On the second Sunday of September each year, Pet Memorial Day, many humans have been commemorating their deceased loved ones of other species since 1971. Certainly there have been innumerable people who have grieved over the loss of such special companions long before that year, and for more than one day since their separation. Some also mourn the surrender, whether by circumstances such as a move, theft or other reasons, of animals that were taken from them while still alive. No matter what the method, the missed pet is going to long be held in the human counterpart’s heart.
There are a lot of stories told of how these furry (or even feathered, scaled, etc.) family members waste away, often lying on graves, when they are the victims of bereavement themselves. Dogs have been known to even walk down to cemetaries daily keeping the late human company in their own way. A famous canine mourner named Shep used to wait for his friend (whose body was shipped elsewhere on a train) at the train station daily for years. Poor Shep, loyal to the end, fell one day on an icy track in front of a moving train. In England, a similar case involved Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye terrier who faithfully waited at his best friend’s grave for many years despite some local authorities’ insistence that he should be killed, being a stray. (See http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201004/loyal-dogs-wait-north-american-version-greyfriars-bobby)
Companion animals, (note: in some states this term designates animals who are permitted legally for medical reasons to live with humans although not service animals, providing social and emotional assistance) no matter the disparaging ideologies of those who believe only humans feel emotions, are capable of grief also when losing their own non-human friends. One German Shepherd, Pax, grieved over the death of his bunny “sister” Moonshadow, laying on her grave, not eating, for months, wasting away to the end. Does that, or many similar examples, show that these creatures feel nothing? If they mourn so strongly, it is then no wonder that we, who share our lives with them, also experience great pain when we are parted.
Guilt is another factor that must be dealt with in some situations, such as having a beloved animal euthanized. You can say “put to sleep”, “put out of misery” or any euphemism you choose, the result is the same. The animal dies. You are not going to appreciate all the misguided remarks about how it was inevitable, necessary, the only choice, etc. The fact is that you made a decision, whether by compulsion or a desire to end suffering, and it is irreversible. Only you can deal with the aftermath. Others get to walk away and go on with their own lives.
Some other misguided “advice” is to go get another pet right away. Sure, and if anyone promoting this idea lost a spouse or child, would they run off and remarry or adopt immediately? Certainly, following such illogic, the deceased person would be quickly forgotten and the new family member would replace the predessor’s memory! Love doesn’t work that way. Those we loved and have bonded with don’t go away other than physically. As St. Paul said “Love never comes to an end.” (1 Cor. 13, New Jerusalem version) Many today believe, due to the proliferation of a poem “Legend of Rainbow Bridge” by William N. Britton (http://www.legendofrainbowbridge.com/poem.html), all deceased animals who experienced love on earth are waiting on the other side of this special bridge. Whether such is true or not, it’s certainly got to be the case that God rewards love with eternal life and reunites all who loved, no matter what the species. Otherwise what is the point of loving in the first place?
For assistance in overcoming grief at the loss of a cherished animal family member, here is a suggested link courtesy of Self-Healing Expressions: