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Wheels Huffman – Guest Contributor
Jul 16 2013
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Hi! My name is Wheels. I am a Boston terrier. I am also a special contributor to BubbleLife.com. 

I have a story that I want to share with you. I hope it will help you or someone you know deal with the sadness of losing a beloved pet. 

A friend of my owner’s came to visit our home last week. She was very sad and upset  because her dog had died. That right there was enough to make her sad and upset, but she was also upset because someone said to her, “the dog was old; it was for the best.”

“For the best?” I can’t think of one good thing about losing me.

My owner’s friend went on to say that another person had advised her to “pull herself together” since, after all, it was just a dog. 

“Just a dog?” What does that mean?” I wondered. 

My owner buys me toys and special treats. She trims my nails and brushes my teeth. I ride in the car and sleep in the bed. She tells me everyday how much she loves me. I’m special! Anyone who says ‘just a dog’ is barking up the wrong tree in my backyard.

But this did get me thinking about when a pet dies. What should my owner do when I go to the Rainbow Bridge? She will miss me terribly. I am her family.

Together we read some books and talked to other people. We came up with some ideas that might help get through the sadness and on to the happy memories of the life shared with someone special, someone like me —Wheels

Dogs live an average of 12.8 years; cats 15. Odds are that people who have pets will likely suffer losing them. 

Losing a pet can be devastating. Pets become family members to many people, and when they die, grieving for them is real. Grieving any loss is an individual process, and the time it takes for healing to begin is different depending upon the person.

Remember, it is okay to cry and to grieve for a lost pet. 

During this period, try to surround yourself with family and friends who share a love of animals and sympathize with your sadness. Avoid sharing your loss with those who do not understand the relationship between people and pets. Although they have no intention of being callous, they simply may be unable to relate to your pain.

Often memorializing the pet brings comfort. Saffie Farris, publisher of BubbleLife.com, shared a tradition that her family honors when a pet dies. “We take the old collar and dog tags and put them on the Christmas tree so that each year we remember what a great pet we had," she said.

For children who have no understanding of death itself, the loss can be frightening as well as heartbreaking. Corinne Demas, author of “Saying Good-bye to Lulu,” said “I’ve found that writing about loss is one of the best ways to begin the healing process. Many children have shown me their own stories and poems about pets and people whom they’ve lost. Others have expressed themselves through art, while some children take comfort in simply sharing their feelings with a sensitive listener.” She added that if children are very young, writing stories and drawing pictures is a project the family can do together. 

If you have a friend or loved one who has lost a pet, here are some tips you might keep in mind:

  • Acknowledge their grief and tell them you are sorry for their loss.  
  • Send them a card. Greeting card stores and pet shops have a line of sympathy cards designed especially for the loss of a pet. 
  • Offer to take them out to lunch or share a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. They will be lonely and will probably appreciate your company.

A memorial donation to a pet charity is a way to help other animals who are in need and a gesture that lets the grieving pet owner know how much you care. 

There are a number of books available that deal with losing a pet. Some are written for pet owners of any age, while others especially for children. If you have children and pets, having one or two of the following books on hand may be a good idea.

“Dog Heaven” by Cynthia Rylant

“I’ll Always Love You” by Hans Wilheim

“Paw Prints in the Sky” by Warren Hanson

“Saying Good-bye to Lulu” by Corinne Demas 

“The Tenth Good Thing About Barney” by Judith Viorst

People and their pets form a very strong bond. The joy they bring to our lives is all that can make up for the sorrow of losing them.

Shelia Huffman is a columnist for BubbleLife Media. She has worked with various animal protection organizations and headed up a local chapter of the Canadian-based Kindness Club, an organization designed to teach kindness to animals to young children.