Can losing a dog be more traumatic than losing a human family member? Should you really be feeling such intense grief when your dog dies? Losing a dog is every pet parent’s nightmare. We all understand on the day we bring a new dog home that someday in the near future, we’ll also be saying goodbye- dogs lives really aren’t that long. Yet we still give them our entire hearts.
According to ABC News, Research has confirmed that for most people, the loss of a dog is, in almost every way, comparable to the loss of a human loved one. Frank McAndrew recalls his recent experience with the excruciating decision to put his family dog to sleep. “I remember making eye contact with Murphy moments before she took her last breath — she flashed me a look that was an endearing blend of confusion and the reassurance that everyone was ok because we were both by her side.” That glimpse into the essence of a dog’s soul is often what makes it so hard to let them go.
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Our dogs ingrain themselves into every aspect of our lives. I’m betting you haven’t even used the bathroom completely alone recently, right? They’re there for intimate moments no one else sees. They are present in all the good times and the bad. Your dog is probably in most of the photos you take, because they’re always by your side. Dogs provide a steady stream of unconditional love we come to rely on to get through our days.
And once that stream is gone, it can affect us deeply. “The loss of a dog can also seriously disrupt an owner’s daily routine more profoundly than the loss of most friends and relatives,” according to McAndrew. The most private parts of your life are forever changed, more empty, once your dog leaves your life.
Plus, there are no set societal norms that help us grieve our pets. No funerals, no days off work, no time to adjust to life without your best friend. Sure, we say we’re sorry when we hear of someone losing a dog, but there’s no deep support when a dog dies. If you told someone you were going to grief counseling for the loss of your dog, they’d tell you you’re over reacting or being dramatic. It’s just a dog after all…
Except it’s not just a dog- it’s a piece of your heart. And you have every right to grieve deep and long and celebrate the time you had with them. Your life revolves around your dog. Their passing will take time and love to heal.
The truly wonderful thing about dog people is that no matter how great the hurt, we still choose to open our hearts time and again to another dog. Each dog deserves the deepest, fullest, love-filled life possible- for however long they’re here with us. So we keep on adopting new furry family members and celebrating their unique, short lives. Because dogs teach us how to love deeply and unconditionally like no other life lesson. And for that, we are grateful.
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