A good friend lost one of her beloved dogs this past weekend. It’s not unusual, it happens, but for those of us who have spent our lives giving rescued dogs a home, losing one of them can be devastating. It’s not that we love our dogs more than people who bought their puppies from breeders or pet shops. I am sure those people love their dogs just as much as we love our rescues, but our rescues are special to us. We have taken them from a life without love, and given them everything we possibly can. A home, the love of a human being who sees them as something more than just an animal, and a promise to care for them for the rest of their lives, lives we hope will never end. When they finally do leave us we always feel as if we did not have enough time with them, or that we failed them in some way, even though we were the ones who gave them a lifetime of love in the time they had left. We want them to live forever, even though we know it isn’t possible.
For people who only have one pet the grief is their’s alone, but what about the pack mates left behind when an animal in a multipet household dies? Do they grieve? Do they feel loss? I believe they do!
Six years ago we lost our dog Ebony. She was not quite two years old, but she had already had a litter of eight puppies. By the time she died all but two of her puppies had been adopted out. Ebony was diagnosed with a disease called Mega-esophagus. At that time it was thought that the only treatment would be to feed her through a tube for the rest of her life. Thinking that was no life for such a vibrant dog we made the only decision we possibly could, we sent Ebony to the bridge. It was a tough decision and we grieved for months. We noticed shortly after her death that we were not the only ones grieving. Our pack was mourning her loss too.
This was especially noticeable in our dog Harley, who had been a puppy when Ebony’s pups were born. He had played with the pups supervising them while Ebony was napping, and curling up with them when they finally fell into an exhausted sleep. He and Ebony were fast friends and constant companions. When Ebony died Harley became depressed. He would roam the house as if searching for something he had misplaced, he was looking for his friend, and you could tell he was distressed that he cold not find her.
Dog packs are amazing, and it wasn’t long before the matriarch of the pack, our dog Gabrielle took Harley under her wing so to speak. She began to Mother him, following him everywhere and cuddling up with him when he finally stopped searching and settled down. I could not comfort the little dog but Gabrielle could, and she went about the task wholeheartedly never leaving Harley to stew in his grief alone. She spent months easing him through the loss of his friend.
Unfortunately, we lost Gabrielle the following year. She began having cluster seizures that would wrack her entire body with pain, and we were once again forced to make the decision to send one of our beloved dogs to the bridge. Once again the little white dog we call Harley was buried in grief. This time it was our dog Niki who nurtured him through it.
I guess maybe that is why I get so angry when I hear people say that dogs don’t feel things, that they don’t love or form bonds with anyone or anything. I have seen the bond between pack members, seen the love they have for each other, and seen them felled by grief when one of their pack members dies. They are a family, and like any family they feel the loss of a love one deeply.
To my friend Anne Craig I want to say:
We are heartily sorry for your loss. We understand completely what you and your pack are going through! Our thoughts are with you.
Rest in Peace Roxy! And KNOW you were loved! Not just by your Mom but by a network of people all over the world. You touched many hearts, and left behind a piece of your own heart in all of us! You are safe now at the bridge where you can run and play with all the other pets awaiting the time when they will be reunited with those they loved. You may be gone, but your love lives on in all of us!
To Roxy’s family and friends we say, we are so sorry for your loss. Take comfort in the fact that without you Roxy would never have known love, care and the warmth of a family. You are special for having given her that!
To anyone else who may be mourning the loss of a pet, our thoughts are with you, we know how much it hurts!
There is a song that we play whenever we lose an animal, I would like to share it with you all now for Roxy:
For the rest of you, hold your beloved pets a little tighter, take them for an extra walk or have some extra cuddle time. Don’t take them for granted because when they are gone you will wish you hadn’t.
Love and wet sloppy doggie smooches!