In 2007 I lost my daughter, Lahna, to a chromosome disorder. It was understandably the worst thing I had ever gone through and ripped my life apart for many years. Luckily I had my wonderful husband and best friend, a Pit Sheppard mix named Sarge to help me through it. Last September I put my best friend, Sargey as I often called him, to sleep after 13 amazing years together.
I had adopted Sargey from the Humane Society of the Black Hills, in Rapid City, South Dakota. I’m still not sure why I chose him. Sarge was crazy…very aggressive towards other dogs, incredibly energetic and acted like a wild horse when I leashed him. Immediately however, he was mine and I was his. We were going to figure life out together, and we did. In the 13 years that we spent together, Sarge traveled with us to Colorado, Oklahoma, Maryland, Mississippi and Texas. He grew to not only tolerate, but love other dogs and kids!
When my husband worked out of town, Sarge made sure I never felt alone. As he got older however, it became apparent that he was a shell of who he used to be. In the last week of his life Sarge no longer cared to sleep in my room at night, as he always had. It was just too much for him to do the stairs. He also didn’t care to chase after the backyard intruders: squirrels and cats. My best friend was clearly in pain…his chronic allergies and benign tumors were making life miserable for a dog with the equivalent of 80 human years under his collar.
I stayed with Sarge as he took his last breath, much like I held my daughter as she took her last. It was beyond painful and I held it together for him, petting him long after he was gone. As the vet and a good friend said, “He was a good dog, he deserves all the pets”. Before losing Sarge I never understood how people compared pet loss to the loss of my daughter. It angered me incredibly as I thought they were comparing my daughters life to that of an animal. Now that Sarge is gone however, I can honestly say that it IS comparable.
Grief for everyone is different. Even though my husband and I were with Sarge for 13 years, we both grieve differently. I cried constantly, expect to see Sargey around every corner and had a hard time functioning for about a week and things slowly got easier. My husband was sad and missed his friend, but carried on like normal. It is important after any kind of loss to allow yourself to fully grieve. You have lost someone significant and your life will never be the same. There will be happy days again, and there will be moments where you feel yourself breaking. That’s all okay and normal. There is no time line, no abnormal way to feel. Cry until you can’t cry anymore, yell, scream or just carry on. It’s all okay; you can and will survive the loss of a pet.
I am choosing to take the love I felt for Sarge to be carried on…I write this with hopes of helping others with their grief. Perhaps you can share love and time with others as well.