Losing a Furry Friend
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. ” – Anatole France
We Americans adore our pets. We see them as treasured members of the family and treat them accordingly (right, Gizmo and Petey?). We name them after characters in movies, take them on family vacations, and even dress them up on Halloween.
To love and be loved by an animal is arguably one of the great pleasures of life. Yet, for all the ways we are enriched by sharing our lives with animals, “It is a fearful thing to love what death can touch.” – Anonymous. Of course, we know full well on the day we first choose to adopt that ferret or guinea pig (miss you, Pinky) or stray dog or cat, that our new friend will die in the not too distant future. We will feed them and house them and care for them for as long as their lifespan allows. In exchange, we will receive unconditional love, companionship, loyalty, thousands of hours of amusement, kisses, mischief, chaos and fun.
I tend to talk to my pets…a lot. I find that they are patient and careful listeners. If I want to watch reruns on TV, they watch too. Napping? They’re totally on board with that. Cooking? They love to “help.” My sister calls her dog “little hoover,” because she immediately cleans the kitchen floor when food is dropped. My cat Gizmo is an expert thief. She has what I call raccoon hands. She spends her days (while I’m away at work) stealing items from around the house and putting them in her not-so-secret hiding spot, the far corner of the dining room. Adorable.
Animals can be such a comfort and a delight. Sadly, those of us who can’t imagine a home that doesn’t include pets have to live with a harsh reality: to have pets is to lose them. Just like us, they can get sick and die. The loss of a beloved family pet can be so difficult and painful, especially for children. Often, the death of a pet can be a child’s first experience of death and dying. Fortunately, there are many good books for children on the subject of losing a pet that have proven helpful for grieving adults as well. They include: Cat Heaven and Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant (Christian themed) and Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen.
I believe that animals find it very easy to love their people. They teach us to be in the moment, curious and ready. They don’t worry or regret. It’s devastating to lose access to that kind of purity and wonder…and love. I like to think that the following quote describes how our pets who’ve passed on would like us to remember them. “Grieve not, nor speak of me with tears, but laugh and talk of me as if I were beside you..I loved you so- ’twas Heaven here with you.” – Isla Paschal Richardson. If you or your child is having difficulty with grieving the loss of a pet or family member, please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our Orlando mental health counselors.