The Loss Of A Friend
We love them, adore them and cherish them. They are more wholesome, kind hearted and good natured then most humans you may know. They give their love so freely and ask for nothing but a little returned affection. They walk with us down the trails of trial and tribulation when no one else would even look at us. Their tales of courage and devotion, unselfish acts of heroism, their seeming inability to deny us or betray us leave us looking at our own weak hearts, dreaming of being as simple in life and love as they. For centuries they have been immortalized and bronzed into very nearly every human mind to have walked upon the earth since the first wolf crept close enough to the fires of man to allow themselves to be appealed to and domesticated.
Is it no wonder then, that when the time comes for them to depart from physical existence, we are left with feelings of shock, emptiness, traumatization and even devastation?
To lose a friend as beloved as one has in the collie is very nearly life altering. To see the fire of life so suddenly extinguished from the bodies of our dearest is a heart wrenching, soul torturing experience I would wish upon no one, but is, most unfortunately, a part and parcel of what we describe as life.
No matter the circumstances behind the passing it is never an easy time. Though it may have been as peaceful as leaving in sleep unexpectedly or as difficult as making the decision to relieve the dear one from further pain, there is no one on this earth who can say it was right or wrong. It is the personal feeling of the human who lived with that collie that no one else can truly ever understand. Every human who has lost a canine friend may have known sadness, but it is never exactly like someone else's sadness.
For each person the experience is as different and varied as the people are themselves. Some have a deep, emotional mourning period that can last for months and for others it can be a few brief days of distracted respite and then they are ready to move on.
When that time comes to pass, some people wish to be by the side of their loved one until the end even to the point of personally placing the cherished body in a special or meaningful spot. Others would rather not be there or wish to see the empty vessel which once held the spark of love they so adored; rather they would prefer to have only the memories of their living essence to give comfort.
Some people wish to allow their grief to be shared. Others want no company to console them with words that may so early seem meaningless.
Some people will seem to erect a shrine in memory; decorated with special items such as the first puppy collar, a piece of fur clipped off from a grooming and perhaps the last set of tags that hung about their neck may be found there. Some people may decide to keep nothing but a few photos tucked away in an album stored in the back of a drawer.
In a house of multiple dogs or pets, those that remain will likely respond in some manner to the passing. Some pets may seem to lose their own zest for living for a time as they mourn over one of their best friends. Some pets will seem to relax after the passing if the one lost was sick, infirmed or suffering in some way. Young dogs or pets may act out in a "rammy" sort of way for lack of knowing or understanding. And in some instances another pet may be so depressed or lost by the loss that they themselves give up on life and allow their own fire to extinguish itself. Remember that they too are not immune to the feeling of loss and pain.
The response that one can give to someone in the pain of loss can vary widely. Cards of grief or condolence may be given. Perhaps a meal or two can be made for the family who is having a difficult time cooping. A day out may provide a bit of distraction. Sometimes just sitting and listening to the tales of presence and character of the now gone friend may be in order.
The mourning one will often have different feelings about each of these things on any given day. One day a card may be hastily shuffled aside and on another it may be read with a smile of gratitude. A collage of pictures featuring some the brightest moments together may be adored for it's sentimentality one day and on another it may looked on with disdain. Sometimes people will not be able to even mention that the lost one even existed for weeks and suddenly they can't seem to stop relaying all the wonderful adventures they had to anyone that will listen.
Just be there if you can so when they are ready to open up there is someone there to listen.
Remember too, that the grieving will be different for different members within the family. Some may have been closer to the life lost than others. Children can be particularly hard hit to this occurrence. React to each person as they need you too. A parent may only need to be shown you feel badly for them. A child may need extra consoling or talking to. Remaining family pets may also need a little extra attention or a special outing or "play date" of their own to help them through.
Never tell anyone not to feel so bad, it was only a dog. To them it wasn't. It was a life as unique and as original in spirit as you. It was a cherished member of the home and ever ready, trusted company when out in the world.
Never tell anyone to go out and get a replacement. This includes arbitrarily bringing a new dog or puppy to the home. Nothing can replace him or her and no new dog or puppy should ever be treated as such. It is not fair to the departed friend's memory... It is not fair to force anyone to "get over it" as it may take years for some to be ready for a new buddy... And it is not fair to the new puppy or dog to be put into the paw prints of another. They are unique and different with a personality all their own. It is not the "old dog"... it is a new friend.
Never expect anything you do to help someone through their loss faster. Everyone has their own time schedule for grief and their own way of expressing it. Forcing someone to face it before they are ready may do more harm then good.
Never assume that a child is better not knowing the truth. Some children need to know in clear terms so that their own way of healing can begin in a healthy and normal fashion*.
Never assume that the remaining pets will be just fine and get over it. Sometimes they need assistance too.
Never make anyone feel that this loss is their fault. Decisions are made on a personal level and no one has the right to question what one believes is best.
There is no wrong or right way to feel or mourn when a best friend is lost.
There is no way to expect that the feelings at the loss of one canine friend will be exactly the same as the feelings of loss over another canine buddy.
We change and grow...
We evolve and experience...
We are never the same from one moment to the next.
And we are certainly never the same after losing a devoted collie friend we have loved.
~ ~ ~
1. "Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear,
When the body that lived for your every will,
With its whimper of welcome is still.
2. When the spirit that answered your every word
Is gone, wherever it goes, for good,
You will discover how much you care,
For you had given your heart to a dog to tear."
Author: Rudyard Kipling
~ ~ ~
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....
~ ~ ~
There are many Pet Loss and Grief Counseling Sites on the web. For severe cases of grief please consider talking to a trained grief counselor.
* If there is any question or doubt as to the age and ability of a child to handle this difficult time please consider consulting a Child Psychologist even before the loss occurs.