I resisted my children’s pleas to get a dog for years. I was not a dog person. Or a cat person. Or any kind of pet person. I liked to say that I already had two pets—my daughters. I had plenty of mouths to feed, hair to brush, poop to clean up. But as my daughters grew older, their pleas became more and more desperate until one day, my younger daughter actually said, “I will die if I don’t have a pet.” And so, I finally gave in.
Lovey was a rescue dog, a small, timid maltipoo who had been underfed and abused, used for breeding litter after litter of puppies so they could be sold, and she seemed incredibly relieved when she came to live with us. She could not have been adored more than by my two daughters. They walked her, fed her, dressed her in cute doggie outfits, taught her how to fetch and stay, gave her bubble baths, and cuddled with her endlessly. It didn’t take long before I completely adored her too. Appropriately named, Lovey brought so much love into our house. Even though she only weighed six pounds, she filled our lives with a thousand pounds of joy. It felt like she completed our family, and we couldn’t imagine life without her. As a writer and a consultant that works from home, I was the one that Lovey spent the most time with—curled up on my lap while I worked for hours each day.
Pets are family too
Before Lovey, I never understood how people could love their pets as much as they do—or the depth of grief that they feel when beloved pets die. One sunny afternoon, a year after Lovey came to live with us, she ran through our open front door to play with a dog across the street, and ran right in front of a car. I held her gently as she took her last breath and felt her bright spirit leave her body. We were shocked and devastated, and keenly aware of the empty place in our lives that had been filled by our furry family member. I was truly surprised at the waves of sadness that came over me following Lovey’s death, and the volume of my tears. I had come to love her like a third child, and her loss felt deeply painful.
It’s important to say goodbye
In the days that followed, our family had a beautiful funeral for Lovey—we drew pictures for her, gathered her favorite treats to bury with her, told stories of all of the funny things she used to do, and we honored and thanked her for coming into our lives and bringing us so much joy. It wasn’t easy, but we said goodbye. My kids handled Lovey’s passing beautifully. They brought some of her belongings to a local pet shrine and we said a blessing for her there. They also helped bury Lovey in the backyard, and sang her a song as they threw flowers into her grave. They cried, they were sad, but they didn’t dwell in sadness. We applied to become a foster home for rescue dogs, and my kids found happiness again. But I was still really sad. And in my sadness, I’ve been contemplating what it is it about Lovey that makes me miss her so much.
Pets represent pure, unconditional love
I’ve been thinking about the bond between pets and owners and the very real love that exists between us. I’ve realized that Lovey, like all dogs and probably like most animals—was pure positive energy. She never had a bad mood, a grumpy day, or an ulterior motive. She was joyful 100% of the time, and loved us no matter what. She was the embodiment of unconditional love. When I was with her, I naturally felt more joyful and more full of love too. It was as if she reminded me of the joy and love within myself and showed me how to express it, as she did so effortlessly.
In the depth of sadness, joy is possible
In the depth of my grief, I found poignant gratitude for the opportunity to have experienced such deep love for a furry friend. I feel so grateful for the time that we had with Lovey. When the waves of sadness hit me again, I think about Lovey’s frenzied enthusiasm every time I walked in the front door, her gentle kisses on my nose, the way she jumped in circles and made cute squeaking noises, and how she would slide on our wood floor when chasing a ball. I find the happy memories and in my reminiscencing, I find the joy of being with her again. I think about the line from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain,” and I reach for the joy. Lovey gave me the great gift of expanding my heart and increasing my capacity to love beyond what I knew was possible, and now I finally understand the bond that animal lovers have known all along.