Grieving the Loss of a Loving Companion

Meaningful Matters - Eastbourne Herald

Just recently I faced one of most heart-breaking decisions of my life. I had to call the emergency vet out to end the suffering of my terminally ill dog.

It might be hard for some folks to comprehend the overwhelmingly painful impact that such a death can have on those suffering this loss. Many people will be unable to understand that the death of an animal can be every bit (sometimes more) as devastating as the grief experienced by human bereavement.

Sadness, anger, guilt and grief are all natural reactions to death. Allowing yourself to feel whatever you feel without the fear of being judged because ‘it’s only an animal’ is really important. If you find that your friends and family are unable to empathise with the depth of your grief then find someone you can talk to that does ‘get it’.

When TV presenter Ben Fogle wrote an article about his incredible pain at the loss of his dog Inca he received the biggest response ever. Ben said that he knows that one day, there will be another dog. Not a replacement, for nothing could replace Inca. Although I never want to experience another day like when I lost Inca, but I know I will. We go ahead, knowing that we will likely outlive our pets and that all this will happen again; grief is the price we pay for love.

Politician Roy Hattersley and his beloved dog Buster were inseparable for 15 years. Then the day came when he had to make that inevitable fatal phone call, the vet arrived within the hour. He said that nothing had ever caused him as much pain as Buster’s death, more painful than losing his mother. I didn’t live with my mother; I didn’t put out her breakfast in the morning or walk her in the evening. She didn’t sleep in a basket in my bedroom. Buster left a permanent legacy; do not underestimate what a dog can do.

Some of you old enough to remember former Blue Peter presenter, John Noakes, may also remember that in 1987 he found himself choking back tears on live television as he tried to tell viewers that Shep, his border collie, had died. He said “he was my everything; he was like my child. He was by my side, day and night, for 12 years. How many humans could you say that about?”

There are many ways of honouring your pet and one way is by giving them the respectful and worthy tribute of a funeral. A funeral can provide the opportunity to say good-bye and to openly express the love you shared. Pet burials and memorials have existed for a long time; records of them exist as far back as the B.C. years. Ancient Egypt took the task of honouring their deceased pets very seriously. If a funeral is not wanted or even an option then there are many other ways to honour your pet. Planting a tree in their memory is favoured by many; a relative of mine planted a white blossom tree that comes into bloom during the month that her dog (named Blossom) died. We are as unique as our animal companions and our way of both celebrating and mourning their loss needs to be respected even if not understood.