SAYING GOODBYE TO YOUR BEST FRIEND
Wednesday, October 06 2010 @ 01:34 PM EDT
Contributed by: erik
SAYING GOODBYE TO YOUR BEST FRIEND
SAYING GOOD-BYE TO YOUR BEST FRIEND
It is never easy to say good-bye to a loved one for any reason. Whether it is a child going away from home or loosing a loved one forever to death, the task of reconciling this type of emotional loss remains one of the most difficult and heart breaking events a person will ever have to face. Loosing a person forever is of course the most difficult loss, but in some cases losing a beloved pet and companion rivals that devastating feeling and stays with us equally as long.
There are cases where recovery from the loss of a pet can never be reconciled and coping with the loss becomes pre-occupying and debilitating. A broken heart is a personal event that can only to be reconciled by the emotional strength of the person affected by the loss. A pet to some is just a possession, but to those of us who love our animals, the loss of our best friend can be traumatic. A loss of a pet can be by death or by circumstances, where giving a pet away forever is a necessity. Either way losing a pet, who you loved and cared, for is no longer there leaving a void and the catalyst for grieving.
Pets like people have a life span. Pets, based on size and type, have a more defined life expectancy than humans but no one ever expects an early demise of their pet. Life with any animal is precarious at best. This indeterminate life span in pets is enhanced by proper breeding, nutrition, medical care and living conditions. Adopters ask me how long a pet will live… and my answer is that no one can say with any degree of certainty that a particular pet will live a given number of years. Diet, exercise and your pets ‘will to live’ are all factors. With larger breeds such as German Shepherds, the ballpark life expectancy is about 12 years give or take. A healthy animal can go longer while an over weight or malnourished one will live far less time. Proper medical care, disease prevention inoculations and diet throughout the pet’s life make for a longer life expectancy.
Any life long pet owner will tell you that somehow your pet tells you when his time has come. It is up to you to recognize that communication and provide relief to your companion. In my personal experience with Brandon, my personal heartbreak, he just could not go on, but no matter what, he stayed the course for me. It was seeing him in that condition that told me what the right time was to say goodbye. The night he died still haunts me almost 3 years later. But after all is said and done, his memory renews me and makes me smile each and every time I think of him. It also allows me to see that the 14.5 years we spent together were just the best. We all have had that experience and hopefully that same outcome with their special best friend. If you think for an instant that my heart has ever healed, you are wrong. His legacy will live with me as the best 14.5 years of my life. The fact that I was blessed to have such a dog is my reward for coping with his departure. Brandon like everyone’s super pet, becomes the benchmark for wanting to adopt another.
Shortly after we lost Brandon we got Clancy. Clancy has brought us inexplicable joy and comfort and he makes us smile with his great looks and all of his antics. We did not replace Brandon, but got Clancy. There is a considerable difference between replacing a pet with another or getting a new pet when one is lost. That distinction needs to be made so as not to allow a memory to overshadow life.
No two pets are ever the same just like no two children or friends are the same. They are each unique in the way we see them and represent different elements of character, appearance, quirks and intelligence. We quickly learn to use these characteristics to differentiate them and should never compare a new pet to an old one. Comparison of one to another should only be done in a positive setting where your new best friend is allowed to be his or her unique self. You cannot and should not recreate your lost pet in your new one, as that is just not fair to him or to you. Such comparisons simply limit your growth as friends.
Pets that come to you in their later life have a history, sometimes positive and sometimes negative and in all cases you will never know which. It is every pet owners obligation to love and care for his animal in a positive and rewarding manner that fosters the animals well being and allows for you both to bond to grow.
Adoptive pets seek love and attention from you more than even puppies, because at some point in their lives they were traumatize by having to said good-bye to an owner. Whether that transition was positive or not, the pet has now and moved on. Pets live in the moment but feel love and loss just like we do, however they manifest it differently. This need for comfort and affection is necessary to reassure the animal of a loving and secure surrounding and master. This is indicated by observing that when they arrive at a loving home they become attached quickly. We call this the Velcro effect where the animal just wants to be with you. This is because they seek human companionship and do not want to re-experience a loss. Animals need to belong whether to a pack of peers or to a human family pack.
We get quite a few inquiries about adopting a dog that is ‘just like’ or fluffy or Rex in both appearance and temperament. “We miss fluffy but want to get a dog just like her”. The issue with preconceived and inflexible standards in adopting usually makes for a bad situation for you and for the dog. The new pet just cannot ever live up to the standards set by his predecessor who was with the owner for years and whose personality was the benchmark for current and future acceptance. Reconciling the loss of one pet to the joy of getting another, should be already done before making a decision to get a new pet.
