Immediately following the death of our dog, Zoe, we took respite at a local restaurant. We couldn’t bear to face the emptiness of our dog-less home.
We weren’t hungry, and reassured the server that our tears and poor intake were not from dissatisfaction with the food. She said she had recently made the gut-wrenching decision to re-home her dog, and understood our pain.
The lesson for us was not to hold back tears, and if you share your story others will share theirs.
I wrote about Zoe the day before she died during those interminable hours leading to her euthanasia. I wrote between sobs the next day, while we were cloistered in our home with broken hearts.
I thought I’d delay posting the piece as it seemed too soon and too raw. And then it seemed like I had to, because it was so soon and so raw.
Little did we know when I clicked ‘publish’ how many would read Zoe’s story, and respond by sharing empathy and comfort.
Many expressed feelings of sorrow over their own decision to end a pet’s life, or anguish over a decision looming in the near future.
No one said, “She was just a dog. Get over it.”
We read stories about Bruno, Daisy, Clara, Ranger, Monty, Boots, Zoe, Zoey, Rebel, Buster, Willy, Barney, Max, Emma, Bruin, Calvin, Winston, Alley, Boots, Digitalis, Zack, Chelsea, Ethel, Snookie, Benii, Emma, Roxie, Susie, Abby, Maggie, Rex, Molly, Cali and Shelby.
Some lived full lives; others cut short from tragic accidents or illnesses.
Here is a sampling from dozens of comments:
- My heart goes out to you. We went through this same thing 3 months ago….4 years ago….last week….when we said goodbye to our beloved dog….cat.
- I didn’t know how much my dog had become the fabric of my life…until he was gone.
- I’ve held two of my dogs as they took their last breaths. Wrenching, but I take comfort believing they left this world knowing they were loved.
- I had to put down my dog the day before he turned 14 years old. It was one of the saddest days in my life….Due to health issues I have decided I cannot care for another pet
- I read your blog to my husband and we both cried, as much for you and your family as it was for us dealing with our loss….thank you for putting our feelings into words when we couldn’t.
- It was horrible to see our dog go downhill…and it was a different horrible to have her gone.
- Dogs are so loyal and full of love….wishing you peace in the days ahead and little bittersweet reminders of the four-legged friend that stole your heart: puppy collars from smaller days, dog hair on the furniture, and paw prints on your heart.
One writer shared these lessons from her experience of loving and owning 11 dogs:
- Life is fleeting – bark when you feel like singing and wag more.
- If it’s stinky, roll in it (I learned it, but I don’t do it!)
- If dogs lived as long as we do, the number of dogs we could have would be limited. This way, we get to enjoy many more.
- They would probably do it for us, if they could.
- Nothing snaps you out of mourning faster than a puppy peeing on the floor.
- They are all waiting patiently for us to arrive wherever they are now.
People suggested ways to keep Zoe’s memory alive:
- Create a photo album to remind us of the good times
- Have a photo Christmas ornament made
- Put a memorial in the yard, either a stone or a marker
- Get another puppy….same breed if possible. Won’t be a clone, but enough similar characteristics that Zoe will clearly be with us
- Have a pet portrait done by a local artist
- Give a donation in her memory to the Humane Society
- Have a temporary memorial in the house with her photo and some of her favorite items
Humor helps me cope, and these jokes popped into my brain for some comic relief:
- I thought I was doing fine with our loss, until Patrick caught me drinking wine out of the dog dish. Just kidding. It was gin.
- Patrick was startled when I woke him up this morning. Turns out my breath made him think Zoe was back.
When I put together Zoe’s photo/memory book I will include this verse a reader shared. He said it helped him cope when he lost his pug, and it has been a great comfort to us:
“We who choose to surround ourselves
with lives even more temporary than our
own, live within a fragile circle;
easily and often breached.
Unable to accept its awful gaps,
we would still live no other way.
We cherish memory as the only
certain immortality, never fully
understanding the necessary plan.”
Thank you for reading Zoe’s story and showering us with condolences and compassion. We hope her story can help someone else suffering through this experience.
We haven’t signed up for a new puppy yet, but we’ve stopped saying ‘never again.’
Have you shared your story about losing a beloved pet? Do you need to?