There's no question that losing a pet is the hardest part of owning one.
When you get a dog, you always know that, chances are, at some point you'll face the sadness of them dying, and I can understand why, for some people, they won't get another.
Dogs have a special place in our hearts and families. Many of us spend a lot of time with our dogs. In fact, we might spend more one-to-one time with our dogs, on walks, than we do with people. It's a relationship that ingrains routines into our lives - wrench that away from us, and we feel lost.
As a couple, we have lost dogs (and cats) before. What we've never had to deal with is sudden loss. Painful though it is to make a decision to have a pet put to sleep, we'e always had time to reconcile ourselves to our decision, and to feel that we were doing the right thing for our beloved animals.
Losing a pet suddenly, is a different thing entirely. Not more heartbreaking, just not the same. The element of shock is huge.
Bailey had been ill, but dogs get ill and they get better. In fact, it seemed he was getting better. The idea that we were going to be left without him hadn't crossed our minds. He was under the vets - they would help him. When they couldn't, and we lost our boy, suddenly, without a peaceful goodbye, without being able to hold him, the shock of our world becoming immediately wrong was impossible to bear.
The flood of grief was immediate and it was overwhelming. All of the love that suddenly had nowhere to go leaked out of us, as our tears fell, while we struggled to take in the unthinkable notion that we no longer had Bailey in our lives.
Telling Other People
And then you have to tell everyone.
This too is different, when losing a pet suddenly, because it's also a shock to everyone else. Their immediate reaction is, of course, to ask "what happened?".
At first I shook my head and changed the subject because I couldn't talk about it. When I could go through what had happened without crying, after recounting that fretful final day with Bailey a couple of times, I decided I didn't want to tell people. I wanted my focus to be on Bailey's life - not to recount the end of it. I wanted the joy of owning him to be my focus, not the pain of losing him.
You don't have to recount the end - think about what you want to remember. Losing a pet is viciously hard, retelling the end, over and over, focuses your mind on your loss. Instead talk about their life together with you and all the moments that are yours to cherish, always.
Celebrate Your Pet's Life
What happened was this:
Bailey have us 6 1/2 love-filled years of joyful, bouncy labradoodleness. He made us laugh, pretty much every day. He made us happy, and we hope we did the same for him. We hugged him and we loved him. We most likely spoiled him too. He was Bailey, Button, Button Moon, Moonicorn, the best boy, the Bailster, Bails.
He came everywhere with us, and he made everywhere a better place to be.
That's what happened. I won't remind myself of one final day, when there was so much other time we got with our boy that I should be remembering.
Losing a pet is hard. You never want to do it. But owning them, loving them, them loving you, is all so worthwhile, so fulfilling that they will make the pain worth it. They never leave you. they remain in your heart forever.