Updated: Feb 7
When the Time is Right, The Inevitable is Still a Tremendous Heartbreak
Whether you have shared your entire lifetime in the company of pets or are a recent first-timer, you’ve been truly blessed to have experienced the absolute power and joy of unconditional love. Unfortunately, the unmitigable expression and feeling of grief remain with us and, even when ceased, will swell up and rage back to wound us over and over. If asked, most people admit to showing more grief over an extended period due to the loss of a pet than they have over a family member.
This may be why our pets develop such close spatial territory boundaries with us. It is more than bonding in their eyes. They speak to us this way by saying “I am here to spend every moment with you, no matter where you are, what you are doing, throughout every meal, nighttime tv program, bath you are soaking in, or car ride you are planning. You made that choice from the moment we made eye contact, and for that, I owe this to you as a way of saying thank you, human.”
Such is the depth of this that when we feel our grief is not being accepted among our peers, coworkers, and in some cases, other family members, the disenfranchised emotion is met with anger prompting replies to “It was just a dog. Get over it.”, can be the cause of additional long-lasting emotional trauma.
On the flip side is the equally but more socially permissible choice to euthanize your pet to save the stages of painful physical discomfort or decline of quality of life. Rather than succumb to the comments that reflect upon the positive aspect, like “It was the best thing for him.”, you are left shouldering the additional burden of personal choice against monetary reasons. Most of us will spend all we can to try to provide the best geriatric, unexpected surgery, or sudden illness, but when that time comes, the final few minutes are shown on your pals face. His eyes are thanking you. And that is his way of fulfilling his commitment to you.
When you are ready to share an open space in your heart again, you can join millions of other pet lovers who have found ways to commemorate the precious moments by planting a tree, creating a memorial patio stone, or even making a donation in their pets name to a shelter via financial, volunteering, or fostering a pet if they can. Even a bag or two of food, an old unwanted blanket, or a towel can go a long way in giving an in-recovery stage dog or cat some comfort. Call around to find a list of rehoming shelters, vets, and clinics that would welcome any contribution to your pet’s honor.
The truest test of courage is not your pet learning to trust you; it is within our human measure of opening our minds to allow that unconditional love in. Rudyard Kipling said it best by offering the allegorical liturgy.
There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie—
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.
When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find—it’s your own affair—
But… you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.
When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!).
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone—wherever it goes—for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.
We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long—
So why in—Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?”