Losing a Family Pet and Dealing With Heartbreak

In March of last year, our family put down our beloved pet, an 11-year-old Scottish terrier named Walker. He was the sweetest puppy I’ve ever known. From the beginning, he was always friendly and well-mannered, well-behaved, well-trained, and well-liked by everyone in the neighborhood. It’s been heartbreaking knowing he’s gone.

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Walker, AKA “The Sass-master”

Walker was sweet, loving, sensitive, and sassy. My favorite memories are of our family movie nights. We all have our spots on the couch, just like any family, including the dog. During my first winter break, my sister was laying on the couch, and her head was resting on our dog’s spot. After a few seconds of the angry-stare, and more than a little pacing, the “sass-master” hopped up on the couch and sat on her face! It was hilarious.

We found out Walker had cancer at the beginning of the year. Over the next few months, he was still sprightly, but slower. He would stop running into the kitchen when he heard the ice machine and stop perking up when he heard the word “walk.” We noticed these changes with quiet compassion. Every week, he would tire of something else.

It’s sad knowing I no longer have that cushion of unconditional love. As I tried to deal with this loss, I turned to other people who have experienced this for advice. I still miss him, but I’ve learned some ways of coping with loss that could be helpful to others.

Find other people who understand your pain

As a 21-year-old, I know I’m at the age when my childhood is fading. Unfortunately, part of that is losing childhood family pets. Recently, two friends also lost their dogs. Talking to them really helped because they had a similar experience and could support me through the rough patch. 

It’s also okay to post on social media what you’re feeling. Most people will empathize with you and offer condolences. All of the comments on my post were supportive and loving. Many members of my extended family reached out to us in support — they too had lost pets before. It helped me remember that at the end of the day, my family will always be there for me in good times and bad.

It’s okay to cry

I’m not an easy crier. In the days after losing Walker, I found myself tearing up in the car, crying myself to sleep, and randomly getting choked up throughout the day. My friend who lost his dog last year comforted me — and told me he still cries. It was a relief to know that grief doesn’t have a timeline. I hope that anyone who needs to hear that today can find comfort, too.

Remember that everyone deals with loss differently

The author with her beloved Walker

Although my friend and I had a shared experience, it doesn’t mean everyone reacts the same way. I’m only one person who has experienced this loss, and other people cope differently. Try not to compare yourself to others who have lost pets because many times, a person can seem like they have moved on, but in reality, they are still hurting. I’m going to need time before getting another dog, but some people adopt another immediately, and that’s what helps them heal.

Pray

Praying helps me the most; it helps me to recognize that God gave us dogs so that we can feel unconditional love like Jesus’ love for us. A dog is fiercely loyal and loves you no matter what. They make us laugh, and they make us cry. Life is hard without Walker here, but remembering how much happiness he brought us far outweighs the sadness we feel at his absence. Praying with gratitude is a fruitful way to pray, and I thank God every day for giving me and my family so many happy years with our beloved dog.

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Theresa Vogel

Theresa is from Long Island, NY and will be graduating in May 2020 from St. John's University with her BA in English with minors in French, Theology, and Business Administration. She was heavily involved in Students for Life chapter and served as the President for 2 years. She also studied abroad in Paris, France and hopes to go back some day to enjoy the beautiful culture and delicious food! In her free time, she enjoys playing the piano and guitar, reading, knitting, and writing.