Life After Dog
A Personal Memory
By Larry Kay
Is there life after dog? Maybe your heart is breaking right now. Your beloved dog is gone. I lost my dog recently. I’m not going to tell you what you should do—there is no “should” when a dog dies or has gone missing for so long that it’s time to say goodbye. If you have put your dog down, as I did, please know that death with dignity is life-affirming. There is never the right time to euthanize. There is always the pain. But the gift you give your dog by ending his suffering is significant.
Your feelings honor your beloved companion. All your feelings are welcome. Sadness. Grief. Hurt. Pain. Fear. Anger. Guilt. Joy. If you are feeling numb, that’s okay. At some point, you will be ready to allow your emotions to surface. I cried more tears for my dog Higgins than for two human friends when they passed. I felt guilt about that. But when I let go of my self-judgments about my grief over Higgins’ passing, I was able to reconnect to the life we shared.
We usually outlive our dogs. To have a dog is to sign up for this inevitable sadness. Learning to live with loss is an essential part of life. It’s not easy, but to deny the pain is to deny that we live, that we love, that we matter to each other.
If you may feel alone now, it may give you comfort to remember to how richer your dog made those years. And know that you are not alone. You’re connected with the Rainbow Bridge to all who have gone before, and all who carry on living, carry on loving, carry on mattering. So, cry. Laugh. Remember those sounds, sights, smells, touches. Remember all those habits and little adjustments we made for our dogs, some of which we still make unconsciously. Those are now places in our hearts.
Honor your dog. Your companion. Your friend. Your best friend who lived a life of unconditional love. That sometimes-knuckle-headed beast who always accepted you…maybe who accepted you more than you accepted yourself.
Your relationship with your dog continues. It’s not weird. It’s not wrong. It’s right. A piece of your heart feels lost. But your dog gave you a piece of his heart, her heart. Your hearts together celebrate what you shared, gave, received. So, carry on. Carry on.