My Pet is Not Replaceable

Aug 27, 2020   Tracey Aston   Pet Loss

It was July 21st 2007 and I was awake at the crack of dawn, even though I couldn't pick up my new family member until noon. I had met him 4 days earlier but I had to wait until he had his vaccinations and was neutered.  I had bought toys, food, blankets, crates, leashes and ID tags and even cleaned the house! I had to make a good impression! I showed up at the Washington County Humane Society an hour before they opened and paced the parking lot until the opened the doors. I was the first one in! I ran to him, that little 10 week old, fluffy German Shepherd puppy with ears and tail way too big for his tiny body.  I just held him for a bit and took in the smell. After signing all paperwork, it was time to bring him to his new home. As soon as we arrived, I set him down and happily announced, “This is your home!”  That was the first day. June 24th 2020 was the last. But, in between, on in between was 13 years of training, love, holidays, pool parties, birthday parties, dinners, breakfasts, play time, and cuddles! 13 years of memories! Memories of every day starting with him and every day ending with him. He was, and in some ways remains, my world.

On that afternoon of June 24th, my heart shattered and a piece of me left this world. Upon telling my friends, many who knew him personally or through Facebook, the first thing some of them said was “are you going to get another dog?”

I understand death and grief are never easy subjects to address and many times people just don't know what to say. I'm actually one of those people! I offer my condolences, support and shoulder, but after that, I'm at a loss. I can tell you what I don't say - and you shouldn't either – are you planning on replacing your lost loved one?

 It's true that some families bring another pet into their family shortly after one passes. Here is the difference, they made that decision. They knew where they were in their grief process, took emotional stock of what they wanted in their lives and they made that choice. Pets depend on us for food, grooming, water, healthcare and companionship and we become very attached to another living being and them to us. Everyone grieves differently.  Some families find that adopting another pet helps with their grief and allows them to heal by taking care of another pet. Others simply can't stand the deafening silence. They know they aren't replacing a beloved family member but adding a new one.

There are some that feel they are too broken to love another animal, or get another animal and be able to not compare the new pet to their previous pet.  They might feel that they don't want to go through the pain of loss again.

Instead of asking this potentially hurtful question to others, you can call them to if they need anything, send a sympathy card, offer condolences, share happy memories or pictures you have of your friend with their pet.  At first, those pictures may cause tears, but trust me they will be prized possessions in the very near future.  Ask your friend of loved one if they are having a memorial service or offer to help them make a shadow box or offer to donate to a shelter or rescue in their pet's memory. All of these respect the pet as an individual and the bond that their pet parent shared with them.

I have 13 years of wonderful memories with my dog and those memories will remain in my heart and soul forever.  I learned many lessons about life and love, learned how to be a better pet owner, and learned how to be a better me. The lessons my pet has taught me will always live on but my pet is not replaceable.

Every pet parent knows that all fur babies have their own unique personalities, quirks and traits. No pet will ever be the same as another, and that's what's so great about them!  If a pet parent needs to grieve for their lost loved one, allow it, be there for them, and allow them to process the feelings of loss for that individual who was part of their life for so long. In the future, they may choose to bring another furry family member into their lives, but that should be their choice! They will still have to go through their own grieving process but that does not mean they are replacing the previous pet. 

 
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