Losing a Pet

29 Apr Losing a Pet

I was exhausted and had never lost a pet so when my husband’s ex-girlfriend called late one night to say, “My dog died,” I quickly told her I’d put Martin on the phone. I thought she was being overly dramatic, which is what she did best. It wasn’t until our 11 year-old shaggy dog died that I got it. Staring at the remaining kibble, the leashes and her little red raincoat, I was devastated. According to an article published in the journal Society & Animals in 2002, the death of a companion animal can be as devastating as the loss of a human significant other.

A dog never says, “Why did you do that?” Mine didn’t seem to care if I put on weight, neglected to wear make-up or said something I shouldn’t have. She’d claimed a spot in our bed and in our lives. When she was gone, I realized how large a part she’d played, there when we got up and pretty much always. We’d chosen dog-friendly hotels so we could bring her alone on vacations. There are pictures of her biking and boating with us. A study in the Journal of Mental Health Counseling found that dog owners placed their pet as close as their closest family member.

Z.C. was calm and serene. But, like me, she couldn’t ignore food. That’s why I’d learned not to leave food on the coffee table, knowing she would treat it as her own buffet. We were confounded one night to come home and be greeted by the stuffing of our couch everywhere. Seeing that part of the baguette that had been on kitchen counter was n the couch, we figured out that she’d somehow managed to get it and then buried it and clawed at the pillows. Recovering the couch was costly, but you do forgive to the degree you love.

Living in New York, I was always coming across people walking dogs. Weeks after we’d lost ours, I saw a guy with a black and white Tibetan Terrier that looked remarkably like ours. Racing to catch up, I called out, “Can I play with your dog.” I expected he would understand when I explained my situation so was surprised that he yanked at the leash and quickened his pace.

Struggling with how to cope with the grief, I decided to make a picture of Z.C. my screensaver. Looking at her brought a smile to my face. For a time, I went online and read postings on Rainbow Bridge and other sites where pets were being remembered. She wasn’t the smartest animal, but none could have been sweeter (Z.C. is sweet in Yiddish) or more loving. When I regained some composure and felt ready to start healing, I assembled pictures we had and covered a glass vase with pique assiette mosaic to honor the pet who’d always been there for us. It was the best I could do to keep her around. Because her coat had been black and white, those were the colors I chose for special remembrance.