Grief is one of those things that can be complicated. While I’ve never sought formal training in being a grief coach or a grief therapist, it’s something that I’ve experienced in my years of practice. I’ve worked in hospice settings and in many hospitals where anticipatory grieving and grieving after a loved one has passed happened frequently. But there’s a significant level of less understanding for people who have lost a pet. Pet (especially dogs) are extensions of our families. My dog Sam was with me from high school all the way up until I finished my doctorate. He was a companion, pain in the butt, loyal friend, and a good listener. He didn’t have any safety awareness and tended to run up to cars instead of away. While he was brave in biting bigger dogs, his 13lb body shook from fear when there was a thunderstorm close by. He hated to have his paws touched but loved to find an empty lap to jump on and sleep. Overall, he was fairly mellow and didn’t have the explosive constant energy that was indicative of his breed. He usually slept through the night but on some occasions he wanted to go out every hour on the hour. Even after a year of him being gone I still miss him but I appreciate all the memories that I have of him. If there’s a doggie heaven I hope we’ll meet again.
This week has been one of the most emotionally challenging ones that I’ve had in a while. I had to to say goodbye to my dog that I have had since I was 16 or so. He was quirky, stubborn, spoiled, and a bit slow at times but he was mine. I remember when my family first got him. He jumped into our car after we opened our garage one day and just stuck around. He lived in four different states and took road trips from Georgia to Michigan and Colorado. The great thing about him was that he was very good-natured and loved children. I never had any worries about him becoming aggressive as he was always incredibly gentle. He had the most expressive brown eyes that expressed his displeasure when he didn’t get the food he wanted or he wasn’t taken outside soon enough. He also loved carbohydrates in all forms including pasta, pie dough, and ramen and preferred a boiled egg to any type of dog food. He slept beside me every night for years and would often hog my pillow as he sprawled out across the bed. He was alive for every major heartbreak of my adult life as well as some teenage ones. Unlike most dogs of his breed he enjoyed chilling out and wanted to be held and cuddled most of the time. He would often fall asleep on my lap or chest as I was doing my homework. He hated loud noises which included gunshots and fireworks. Whenever it stormed I would stay up with him all night because he was so scared and would shake uncontrollably. He was lost on several occasions, he was trapped in a hole for a day, he suffered a brain injury from an attack from another dog, and he almost hung himself from our deck after jumping off and getting caught by his leash. He also ran towards cars instead of away from them. This dog was a freaking walking miracle. And yet he remained unbothered and continued to demonstrate poor safety awareness up until the very end. He was the perfect sized dog to pick up and pull out of any immediate danger rather quickly. Despite all his flaws I knew that he loved and trusted me until the very end when he put his little head on my chest and sighed before he went to sleep forever. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. He lived a long, adventurous and full 17 years and I’ll miss him forever. Life will never be the same without him and his quirks.