Losing a pet is like losing a family member—it never gets easier
By Brandon Yip, Senior Columnist
“I will always remember his unconditional love and loyalty the most.” – Ava Ariadne Butalid, resident of North Vancouver
The year 2021 has been a very difficult year for many people because of the pandemic. It almost mirrors 2020, as the days, weeks, and months feel the same—just like the movie Groundhog Day.
Last May 2020, my family made the difficult decision to put down our beloved dog, Sam, at 15 years old. Sam was a medium-sized adorable Border Collie with beautiful black-and-white colouring. My family has lost three dogs before Sam. And I am sure many people who own dogs will understand how devastating it is when you lose a family pet. They become part of the family and it’s never easy losing them.
Ava Ariadne Butalid, a resident of North Vancouver, says pets have been a significant part of her life. Her family lost their American Staffordshire Terrier named Rampage in 2020 at nine years old. Butalid says losing Rampage was like losing a family member. “I got a call from home [in the Phillipines] from Mom and telling me the sad news that Rampage was gone,” she said in an email interview with the Other Press. “He was not in [the] best of health. Could not stand and eat. I just stood there speechless, and tears started rolling down my eyes. [I was] devastated for sure. Such an awful feeling! No more Rampage to greet me each year I come home. I will always remember his unconditional love and loyalty the most.”
Eric Richman, a clinical social worker at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center in North Grafton, MA, offers advice for people who are having difficulty coping with the loss of a pet. “The connection you have with a pet is almost so deep in your soul that it’s hard to express,” Richman said in an interview with Tufts Now. “People often feel an emptiness. They have a loss in their life that they can’t fill.” Richman suggests that people should live their grief over losing a pet rather than trying to hide their grief: “I tell people that they should embrace their grief, even though it’s painful, it doesn’t feel good, and sometimes it’s hard to even carry on in their daily life. Embracing their loss will allow them to then move on at a later time.”
Of course, losing Sam hurt. After her death, I experienced so many emotions ranging from guilt, sadness, and anger. I do not want to speak for everyone else who has lost a pet, but I believe there is a part of us that is selfish—that wants to prolong our dog’s life—even though their quality of life has deteriorated. We want to keep them for as long as we can so we can avoid experiencing those uncomfortable feelings like pain and subsequent grief. Yet, if the dog’s life has been affected due to advanced age and subsequent health issues, it is cruel to prolong their life and suffering just to benefit us. Sam’s health had deteriorated. Her organs were “shutting down” and she had other health ailments. She was also having difficulty walking. It was painful to watch her struggling to move up the stairs in our house. Each step felt like an eternity for her.
The most difficult part about losing a pet is saying goodbye. A pet’s life span is limited; the joy and happiness they bring must be cherished. It is especially even more difficult the following days after you lose your pet. The house is now silent, no more sounds of barking, and no more affectionate greetings as you walk inside the front door. The dog bowl, dog biscuits, dog food, dog leash, and chew toys are now untouched. The daily routines of taking your pet out for walks, feeding her, and loving her have ended.
I do miss Sam. But in the months after her passing, it allowed me to cope with my grief. There were many moments of self-reflection and introspection, and eventually I had a clearer perspective regarding the loss of Sam. I learned to accept the fact that she was gone. I realize now that my family made the right decision to have Sam put down. My family and I had 15 wonderful years with her, and although there is a void, Sam will always be with us in our hearts. I believe the greatest gift that a pet provides is unconditional love—a trait that is sometimes not always seen in humans. The best lesson that a pet can teach us is never to take anything, especially life, for granted.