How to Deal with Loss of a Pet and Forging New Relationships

Tips to Honor Your Pet's Memory and Moving On Recently, I lost a long-time beloved companion, my dog, Mikala. A pet's life seems so brief compared to a human's life. So much life to pack into so few years. Mikala was not my first pet, and I knew she wouldn't be my last. The companionship of a pet is of vital importance in my life and that void would eventually be filled. It's not that way for everyone but it is for me, and maybe for you. It's not easy to lose a friend and I was with Mikala up until her last moments, but now she's crossed the Rainbow Bridge and is once again the vibrant, happy companion she had been before time demanded its due. It is those who are left behind who must find a way to remember and yet move on. Grief is something one must navigate carefully, especially during the first weeks after loss. Suddenly, the house seems more empty than it once was. A certain energy is missing that brought joy and comfort and presence. The light and soul of a distinctive personality cannotbereplaced, but given time, eventually new relationships can be forged. Here are a few tips that might help as you begin the process. I know they helped me.
  1. The Memory album and my fond memories. Gather those small items that remind you of your lost friend. I kept Mikala's collar, her tags, a patch of fur, photos. My vet had sent a sympathy card and an angel pin, and those I kept as well. Illustrating with photographs, I wrote of the wonderful shared memories, such as visits to Mt. Ranier, Mt. St. Helen's, the ocean, our three-week trip across country. The fact that she could hear my husband's truck enter the driveway long before I could. I wrote of how much she enjoyed traveling in the car and just being with us. And, of course, how she came to us.
  2. The Journal and my pain at her loss. This is a painful time as we try to accept this loss and work our way through the grief. Journaling about my feelings, my sense of loss, allowed me to grieve privately, alone with my own memories. Releasing the sadness, getting all the words down, and then putting it away helped me to handle the pain. One never forgets, but one must move forward.
  3. Considering a New Companion. Don't rush out to find a new companion right away. Mikala couldn't be replaced and I needed to accept her loss before I could think of building a new relationship. I missed having someone to talk with, but I knew I had to take my time. Relationships are precious things and should be embarked on thoughtfully.
  4. When the time is right, new personalities, and the search. Mikala was a rescue dog, she came to us when she was two years old. Think of all the animals out there who need love and who aren't just puppies. But do consider before choosing, that they do come with baggage sometimes. Some have been mistreated, some have health issues, they all need patience and love. If you choose the path to help a rescue who need a good home, try your local shelter, or you can go on line at www.petfinder.com. Be sure to ask questions. I arrived home one day and said, "Today. I start looking today." I went onto Petfinder just to get a feel for the pets who were seeking new homes. Much to my surprise I discovered Marley right away. I called the rescue organization only to discover that Marley was with a new family who were considering her adoption. I knew if it was meant to be it would happen. I didn't have long to wait. The lady at the rescue organization called me back the next day-Marley was available and did I still want her? You bet I did! It's true there are so many who need good homes, but take your time. A petlover knows when they meet up with a good friend and it may not be the first one that you are introduced to, nor might it be the breed you thought you wanted. Think and consider carefully before committing. And again, ask questions about health, about background, about personality, about spaying.
  5. Forging New Relationships and Making New Memories. Mikala can't be replaced, and I am very careful not to compare Mikala with Marley-they are very different personalities. If you bring home a new companion thinking to replace the one you lost, you and your new friend are likely to be disappointed. Search with an open heart. Just like Mikala, Marley has found her place in our home and in our hearts. We made certain that the items that didn't go into Mikala's book as fond keepsakes - the water dishes and leashes and toys and such were donated. Marley deserves thoughtful consideration as Mikala always received. We took her shopping to Petco and she picked out her own new toys and water dishes and bright pink leashes (with a little help, of course) and her "Diva" tag. Marley was two, just as Mikala was when she first joined our family. She's full of energy and makes us laugh.
I have good days and bad as I will never forget Mikala and I still miss her. She was a joy and she had a valiant heart. Mikala makes us laugh and she now recognizes the sound of my husband's truck as it enters the driveway. Soon she will be three. I think Mikala and Marley would have liked each other even though they are different personalities. One could not replace the other, but it's true when I paraphrase from Ecclesiastes 3, to everything and everyone there is a season...a time to cry, a time to laugh...a time to mourn, a time to dance.