I was assaulted, even stalked for the title of my piece on The Dodo. My story came from my heart. I was amazed at the level the attackers stooped to.
Imagine if every time a parent lost a child, people who love dogs would seek them out online to say, “how dare you assume losing a child is worse than losing a dog.” That doesn’t happen because it’s almost universally accepted that losing a child is one of the worst things that can happen to a parent. There are actually lists of what not to say to a parent who has just lost a child. Friends who are overwhelmed by trying to imagine themselves in the same situation are ridiculed for their awkward attempts to convey empathy. Practically everything dealing with the loss of a child is designed as a support system for the parents struggling with the enormous sense of grief related to that loss.
People who have lost dogs or other pets are not given the same consideration as people who have lost children. The prevalent idea is that it was “just a dog” or “just a cat” or “just a pet.” But in reality, many people who have lost pets suffer a tremendous sense of loss that brings about the same issues of grieving as those who have lost children. Now, this is the part where intolerant people will feel they have a right to inject their prejudice by telling me “it’s not the same!” They lost a human child. Someone else lost a four legged child. There is where the difference ends. After that, the symptoms, the struggles, the pain, the emptiness, the heartache are all similar.
But there is one other major difference. People who have lost a child have a worldwide network of support and a paradigm that serves to insulate them from mean spirited attacks. People who have lost pets find most of their support within a community of other pet lovers, but are often ridiculed in subtle and not so subtle ways in the larger world. Unfortunately, the major paradigm that many people feel comfortable with concerning the loss of pets is: “it was JUST a pet.”
Here is what I’ve seen and experienced first hand in the past two years. Strong masculine men crying uncontrollably because of the loss of their dog. Two sisters who told me they seriously thought their dad was going to die from grief because his dog had died. A woman so distraught she was unable to sleep for six months after her dog died. When Lisa's uncle's dog died, her uncle had a heart attack. And myself, someone who has cared for dozens of people at the end of their lives, totally caught off guard by the enormity of loss I felt when Zoe The Happy Dog died.
I am a Buddhist. In Buddhism we have a term called samadhi. It is a state of meditation where one experiences union with the divine. For myself this means having the understanding that we are all the same! The life of an animal is sacred. To believe that one life is more important than another is not my reality. Zoe was my child and my soulmate. More than any other being in my lifetime, she changed me for the better in ways I never could have imagined.
Grief should not be used to excuse hateful inappropriate behavior. The loss of the lives of our loved ones provide a perfect opportunity for us to grow spiritually. If we all operate from our hearts we may have a lot to teach each other from our common experiences.
You and Cyndi were so close and you were a blessing to us when she was dying. It was the most traumatic time in our lives...to know she was slipping away and there was nothing we could do to save her. She fought a good fight but in the end, she lost and the grief we felt is still there..just a tear duct away, when an animal is hurt or abused and we think of her devotion to all living creatures. She never had children, but any stray or helpless animal that needed a Mother..she stepped in and gave all of her love. When one of her furry children was hurt or died...she grieved as if it was her own child...it was real grief and no one can ever tell me it was any different than the grief we felt at her passing. This was MY child and animals were HER children...and grief is grief...if you have a heart...