“You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.” – Harry S. Truman
“The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs.” – Charles de Gaulle
“The more I know about people, the better I like my dog.” – Mark Twain
Quotations abound describing the relationship that can exist between man and dog. For many people, their pet is the one who makes it worthwhile to come home from work each day. Their pet is always glad to see them, doesn’t accuse them for being late, doesn’t complain about having the same thing for dinner every night, and lets them watch whatever they want on T.V. For many, their pet is the only other living thing in the house, and without that pet, the house would be a very lonely place.
But what do you do when your beloved friend dies? How do you handle the loneliness? Who can you talk to? You’re afraid your friends will laugh at your or, at the very least, think you’re being ridiculous.
According to Dictionary.com, the number one definition of grief is “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.”
Generally we think of grief or suffering loss in relation to a human entity – a father, mother, sibling, good friend. What many don’t realize, especially those who have never had the companionship of an animal, is that people also suffer grief over the loss of a pet. This type of grief can be hard to understand for people who have never experienced it. They may say you’re being foolish, or at least make you feel like that’s what they’re thinking. They may try to console you with remarks like, “You can always go and get another pet,” or “Now you won’t be so tied down,” or “It was just a dog (or cat, or bird, or whatever the case may be).”
As painful as these remarks may be, try to keep in mind that these people are the unfortunate ones, really. They have missed out on one of life’s most beautiful privileges, that of having a bond with a creature that is not of the human species.
Perhaps as more and more people understand the depth of grief that is felt by someone who has lost a beloved pet, more opportunities will arise for grief counseling and pet loss support groups. Grieving the loss of a pet should hold the same importance of losing any loved one, and the grieving person(s) should not be made to feel ashamed or embarrassed.
Programs available in the Saint Louis area:
~The Humane Society of Missouri on Macklind Avenue offers a monthly evening pet loss support group for those that have experienced the loss of a pet (any manner of loss) or are anticipating the loss. They also have available packets of information for coping with pet loss.
~Baue Funeral Home, St. Charles, offers help through their Grief Support services for those who have lost pets. http://www.bauepets.com/
~Heartland Pet Cremation in St. Louis, www.heartlandpetcremation.com, offers a Pet Loss Counselor, by phone, as well as online resources for dealing with pet loss.