By Sue Buchholz
Losing a companion animal, whether it’s a dog, cat, horse, hamster, or any animal, is a deeply personal experience for each of us. I have often heard people say that the pain can be more intense at times than the loss of a human family member. Then they experience even more guilt for feeling that way. Experts reassure us that this intense grief is completely natural and has been shared by many animal lovers. Animals fill a deep need in our lives, individual for each of us. The unconditional love and companionship they freely give every day we share with them is a painful void indeed when they pass away. How could it be anything else?
In all my years at the shelter I have seen both ends of the spectrum. People who sadly come through the door loaded down with pet beds, toys, leashes, collars, medications, and a need to talk about their recent loss. They sometimes say that they want to wait a while before considering getting another pet. And that’s okay. Some say that they will never get another pet, because the grief they are experiencing is too much to go through again. And that’s certainly understandable. Usually those people come back a few months later and say, “The house is just too quiet, I am lonely and ready to consider adopting again,” and that’s most certainly okay. Some look to get another pet immediately, and I think for them that can ease their pain and be the right decision too.
You can never replace a pet that was lost to you. Never. But you can always offer your heart and home to another in need, and there is always another in need.
Sue Buchholz has been the shelter director at Central Dakota Humane Society since 1994. With a job like that, it is impossible not to take home the strays. Sue currently has a cat and three dogs, and may be adding another dog soon.