8 Things I Learned When my Dog Died

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“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” -J. Billings

When you have a pet you love so much, every once in a while you’re reminded this gig isn’t gonna last forever. Someday, there will be an end and you’re going to have to deal with that end, however it comes. This was a barely acceptable thought to me. A huge suck. And it almost kept me from getting a dog in the first place. I didn’t want to have to say goodbye someday, and I didn’t want my kids to have to say goodbye either. But last week, we did say goodbye to our very sick 8 year-old Golden Retriever, Ranger. And this is what I learned. 

{It just feels noteworthy to add right here that all of our fish also died last week. Do not ask us to watch your pets. That’s all I’m saying. Apparently it’s not our thing.}

  1. I was not nearly sensitive enough to the people in my life who had previously lost pets.  I really didn’t understand the true level of sadness and grief. I was probably a little complacent about it. And I’m totally sorry. Because it was a really hard thing to go through and I wish I had been a more sensitive friend.
  2. The first thing people will ask is if you’re going to get another dog. It just seems soon to ask this. Funny enough (not funny HAHA, funny like please stop talking), people also used to ask me about getting another husband after I lost my first one. And we all know how that turned out. So stop it. Listen, folks: Dog, husband, hamster, whatever– The point is not about a REPLACEMENT.  The point is about RANGER. Right now, I don’t want another dog. I want Ranger. (And I don’t want another husband either. So stop asking.)
  3. I didn’t take enough pictures. I wish I had taken ten times more. Puppy pictures. Pool pictures. Snow pictures. Kid pictures. The ones I did take are so precious to me now. But there’s not nearly enough of them.
  4. My kids are hard-time rockstars. People always say that kids are resilient and in this house, it could not be more true. I don’t think I was giving them enough credit. I was incredibly worried about how they would handle losing the dog and saying goodbye. And although it was tremendously sad and painful, they were very brave. They did it. WATCHING them do it was a different story. But they did it.
  5. I have the best friends–and mom– in the world. My people helped me while Ranger was sick. They helped me in his final days. They helped me make the hardest decision ever. They sat with my kids. They hugged us and cried with us. They sent cards. They brought flowers. They brought food. They brought gifts. They taught me how to love someone who loses a pet.
  6. I am the Health Care Proxy for my parents and Holy Moses I will need to grow a serious Lady Pair before that day ever arrives when I need to make “decisions”. (Even though they’re both going to live forever.) And Dad, although you’ve repeatedly instructed me when the time comes to “Yank it like you’re pulling a mower!”, I’m just telling you, it will most likely not be quite so fast and furious. My mom, on the other hand, has asked that I give her a few extra days. You know. Just to be sure. I do not have enough I-Can’t-Evens- in all the world for this one. 
  7. Losing a pet really IS like losing a loved one. I used to hate it when people would say losing a pet was like losing a person. Because no. But now I get it. Their point was that the grief is real and true and legitimate. Ranger has left a hole in our hearts, in our home, and in our lives that is deep and wide. And irreplaceable. And I see now just how much my life and schedule and heart revolved around his.
  8. Pets are going to be in heaven. I just know it. Because there’s no way this was the end. So just like any other day, Ranger, please keep waiting for me to come home to you.

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