Losing a pet is hard. I think everyone expects the person who lost a pet to be distraught over the initial loss, but that’s nothing compared to the adjustment it takes to create a new normal after a pet is gone.
I remember the night after losing one of our first rabbits, Maggie, two years ago. I finished feeding and hay-ing a stacker of show rabbits, then swung around like I always do to face Maggie’s cage. With hay bin and feed container in hand, I froze. My arms just slowly dropped with the weight of the containers, and I remember having to actually force my brain to think and re-think and process the fact that she was gone. Every day for 10 years, she had been there. It’s in those moments that the reality of the loss really hits.
Tonight, I opened a little bag of yogurt drop treats I bought recently. As I was handing them out for the others, I shook one out of the bag for Donovan.
As if that weren’t enough of a reminder for the evening, I came inside, got on Facebook, and saw a graphic of an older looking, droopy Golden Retriever blowing out a birthday cake. The caption said, “He might only be here for a part of your life, but for him, you are his whole life.”
The reminders don’t come all the time. They’re random, sporadic…in the most unsuspected places. Sometimes I think we don’t realize how much a pet becomes a part of our life. We have the routine down to that spin with the hay bin or an extra shake of the treat bag. That’s the hard part, you know? Especially the day you realize you haven’t been doing the spin lately or you can feed a favorite treat without automatically emptying an extra from the bag.
Missing a pet isn’t quite the desperate, irrational grief that non-animal people might envision. It’s more of an unexpected emptiness.
My hope is that our pets, most recently Donovan, leave us knowing that they were a “part” of our lives only because of the time we were given. For that “part,” they were our whole life as much as we were theirs.
The reminders hurt a little these days, but I suppose that’s to be expected on the heels of 10 years together.