All animals are a gift. For many, a pet is among the purest of loves one will experience in this life. Saying goodbye is bitter sweet. Sweet for having known our pet, bitter for having to let go.
Living in San Francisco at the time, I was fortunate to have an SPCA with a Pet Loss Group staffed by a psychiatrist who specialized in pet grief.
I arrived to the classroom where the pet loss group was to be. It was held in a little kids classroom with little kid chairs and I was there first and two people came in together and we didn’t say hi or anything. I thought this will be good each of us will have a lot of time, but then they just kept coming. A woman who had to be in her 90’s and two collage kids, and all shapes and sizes and colors and to look at this group without any context you would be perplexed as to why we were meeting, but therein lies one of the beauties of animals. They don’t care how old or young or rich or poor or black or brown or white.
We made a makeshift circle of little chairs I counted 17 grievers, 2 graduate students and a real live therapist as a moderator. The moderator said there is not really any structure and asked us to go around the circle and talk about our Pets. When 1 hour and 13 minutes had gone by, it was my turn, I was the last to go and we were 13 minutes past 9:00pm. I have a hard time asking for what I need so I said, its late, I don’t need to go. No, go! its okay was the chorus.
The stories were as varied as the pet’s being mourned. One person said their pet Bosco died and that he was a some kind of lizard. I thought lizard?? you have got to be kidding. But here they were at a pet loss group and they looked pretty serious. As it turned out, Bosco provided love had companionship and his lifespan had been too short just like all the other pets.
The other similar thread that wove too many of the stories together was one on regret and blame and second guessing. I could have, I should, have, did I make the right decision.
Like I said, it is hard for me to ask for what I need, but easy for me to ask on behalf of my dog. So I said, my dog’s name was Chance and I am devastated. This may seem odd but close your eyes and envision your pet. You told this group wow incredible or funny or brave your pet was. If they were truly this incredible, and I have no reason to believe that they are not, would your cat or dog or lizard want you to be in anguish beating yourself up about if you had only done this or only done that? The answer is no. Your cat or dog or lizard wants you to focus on the joy that the two of you shared. Its time to open your eyes.
I could not get this experience out of my head. That group only meets once a month. What do people go through if their pet does the day after group and they have to wait a whole month? I started researching Pet Loss and found that Pet Loss support groups are pretty rare. Even hotlines are pretty unusual. So I created BlossDog as a round up of resources your pet would want you to have. This is a work in progress and labor of love.