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By: Jennifer La Grassa
Last week, I locked myself in a bathroom stall on the second floor of the student center and cried. I had just gotten off the phone with my best friend who incoherently informed me through her uncontrollable sobbing that she had to put her dog, Daisy, down later that night. The combination of hearing her breaking down on the other end and the memories that flashed through my head of all that Daisy had been through with us turned me into a crying mess as well.
I was ashamed to be crying for a dog who wasn’t even my own and didn’t understand why, days later, I still felt a lingering sense of grief. When this same friend had broken up with her boyfriend she had been upset, but it wasn’t even comparable to the grief I heard her express over the loss of Daisy.
For those of you who have never been a pet owner, know that losing them is equivalent to the loss of a family member. It seems dramatic of me to be making that comparison, but until you care for and love an animal everyday for its entire life you won’t understand what it’s like. This is especially true for pets like an indoor dog or cat that are constantly involved in the life of their owner; no longer having them around can be emotionally devastating.
Pets provide companionship and love when no one else can or is around to do so. It is through watching television with them, petting them and burying your face in them for comfort that we create a psychological and social bond with them. They are there when everything is going right and are most reliably there when everything is going wrong. Just because we cannot speak dog (or cat or bird or lizard) and they cannot intellectually communicate with us should not be a reason to desensitize their death.
If you are dealing with the loss of a pet, don’t feel guilty or weird for grieving as it is natural and common to do so, especially when they have played such a large role in your life. Looking back on the tears I shed for Daisy, I realize that although she wasn’t mine I sympathize with the loss because I’ve been through it before. It was also difficult for me because I associate Daisy with my friend’s house and I strongly viewed her as being part of the family. I assume that going to my friend’s house and not having Daisy run up to me for the first time in eleven years will be tough to take in, but I know that like all other wounds created by loss, this too will soon heal.
Photo Credit: John Moore/ Getty Images