by Bonney Brown
Those of us who have lost a beloved pet know the deep sadness that accompanies that loss. According to an article from the journal Society & Animals, the death of a pet can be “just as devastating as the loss of a human significant other.”
Sometimes people feel guilty that they experience the loss of their pet so intensely. “But when they realize that the pet gave them constant companionship, and there was total dependency, then they start to realize that’s why they’re grieving so intensely,” explains Dr. Sandra Baker, an expert on the human-animal bond.
Washington Post columnist Joe Yonan wrote in an article about the death of his dog: “The fact that our pets are so dependent on us makes it all too easy to second-guess our decisions and descend into a pit of guilt. Shouldn’t I have known? Did I do everything I could? If I had just …”
Talking or writing about your pet and your feelings can help. Doing something to memorialize them can also be helpful. When my cat Butch died, I had my favorite photos of him framed. Others have written poems, composed online memorials, put together a scrapbook, created a burial marker or found a special container for the pet’s ashes, hung wind chimes, or planted a perennial plant in their garden. Some people start volunteering at the animal shelter or send memorial donations to Nevada Humane Society. Whatever you do should be something meaningful to you.
For children, the passing of a pet may be their first experience with death and they can feel guilt or fear in addition to grief. Explanations, such as “put to sleep” or “went away” can be confusing. When a Pet Dies by Fred Rogers and The Tenth Good Thing about Barney by Judith Viorst are two helpful books for children.
Other pets in the household may grieve too–spending extra time with the surviving pet can help both of you.
People often ask how they will know when the time is right to get a new pet. That’s a very personal decision–some people are ready soon, others need more time. Every animal has a unique personality and even one that looks similar will not be a replacement. When that time comes, remember that many animals are waiting in local animal shelters for someone to love them. Perhaps that person is you.
Events that Help Animals
Furry Speed Dating: Meet the most eligible dogs and cats at Nevada Humane Society on February 14 from 12 noon to 3:00 pm.