Loving After Loss
The loss of a beloved dog or cat always touches us deeply. No matter if the death came as a surprise, or was expected due to an illness, the hole left in our heart is hard to bear.
It makes sense to feel torn … part of us is deeply grieving, while another part wants to fill the gaping hole and escape the pain by adopting a new animal right away.
How do you know if you are ready for a new furry family member or need to heal a little more? Here are some steps to follow.
1. Acknowledge your feelings
Every time I lose one of my animals I find myself still expecting my cat or dog to show up. I will grab the kibbles bag to fill the kitty bowl, I will plan my activities around my dog’s daily walk, and I’ll look for my pup to greet me when I come through the door. Depending on the situation, I am either in shock over the sudden loss of my pet, or, find myself exhausted having spent the last few weeks, months, or even years, taking care the animal.
The passing of a pet is a very personal experience. Allow yourself to feel the loss. If you break down looking at your pup’s favorite toy … go with it. Take a moment and remember the good times and let yourself experience the sadness too. By doing so, you honor the memories and lock them into your heart. You will have those memories to return to again and again. As you acknowledge the depths of your relationship, and even share it with other’s who can relate, you will eventually find closure and be ready for a furry friend again. And remember, the depth of your grief is also a measurement of the love you had for your pet.
2. Finding closure
After losing my yellow Labrador, Amber, a friend suggested I wait before getting a new dog. In my case that was a good idea. I was about to move to a new home and adding a dog while I was in a big transition would have created chaos. On the other hand, shortly after my cat Cookie died, my vet handed me a little black furry bundle, hoping I would give the kitten he’d rescued from an abandoned building a new home…and I did. Both times, I made the right decision.
You have found closure when your heart feels content and open to a new pet. If you catch yourself comparing every dog you pass on the street to your own dog, you might need more time to grieve. But, if you find yourself browsing online to see what dogs are at the local animal shelter, or if you wonder about that respected breeder in your neighborhood, follow your heart and your intuition and explore the options of bringing a new dog into your life.
3. Healthy Transition
When I bring a new furry friend into my home I always consider how much time, money, and energy I have.
Am I willing to take in an animal that needs a lot of training or direction (this would include every puppy or kitten in the history of the earth!)? Does my budget allow me to feed a Dachshund, a Great Dane, or something in between? Can I afford medical expenses for an animal that requires special care?
Take a moment and evaluate your current situation. Were you used to caring for an older dog? Adopting a puppy will offer you plenty of fun, but remember it might also be exhausting for the first few months. Was your last cat easy to take care of, happy to sleep through the day and snuggle on your lap for a few moments at night when you came home from work? Then you might be overwhelmed with the attention a Ragdoll or Maine Coon cat desires. Their need for cuddle time might not fit your busy schedule. The more you consider your circumstances and capabilities ahead of time, the easier the transition will be.
4. Considering your pets family during the transition
Adding a new pet to the existing animals is always a little nerve-wracking for me. Bringing a new animal into my life affects me, and has an even greater impact on my other animals. While I get to leave the house every day, my animals must hang out together around the clock.
Considering my current animals, I know that my cat Flitzer thinks very highly of himself and would want to supervise a new cat. If I brought in a new, equally bossy cat I would cause quite a bit of tension. A shy, less confident cat who’d be glad to look up to Flitzer would create a happier mix of pets.
As you consider your new family member, think about it from your pet’s point of view. Consider your animal’s personalities, their routines and needs. It is critical to pay attention to what the animals are telling you. If you let them, they will help you in your decision.
Give your dog a chance to meet the new pup in a neutral place and watch their interactions. Do you sense a connection that could develop into a good relationship? This connection is a sign that suggests an easy transition.
Are the hackles up from the get-go? This could indicate that a transition into your family might be very challenging and hard for the animals and humans alike.
I always establish my intent by telling my animals “there is enough love for everyone” and then step in, when necessary by asking the cat or dog that’s on the defense for a more mindful behavior. By asking for what I need from the animals peace is usually restored.
The loss of your much-loved cat or dog can be devastating. Your open and curious heart is a good sign that you are ready for a new animal. Once you are ready, take your time and consider your circumstances and the personalities of your existing furry family members. Then go out and meet a variety of animals so you can make a mindful decision.