This post contains TRIGGERS related to pet loss.
I know firsthand how the loss of a dog can break the heart of a family. On June 28, 2019 our family said good-bye to our beloved rescue dog Cassie. I adopted Cassie on August 9, 2007 during the single mom phase of my life. I remember not considering her at first due to a piercing, continual bark. However, when the staff informed me that she was barking because her sister had just been adopted, she became my dog (my sister and I were separated when she was 11 and I, 17).
Saying goodbye to Cassie was heart-wrenching. We all cried. We also stopped going for walks. I became more depressed. I missed my old dog so very much. I knew that I needed the companionship of a dog in my life. I started watching the “Dogs for Adoption” page at the Cochrane Humane Society (the puppies for adoption, really).
I wanted a puppy, the girls wanted a puppy, and my partner wanted to wait. On August 9 we had a little rock gig in our basement. It was the highlight of our biennial visit with friends from BC. After the show, I spotted an ad for a litter of puppies dubbed “Muttley Crue” with names of classic rock gods: Janice, Ozzy, Jagger, you get the picture.
I went for a walk with my dear friend and asked her if she believed in signs. She did. I told her about the puppies and why I wanted another dog. I don’t remember if I was able to articulate it very well but the gist of it (hopefully) was that after seeing countless experts about my anxiety and thinking about the epiphany I had one day while walking Cassie, I somehow knew that the answer for me, in part, was to get an emotional support animal.
And so on the last day of our friend’s visit, we drove to Cochrane to meet some puppies. I wanted to meet Jagger, the rest of the family was drawn to Ozzy, who had the cutest little pink toes. We asked to visit with them both and while Jagger bolted around the area with no regard for humans, Ozzy immediately crawled up on one of the girls’ laps.
I remember feeling conflicted, and instead of listening to my anxiety voice,
This will be my dog, I need to pick it!
I listened to my calm voice.
I don’t always make the best choices because of my trauma history, which is ok. I should let the family pick the puppy.
Twelve years, almost to the day, from Cassie’s adoption, we left Cochrane with Ozzy (now Lizzy):
And so began life with Lizzy. There have been so many adventures already! I need to skip ahead though and talk about what happened in my small Alberta town last week. Lizzy and I were at the park with Lizzy’s boyfriend Barney. I felt the panic (I have PTSD) rise in me as soon as my neighbour told me that “someone killed a dog.”
I walked around town trying to make sense of what I had heard. At home I looked online and found a post about the incident:
I didn’t know the family, but I was pretty sure I knew the dog. Lizzy and I walk every day and there are a couple of dogs about town she really wants to play with. This dog came running up to the fence to greet us with an amiable look and a friendly jaunt to his tail.
I avoided this stretch of pathway until this morning. Walking past the area was as sad as I expected it to be. But I was moved to write this post. And to remind people that there are resources out there to help. For example, there are Pet Loss Support Groups on Facebook (this group is Canadian and operated by a grief counsellor) as well as a slew of articles online.
To the family who so cruelly lost their canine companion, I offer my deepest sympathies and dedicate this quote:
“Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love and loyalty.
They depart to teach us about loss.
A new dog never replaces an old dog; it merely expands the heart.
If you have loved many dogs, your heart is very big.” —Erica Jong