My sister’s beautiful German Shepherd had to be put down yesterday.
Sorry for any dog lovers out there who undoubtedly got a lump in their throat from reading that line alone. Extra apologies to my sister if she’s reading this (I did forewarn her, don’t worry). He wasn’t even my dog, but I am absolutely devastated. When my sister told me earlier in the week I cried for about 20 minutes. I mean, I bawled. You know like when you get your heartbroken for the first time and you keel over and sort of gasp for air, letting out weird whelping noises every now and then? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t – but that was me. Thank God Josh wasn’t home to see that display.
Throughout the evening I continued to cry on and off, tears and snot pouring down my face. When I eventually stopped I realised I had a cracking headache Panadol couldn’t fix and I went to bed exhausted, but lacking the ability to actually turn my brain off and sleep. It was, in a word, shit.
Whilst my pain is probably nothing in comparison to my sister’s family, it got me thinking about the loss of a pet.
About how it can absolutely knock you for six, whether you know in advance that they’re on the way out, or whether it happens unexpectedly. When I was younger, I remember kids coming to school upset when their pets had died and my reaction being one of confusion. I didn’t understand why they were so upset until I lost one of my own years later. Now, as someone who has had a few pets die over the years, the pain and handling of the grief doesn’t seem to get easier.
If you’re not a pet-person (particularly a dog person for the sake of my story-telling) you may not be able to understand why people are at such a loss when their pet dies. Just like I was when I was a kid. I was honestly like ¯_(ツ)_/¯.
But now I get it. Especially that I am getting older. I am way more sensitive than I used to be and my emotions have definitely changed. The older I get the more I see just how vulnerable we are and how short life is. You start to take mental snapshots when you’re at home with your family having dinner and cherishing the moments you all laugh around the table. Dogs have always been a part of my family and because I’ve lost dogs in the past, I now relish in the special moments. Like when my parent’s dogs sit in my lap, or run out to greet me when I visit. The amount of pure joy a dog can bring just by being near you is beautiful.
Today, this week, right now – is a sad time.
If you’ve ever been in the same boat or ever are in the future, just know that it’s okay to grieve for your pets. Don’t listen to anyone who doesn’t understand why you’re upset. If you need to take a day off work because you’re a God damn mess (like I have) then you bloody do it. Pets are a part of your family and the loss of them can be significant, especially when adjusting to life once they have gone.
Personally, I don’t believe in heaven, an afterlife or reincarnation, but it’s at times like these that I want to. Dogs are, without question, significantly better than humans in every single way, so they undoubtedly get to live forever once they leave our sides. I only came about the story/poem of the Rainbow Bridge for the first time this week, and I am here for it. If a dog heaven does exist, then I want to go there when my time is up.
To Otis, Otie, Oatbag, the most gentle of giants (maybe second to Hamish the Land Whale),
You were my first “nephew” and made the trips to Townsville all those years ago that much more exciting. You slobbered relentlessly, moulted uncontrollably and I am almost certain you had digestive problems from the day your parents brought you home because JESUS BOY, THE SMELL.
I will never forget the time Jen was showing me how to use Instagram for the first time (IKR) and you grabbed my Blistex off the table, lodged it in your jaws and never gave it back to me. I’ll never forget the story of you stealing the joint of pork for a Sunday roast off the bench (ha!). It’s still gold. I’ll miss hearing Thomas scolding you in the endless Whatsapp videos and all of us randomly singing “oatbag, I get my oatbag now, oatbag time for me” because Jerry Seinfeld said we must.
The joy you brought my sister and Michael, the joy you brought Thomas and Finn and the joy you brought everybody that met you was larger than life. I am so glad your parents decided to adopt and bring you into all of our lives. And while this part of owning a pet absolutely SUCKS DICK, owning and loving a pet is worth every minute of the pain (trust me, it’s worth it). Dogs are just the best.
Say hi to Benji, Sasha, Hamish, Floyd and Jack for us all.