Growing up, I never really had a pet, as my family traveled a lot and didn’t really have the time or want to put in the responsibility.
Around my sophomore year, some family friends were moving, and asked if we could adopt their cat, Buddy, since they didn’t want to take him along. We thought about it, and reluctantly said yes. While we weren’t animal people, we still wanted to make sure he had a home.
It turns out it was the best cat we could have hoped for. He was insistent on sleeping on your lap, whether you were at a desk working or lounging on the couch. He had the best personality and most beautiful green eyes.
Unfortunately, after a couple of years, he developed cancer, and treatments were only going to prolong his suffering.
I’ll never forget driving to the hospital with his lifeless body in my arms. Buddy was very calm, as if he knew it was time to go. I remember saying goodbye, tears streaming down my face. And just like that, he was away in kitty heaven.
Until that moment, I never knew how hard it was to lose a pet. Since we have gotten Gant, we can’t imagine our lives without him. He is completely spoiled and pampered, but I couldn’t imagine treating him any other way.
While he is only three years old, I know we will be a huge wreck when it is his time to go to Doggy Heaven.
Pets are so much more than just an animal you walk and feed everyday. They can heal your wounds, lift you up on a bad day, bring people together, and teach us the value of unconditional love.
When a loved one passes, there are customary gestures and tasks you do to honor them. When a beloved pet passes away, usually you send your condolences, but what else can you do?
Here are my top ten tips for helping someone through the loss of a pet. I am not claiming these work for everyone, but I do find these gestures can bring great comfort to their human owners.
- Donate to an Animal Shelter. Did they adopt their beloved pet from a local rescue? If so, make a donation. Not only will you be honoring the memory, but you’ll contribute to saving the lives of hundreds of dogs who need and deserve a loving and safe home. Even better: volunteer! Play, walk, or help these dogs get noticed so they’ll find their perfect family. Warning: You may fall in love with a dog and want to adopt right away, but take your time in finding another pet, if that is something you are planning.
- Write a sympathy card. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right words, so let these dog sympathy cards help. Find a selection here.
- Get a custom portrait. Have a custom illustration made of Fido, just for them. Customize the background and text colors. One option here.
- Take a walk on your favorite trail. Did you and your furry guy have a favorite everyday walking trail? Take the family (or go by yourself) and enjoy the day in their honor. Talk about your favorite memories.
- Put a special sign or rock in the backyard. Order a custom headstone with their name and favorite quote, years alive, or anything else you’d like to include. Put the stone in a special place, so when you’re gardening or enjoying the sunset, you’ll see the stone and smile. Some options here.
- Have a quiet night in with friends or family. Let your support system be there for you. Scroll through your favorite photos and talk about favorite memories.
- Take the day off. If you’re able, take a personal day from work, or block out a weekend. Take time to grieve and reflect.
- Write in a journal. Find a quiet spot, take a pen, and just write what comes to mind. These are your private, personal thoughts to let out and help you heal.
- Talk to someone who has lost a pet. We support and talk to one another when we lose someone we love, why not do the same thing with the loss of a pet? I bet they’ll give you great advice.
- (Last, but not least) Remember how you gave your dog or cat a great life. As the saying goes, “A dog (or even a cat) is the only thing that loves you more than they love themselves”
Above photo: Gant’s favorite trail!
What are your favorite ways to cope with the loss? Sound off in the comments below.