life after the birds fly the coop

The Grief of Losing a Pet

In the interest of brevity and the fear of losing readership, I will limit this blog to the grieving of pets I’ve lost in my “adult” life.

One thing I’ve learned is that each pet who passes on comes with a different envelope of grief. Having not lost a parent yet, (thank God), or a child (don’t even go there), I can say that grief is a learning process that is tough, but essential. It’s a letter we never want to open but we know we have to. Because loss is life. Life is darkness and light. There is no argument there. It may even be 50/50.

Our first pet loss was Carleigh, our very first dog as a “family.” She was our first experience into being a “dog family” where I was the primary “custodian.” Carleigh was 6 months old when I accidentally dropped an (one….I mean one small tablet) ibuprofen on the kitchen floor while trying to get two to help an ailing child. Carleigh was very eager and swallowed that sweet little nugget right quick. Not being too alarmed (being a new primary custodian), I wasn’t overly concerned, but decided to investigate the consequences. This was “pre-Google” and “pre-smart phone” days, so I think I called the vet? Well, turns out one ibuprofen is toxic to a dog under 10 lbs. Carleigh weighed in at a whopping 9. So then the work began. After multiple forced ingestions of hydrogen peroxide, she would not deliver that super delicious pill. So sick and sicker she got. You know the ending. I grieved her short life, her small but huge impact on our lives, my own personal guilt, and just the overall sadness of not seeing “what could have come.” We were so new into this journey.

So of course, we got another dog! Same breed, different color, different sex, ‘cuz who could compete with Carleigh? In comes Eddie. Eddie. With his strong temperament, cat-like personality, discriminating in every way, fussy in every way, barked at everything, and ignored everyone. Except Ben, our oldest son, whom he adored. Eddie was 7 when Ben left for college, so being the “now experienced pet custodian” I decided, “Eddie needs a playmate, because he’ll be sad when Ben leaves!”

Welcome, Biff. Biff. So not smart, so not discriminating, so not fussy. So easy-going in temperament, so eager to please. Eddie hated him. Literally cringed when Biff came around. (Did I mention Eddie was cat like?) Biff was the loyal soldier, trying to be like Eddie, but was just too sweet to be rude. Whenever Eddie barked (which was often and loud), Biff howled like a coyote. It was funny. And mysterious.

Eddie was plagued with multiple issues (stream in Felix Unger): allergies, skin issues, and then, ultimately, heart issues. We lost our Eddie, the “king” (he’d be disappointed with another title) when he was 10. I cried my eyes and heart out for the loss of such an exceptional un-human being. I missed the way he looked at me as if I was an idiot, the way he lounged on my bed all day as if it were his own, and how quiet the house was without his barking. (OK, that’s a lie, but still….we all grieved. Probably mostly Ben.)

But I had Biff! Biff changed went Eddie went away. He had no more competition for attention, and attention is ALL. HE. EVER. WANTED. Biff was all about kissing and licking, petting and walking. (and eating whatever it was you would share.) He never complained, rarely barked, never ran away, always staying close.

When the kids all left the nest, we moved to a new neighborhood, and my husband got a new job where he was gone all day and traveled a lot, but I was never alone. Because Biff. Biff was always RIGHT THERE. If I left the room for 30 seconds, he laid down wherever I went, because, again, he wasn’t “smart dog” and thought I’d stay for awhile.

We tried HARD, (and not just us), to get Biff to play with dog toys.( I mean, give me a break from the neediness!) Squeaky ones, plastic ones, super cute ones….didn’t matter. He had NO interest. All he wanted was US. And US meant whoever was there. He was indiscriminate toward whom he loved. He was INDISCRIMINATE TOWARD WHOM HE LOVED. He loved EVERYONE.

So, the grieving of Biff has been the hardest. I miss his neediness. I miss his sweet, loving face. But he gave me life’s greatest lessons: You are loved. You are wanted. You are never alone. And I love you no matter what.

If only I could be Biff. He truly lived! Life is darkness and light. But light prevails.


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2 thoughts on “The Grief of Losing a Pet

  1. Peggy Hendrickson on said:

    Oh Mary!! I have tears in my eyes!! What a beautiful tribute to Biff! I can imagine how much you will miss that sweet little face and his comforting presence!! Biff seemed to us to be alway there, so undemanding but ever grateful for whatever was offered, be it a pet, a good scratch, or hopefully, a bite of whatever you were eating!! RIP sweet Biff!!!!

  2. Karen Harshman on said:

    A beautiful tribute to all the pets who shared their lives with you.

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