Bonding with your new pet needs time and trust. Training is a great catalyst, as is the time you spend together from the get go, both will lead to a bond. Training both builds a bond and starts a history and friendship with your pet that will span your life together. Integration into your family allows the pet to become relaxed and confident that you will not leave him. The fact that you establish an alpha relationship with your pet, especially in GSD’s, is also an essential element to beginning the relationship on a positive note.
Pets experience loss in their own way. Pets pine for their owners if they pass on or become displaced from them. Even leaving them for a vacation is a recognizable loss to your pet, but one that is quickly turned around upon your return. Pets do not understand loss like we do. They live in the moment but do remember things from their past which can effect their behavior. The next time you take your bags out for vacation, watch your digs reaction! He knows you are going, but also knows your will be returning. The inherent problem is that with any pet, they just cannot tell you what they are feeling. It is only through behavior patterns such as sulking, turning away from you and other signs of disinterest can a pet communicate feelings. In my experience with rescue dogs, I see certain subtle behaviors that indicate to me that some dogs do have an affinity to certain people and an aversion to others which tends to explain some things about their past life. Unlike puppies who develop with you, rescue pets need affection and at times reassurance of your commitment to them so that they in turn can commit to you. Mutual trust is a tenet of the animal world.
Owner give ups are a form of saying good-bye that can be heart wrenching for both parties. The dog is thrown into an uncontrollable situation where all he knows is gone. His food, his owner, his surroundings and habits are suddenly changed and his life is thrown into chaos. Whether the give up is a positive experience, such as being given to a relative or someone known to them, or a negative one, such as being lost in a hurricane or dumped; the pets calm and repetitive life is radically disrupted leaving him to re-adapt. The adoptive family needs to understand this situation and allow the pet to work into the new conditions he finds himself in. The easier it is for the pet to adapt the faster the bond and better the situation is for all concerned.
When it is you that is saying good-bye to your pet because of some extenuating circumstance such as a move, loss of home etc., you should try your best to find the right placement for your beloved friend. No one wants to have to give up a pet, but if the situation warrants it, understanding that your pet should be a priority in finding an appropriate home or rescue.
Recently I experienced an awful situation with a great couple who had to give up their dog because he was being transferred to a military installation that would not accept his GSD. The owner was in the military and was limited in his ability to take much with him to his new post. The off base housing had a no GSD ordinance leaving him and his wife with no choice but to turn to rescue for a placement. We were fortunate to meet them and provided a tremendous placement for their tremendous dog. Because their dog had a high play drive and was young enough to readapt, the transition went well and seamlessly. The emotion on the day of the give-up was devastating for the young family. The new adoptive family met with all of us and did help them to reconcile the decision to give the dog up and eased, I believe, their trauma in knowing the dog was going to a good home with the right people to care for him.
Rescues serve a major purpose in assisting pet owners who are forced to relinquish their pets. Rescues however are not dumping grounds for those who no longer wish to take care of the pet they adopted for life. A pet is a life long commitment and I believe that when considering to buy or to adopt, that you make certain that your commitment is for the life of the pet. As a rescue we know the pain associated with giving up your pet when you had no intention to do so. Circumstance dictates action and there are many situations that bring about the forced relinquishing of a pet. Moving to a place that will not accept a pet has always seemed a bit thin as an excuse for me. I do understand that at times this is a necessary evil, especially with breeds like German Shepherds. There are many excuses for giving up a pet that mimic the economic times we all live in such as foreclosures that necessitate immediate and drastic action. In many cases there are alternatives that seem more practical and less stressful than just abandoning Fido. These include passing him to a friend who you know will care for him as you do or temporarily giving him to a family member at a different location as a foster so as to keep him as yours until the circumstances change. When all alternatives are exhausted, as they frequently are, giving your pet to a rescue seems the best choice.
Many people will dump a pet at a shelter or just release him on the street to fend for himself. These alternatives can be disastrous and are inhumane. Pets who you loved as a puppy grow old as we do. They need you more as time goes by to do what is right for them. We encourage you to choose wisely when relinquishing a pet and to try your best to make the arrangements for their care yourself. No one will love your pet like you do, so planning when a give-up is needed is crucial to a good outcome.
Loosing a pet to death or giving one away for a justifiable reason is a difficult and trying experience and one that affects us deeply. Not only does this indelibly imprint us but it can jaundice our desire to have another pet. From my prospective adopting another pet, or buying one should be an easy decision. Pets need us and we need them. You should recognize that adopting a pet after a loss is cathartic and helps us cope by providing love and companionship which helps dull the loss.
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