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On Losing Pets

My mother was told that if she cried when one of her pets died she would not get another. Skip to the next generation and her instructions to me were slightly milder but the message was definitely that we should not get sentimental about animals dying. Grief was not an option.

Henry Rabbit

Several decades later and the loss of a much loved pet is now keenly felt throughout the family. And why not? Our pets become part of the household and its routine, like a hamster madly running in its wheel in the middle of the night (I am sure I heard that wheel going for several weeks after Ronnie hamster died) or the thump-thump greeting of a dog’s tail when you get up in the morning.

We have lost two pets recently. One was Henry rabbit, such a gentleman, shaking out his paws to wash his face, rising up on his back legs to say hello, even standing to rest against us at the vet’s when he was nervous. The other was Topsy-dog who would turn from a gentle and tolerant soul to a rabid monster at the approach of the postman, whose ability to get in the way and nearly trip us over was incomparable, who had the most annoying yip yip bark at times and who, having been a family companion for over 11 years, very sadly managed to die when all the grown children were away leaving us to weep together on the phone.

Topsy Dog

Having also lost my parents over recent years the grief follows the same pattern: The first shock of loss and disbelief. The questions - did we do enough? Could we have done more? Could we have made their life better, easier? The regrets – I could have been more patient, loving, kind, spent more time. The sense of something missing and the routine changing. Little things you don’t have to do any more but wish you did. The gradual acceptance of the change as time passes but a place always there in your heart for that special someone.

The reason I am writing about this is that whatever the loss I believe we should allow ourselves our feelings as we go through this process. They are what make us considerate human beings, hopefully striving to do the right thing, whatever the species. And hopefully they teach us to accept that no relationship can ever be perfect but that nothing stays the same for ever and we should make the most of what we share with our loved ones while we have the chance.

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