It was a sad day recently when my parents had to take their cat to the vet to be euthanized. Sweetie was 19 years old (that’s 92 in human years according to this chart) and had truly lived up to her name. She had a sweet, gentle nature and was very devoted to my parents.
This reminds me that grieving the loss of a pet is a process. We might find ourselves wondering why we’re so sad when it’s “just an animal”, but it is the loss of a unique loving bond with our pet, and we need to give ourselves permission to acknowledge it as such. Just as with grieving the loss of people, it’s best to let the process unfold as it will. Having to euthanize a sick pet is a difficult experience in and of itself and can bring up other emotions such as guilt for having to do this and conflicting feelings about when it’s the right time.
Those of us who have a connection with a pet would say that we are the better for it. In fact, research has been done to show that our mental and physical health can be enhanced by having a pet, as summarized here. The energy among people can completely change in the presence of an animal. Think of how people behave when they see a puppy for instance. Even the most serious person can be transformed when presented with the squirming bundle of joyful energy that is a puppy.
Also, if we stop to consider it, our pets are an excellent example for how to live life. They show us everyday how to rest and relax, be in the moment, show uninhibited love and gratitude, ask for what they need, and take time to play.
I know that my parents will be missing Sweetie for some time to come. And I also know that they will keep remembering her by telling funny stories about her and thinking of her often with affection and love.