My daughter adopted Penny from the animal shelter and Penny quickly found a place in our family. Within days of her adoption, we realized something was wrong; tests and an ultrasound revealed that Penny had a terminal illness and did not have long to live. With no pet experience, we came to the heartbreaking decision to take her back to the animal shelter. I was shocked at how quickly we had fallen in love with Penny and how deeply painful it was to let her go.
In the days and weeks that followed, I found it hard to explain my sadness; after all, we had had Penny just one week. Most people did not understand my grief but my sister was helpful. She had always had a dog and she understood my grief. My frequent calls to her helped me through a tough time.
Dachshund Rescue had taken Penny and because of the care we had given her, they offered my daughter a healthy dog. When an abandoned and pregnant dachshund came under their care, our daughter was offered pick of the litter. Not just one, but two dachshund puppies joined our family, one for each daughter.
The dogs, Charley and Gracie, have been an integral part of our family for almost fifteen years. I now understand the bond pets have with their owners and as these two precious dogs are nearing the end of their lives I honestly can not imagine life without them.
Recently, when a friend called to tell me that her beloved dog had died, I shared how sad I was to hear the news. And when she said she was totally lost in the morning and after work, I knew that her routine had totally changed and it was unsettling. And when she told me she was not ready for another dog, I understood that, too; a new pet can not replace the one you lost.
Pets are beloved companions and losing a pet is a significant loss. The grief is genuine, deeply felt, and painful. The loss disrupts our life and routine and it is an unwelcome upheaval.
So how can we help? We can express our sadness for the loss. We can listen and we can acknowledge how painful it must be to lose a beloved family member. We can share our memories of the pet. But most of all, we can validate the feelings of loss and the deep sadness that friends and loved ones feel when grieving the death of their beloved pet.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, available in ebooks for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.