ask dr. karin
by dr. karin smithson
Saying Goodbye to
Furry Friends Q: I have recently lost my dog, Greta, after 15 years, and I am heartbroken. I don’t have any children, and she was everything to me. Can you please give me some advice on figuring out how to move forward?
A: Dear Puppy Loved, First, I am truly sorry that you lost your cherished Greta. She was obviously a much loved, significant part of your life. All of us who have lost dear pets understand the pain of saying goodbye to an animal that is a part of your family. I do believe that our furry family members are gifts from God. The Creator of these animals knows exactly what we will need, and so we are given these four-legged spirits to live alongside us, helping us through whatever life brings to us during those years. Whether you need affection, protection, companionship, unconditional love, laughter, exercise, a reason to live, a reason to play, or all of the above, that animal is given to you for a purpose. And different than relationships with people, our pets never respond to us with judgment, condition or criticism. It is a rare bond of acceptance, playfulness and adoration that grants the dog owner the wonderful blessing of unconditional love. For so many reasons, the loss of a pet can be a significant life experience, with a void left behind that can feel empty and painful for some time. Research indeed shows that this grief reaction is very comparable to losing a family member and is felt on many levels. This might be very hard to explain to those who have never bonded with a pet, which can feel very isolating. The grieving may be dismissed by others, telling you to “Just get another one,” or carelessly suggesting, “It was just a dog.” Yes, it was a dog, but to you, she was family, and losing her can overwhelmingly feel like losing a part of yourself. Your grief is real, appropriate and exactly what you should be feeling. When we love deeply, we feel loss deeply. That is a very beautiful thing, and you are allowed to grieve the beauty of 48
“Savannah was a gift to me for 15 years; she helped me get through a season of my life.” said Karin Smithson of her late dog.
what you shared. So, grieve. Grieve in whatever way feels healing for you. Write a story about her, or start a tribute blog. Plant a symbolic flower where she used to play, or put an angel in your kitchen window. Keep her things out as long as you need to, and don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed because of a lack of understanding. As long as you need to see her bed in its familiar place, let it sit and be with you as you grieve. You will know when the time is right to put it away. This was your love, it is your loss, and you should find your way through it in your own time. Another factor that can complicate this loss is the importance of the pet in your life. Very often, people without children can feel a special attachment to their pets, along with those who are single, empty nesters, widows, divorcees or parents who
Puppy Loved, Atlanta, GA