Kids dressed in fur — is what I, and many other animal lovers call our much-loved pets. They jump for joy to greet us when we enter the door. They snuggle with us, play with us, and give unconditional affection to us. Dogs protect us and our homes — cats, not so much.
Humans form bonds with furry and feathered friends, and even reptiles. Hamsters, ferrets, canaries, lizards, snakes, turtles. Outdoor animals are family members as well: horses, goats, pigs.
“Pet therapy is a broad term that includes animal-assisted therapy and other animal-assisted activities. Animal-assisted therapy is a growing field that uses dogs or other animals to help people recover from or better cope with health problems, such as heart disease, cancer and mental health disorders,” says the Mayo Clinic website.
The loss of an adored dog, cat, or any domesticated pet can be an emotionally distressing experience. We go through the grieving process with tears, sadness, and loneliness. The loss is painfully overwhelming when a fur-friend dies.
“We know how much pets mean to most people. People love their pets and consider them members of their family. Caregivers often celebrate their pets’ birthdays, confide in their animals and carry pictures of them in their wallets. So when a beloved pet dies, it’s not unusual to feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your sorrow,” writes The Humane Society of the United States on their website. (www.humanesociety.org)
Often, cremation is the choice when a pet dies. However, some owners choose a pet cemetery, while others bury pets on a hillside.
“Many loving pet parents have heard the words it was just a pet, you can always get another one (a common cultural stigma faced by people grieving the loss of their pet) from well-intended and well-meaning friends. Such statements; however, can rip at the core of one who is grieving and who may have considered their pets to be just as important as children, and members of the family,” according to a 2017 article in Psychology Today by social worker, Adam Clark.
Clark’s other articles include: The Quiet House and Empty Dog Bed, Coping After Pet Loss; Four Steps to Take After Experiencing Pet Loss; and Tragic, Sudden, Unexpected: Grieving for Traumatic Pet Loss.
Furball, my daughter’s Siamese cat and childhood companion, died at age 13 of kidney failure. We both said our tearful good-byes as the veterinarian injected the liquid death. Cooper, her dearly loved 13-year old miniature pincer, recently died of heart failure. Many a tear fell that day. The human-animal bond is salient.
Memories of our dearly loved pets can be heartwarming and heartbreaking, especially around the holidays. So take a timeout and share pet stories with family and friends. Look at past pictures. Laugh at funny tales.
“People leave imprints on our lives, shaping who we become in much the same way that a symbol is pressed into the page of a book to tell you who it comes from. Dogs, however, leave paw prints on our lives and our souls, which are as unique as fingerprints in every way.”―Ashly Lorenzana
Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She resides in southern Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.