This Sunday we lost our first dog to a terrible accident. She had just turned 1 year old and was the liveliest dog we ever knew. We rescued her from a bad environment. She literally jumped into my arms and didn’t let go until we arrived in our apartment. The first weeks she was incredibly scared and only felt safe with us. With patience she grew into a great dog, happy, trained. Her favourite thing in the world was to run and play fetch and we did that with her every day, sometimes for hours. I know that she had the best time of her life with us and loved us dearly.
Her death was an accident that took her life within seconds. It was a walk and play like every day, when she suddenly ran out of the park onto the street. I wasn’t there but was called right away. When I arrived (in my bathrobe, after jumping out of the shower) I could only hold her dead body and comfort my boyfriend who had been there and broke down, still screaming for an ambulance. I talked to the people who had seen everything and called my parents, asking them to drive to us so we could burry her in their garden. I stayed calm until we had made it back to the apartment before the initial shock passed and it hit me. How could this have happened? How could the same dog that had woken me up that morning and snuck up to my pillow be gone?
I’ve been through quite some misfortunes in my life. Cancer, eating disorders, depression, illnesses, loss – but none of that had an impact this hurtful. Even though I wasn’t there, a feeling of guilt keeps creeping into my thoughts. What if I had been there? Could I have stopped her? The worst thought of all being that she had trusted us in all matters, loved us unconditionally and we failed at protecting her. Spending every day with an animal grows a bond only other animal owners will understand. Seeing a scared puppy turn into a confident dog is one of the proudest feelings I have ever known. Seeing that same soul go – especially if it’s way too soon – tears you apart in such an extent, that it can never fully heal.
In February, after dog-sitting another dog and seeing how much our dog loved playing with her, we adopted that dog as well. Since then I have only known the two of them together. Now I look at our second dog and see emptiness beside her and it breaks my heart. I love her dearly, but we got her based on our first dog. A companion. She was not supposed to ever be alone. Now all three of us have to get used to that idea.
Studies show, that loosing a pet triggers the same stages of grief as loosing a relative or friend. For me this means that I can’t eat properly and even thinking of sleep scares me, as that’s when the pain is the worst. Seeing other dogs makes me sad and I can’t go to the places we used to walk with her or meet the same dogs we used to meet. It’s hard to do daily tasks, to keep up the routine and to look into the future. I feel lucky that we are moving back to Stockholm in less than two weeks because everything here reminds me of her. Then again, every time I will walk by the water at our new home I know that I will feel incredibly sad because she would have loved it there.
We all deal with grief differently. I try to isolate myself, don’t want to be close to anyone and become very quiet. Writing helps me to clear my thoughts and stay sane. It fills me up with the joy of productiveness, a small help against the hovering feeling of emptiness. The internet is full of guides about how to deal with (pet) loss, but what I found most comforting was to read other people’s stories. Many of them speed up their healing process by getting a new dog and eventually are able to look back happily, cherishing the memories of their former pet. It gives me hope that I will reach that point someday myself.