I was 12, and I had never really known death before.
I had never been to a funeral. A family member had never died. I knew about death, but it had never touched my life in a serious way.
Then one evening, my dog was hit by a car.
I remember watching her run into the street, and the feeling of not being able to stop the inevitable. It was a truly terrible moment in my family's and life (and mine).
For some people, the tragedy of losing a pet occurs in the blink of an eye. One moment everything is fine, and the next your breath is knocked from your chest.
For others, losing a pet occurs over an extended period of time. There is the gradual worsening of an illness before having to make the dreaded decision to end his/her suffering.
But for everyone, there is grief.
You are left to deal with a suddenly hollow place left in your home and your heart. It's a space that was once filled with barked greetings, or deep purrs, now strangely parted from your life.I'm not saying that losing a pet is the worst thing that can happen to a person. Turn on the news and it's easy to see that's not true. But that doesn't make the loss insignificant.
The loss of a pet hurts because, as pet owners know, pets aren't just animals, they are members of the family. They have dynamic personalities and compassionate hearts that capture our own. Usually they act more like people than animals!
That's how Gabbie, our dog, was. She was tiny a Shitzu Maltese mix, and there was never a happier or friendlier dog. My sister and I were little when we got her, and we would dress her up in tutus, rain jackets, and kimonos. She would just lick our faces the whole time, no complaints. Gabbie was the Toto to my sister's Dorothy one year, and instead of barking or being frightened by crowds like some other pets, she pranced right along greeting everyone, never happier. Whenever we were sick or sad, I remember she used to curl up on the bed by our feet. She just knew.
These are the memories that I will cherish forever. Losing Gabbie was terrible, but the memories that I have and the love that she gave our family were worth the pain that followed. She will always be my beloved childhood dog who helped teach me what it meant to love and be loved by a pet.
A pet means unconditional love, even when they shred shoes or you miss one too many belly rubs. It means always having someone to listen to you, because even though they can't understand, they are on your side. A pet teaches you the skill and value of taking care of others, even when you don't feel like it. A pet teaches us that love can grow despite obstacles and differences, even those as fundamental as language and species.
If I could leave you with any comfort, it's that you're not alone and that time heals. If I could leave you with any wisdom, it would be to not allow sadness to keep you from cherishing the memories, and not to miss out on a fundamental lesson that your pet taught you: our furry friends are some of our best.