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Grief, dread and the loss of meaning when pet dies


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Hi there,

four days ago, we had to put down our beloved 10 year old spoodle, Spooey. Although he was usually energetic, bright and happy (always jumping on us when we got home, tail wagging and endless kisses), spooey had been somewhat constipated for about 5 days. He did seem increasingly uncomfortable though, and I couldn’t seem to entice him with mince or chicken breast, and I took him to the vet. The vet suspected a tumour obstructing his bowel, and my heart started beating wildly. They took Spooey for xrays and confirmed the worst - it was inoperable, and Spooey would suffer if we left it. As Spooey was my daughters dog, and she was on holiday three hours away. I rung her and told her the news. She was heartbroken and said she was on her way. They gave Spooey some pain killers and muscle relaxants to make him comfortable until she arrived. 

Thankfully, he died peacefully, at home, with voices and hands that he knew and loved surrounding and loving him as he drifted away.

Spooey was the rock that my life revolves around. This has brought up a previous loss, where my two year old daughter  died, although that was 20 years ago. There are commonalities in the love and loss I feel for my daughter and Spooey. Both loves were innocent, unconditional, and infinitely greater because of the unbridled affection that a two year old, and a spoodle give and receive. Both are largely non-verbal, which in some ways makes their love more innocent, real and trustworthy as there is no miscommunication or agendas. 

I have been feeling such dread since Spooey died. Dread of each day when I wake up, dreading the knock on the door, dread of being alone, but dread of being around people. Dread for the necessity of conveying a functional face to the world, and to make sure my daughter feels supported.

I keep thinking “this is the first time I’ve done the washing/had a coffee/been in the car etc since Spooey died, and the house feels surreal without him. I cannot eat, and my legs feel like rubber. My boyfriend is kind and wants to be on hand, giving constant hugs and holding my hand. I am grateful but feel very “observed”, and pressured to get up, or make conversation. All I want to do is stay on the couch and watch netflix. I think of it as “grief-bathing” - sort of like sunbathing as one is supine, quiescent, passively absorbing oppressive radioactive rays. I find myself staring into space and zoning out when people are talking. I have always been an avid consumer of podcasts and yet everything seems completely uninteresting. My thoughts are alternatively disjointed and chaotic, or nonexistent. Sometimes I close my eyes and just pretend I am a tree. I don’t drink or take drugs but I have felt mildly stoned and even got lost on the way to his place yesterday, even though it is only up the road. 
The tendency to sanctify a loved one when they die is very strong, and yet my baby and my spoodle were perfect to me. I want to remember them as they were honestly, and yet I also don’t want to remember them  because memories are too painful. I have a million memories of Spooey, as well as countless images and videos. The little things, such as the way he tilted his head in total concentration when I said the word “ball”, the way he would snuff me through the door as I put the key in the lock, or how he would nuzzle me in the morning, waking me up by jumping on me with infinite licks. 

Our lives are contextualised through our relationships with others , and this gives us meaning and identity.
My daughter drowned, and I can never forgive myself for that negligence. My grief was mixed in with shame and guilt and I never really faced it. While Spooey’s death has brought up the past, I am grieving for Spooey for his own sake. Whatever else happened, I knew I always could depend on Spooey. Friendships and relationships end, maybe I don’t finish my Masters or get the job. But that didn’t matter because Spooey would always be there, reminding me that nothing was so bad a ball could not be thrown and fetched. 
I don’t think I will ever get another dog. 
I think there are three essential questions when someone dies:
1. Did I let them down/was their life improved by having me in it,
2. Did they have a good life, and
3. Do they have a good death.
With Spooey, I know for sure we did the right thing by him, and his life was better for having us in it. He grew in confidence within a year of being with us, and had lots is access to extended family who lavished him with love, treats (not too much) and attention. His death was so peaceful. And his life was good. I am grateful for those things.
I apologise for my rather long-winded post, I had only intended to jump on quickly, and yet all manner of thoughts have come tumbling out. 
Can you tell me how long it will take for the dread to dissipate?
Love to you all. Stay strong and take comfort from those around you x

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Hi there, Wootles,

I am so sorry for your terrible loss.

I don't have any answers for you, I am afraid, but I do want to say that I think it's absolutely fine that you think of these two as 'perfect'.  You have so much that you are going through right now that I think it's important not to fight yourself on this important point.  They are perfect.

You have described them as exactly perfect, this beautiful love that you have for them and the pure love they gave to you.  Definitely allow yourself to keep that.  As you find your answers, you may find yourself more and more nourished by that love; and that love, from them, is the love that can hold you while you find the meaning you are looking for.

I hope you find the strength to give yourself that love, because Spooey obviously saw you deserve it.



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I am so sorry for your loss.  I can totally relate to everything you wrote, grief is pretty much my existence anymore since I lost my husband 15 1/2 years ago and my Arlie (dog) 8/16/19.  He was my soulmate in a dog, he was everything in the world to me.  I've always had pets, always loved them, missed them when they were gone, but nothing compares to this, he was my perfect dog (for me).  Maybe part of it was the time in my life in which I had him, he was my companion.  I've had some wonderful cats too in recent years, but nothing, nothing compares to my bond with Arlie.  I also feel deep loss for Skye, my son's dog, he lived with me for 3 1/2 years, he was my first granddoggy, and very special.  

I love how you describe the innocent love of our dog with the innocent love of a baby.  I am so sorry you had to lose your child too, my sister lost her baby at nearly two.  And my other sister hers at 3.  My family is not alien to loss, I've lost so many.  But these two hit me the hardest.



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