How to Deal with the Loss of a Pet
** This post was initially written in 2015, however it has been updated here and there as I’ve received many kind messages regarding how much it has helped.
This is not something I wanted to write any time soon…but as I was sitting here, the first workday without my bestie, I thought maybe it would help myself, as well as others who are going through the same thing.
Last week wasn’t the best of weeks/weekends for myself or my family. My (what I thought healthy) 12 year old Cashew, got pretty sick on Tuesday night as she started vomiting about every 3 hours. We took her to the vet Wednesday morning where he sent her home with some meds thinking it was possibly a stomach flu and told us to withhold food for 24 hours after her last vomit. She did well, took her meds, drank water like normal — when it was time for her to eat again, she wouldn’t. As in, she wouldn’t eat anything at all. None of her favorites interested her on Thursday or Friday morning; that’s when I knew something was wrong.
On Friday morning she went back to the vet where he did some blood work and x-rays which revealed she had liver cancer and after some discussion, he said there was nothing he could do. Her liver was twice the size as normal and there were other unexplained masses as well; basically, she’s wasn’t going to get better. The vet didn’t think she’d make it past the weekend, or if she would even made it through the night because her enzymes were so high which resulting in being at a high risk for seizing. She was just so tired and weak, but the vet said she wasn’t in any pain — her body just told her she was sick. So he told us to take her home and make a decision…in which, we decided to put her to sleep on Friday afternoon.
So needless to say, I miss my little Fluffernickel like crazy. She was a part of almost every day, for half my life. I don’t wish this pain upon anyone. The house is quiet, empty, and just different without that little white dog rubbing her nose all over the floor, asking for Scooby Snacks at night time, begging for some green peppers when cooking supper.
The hardest part? All these firsts without her. Sometimes it almost feels like she’s at PetSmart getting a haircut and she’ll be home in a couple of hours. Going to bed the first night without her was horrible because she had slept in my bed every night for the past 12 years…just snoring away.
The next hardest part? Cleaning up treats, dog food, toys, and her dog beds. Leaving the house wanting to say goodbye to her…then coming home and she wasn’t there to look in the bags I got. Realizing that I just bought a $25 PetSmart giftcard for her next grooming, knowing that I had to return a full bag of dog food back to Target and explain why…
I still get panicked seeing the backdoor open thinking she’s going to run out; I’m still leaving hall lights on so she can see to come down the steps (she had developed cataracts over the last year); and I freaked out this morning dropping a QTip thinking she was going to be right there to snatch it up to suck on it — she loved to suck on used tissues, socks, etc…that little booger.
None of this is easy, but I keep hoping that every day will get better and better. I do have to say, my eyes are tired from crying…
For someone to say that dogs are just animals is not true. Cashew was a part of my family for 12 years and to be honest, many times she almost seemed human due to the things she’d do, the emotions she’d have…as well as all her little quirks. She loved everyone, well almost everyone; and everyone loved her. They’d come over and know that she was here to greet them and possibly take her bear or lamb chop over to them to play with. She LOVED massages and back rubs…and yes, a tummy rub made everything better. And if you were lucky, she’d probably lick your toes if they were coated in lotion. She should never be remembered as just being a dog. My family and I talked to her all the time; we really had some serious conversations. She had seen a lot throughout the last 12 years and experienced a lot with us. We’d take her on short trips, buy her favorite cookies whenever we see then; we’d ever buy extra bell peppers at the grocery store because she loved them so much. She’d make myself and my family laugh each and every day with the silly and weird things she did (that she honestly didn’t find so funny). She never talked out-loud, but you always knew what she was thinking and really wanted to say if she could. She looked so cute with her little sweater on while going outside when it was cold out. And oh my did she find it annoying to put on those boots when it was negative degrees outside the last couple of winters. But she did it anyways.
