This has been a sad week for Uzzi and me. Our special friend, Fayre, the Portuguese Water Dog, died last Friday evening. She had a fast-acting cancer called canine hemangiosarcoma that caused a malignant tumor to grow in her heart. But it wasn’t painful, so Fayre stayed active and Mom and Dad didn’t notice she was sick until she stopped eating her favorite foods. Then she puffed up with fluid in her body. That was less than two weeks ago. Now she’s dead. She was only 10 years old.
At first, Mom kept bursting into tears. Uzzi and I didn’t know what to do or say. When she was better, we asked her what she and other humans do to get over the pain of losing an animal friend, so we could share it with you. This is what she said:
Don’t try to be brave, stoic or tough.
Give yourself permission to grieve. If others are uncomfortable with your tears, that’s their problem, not yours.
Seek others who listen without passing judgment.
If you don’t have an empathetic friend, family member or co-worker to help you work through your heartache, try phoning a pet bereavement hotline; their services are usually free.
Release your anger and pain.
Pound a punching bag or a pillow hard. Whack your mattress with a tennis racquet. Scream inside your car with the windows rolled up. Stomp the floor. Have a temper tantrum. Really let it out.
It’s hard to find the energy to exercise when you’re feeling so sad, but moving your body helps ease bottled-up blues. Walk, run, dance, ride, swim, jog around the house if you have to, but move!
If you had to make difficult decisions and you aren’t sure you did the right thing, forgive yourself. You did the best you could with the resources and knowledge available to you.
Memorialize your pet, horse or farm animal friend.
This helps you focus on the joy you and your animal shared, rather than solely on the anguish of his loss.
- Pen a eulogy or a poem to or about your pet, then email it and a picture or two to one of many pet memorial sites you’ll find online; they’ll post it for free.
- Host a memorial service. Select appropriate music, and ask a friend who knew your animal to offer the eulogy (or do it yourself). Invite only those who truly appreciate your loss; ask that during the service, each contribute some cherished memory of your animal friend. After the service, reminisce.
- Create a memory book of photos. Add blank pages to record warm memories of your life together. Add a lock of mane, a tuft of hair or other small mementos. Or purchase a journal and record the story of your lives together; tape or glue photos of your animal on any leftover pages. Keep it as a remembrance.
- Make or buy a marker to place on his grave, in a lovely section of your yard or garden, or in any other special or significant location, thus giving you a place to leave flowers, write in your journal or simply sit and remember your lost friend.
Time alone can’t heal this dreadful pain; you must work upon yourself, too. If months after your loss you still feel isolated, lethargic, unfocused and unable to cope, if you are disinterested in old passions and joys, and if at any time death seems more attractive than life without your animal friend, please seek treatment for depression.