My Grief Journey...It's not "just a pet" loss

Have you heard…”Well, it’s just a dog.” 

It’s certainly not “just a dog” loss for me and not for most of us. When you lose a pet you are losing a family member. And even though I’ve had several pets, one of the most difficult losses for me was when I had to make the difficult decision to put down my Australian Shepherd, Spinner, after 13 years together.  

Spinner was smart, well mannered, lovable,  loyal, adorable and everyone loved her. She loved farm life and she did her job well. Her breed was made to herd horses and from my earlier post about Dave, you know we were around horses a lot! 

While she didn’t need to herd horses, she did look after the horses which was a very important job. She would let us know if a horse got loose from the coral or if a horse was “cast”. 

A horse is said to be cast when it gets stuck on its back or side and a bit like a turtle, can’t get its feet under it to stand up again. ...jammed against a wall or fence, caught in a rope, its own halter, or blanket straps, stuck under a feeder, rail or another object..

When a horse becomes cast, two things may happen. 

Feeling trapped and unable to regain its feet can cause a horse to panic and it can injure itself. If a horse is cast for a long time, something called reperfusion injuries can occur. The weight of their own bodies restricts blood flow to various areas of the body. Eventually, the horse can suffocate.

My connection with Spinner grew even more special after my fiancée died because Spinner was not only my house companion, she was my travel companion.  She was a seasoned traveler, joining Dave and me on our horse shows and visits to New Jersey.

There’s just something about
coming home at the end of the day to an empty house
that magnifies loss.

While I could distract and busy myself with work during the day, coming home was another challenge. 

But Spinner would be there to greet me. She would lie by my feet, follow me around, and hang out with me. Her unconditional love was a huge blessing.  It didn’t matter what kind of mood I was in, she would always be there. If I was impatient with her because of my irritability, she didn’t seem to mind. 

However, I noticed a change in Spinner’s behavior because she was also experiencing losing Dave. I first met Spinner when I went to see Dave at a horse show. We just started dating and I loved being around the horses and watching Dave work with these amazing animals. As I walked up, Dave said; “Hey, look what I just got!” Spinner. The cutest little puppy. We were hooked and she became Dave’s constant companion. 

Spinner Puppy.JPG

Spinner enters our lives.

Spinner became my companion helping to fill a void after Dave died. I like to believe that we helped one another but I know she made all the difference in my life.

One year after Dave had passed away, Spinner started having seizures and could not walk. As difficult as it was to accept, I knew in my heart my time with her was ending.  Going through that alone, while still grieving the loss of Dave, was painful. 

The emptiness in the house was haunting. No longer was there anyone to greet me when I came home. 

Just me, coming home, feeling very lonely.

Today’s Perspective:

Looking Back:

I did not grieve that loss either. I continued to avoid feeling the pain. Losing a pet is losing a companion, a loved one, and even like a family member. 

It is normal and ok to feel sad. Know that the loss is real and give yourself permission to grieve the loss.

The Myth: Keep Busy

I continued to just keep myself busy to ignore reality. If I didn’t have time to think about, then I was okay, right? 

I didn’t want to go home because there was nothing there for me. So I stayed at work long after everyone else had gone home.  And when I was home, I would escape by bingeing on TV shows and movies . I wanted to avoid feeling the pain of the losses.

Did you know that there are over 40 kinds of losses? 

We talk a lot about the death of a loved one and we should. 

But let’s not forget that the loss of a loved one includes the pets we have cared for and loved.

GriefMichele Woodall