Four paws and a grip on your heart (HLD 402)

5 May 2021

Within the space of twelve hours, two of my friends have lost their pet dogs.

It happens everywhere, everyday. Cats or dogs get run over, suffer from illnesses from which there is no miracle cure, or suffer traumatic injuries.

And die.

It’s an animal. It’s not like it’s your mum or dad, or your partner or child.

But it feels exactly like that.

If you’d asked me fifteen years ago whether I had suffered the death of a loved one, I would have blindly told you that while I had no grandparents any longer, both parents and in-laws were still with us and we had had no grief issues. We had been fortunate in that department.

Although we have had pets die. Some admittedly had less impact than others (I can’t begin to tell you of the number of fish we’ve had to bury). We have had two very significant birds in our family whose departure was felt hard, but it’s the cats and the dogs that have passed through our lives who’ve had the most impact.

These animals really become part of the family. I have a theory on why they become such an intrinsic part of the family – it’s the feeding. Where fish and birds (and rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and whatever other pets who’ve been owned by) get what they’re given in the food department, we know that cats and dogs have personalities, health issues, and are often just that bit more discerning about what they like to eat. And when they like to eat. And how much they like to eat.

Kind of like the human children, really.

Our lives as pet owners revolves around either feeding our cats and dogs, exercising them or mentally stimulating them, cleaning up after them, and making sure all their needs are catered for. They cost us a lot of money, but the trade off for this is…

Unconditional love.

To your pet, you are their rock, their world. Whether it’s in the frantic welcome home greeting, or the subtle purring when cuddled up on the couch, they let you know how much you mean to them.

Which is why it hurts so much when you can’t fix some problems. For a dog or a cat that you have gone through every different sort of food option there is available, until they were happy, that you have waded through vet bills and medication that almost broke the bank, that you have hauled your butt out of a warm cosy bed at some ungodly hour of the morning to exercise… when you can’t fix it, it really really hurts.

The grief of losing a pet is a real one, and a form of grief understood instinctively by other pet owners. The rest of the world may say “Oh dear, that’s so sad. Are you getting another one?”, but we understand that there will be many days ahead for a family in Tasmania and a family in South Perth, spent holding tightly to physical reminders of their much loved, and recently lost, family members.

Rest in peace, Beau and Marley.

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