Witnessing dog lover heartbreak
As anyone who loves dogs knows by allowing this love into our lives, we also allow heartbreak into our lives. This is a lesson my wife and I have become all too familiar with over the last several years. There is nothing that can be done about this other than to have compassion and empathy for all those we know who experience this heartbreak and to help them celebrate the joys that these majestic creatures have brought into our lives.
Dealing with the stress and heartache on a personal level is challenging. We become overwrought and have a difficult time dealing with normal life. It is a feeling that can be lonely at times. A person’s connection with their dog is a singular event. No one else knows what that is like.
When a person passes, we have funerals, wakes, and other traditional mourning services. Friends and family surround us and offer condolences. They help lift us up and support us. They help us focus on the joys we experienced with our loved one. It is a very different experience for the loss of a dog. We experience their death alone at the vet’s office or at home. We grieve privately in our homes because not everyone understands that special connection we have with our dogs that create such grief. I think social networks like Facebook can be a big help with this. It allows us to connect with like-minded people who feel this same connection to their dogs and we can receive support and condolences from these people.
I have been very fortunate in my life to know personally many people who care deeply for animals and understand the amount of heartache that arises from the loss of a pet. I don’t have to pretend not to be sad about my dogs because the people that matter most in my life also understand.
I have unfortunately become well versed at coping with my own loss. I can be sad and mourn my dogs and be devastated by diagnosis that portend the end of our companionship and still make my way through life. I have learned from experience how to make it all work.
What I don’t know is what to do for someone else that I know loves dogs as much as I do and has gotten devastating news regarding their dog. I feel like when this happens to someone I know I want to do more than say sorry about the news on Facebook. But, what do I do? I have felt the devastation they are feeling having received a similar diagnosis for one of our dogs. I know the choices they are faced with. I know the agonizing despair of not knowing the right course of action and wanting to do what is best for your dog. Wanting desperately to make the best of whatever time is left and not knowing how much or how little that may be. How can I reach out to a friend in need and do something that makes a difference? I know that words are just words and there are no words that can adequately express the feelings of one dog lover to another and convey that we understand and pray for the best for them, knowing that nothing we say or do can make it better.
I think this is something we are missing in the dog loving community. We don’t have rituals that we go through to celebrate the life and loss of our beloved pets. We don’t get together without community of fellow dog lovers and lift each other up. If anyone has seen the article online, “I Died Today. By, Duke Roberts” http://www.robynarouty.com/i-died-today/. This is what I imagine every “last day” with our dogs should be like. It should be a celebration and a reunion of friends and family for each dog. I have tried in the past to make the last days for my dogs as good as possible and never quite felt I did enough (and maybe that will always be the case) but I feel like if we surround them with friends and family on their final day they will know what they have meant to us and everyone can share in making one last memory together.
Maybe I am missing the mark and maybe it’s just me that doesn't have these things and that would make me both happy and sad.
I think one way I can make a difference is to use my skills as a photographer. I want to create a service to photograph the last days humans have with their dogs. However, I am not sure how this would work. I would need to derive an income from this service but it seems like emotional blackmail to charge a grieving pet owner for such a service. I want to create some sort of business plan where this could be funded by an outside entity. Maybe it could be crowd-sourced. That way the service would be available to anyone in need that I can reach at no cost to them. If they wanted to donate or make a contribution to the fund that provides the service that would be great but it would not be required. I want to provide as many happy days and cherished memories for as many people as possible. All dog lovers and their dogs deserve this service I don’t want it to be something people want but cannot afford. I want it to be readily available for anyone and everyone. If you have any ideas on how to make this happen, please feel free to get in touch with me. I am open to any suggestions and options.
(All of the photos in this article are in tribute to dogs my wife and I have lost.)