Dogs, or any pet, are not just some animals that you take care of. They should be remembered as something special and that nothing can fill that void in your heart. I used to think that maybe I’d get another dog if something were to ever happen to her; but now I don’t know if I can because I know that dog won’t be Cashew…and I want Cashew back…not just some other dog. I don’t want to compare that dog to Cashew because she was one of a kind. So the first tip? NEVER try to replace that pet, because you can’t. It’s not fair to the new pet or even the pet who has passed. I even have this fear that I wouldn’t love that new pet as much as I loved my Cashew or that pet wouldn’t like the things that Cashew did and that it would frustrate me.
If your pet had those “special” spots in your home, maybe it’s time to put something else in it’s place so it doesn’t look so empty and bare. I had a dog bed under my desk in my office where she slept each day as I worked, and I had to put something else in it’s place because the spot just looked SO big and empty. I found a small stool that I put there to use as storage or even a seat when someone else comes in the room.
Find someone else who could use the supplies you had for your pet: leashes, dog beds, treats, food, etc. You can give them to a friend, donate them, etc. There’s no reason to just throw that stuff away…if your pet loved them, then someone else’s will as well.
Don’t let someone scare you into not crying and getting emotional over an “animal.” That pet was a part of you and your’s daily living. That pet deserves you to feel sad and to mourn his/her loss because you know they would do the same if something happened to you. They deserved to be remembered each day. I bought some picture frames and plan on printing off a favorite photo of Cashew to place on my desk, in my bedroom, and then somewhere in the house that I can see her — and don’t let someone else tell you that’s weird. It’s nice to remember the happy times you had with that pet just like any other situation. I took some of her favorite toys, washed them, and have them placed throughout the house in her favorite spots.
Don’t let someone say, “well he/she was old.” That’s not why Cashew isn’t here. Yes, she was old for a dog, but man was she pretty healthy for being a 12 year old Bichon. Just the day of her getting sick, we were playing with her favorite bear and I gave her the treats she loved… I didn’t make this decision because she was old, I made this decision for her so she wouldn’t have to experience pain due to her cancer. I made the decision so she would pass with the dignity and respect that she deserved and how we all remembered her. I said YEARS ago that I would never let her be in pain when this decision came just so I could hold on to her a little longer. She deserved better than that. Had she of not had cancer, she would still be here and I wouldn’t be writing this. Yes, Cashew did live a long and happy life, but to me, I feel like she had many more years to give if that cancer wouldn’t have been a factor.
“Every day will get easier.” Yes, it will, but it takes time. It’s not going to happen overnight, I get that. You have to get through all the “firsts” before you can begin to heal. And do you ever heal? I’m not sure. I just can hope wherever my princess is, she is being taken care of, being fed all kinds of green peppers and cookies, and is sucking on all kinds of yummy socks. Will we get to see her again? I don’t know, but I have faith that I will so I can give her another hug again.
A year later…
It’s been a whole year since I lost my Cashew and while it does get easier, I still don’t miss her any less. There has still been various days/moments where I get teary-eyed thinking about her, but it’s not nearly as often anymore. Now that a year has gone by, I can’t believe all that she’s missed. I think about her just about every day. Things I do throughout my day still remind me of her (including foods I eat), but still at night is when I miss her the most. 🙂 I miss that snuggle buddy in my bed each night and sometimes I feel like I can tell she misses me too. Some weird things have happened over the last year that makes me think…wait a minute, that’s not possible… As weird as it sounds, it’s totally true.
A few months ago my 1.5 year old nieces were here for a visit and they both pointed to Cashew’s favorite spot and yelled their word for dog. Obviously Cashew wasn’t there…no one was there…but yet, they yelled dog and only do this when they see a dog. I’ve had weird dreams where I don’t feel like I’m sleeping but yet, I feel like I see her close by. Some sounds I hear almost sound like her pitter-patter across the carpet as well as her whine throughout the house.
…like I said, weird stuff…but I’ll take it! 🙂
I’m still not ready for another dog in the house. I still feel like it’s too soon, but that’s my opinion. I have looked at dogs, researched breeds, but then I stop and move on to something else. Maybe some day I’ll be ready again, but for now, I’ll still enjoy the memories I have of that Fluffer!