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Monday, June 7, 2010

What Happens to Us at 'The End' ?


"My little dog ten years ago was arrogant and spry, but she was ten years younger then, and so, by God, was I. If natural law refused her wings, that law she would defy, for she could do unheard-of things, and so, at times, could I." 

- Ogden Nash

Today I was thinking about all of the ways dogs (my dogs, my friend's dogs, the dog community, etc.) have impacted my life.

While there are far more great memories, the fact remains that the hardest, the most painful, the most gut-wrenching and yes, the most debilitating lessons have been coming to terms with the end of the cycle of life - commonly called...(dramatic pause, clearing of throat)...umm...death...

Understandably, nobody likes to talk about 'The End' or loosing their beloved pet, but the fact remains that when you're in a relationship with dogs, life is forever stuck in fast-forward because their life-span is so much shorter than ours.

Just like you, I think that stinks, it's not fair and if pure love, inner strength and sheer force-of-will could change that outcome I'd have it bottled and be giving it away for free. Unfortunately, the lesson of 'The End' will come to all of us dog lovers. Sometimes it arrives in the form of a soft breeze and sometimes it arrives with the force of a pro-fighters' one-two punch that leaves you dazed, flat on the ground and unable to breath. 

So what do we do with that moment when it happens? How do we categorize it? How do we make sense of it? How do we balance emotions and facts? How do we deal...?

Having lost 3 dogs in the last 1.5 years for varying reasons, I can say with absolute confidence (accompanied by a big shrug of the shoulders) and a very loud - Hell if I know!

But, here IS what I do know (this assumes a healthy, stable person)*:
  • You WILL get through it. Life has a way of moving us forward even when it seems we're staring into a black hole.
  • The emotions will be intense and probably like nothing you've experienced before. Therefore...
  • * It's okay and recommended that you see someone to help guide you through the loss. They're your safety net and your voice of reason, let them take that responsibility so you can move through your emotions because...
  • There is no by-passing grief and there are no short-cuts. We all have to go through it and come out the other side.
  • Allow yourself the luxury of time to grieve. We take time to celebrate life (birthday's, weddings, etc.) so it's only natural we should take time to feel loss.
  • Above all else, it's okay to feel sad, to cry, to grieve. But it's also okay to feel love, joy and pleasure in other parts of your life.
  • Moving on with your life is not disrespecting who you've lost. It's taking what you've learned and the love received and applying it where needed. It IS okay to move on.
  • No, you will NEVER forgot them so don't ever be afraid that you will.
  • No, the emptiness and pain of the loss does not go away...ever. BUT, it does subside with time and just like all memories, is put in a box for safe keeping.
  • You don't have to talk about your loss if you don't want to. It's okay to say "I don't want to/can't talk about it." If the person doesn't take the hint, say 'Please, I need to change the subject. So how is XXXXX' If they still don't get it, excuse yourself and walk away. It's that simple.
So you may be asking yourself why I chose to write a blog on the emotions we experience when loosing a dog? Well, first it's a fact of life and I've been there. Second, in the last few months I've known two wonderful people who have lost their dog in the prime of their lives due to freak accidents. 

My heart goes out to them and I am very empathetic to their situation. I guess this is my way of saying (without bringing up the painful subject and intruding) that I'm so very sorry for your loss. I guess I just wanted them to know that I was thinking of them and wishing them strength. I don't know, I guess knowing that there is nothing I can do to ease their pain or make the situation better is frustrating and leaves me feeling empty too. I guess I just wanted them to know that they weren't alone.

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