Pet Loss – It’s ok to grieve

I apologize for being absent for 2 weeks. I took a long, but very much needed, vacation to recharge myself, spiritually, mentally, and physically. However, when I returned, I found out my neighbors lost their 15yr old golden retriever. Another sad reminder of the realities of life. Our pets are just like best friends and family members, who also come and go in life.

In the past few months, a handful of people in my life lost their beloved pets. However, the uplifting part of their stories is that all these pets died in old age (minimum of 15 years old). These great dogs lived very long lives, which is now becoming common thanks to not only responsible pet ownership but also great love. These pets were treated like a member of the family, which makes the grieving process just as emotional as the loss of a human member of the family. To many, it might sound silly to grieve the loss of a pet but to those who experience it first-hand, it’s natural and genuine. Pets stand by our sides unconditionally. Even on our worst days, they don’t pass judgment or offer unwanted opinions. They comfort us more than they can possibly understand. They comfort us more than any other human. They are our companions. Our sidekicks. Our kids.

When I lost my beloved Sassy in June 2008, it took me about a month to grieve. Even though I had 2 other dogs to comfort me, I still needed the time to grieve properly and learn to say Sassy’s name without breaking down crying. Two years later, I still miss her but I know she’s in doggie heaven now. Soon after she died, I wrote a little eulogy for her. To this day, it still brings a tear to my eye.

June 2008:
Of all the dogs my family and I have loved over the years, the loss of one never gets any easier. They come into our lives not because we simply woke up one morning and decided to get a dog or two but because they were abandoned and needed a home. Then, they leave because their job to add sunshine and smiles in our lives is done. But actually the job of a beloved pet is never done. They continue to leave us with great memories of unconditional love and gratitude.

My little Sassy spent 16 of her 17 years with me and my family. Before she came into our lives, she was a talented showdog winning blue ribbons left and right until she became epileptic. Her owners then found no use for her anymore and wanted to put her down. My parents, Sassy’s vets, refused and insisted that she come into our household that was already busting at the seams with other orphans. This was back in ’92 and it was then that my life with Sassy began.

As I continue to write this, my thoughts are starting to sound like an excerpt from Marley and Me. But the only difference between her and Marley is that Sassy was a well-behaved dog, who loved getting her picture taken (well before she started to get cataracts) and endlessly received compliments for her beauty and daintiness. Her personality was so graceful that she was often mistaken for a cat. The only person she ever barked or howled at was me and that was only when I came home (kind of like giving me an earful for leaving her) and if she wanted more french fries, which was often. If she bit you, it was because she thought you had a treat in your hands.

As the years passed, Sassy proved that she was much more than a showdog who brought home ribbons. She was very much loved by my family and our ever expanding brood of dogs. She deserved a home where she would experience unconditional love and in return she would remain a beloved pet. And when I took her with me to college, I would soon learn that she was also a beloved companion.

Sassy was by my side throughout high school, college, and even all the numerous jobs I had post-college. She was by my side throughout my failures and accomplishments. She also saw boyfriends come and go and so experienced happiness and heartache with me. Although I sometimes showed my impatience with her, her feelings and loyalty to me never wavered. She was my best friend. When I found out a boyfriend had cheated on me, I threw the teddy bear he had given me across the room. And just like any good friend, Sassy went charging for the bear and dug her teeth into its neck. That was her only attempt at being a vicious attack dog and I still have the pictures to prove it. Looking at them always makes me giggle.

As more years passed, so did Sassy’s age. My priorities then shifted and she was now at the top of the list. Although I had and still have other dogs, Sassy was my priority because her health was fading and I always wanted to make sure she was comfortable. Anyone who knows me knows how much I truly love my dogs. I do hope to have children one day but for now my dogs are my children. They come first no matter what. I’ve had past boyfriends complain about the love and devotion for my dogs and I should’ve recognized immediately that these complaints were major red flags. If you want to be with or love me, you’d have to at least understand and respect the love I have for my dogs and everything that comes along with it. During one date, Sassy had diarrhea right in front of the guy and he was so mortified he never came back. Good riddance though. Shit happens. Literally. Perhaps Sassy already knew he was no good? Anyways, I digress….

The last couple of months with Sassy were especially difficult because she no longer became the Sassy I knew. She became a geriatric patient needing constant care and attention. In the past, I’ve never experienced an aging pet. All of my other dogs had untimely deaths by their 12th or 13th year. Sassy was my first dog that I actually had to witness deteriorate right before my eyes. My patience and love for her increased with every passing minute, which I always cherished because we both knew her end was near. When she suffered a stroke last weekend, I immediately knew that the end was approaching fast. Since Sunday, I was tormented with the decision of what to do with Sassy. Shall I just make her comfortable and let her go on her own time? Or should I take her out of her misery and put her down? The stroke caused paraylsis and so she wasn’t able to do anything. Anyone who spoke to me this week knows that I was very tormented, stressed, and extremely sleep-deprived. I cried everyday since Sunday and finally decided yesterday that I would put her down because she would be much happier in doggie heaven. I reluctantly scheduled Sassy’s euthanasia for Friday morning but I suspect Sassy knew because she passed very early this morning on her own terms. Almost as if she didn’t want to burden me with having to decide.

Her passing is tough on me but I know life goes on. She stuck by my side for as long as she could. I like to tell myself that she lived for so long because she didn’t want to leave my side and probably also wanted to still be the referee in any spats between Chewy and Stuart. Sassy was the alpha in this household the whole time….no matter what Chewy and Stuart did. Our lives revolved around our princess.

I imagine now Sassy being greeted at the pearly gates by the whole Martin gang. Sniffing each other’s butts. Wagging their tales with excitement. Even our dogs way before Sassy was born come out to greet her because, simply put, Martins stick together. I imagine Sassy venturing off with her best buds, Pecan and Poppy. Frolicking in a field of wild flowers and french fries. I imagine this. I imagine all of this (not only because I have an overactive imagination) because Sassy had a very good life but now she has an even better afterlife and is ready to greet other Martin dogs at the gates as the circle of life continues.

I love and miss you, Sassy. You will always be my little princess.

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