Four years ago today a dog came into my life and never left my home, his name was Oscar, an extremely handsome Viszla / German Shorthair Pointer. He recently left my life and I've faced hard days and even harder nights without him here. There are many things you hear when grieving the loss of a pet such as time heals everything and life goes on. Even though both are very true, it isn't always so easy to pick up and move on from such a tremendous loss. There are many hard truths about losing a pet that you will face along the way. This is for those whose hearts have been shaped and filled by a pet now gone and this is also for those whose hearts have yet to be broken as only an animal can.
We lost our beloved dog, Oscar, three weeks ago and it's taken me this long to be able to type it all out through the tears and pain my heart feels. I adopted him when he was 9 years old and he quickly became one of the best things to ever happen in my life. Through breakups, moving, depression, and then eventually all the good things, Oscar was there. He was such a big part of my life that it feels empty without him. Oscar always felt like "home" especially in the times where I never felt like I had one, he was always constant and offering lessons on life I never knew I needed.
When you adopt a dog there are so many things they don't tell you. Sure people have tons of opinions on what kibble to feed or what collar to use. But nobody tells you how fast the time goes or just how hard it is when they leave. It's because that pain is almost unexplainable, I will try my best to put into words.
The hard truth about losing a pet is that you will cry, almost all the time. It will be at the most random times like the dentist's office or at the grocery store. You'll feel embarrassed explaining to people what's wrong and you'll feel guilt your life is so torn apart over a pet. Guilt is the hardest part of grief. You'll feel guilty for "letting them go," or for going up to bed without them their last night on this earth. You'll feel guilty for getting upset over the little things they did and you'll feel it so often it makes you cry even more.
You'll remember the memories like they were yesterday. The first time you brought him home and he chose you to be his "mama." You will miss their quirks, naughtiness, the way they made noises in your home. You won't remember their "titles" or the way you trained them. You'll only remember the love they gave you and how much they fill your home with love and joy.
One day your pet will pass and you will go to take down his crate or catch a glimpse of his collar and you will break down into sobs. You'll feel like you've been stabbed with heartache and wonder if the pain will ever go away. You'll want to explain it in words to someone but they won't ever come out right. Sometimes you'll feel powerless and not be able to articulate how you feel so it's easier to pretend or say "everything is fine."
After losing a pet his memory can play tricks on you. A peek out the window and suddenly some rocks are him curled up in a cuddly ball. You'll panic thinking you forgot to let him inside, or wonder where he is. And once the reality sets back in that they're really gone you'll feel that hard loss all over again.
You'll wish somehow you spent more time with him even if that sounds crazy.
Nobody tells you the anxiety you'll feel for how they went. You'll begin to question and agonize every little detail of his life. Was it the treat I gave him that day, or the medicine he was on? Did he feel loved when he passed that night or know how much he meant to me during his whole life? You will question everything and tears will soak your pillow night after night.
People will tell you at least you have other dogs to bring you comfort. But they never tell you how heartbreaking it is to see how they react to your tears. Then you will feel guilty for that too.
People don't tell you that losing a pet can either restore or steal parts of your beliefs. In my case, I lost so much but gained my faith again. I focus hard on the good and how I got to spend an amazing year working from home with Oscar after almost losing him before. I thank God for the rainbows that shine all over my home and over his pictures. I focus on the fact he got to pass in his own home on his own bed because God knew we wouldn't have been able to make that difficult decision. How nobody knew what was going on but sent messages that they were thinking or dreaming of me. How I thought that nobody would care and friends, family, and flowers showed up at my doorstep restoring my faith one piece at a time. I could never explain the crazy coincidence that my favorite store, Tractor Supply ran a sponsored ad of a picture of me and my Oscar (the week of his passing) proving that he is everywhere and his spirit lives on.
I just want you to know there is no right or wrong way to feel grief. Just remember not to unpack and live in your grief but to instead let it flow like a river at whichever speed you choose. You'll hit waves and then there will be moments of peace and hope for the future. Always allow yourself to feel those hard emotions and don't be afraid to reach out, ever. You'll always have your memories and nobody can ever take those away from you.
Every day I will miss Oscar's charismatic personality and the way he made people laugh. I know one day soon we will find our new "normal" without him here but some days that just feels unattainable. I could never forget him for his life was a constant reminder of unconditional love and perseverance.
Oscar, thank you for being beside me during my journey through life as my fellow traveler. In doing so, I discovered myself because of your constant companionship and love. Of all the gifts you gave me- the greatest was the opportunity to delve deep within myself without judgment or timetables. Your patience and incredible capacity for forgiveness helped me to heal from the inside out and I am profoundly changed because of your love. In those glorious moments of connection as well as moments of disconnection, the relationship we had served me so well and taught me so much. You gently nudged me to a greater understanding of two beings with different languages being able to form a dynamic realtionship that fills the soul. All this spills over, as fullness of the soul inevitably does, to all my other relationships, weaving its magic across my entire life.
Your magic is everywhere.
"There is a cycle of love and death that shapes the lives of those who chose to travel in the company of animals. This cycle is unlike any other. To those who have never lived through it or walked its rocky path, our willingness to give our hearts to something with full knowledge that they will be broken seems incomprehensible. Only we can know what a small price we pay for what we receive. Our grief no matter how painful it can be is an insufficient measure of all the joy we've been given."