Losing a pet can be devastating to a family. Pets are often thought of as family members and their loss is deeply felt. How do you mend everyone’s broken hearts? How do you know when it’s time to get a new family pet or if you should?
This whole process can be very complicated. I’ve been through the loss of several pets and had to come up with ways to deal with mending my broken heart and am happy to share what has eased my pain; none of it easy. I’ll start with sharing my story and then discuss a few topics in subsequent posts such as:
- Dealing with the grief
- Questions to ask yourself to see if you’re ready for a new pet
- Advantages and disadvantages of getting a new pet sooner than later
- Tips on choosing the new pet
It’s been since March that one of our family pet’s, Kayla, died. She had cancer a year ago, but had been doing well. You can read about her story here. A few symptoms had crept in, but they could have been from any number of issues, including old age (almost 14). But, we decided to do a repeat ultrasound to see if the cancer had returned. Thank goodness my husband went with us that day. Just before taking her back for the procedure, she put her head on Carl’s shoe and I took this picture.
But, when she stood up to go back for the procedure, she collapsed and that was it…We were at an emergency vet’s office, so she was in great hands, but they couldn’t save her. We were able to hug and kiss her and tell her we love her and always will and then they took her away…
It is so difficult getting over the loss of a pet. Your heart just breaks and if you’re like me, you second guess decisions and wonder if you did all you could. I still find myself bursting into tears, either for no real reason or because something will remind me of her. I’ll cut up a mango which she loved or drop something on the floor and expect she’ll come running to pick it up. She literally ate everything, but lettuce!
Kayla was the third pet Carl and I have lost and I said I would always have two pets just for these times. Without a pet, my home feels soulless; they add such life and joy. We still have Casey, who is almost 12 and we can tell he is feeling the loss himself. He was with Kayla from a puppy. We jokingly say that she raised him and did a hell of a good job!
His appetite was affected in the beginning and now it’s his behavior. He stays upstairs almost all the time, rarely spending time with us. If he had his choice, he wouldn’t go on walks especially in the afternoon. I’m making the assumption these are signs he misses his sister and needs 4-legged companionship that we just can’t provide. We may be part of his pack, but not the one’s he needs right now.
Well, two months after her death, we added that companion to our household. My husband and I had talked about getting another pup, but only when the time was right. Plus, we were in disagreement over getting an older dog or a puppy. Sure, he wanted a puppy, because he would get all the fun and no work. (As I write this, I have just gotten up 4 times to retrieve a ball that went under the couch and to take her out to the bathroom twice). But, for him, he was ready.
While I was debating where to get a new pet from as I work with multiple rescue groups, he had been looking on Petfinder for a few weeks without telling me. I was actually settling into an easy routine with Casey and not being stressed as I was when dealing with Kayla’s illness. I guess I needed a little break. But, he wanted to show me a rescue he found and while we were scrolling down the page, I saw this picture.
Honest to God that face…
So, he immediately picked up the phone and called the woman before I changed my mind. She called back and gave us all the details and a week later, we are new puppy parents! And she is a 4 month old dream and spitfire; full of the puppy crazies and super smart. But, my quiet life with Casey has certainly changed. I now am spending hours of my day focused on her and can’t quite come and go as I used to. I knew I’d be the care giver and the one responsible for her training and yes, I was right. My husband gets the puppy kisses and play time and I get all the rest…
As for Casey, well, I may have misread his cues a bit, but he has perked up and stays down with us much more than he did. And there have been no battles over toys, food, or sleeping arrangements.
So, how do you know when the time is right for getting another family pet? I think had it not been the right time for Carl, I would have waited a while longer. But, he forced me to act. The one thing I can say is that if you wait too long, you may get accustomed to a new routine and never jump back in. This is, however, an individual decision that I’ll talk about in upcoming posts. But, if having that pet in your house is as important to you as it is to me, getting that new pet might just help you mend that broken heart…