How To Cope With The Loss of A Dog
I have honestly dreaded this moment for fifteen years. It is the one drawback of being a dog mom. Sooner or later, all of us know we are going to have to say goodbye. And now that this time has arrived for Coco, I can honestly say it's never enough time. One is never ready for the death of a pet.
So how does one cope with losing such a beloved family member? I'm certainly not an expert. I'm still struggling with Coco's absence myself. But I can share my experience and what has helped me in the hopes that I can help other dog moms get through this difficult period.
There's No Wrong Way To Grieve
What's important to remember is that there is no wrong way to deal with the emptiness left behind when a fur baby passes. My emotions remained raw for a long while afterwards; in fact they still are. I cry uncontrollably during mundane tasks like feeding or walking Paris. Or whenever I round a corner to find Paris staring at the spot where Coco loved to nap in the afternoon.
For some dog moms, they immediately remove all of their beloved dog's possessions from the home because the reminders are too painful. For others, they cannot bring themselves to remove not even one toy let alone the dog bed or food bowls.
My first bit of advice is to do what you need to do in order to be able to be comfortable in your home. Things are going to feel very odd for a long time as you adjust to life without your pet. So it's important to remove any triggers which may make things harder for you.
For me, since I now work from home due to Covid-19, the silence in the house had become suffocating. I hadn't realized how much I loved the background noise of Coco and Paris padding through the house together or having the occasional squabble in the kitchen while I worked.
It's going to take time to discover what you can and cannot deal with. So be patient with yourself and honest about your feelings.
Fellow Dog Mom Support
It can be hard for non-dog people to relate to what you are going through. So it's important to be able to talk about your emotions with other pet parents. I'd even go so far as to say you should have at least one pet parent best friend (PPBF).
Having that type of support has been crucial for me. During what would become Coco's last vet visit, at one point I actually had to call my PPBF. I had become so emotionally distraught I was having a hard time understanding what my vet was telling me. So I called my fellow dog mom for support to help me during those difficult moments. Because of our decade long friendship, I knew she would understand exactly what I was going through and be able to give me the help I needed.
Build A Trusted Relationship With Your Vet
Coco had gone to the same veterinarian for 13 years. She and her staff loved him just as much as I did. They had watched him grow and develop his spicy little attitude, helped us through upset tummies and his life-long heart murmur, and had administered his ole man senior dog check-ups (yes, that is a thing so be sure to discuss with your vet when your fur baby should start receiving them).
By having such a trusted relationship with Coco's doctors for so many years, this helped me to be able to be confident that they were giving me as much information as possible regarding his condition.
While your veterinarian will never tell you what to do when you are facing an end of life decision, they will try very hard to impartially give you all the information you need so that you can make an informed decision.
What you will want to also consider is the quality of life for your pet as well as your own due diligence to make sure you've done everything you possibly can to treat your pet's condition/injury.
I am so thankful for the wonderful relationship, support and counsel of Coco's veterinarian throughout his whole life; including that final visit.
In addition to the above, I'd be remiss not to mention the advice from my younger brother and fellow pet parent. He checked on me regularly and pushed me to be sure that I actually left the house every day to get some outdoor exercise. He said it was really important to my emotional health, and Paris', to get outside. And he was right.
If you have more than one dog like me, it's important to make sure you don't allow your grief to cause you to neglect your other fur child -- after all they are grieving too. Being sure to keep up Paris' routine and get us both outside into the sunshine definitely did wonders for our emotional state. It was hard at first to take our strolls without Coco, but now we both greatly look forward to that time together.
Losing a pet is never easy. One is never ready. So take all the photos and videos with them you can. Have wonderful adventures together and give them the best cuddles at night. Because no matter how long you have with them, when that time is up you realize it's never enough time.