Tuesday, May 12, 2009

On Grieving the Loss of a Pet

Dcn Dale Matson 05-11-09

On Grieving the Loss of a Pet

Our thirteen year old Airedale died a few weeks ago and the grieving and remembering continue. It is so hard to let go of such a wonderful dog. We have owned other dogs and two other Airedales have preceded him. Airedales are Terriers and Terriers are….well, they just are. You never really own one. You are merely a consultant. He graduated from puppy class but was remedial in more advanced classes since he tended to be willful about things. Brown never really mastered the obedience thing but that is an Airedale trait too. He, like Sharon was into gardening and watered the plants, dug holes and ate some of the vegetation. He was also a great cheese catcher when Sharon threw some his way. He was really her dog and followed her around the yard as she did her gardening. There will never be another like him and we will never forget him.

It was not easy then and it is even more difficult now. I think grief is cumulative. I have lost friends, mentors relatives and parents and the grief while seemingly resolved, comes back with a passion and such a vengeance that it startles me. Pets become a part of the family. They even take on some of the idiosyncratic aspects of the families in which they reside. They relate to us unconditionally. I have seen patients in hospitals and nursing homes smile at a therapy dog when unresponsive to humans. Pets know when we are sick and offer comfort as best they can. They are really so much more than pets. They are our companions.

I was disappointed that there is no prayer of comfort for those who have lost a pet in our Book of Common Prayer. (There are a number of wonderful prayers in the “Prayers and Thanksgivings” section page 810-841.) I offer this prayer for those who grieve the loss of a pet.

Prayers for Family and Personal Life

For the loss of a pet

Merciful God, Father of all creation you have bestowed upon us the gift our pets as family members and companions. They have shared and enriched our lives, worked and played with us and have protected us. They have guided the blind, rescued the lost and comforted the sick, aged and lonely. They have been steadfast in their devotion to us and allowed us to exercise loving stewardship of your creation. Take pity on those who grieve and comfort them in their time of sorrow. Amen


Alan Rogers said...

I am so sorry to hear of your loss! May God comfort you.

Val said...

I absolutely related to your feelings about the loss of your Airedale. I still grieve for the one I had who also died at 13. It was impossible, at that time, to think about getting another Airedale, or even another dog, after him. But fate stepped in about four months later when a neighbor presented us with a little Welsh Terrier (half an Airedale) who was in need of a home.

Now with our sweet Welshie gone, we are talking about getting another Airedale, though the first one will never be forgotten.

Grieving is a difficult process to be sure, but it honors the life of the one who is departed.

This quote says it all:

He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him
to be worthy of such devotion. Author unknown

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear that your beloved Airedale died. A prayer inh thanksgiving and celebration of a pet's life is very appropriate.

I ran into this and have no citation but it sums up how we feel as the griefs accumulate in our lives:

"The sky did not crack open, the earth did not moan, and the oceans did
not revolt at the injustice of her early passing, and for this
indifference I will hold them in contempt for a very long time."

Airedale Lover
Airedale rescue: www.airedalerescue.net
(when the time is right)

Dale Matson said...

Thanks for the comment. I spent time yesterday with an elderly widower who has a dog he and his late wife shared. He told me that the dog is the last remaining link between them and the dog has provided the necessary comfort for him to continue living.

Alan Rogers said...

I cannot believe the suffering people have to endure sometimes!
Thanks for opening your heart to us in this latest post.

Sue Hague said...

Dear Dale and Sharon:

We lost our beloved Bitts, a Schnauzer (also in the terrier family as I recall), 2 years ago this month, and I am just now recovering from his loss. He drowned in a dear friend's pool and I found him and jumped in to take him off the bottom of the pool. I was inconsolable. Fr. Carlos was the first "religious" person (also a dog lover) who understood my grief and even my sense of guilt and didn't belittle me or make feel like an idiot for my sense of loss and guilt. Bless him for that. Bitts was 15 and semi blind and my "baby" (quite literally). While Randy missed him and still does--my connection to him was very different.

We got him as a belated housewarming gift 6 mos. after I found out I would never be able to have children. I cried on him for 2 years solid. He was a great comfort and source of joy for me as I worked thru my grieving process. He was my "child" and I adored him. I'd never had a dog before (Randy grew up with Schnauzers) and I was absolutely enchanted and amazed by him and it didn't hurt that he was the cutest dog I'd ever seen. Like Brown, he had an obedience problem, but was the most loving animal I'd ever been around. I learned so about myself and God's love for us thru our dog!

God in his mercy gave me a verse (from one of our readings) 2 weeks after Bitts' died that has helped to comfort me over the weeks and months after he died: Rev. 5:6-14--I'll quote the tail end of the verse, ". . .And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, all therein, saying, 'To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!' And the four living creatures said, 'Amen!' and the elders fell down and worshipped." I derived great comfort (despite my sense of guilt from not watching as closely as I should,) that even though my dear Bitts was gone, he was worshipping the Lamb of God. To know that Bitts in his doggy way is worshipping the Lamb gives me a painful joy--painful because I will always miss him and joy, because he is out of pain and is worshipping the One who created him. I hope that this verse helps you as you sort through your grief.

Sue Hague