No one tells you that when a loved one passes away, you become a part of a club. A secret door opens to another world only shared by people living in the wake of a similar loss. While all the people living in this shared universe all know better than to say, “I know what you’re going through,” in many ways, they’re the only ones who can come close to it.
I’ve been a part of many other “clubs” before, but after nearly 16 years of my membership pending approval, I recently joined the Dead Dogs club.
Upon my induction, I found a first responder who confided that losing his dog caused him more anguish than anything he’d seen on the job. I found a grieving senior couple who were lost in the sudden emptiness of their home, which had previously been filled by the love of dogs for more than fifty consecutive years. I found a lifelong cynic who confessed to using a pet medium to try to feel their dog’s presence one more time.
If losing a loved one is a club, then losing a pet is a speakeasy. When you lose a family member, there are bereavement days, obituaries, and funerals that advertise your grief like a Las Vegas club promoter, shamelessly inviting everyone on the street to get a piece of your tragedy. When a dog or cat dies, there is no announcement. Just an unassuming door on a quiet street, where a password (which is “Rainbow Bridge,” obviously) grants you exclusive access to a sea of hurting people who showed up at work the next day and kept going.
Following my dog’s death, I received flowers from a friend who had lost her own dog many years prior. At the time of her dog’s passing, I’d offered some condolences that I thought were heartfelt, but in hindsight, were careless and cliche. Now, I find myself holding the flowers I wish I’d sent her. In a few weeks, I’ll take a dried bloom from that bouquet and put it in the box marked Roxy, along with tokens from other “members” and kind people who loved my sweet girl. This box will always remind me to help the next person in line.
Like all grief, you cannot know it until you go through it. In the end, loving – and losing – a dog made me better at being human.
Dr. I. Wonder is here to answer your questions regarding your furry family members. If you have a question, email it to us at danielle@NeighbourhoodPetClinic.com. Our team at Neighbourhood Pet Clinic will tap into their collective experience to answer your various questions.