GRANGEVILLE -- July 23, 2018 will forever be etched in my mind. It’s the day our beloved dog, Scout, was run over and killed. To make matters worse for me, I was the one who let her out and wasn’t watching her.
I have never been so distraught in my life. Scout was 4 years old and had been with us through college and high school graduations, the death of my mom, a car accident, and a variety of life-changing events. She was funny and sweet and the best little retriever. She was our companion and life will never be the same without her.
People who love animals have all dealt with loss. We generally outlive our pets. They are more to us than pets, however, they are members of our families.
A May 2018 Scientific American article reads, “Losing a beloved pet is often an emotionally devastating experience. Yet as a society, we do not recognize how painful pet loss can be and how much it can impair our emotional and physical health. Symptoms of acute grief after the loss of a pet can last from one to two months, with symptoms of grief persisting up to a full year (on average). The New England Journal of Medicine reported in October 2017 that after her dog died, a woman experienced ‘broken heart syndrome’—a condition in which the response to grief is so severe the person exhibits symptoms that mimic a heart attack, including elevated hormone levels that can be 30 times greater than normal.”
It is no wonder the loss can leave us devastated and nearly unable to cope with daily life for at least a time.
Some of our Free Press readers share their stories of a special pet:
“We lost our pup of 11 years in December when we had to have him euthanized. He was a Dachshund. This pup was the dog we had from the time our oldest son was a baby...he grew up with our kids and was a great companion to them for the years they had him. His name was Marley -- we named him after Bob Marley because when he was a baby, his long ears were the biggest thing on him...and they looked like Bob Marley’s dreadlocks!” – Apryl Farmer
“It's been almost five years since we lost Duke. He came into our lives from another family -- he wasn't a puppy by any means. He was the most social little guy. He loved going to work with me at the video store. He greeted everyone who walked through the door. But he loved me. I was his human. He got hit by a truck out on the highway. I remember having to carry him back to the house. On that day my whole family grieved. I was sick and didn’t eat, didn’t get out of bed for a week. I just cried. Even though we had another dog, and we have had Rocky since he was a pup, we loved Duke just as much. I guess he was meant to come into our lives even for the five short months we had him. We got Jack a few months later. He was a puppy, and a brat, just ask Rocky ... lol. Even though to this day I still miss Duke, I couldn’t imagine not having my little Jack Jack.” – Belinda Woods
“I had to put my Jeta down two years ago after her surgery was unsuccessful. She was almost 12. She had a rectal prolapse and surgery, but then relapsed. Crying like a baby, I held her, and talked to her while she was put to forever sleep and I felt like someone ripped part of my heart out. I never realized how much I loved her or how much losing her would affect me. We got her when Kolten was 4 and thought she'd be a great pet for him, but she turned out to be more like my baby girl. She even slept with me. We took her to our cabin and buried her. Kolten welded her a beautiful cross out of horseshoes. I painted her name and dates on a rock, too. I still go sit and talk to her and shed some tears each time I go to the cabin. I keep her dog tags beside my bed. Now that Kolten has graduated from high school, my house feels really big and empty and I think about getting another Pom, but it'll never be the same as my Jeta.” – Sharon Key
“I got my lab Cupid when I was 14. She went everywhere with me. She was even in my senior pictures with me. When I was 19, she got hit by a car and had to have one of her hind legs amputated. After her recovery, you'd never have known she was three-legged. She ran, jumped, swam and chased things just like she did before she got hit by the car. She was smart, loyal, funny and sweet, very protective of our kids. But she grew older and started to slow down and didn't enjoy the winter months like she used to... and then, one day when sweet Cupid was 14, my daughter called me at work, in a panic saying there was something wrong with Cupid...she was asleep, but she was running and barking and foaming at the mouth. I ran home, but when I got home she was fine.... panting a little, but fine. So that Sunday night, just as the hubby and I were getting ready for bed, Cupid jumped up and started flopping on the floor. Her mouth was flapping and foaming, and she was running. She was having a seizure. It was terrifying. My husband got down on the floor with her and held her and talked to her while I called every vet in the area. She came out of it and hopped in circles by my chair, blind and disoriented. We took her to the vet, hoping for an easy fix. He told us then that it was likely that she had been having the seizures for a while, and that since this one had made her blind, who was to tell what the next one would bring. She also had cancerous spots on her body. He said the kindest thing for her would be to put her to sleep. So, we did. We stayed there with her and loved on her until she breathed her last breath. It was awful. That was the first time I had seen my husband cry. So, we went home, without our Cupid. The next morning was the worst. My kids came upstairs and asked where she was. And we had to tell them what happened. So, my husband and kids stayed home from school and work. That was the first pet that I ever lost.” – Jen Huntley
“Lizzy came into my life in 2001 in a bar. She became my best friend. We went through a lot together. She literally was the best dog I've ever known. She passed in March 2017. I was devastated. I still don't have a dog of my own because I know she is irreplaceable.” – Tara Wolfinger
“How does a person recover from the loss of what we consider a family member? Tyson was a purebred German Shepherd I adopted from a rescue facility in Billings, Mont., on Jan. 1, 2003. To many, Tyson was just a dog, but to me he was a treasured part of my life. In December 2012 I sadly had to make the hard decision to free him from his pain. I was devastated. I had him cremated and buried in our front yard by our windmill. We surrounded his grave with rocks we gathered from his favorite swimming spot. Some of the rocks were actually ones he had hidden behind bushes so he would have them to play with next time he was there. We had a service for him and I read a fitting memorial. It was 16 months later before I got Mandy, my current German Shepherd. I just knew I would never be able to replace Tyson. But as time passes we realize our love for our special pet who is gone is not made less by getting a different companion, just different. Mandy is not Tyson, she is her own fun, adoring and gorgeous fur ball of love. Memories of Tyson don't fade. Every time I look at his grave I am reminded of the unconditional love he gave me.
But my suggestion to anyone who loses a loved pet is to not wait. Too many animals are euthanized for lack of a home. Fill your home and heart with love for a different special new family member.” – Cheryle Miller
I can relate to every one of these stories. When Scout died, I couldn’t eat for five days. I forced myself to sleep, but I didn’t want to do much else except cry.
Because my husband and daughters were worried about me, they went through a lot to find a little chiweenie (that’s what my Scouty girl was) and bring him home to me. In the midst of my grief I did not think I wanted another dog. Now I know, no other dog will ever replace Scout. But love isn’t divisible. Little Crockett will soon be 9 months old and he is his own funny little bucket of energy.
Scout is buried under the windmill in our front yard and I think of her often and still shed tears over her memory. I miss her. In her honor, we built a fence, so Crockett (and our 15-year-old Pom, Gus) is safe. All the what-ifs and should-have-beens still haunt me sometimes, but I have had to let go of those so I can love Crockett. He found a mama and daddy who love him and he, in turn, gives that unconditional love that only a dog can.
The Scientific American article goes on to say, “Studies have found that social support is a crucial ingredient in recovering from grief of all kinds. Thus, we are not only robbed of invaluable support systems when our pet dies, but our own perceptions of our emotional responses are likely to add an extra layer of distress. We may feel embarrassed and even ashamed about the severity of the heartbreak we feel and, consequently, hesitate to disclose our feelings to our loved ones. That additional shame complicates the process of recovery by making it more lengthy and complex than it should be.”
Sharing the stories of the pets we have loved and cherished is a way to help understand and express our grief and treasure the memories of life’s great loves. Keep sharing, keep remembering, and keep loving those pets.