Growing up, getting married and having a family is the universal dream for most people. Soccer moms, dad and son day at the ballpark, family vacations….who doesn’t want that right?
Well, there are a growing number of adults who are foregoing the “ideal” family and devoting their lives to adopting, loving, rearing, and spoiling pets just as they would a human child. Whether they opt to remain single and fill the house with fur babies or their human children are long gone with lives of their own, this special group of people love and cherish the animals who share their lives just like genetic members. So, when they pass away, the sorrow and grief can be just as intense. For those who don’t understand this special bond, it may be hard to show proper sympathy or compassion during this time.
Why shouldn’t we love Fido or Jinxy just as much as a sister, brother or offspring? Pets give unconditional love and only ask for minimal payback – feed me, keep me warm and safe, pet me. They forgive us when we mess up, don’t hold grudges, protect us, and clean up the crumbs we drop on the floor. Doctors have long touted the benefits of owning pets. They lower our blood pressure, reduce stress levels, calm a nervous mind, make us laugh and smile, and can soften even the hardest soul. This becomes especially beneficial to those who have been traumatized, suffer from mental or physical disabilities, or are not socially integrated. The elderly, who are often abandoned by children and isolated from friends, benefit greatly from animal companionship.
With the loss of a much-loved pet comes pain, suffering, sense of loss, and grief. Actually, such a strong connection can affect both the animal and the human. There are legendary tales of dogs who have lost their owners and simply died from broken hearts. People who have never experienced this amazing relationship should remember this devastating blow is real and the depth of despair can be deep. Comments like “why don’t you just get another kitty/puppy?” are insulting during the recovery. Would you tell someone who just lost their baby to “just make another one”? They didn’t lose their favorite pair of shoes….they lost their constant companion, only friend, soulmate. So, if you know someone who has recently lost a pet - have sympathy, show love, be understanding, and try to support them. Let them grieve, let them cry, and let them tell you their “stories” about Fido, no matter how many times it takes. Remember, their hearts are broken and they are looking for ways to heal. And if you are someone who is healing from a recent loss, do not feel guilty, ashamed, or embarrassed that you weep for your fuzz child. Be proud that you were blessed to have been loved by such as special animal.
Dedicated to Doris Strum and Gizzy.