Saying Goodbye: Losing a Pet
An honest conversation about losing a pet.
A few months ago, I wrote this post and let it sit in my drafts. It was something that I needed to do at the time, and now I'm doing a little bit better to have this conversation. That's part of how to handle losing a pet; time. I'm always going to miss Natalie, but with time it doesn't feel like a gaping hole in my chest.
Over the past year, I had to come to terms with my dog, Natalie, getting older and having a multitude of health problems. Especially with her heart. We adopted her when she was only a few months old and I was 12. Thirteen years had passed, and although she had a good life it was clear that she was slowing down. It was most obvious over the past spring and into the summer.
On July 20th, she suddenly declined rapidly and passed away. We knew her time was coming, but we thought that we had a little bit more time. My mom and I had a conversation that morning about how we needed to start considering what we were going to do. Our guess was just to keep her comfortable and spend time with her. We didn't have that time. But we were all there while she took her last breaths and crossed the rainbow bridge.
Saying goodbye to a pet is never going to be easy. Admittedly, a part of me started wondering why we have pets at all. They don't live as long as they take up so much space in our hearts. I had lost a dog before when I was 12, the same year that we got Natalie (we had both of them for a few months). I currently have a dog that is a few years younger than Natalie and an almost 5-year-old cat.
Looking at my cat right now, curled up on my bed, I know that I'm her whole world. I'm the person that takes care of her and means everything to her. I was the same way with Natalie. These pets need us because we have big hearts and will love them unconditionally (you better). We give them as much as we can and they give us everything.
My teenage years were shaped by the presence of Natalie. I was depressed and I had a really hard time, but it was so much easier because she was there. She was my companion and the fur I would cry on. She loved me even after I had a breakdown. She loved me, even if I was a pain to everyone else. That kind of pure acceptance is hard to find but I had her. I got out of those years and flourished as an adult.
Over the past two years, I had been less present in her life. I went to college and was only around for four months of the year. She was getting older, she had problems with her back legs and her heart. I was worried that she would pass away when I wasn't there. I knew that I would drop anything to be there if something happened. I knew I was going to be a mess when I lost her.
I'm thankful that I was there and that she's not struggling anymore. I'm glad that she doesn't have to be helped onto the bed or up stairs. I'm hoping wherever she is, has a place that she can lay out in the sun and climb over branches.
But as her best friend, even months later, it still feels raw. I keep expecting her to greet me when I go home. It feels wrong that she doesn't stare at me while I'm eating.
Time is making it easier. Knowing that she's no longer suffering makes it easier. Doing other things and not letting myself wallow in that pain helps make it easier. Treasuring my cat and dog make it easier.