite things about her was when she would open doors. She liked being able to see us at all times and having the option to leave a room. So if the door was cracked, she would stick her nose in it to open it just enough to see through.
Part of my daily routine revolved around her and her needs. I would get home and be ready to see and tend to her. When I got home after she was put down, all of her things had been put away and everything had been cleaned. That is when I truly realized that she was gone, and I would never see her again.
Every time I hear, see, or feel something that reminds me of her, it hits me all over again. There is no possible way to fully accept that she is gone, because she will always be with me. I have been fortunate to spend almost thirteen incredible years with her and grow alongside her. She was the best friend I could have ever asked for, and I miss her every day.
“We adopted a new dog unexpectedly less than a month after losing my dog Sunny, which is earlier than most families get new dogs, but she just fell into our lives. She had been rejected and returned by other families because of her energetic behavior but she was lucky to have found our family that was willing to put up with her puppy antics. She kept us busy and is the most loving dog so we consider her a gift from the Rainbow Bridge (where people say pets go when they pass)” said Sophia Montero (A’20).
It can be very difficult to cope with the loss of a pet after having them for so long. Pets give you unconditional love everyday and can not see your faults. In the end, they love and admire you despite everything and losing that shatters you.
Healthline recommends when grieving a pet that you give your family time and a place to express their emotions. Having supportive friends or joining a support group can be beneficial in providing a safe place to express your emotions. If you have other pets, it is essential to maintain their schedules so their health will not be negatively affected. A suggestion to find closure in this situation is to have some sort of service or ceremony to honor them. You can also create a picture or memory book of their things to keep for the future.
Something that has helped me cope with her loss is creating a new daily schedule for myself. I try not to let myself think about it too much, but if I do I try to remember the positive things. I also attempt to keep her memory alive by telling others some of my favorite memories of her. Another thing that is extremely helpful is just giving yourself time. I could have published this article back when she passed away, but I was not ready. It takes time for you to get used to it and not feel as sad. That does not mean that you will not be sad, it just means that you are no longer actively grieving the loss. You have made it to a point where you celebrate their lives and what they meant to you, instead of thinking about how their life ended.
“Losing a pet was really hard for me but taking the time to process it really helped me. I just had to accept that my dog was no longer going to be a constant in my life and I had to learn how to adjust,” said Meredith Nitchals (‘21).
Pets always become part of our families, and parting with them is painful. There is no specific time that people grieve the loss, but you have to find that time frame for your family. The most important thing to remember is that you shared wonderful times together and that they were happy alongside you.