Part One: Learning How to Grieve

New Pet Owners  •  Caitlynne Garland  •  Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Grieving the loss of a pet, friend or family member looks differently for everyone. For me, it looked very differently than I ever thought it would. Of course, I also never thought I would experience a situation to where I would have to grieve in this way.

In this blog series, I am going to use my experience with a wonderful dog named Willow and her six puppies to hopefully provide some support, guidance and comfort to anyone who has recently (or not recently) experienced the loss of a pet.

I started out 2016 with four dogs.  We were a well-established pack: Squeegee, a 14-year-old jack russell mix; Timber, a 9-year-old husky mix; Catcher, an 8-year-old spaniel mix and Scooter, a 6-year-old jack russell.

They were, in my mind, a wonderful group of dogs.  The best dogs a girl could ask for.  At the beginning of October, tragedy struck.  I got a phone call from my great friend, business partner, and occasional pet sitter: Timber had attacked Scooter and she was unable to separate them.  Timber eventually let go on his own and my friend was able to meet me at a local emergency vet with Scooter.  It was there that I discovered the extent of his injuries.  After a consultation with an amazing veterinarian, I opted to put my boy to rest.  Once I was back home, I had an old friend pick up Timber so he could live in a dog-free home.  

I found myself, in the span of a few hours, without half of my chosen family.  I hadn’t yet had to experience the grief of losing a dog and I’d lost two very suddenly.  Scooter brought an energy to the house that I didn’t realize was missing until it was inexplicably gone.  He was always willing to play and had an unwavering grin on his face.  A couple of weeks after his passing, I found myself struggling deeply with my much emptier house.  I knew, in the light of day, I wasn’t quite ready for another dog.  Another dog would never fill the empty shoes.  However, my sleep deprived, slightly inebriated self, thought another dog was a brilliant idea.  Under the cover of darkness, a blind and deaf puppy was something I could take on with my eyes closed!

After one night of poor judgement, perusing craigslist for puppies, I came to my senses. My midnight searches continued but were limited to reputable rescue groups.

After a bottle of wine and a Gilmore Girls marathon I found myself chatting with a fabulous rescue group that needed a foster for a pregnant lab mix in a shelter.  The rules for fostering a pregnant dog were as follows: 1) the dog is to give birth in the foster’s home, 2) the foster must bottle feed the puppies if mom won’t or is unable to, and 3) the puppies have to stay in the foster home with the mom until they are eight weeks old.  Sounds perfect!  I signed up to foster poor knocked up Ginger.

The universe was on my side that night.  Someone else applied to be Ginger’s foster before me. Whew!  Bullet dodged!  Then I got a direct message from Nicole, head of adoptions.  They found another pregnant pooch at the same shelter, was I still interested.  Ok … how could I say no?  So, soberly, I said yes.

Less than one week later, on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I found myself the proud foster of a super pregnant, emaciated, flea ridden, lab/basset mix.  She was expecting six puppies within the week.  

Everyone grieves in different ways.  No matter the trauma or loss you experience, you will handle it differently from your neighbor.  I wasn’t sure how I would handle this loss because I’ve never had that experience.  An empty house, a bottle of wine, and internet access showed me how I was going to handle the situation. More often than not, it just takes time.  Remember that it is okay to grieve.  Be kind to yourself during this process.  


Stay tuned for Part Two of Willow’s Journey: A Healthy Delivery. 

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