Pet Loss and Love: Our Story
Growing up I always seemed to have an animal of one sort or another. We had a cat, a rat, chickens, dogs, a bird and a horse, but not all at the same time. Though with all of that, I never really considered myself a “pet” person. That all changed when we got our dog Mr. Mozart, or Mr. Mo for short.
Mr. Mo was a Peekapoo (Pekinese Poodle mix) and we got him when I was a senior in high school. We bought him when they actually sold dogs and cats at pet stores in the mall. I now cringe at the thought of what kind of puppy mill he was born in. But we loved him, bad under bite and all! He passed away when he was 9 years old and I grieved for a long time. As I grieved, I knew for sure that I was a dog person through and through.
There are many reasons to get another dog shortly after one passes away: companionship, to help heal your heart with love from another furry friend, distraction from your pain. But there are just as many reasons to not get another dog right away: you need time to grieve, sometimes you need a break from the additional responsibility, it can be just too painful to be reminded of your loss, change in lifestyle or trying to replace your furry friend can lead to frustration with your new dog (every dog is different and one can definitely not replace another). My mom didn’t get another dog. She knew she wouldn’t be able to provide the attention and care that a new dog deserved with her schedule. And I wasn’t in the stage of life to be able to care for a dog. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t still love and miss our four-legged family member.
When my husband and I got married we ended up starting our marriage with a small fish tank, since that is all the fit in the 500 sq. ft. condo we rented and dogs weren’t allowed. I hadn’t really realized it before, but my husband really enjoyed having fish. But, definitely, not to eat! We started with a small aquarium and progressively traded up over the years until last year, when he really started making that his hobby. We now have 6 fish tanks set up in our house, all of which are planted tanks (meaning they have living plants, not plastic ones). More on that another time. 🙂
A few years later, we had already moved from southern California to northern California and were living in a bigger condo. But I have to say that our condo felt like a home only when we got our puppy Yuki, a Pomeranian. He really was our first “baby.” I was just about 12 weeks pregnant with my first child when we got him. He was the runt of the litter and was not even 2 lbs. when we brought him home. He eventually grew to be about 5.5lbs, half of which was fur. Boy, did I love that dog. We walked together every morning and every night. He was my company when my husband was at work and he loved to take naps with me on the couch. Even though he was a little dog, he didn’t yap. He arf’ed. And he had the best little personality. He could even turn a small dog dislike-r, into a Yuki lover.
But he was always having medical problems and was diagnosed with a collapsing trachea, luxating patella, thyroid problems and a host of other things. My poor puppy! By the time he was about 5 he had been diagnosed with most of the major issues and we noticed the change in his energy levels.
Yuki was the best with the kids. But since he was about a year older than my oldest, he was already starting to show effects of his medical issues by the time the kids realized that they could play with him. So we had the sweetest little medical case that we loved and cared for, but who couldn’t play much.
I don’t know what it is about 9 year old dogs in my family, but Yuki took a turn for the worse when he was 9. So we started to prepare for the end. He was a fighter. He fought for months longer than the vet thought he could and finally passed a week after we moved into our new home last summer.
I think for the kids, it wasn’t quite as hard as it was for me since they didn’t do the day-to-day care for Yuki that took up so much of my time. And they didn’t have the joy of really knowing him at his best. But they sure did miss having him around. They had wanted to play with him, but he was just too sick. Instead they showed their affection by giving him his favorite treat, baby carrots. When we knew that the end was near, we talked with the kids and explained what was happening. Yuki was hurting really bad, but we didn’t want him to be in pain anymore. They each had the chance to say goodbye and I took them to the other room. We talked some more about how much we loved him and prayed for him to be out of pain quickly. And the next day we looked at pictures and held his favorite toys to feel close to him.
Now, my husband and I had agreed to wait at least 6 months to a year before getting another dog. We had just moved into a new home and had no backyard, just dirt. We wanted the backyard to be finished before thinking about another furry family member. And we needed to give ourselves, and the kids, time to grieve.
They had all been born to a family in which Yuki was part of. It was hard. The house felt empty. Since his coat was black, every shadow, every dark corner was Yuki. I cried a lot and talked with the kids about him. We looked at his picture and remembered how much we loved him. We tried to enjoy not being tied down to his medication schedule or having to take him out to go potty. It was freeing in some respects, not to have to be home at certain times. But I still walk past the pharmacy at Costco and wonder if they have his prescriptions ready. Then I remember that he doesn’t need the prescriptions anymore. And I want to cry because we all miss him still.
But just a few short months later, we decided the house was too empty and started looking for another puppy. And we ended up with Callie, another Pomeranian, shortly before Christmas. Unlike Yuki, she is built tough. At almost 9 months old now she is already about 9 lbs. and full of personality.
I think one of the things I like best about Callie, is how much she loves the kids and loves to play with them. They play fetch and tug. They run around the house and the yard together. She wants to keep up with them when they ride their bikes. She even dances with us when we dance and wants to be part of family hugs. She really is a family dog in a way that Yuki couldn’t be because of his medical problems. Yuki was kind of mine, but Callie belongs to all of us.
But, honestly, I think that part of the problem was that we got Yuki before the kids were born and he’d lived his life before they were old enough to enjoy him. While he was their first “puppy”, Callie will be the dog that they remember from their childhood. The one that will be there to grow up with them. The one that they will miss, hopefully, when they go to college.
I can’t tell you the perfect time to add an animal to your family or how long to wait after losing a beloved furry family member. Each person, pet, family and journey is different. I just know, for our family, getting a dog when our children were past the toddler stage seemed to allow both the children and the dog the full joy of spending time together.
Yuki holds a special place in our hearts and our memories. I still miss him every day and I will never regret the time that we had with him. It ended way too soon. But Callie is now filling our house with life, laughter and lots of fur! She didn’t take Yuki’s place, but she has made a spot in our hearts of her very own.