As animal lovers, we often grieve for our pets much as we might grieve for human family members who have died.
We know it seems silly to some people. After all, it was “just a dog.” (Or “just a cat,” “just a hamster,” etc.)
But when it involves a living, feeling, loving creature, it isn’t silly at all: Their roles in our lives may be different, and the years we share may be shorter, but the love we give our animal family members and the love they give us are no less real. We miss their nuzzling or purring or playfulness in some of the same ways we miss a human loved one’s words and touch and eye contact. We miss walking the neighborhood together, the tug-of-wars over sticks, being the designated nap lap, the satisfaction of earning that trusting purr.
And their abbreviated lifespans only mean the tearful goodbyes are more frequent.
Some people will never understand that, and that’s OK. Not everyone’s wired the same. But when we lose a pet, we need the company of those who DO understand and who’ll help us grieve.
We need people who can listen to our stories and share our tears without thinking we’re crazy for loving an animal so much.
Such people are not hard to find: They’re other animal lovers. We run into them at pet stores, at veterinary clinics, at dog parks, at animal shelters, and probably on a sidewalk in our neighborhood.
Just as in the loss of a human loved one, we may have to reach out to more than one person to find the most kindred heart. But it’s worth the effort to find that sympathetic person. And when it’s someone else’s turn to grieve the loss of a pet, it’s worth the effort to be that sympathetic person.
Because when a beloved pet dies, it wasn’t “just an animal.”