Of Dogs and Men

My son died unexpectedly on November 2, 2018. He wasn’t sick. He was just here one minute. And gone the next. Let me tell you, THAT is a shock. Here it is, a week and a half later and I am still in complete shock. I am nearly certain that I haven’t accepted that he’s really gone just yet.

About the same time as my son passed away, an acquaintance lost her old dog. It was old and it had always been a mean dog. Not one that most people would particularly like. I’m not making light of the love the owner had for the dog; just saying that most others wouldn’t have felt deep affection for it.

Enter Facebook. Almost without exception, the comments from mutual friends to the person who lost their dog read as more heartfelt, more tearful, more broken-hearted over the less-than-nice dog dying than my son, a human being, passing away.

A World Turned Upside Down

The world feels pretty upside down right now … and those Facebook responses from dog friends didn’t help. Don’t get me wrong. Some of my friends have brought us food, a few have sent cards, and several have contacted me to be sure I am okay. The person who lost the dog posted about trees being planted in the dog’s honor, cards received, and it escapes my mind what all else. Two people who I met through my dogs have brought food and another one, who has also lost a son, sent me a card. No trees… No promises of attending his memorial service (after all, it will interfere with their dog sports).

Bitter? Maybe a little. Maybe this is grief talking. Maybe it isn’t. I have long had misgivings about how my dog “friends” react to a sick dog compared to a sick person or, in this case, to a dead dog compared to a dead human being. Somehow, the dog generates deeper, more heartfelt emotion and I just.do.not.get.it.

I love my dogs. I do. They give me great comfort. They make me laugh. They fill me with peace. They give me something to do – walk, play agility, tug the toys, or just cuddle on the couch. They give me a ton of love. My heart nearly explodes with love for them.

Dog vs Man

But, the pain of losing a human does not compare to the pain of losing a pet. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. When we get a pet, we know that we are going to pour our hearts into them (and them into us) for 15 years or so, if we’re lucky. They just don’t have a long lifespan. I wish they did. It hurts like hell when they die. But, when we get them, we know that we will likely have to say goodbye to them one day (unless we’re old when we get them).
  2. Not everyone is like me, but when I lose a pet, I rush out the next day or within the next few days and get another puppy or kitten. I cannot bear the pain of losing them, the emptiness of the house without the beloved pet that passed away. The new pet doesn’t take the place of the one who died, but it does help feel the void. It gives me something to love. It gives me new joy and laughter. And, so begins the next 15-year or so journey.
  3. I had one child. I carried him in my belly for 9 months. I loved him before he was born. And, I loved him every day of his 43 years.  The expectation has been that he would bury me, not that I would be tasked with not only birthing him but also returning him to his Maker. That’s backward.
  4. There is no running out and getting another son. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. That hole, that void, that inconsolable sorrow can’t be filled by anyone else. There will never be another child in our life. There will never be another son in our life.
  5. Life will continue without my son just as it continues without a lost pet. But that great big black hole right in the center of me will never be filled by another person or another pet.

It’s Hard, losing a pet

I  totally get how hard it is to lose a pet. Over my long lifetime, I have lost a bunch. And, believe you me, I have shed many an inconsolable tear over them when they go. But, I knew when I got them that I would someday suffer through their loss. No one gets a pet that doesn’t know they’ll have to one day say goodbye, hopefully later rather than sooner.

But, I will never understand, not now and probably never, how people have more compassion over the loss of someone’s dog than they do over the loss of a child, even if that child is an adult. It is hard to know what to say or do, I guess, but they seem to know what to say and do when a dog dies.

Is this backward only to me?



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