Our dog of 10 years recently died. I didn’t realize the impact of a death of a pet would have on me and my family. Granted, this is the first death of a pet. My parents and my wife’s parents both had family pets that passed away when we were growing up. But, its not the same as having your own pet pass away.
I remember another family talked about the death of a pet and how hard it has been for them. We let them know how sorry we were for their loss. But, I only now understand the major impact emotionally the death of a pet has on everyone in the family.
Our dog was diagnosed with Cushing’s (cancer) syndrone about a year ago. She was taking medication but it appeared that her condition continued to slowly progress and worsen despite the medication. On Christmas day our dog started having a hard time breathing, so we took her to a veterinarian emergency room. They prescribed some medication. A couple of days later, we took her to our primary veterinarian and he prescribed some additional medication. But, by Saturday night our dog had passed away. We decided to cremate our dog. So, we took her body to the veterinarian to be cremated and planed to save the ashes. We let the kids come along to the veterinarian’s office to say goodbye.
Because this was our first pet to ever pass away, it hit us pretty hard emotionally. I was really surprised about how painful it was to me and the grieving that I felt afterward. I feel sudden waves of grief and I believe that I’ll probably continue to feel that way in the future. My wife felt the same way.
Our young kids also had a very hard time with our dog’s passing. They cried a lot and asked many questions about death and heaven. We let our kids know that our dog will be waiting for us in heaven when we pass away. Our kids created a shrine in our living room. It featured their drawn pictures, hand written notes, our dog’s leash and her harness. I made a collage of our dog in Photoshop and placed it at the kids’ shrine. I also made a short video using pictures and videos that I had accumulated over the years. I believe these things helped make my wife and kids feel a little better.
My wife told my middle daughter that if she wanted to know how our dog was doing in heaven that she could write a note to the tooth fairy. So, my daughter wrote a note to the tooth fairy. When my daughter woke up in the morning, the tooth fairy had left a note letting her know that our dog was enjoying herself in heaven. This, along with the shrine (notes and drawings) has made the kids feel better. Our youngest, a boy, continues to say he misses our dog and sometimes asks when the dog is coming back. Our daughters still cry at night saying the miss our dog.
I’m not sure when my family and I will feel somewhat normal again, we shall see.