It’s been one year since we had to put down our sweet pup Bella. I’d like to say we’re ok and that everything is fine but it’s definitely not 100%. On a weekly basis I’ll think about her and a sweet mannerism she did. I’ll see a photo of her and wish I could give her one more hug. Or our new pup, Quinn, will lay in the exact same spot Bella used to and I’ll get this pang of grief where I miss her so much it hurts. Unfortunately, the reality is that with aging and growing up comes grief like this. Anyone who has a pet will eventually go through this and will have to say goodbye. As heartbreaking as it is though, going through that experience taught me a lot and gave me some insight into the process and maybe it could help someone else who one day, might sadly, have to go through it too.
You can’t blame yourself. Bella went through a lot of surgeries in her life. Some that restricted her to no running or jumping for months – and I laugh even writing that because a boxer doesn’t know how to sit still. During those times it was extremely difficult and every time she jumped on the couch or chased a ball I thought that she’d hurt herself again and it was my fault. It took me a while, but I finally learned to give myself some slack and know that she’s a dog, there’s only so much you can do and she will jump or run and that’s ok. When she was diagnosed with lymphoma all those feelings came back though. I spent a lot of months wondering if there was a reason she got it and if it was because of something I did – did she play on grass that had pesticides? Did I give her toys with bad plastic? Should she not have ran in that creek water? Was living in a city bad for her? There was a lot of guilt and blame but feeling that way wouldn’t change anything. She was a dog and she had the time of her life playing on that grass or running through that water so I couldn’t deny her having that kind of fun. Knowing that you did everything you could to make your pet’s life fulfilled is all you need to think about.
Plan and prepare if you can. When we found out that the chemo wasn’t working we knew we had a few weeks left with her so this gave us time to prepare and plan for what was coming. We asked our vet for as much information about the process ahead of time – we both knew that when we would have to put her down, neither one of us would be in any state to be going through the details. Weeks before we chose the cremation process, we chose what little urn she would be put in, and we gave our vet our credit card info so they could just process it without us having to stay and look at anyone after it was done. When we knew we had to put her down we started moving her things out of our home into storage. If I’m being honest, this was the second hardest part of the whole process. We were both sobbing the entire time and I felt so guilty moving her things but the last thing we wanted was to come home to an empty house full of every reminder of her. We also planed to go out after and meet our friends so we wouldn’t be alone. This isn’t for everyone but we both thought being around all our friends, the incredible support group that helped raise Bella, would take our minds off of it a little bit. So we texted everyone that we were on a patio drinking and they showed up, drank with us, toasted to our incredible dog, and made sure we felt loved. If you have the opportunity to put things in motion ahead of time then do it. The time after is extremely difficult, it’s very hard to hold it together and the last thing you want to be doing is thinking of costs or payments.
Guilt is a monster and it will consume you if you let it. Deciding to put down Bella was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made but I didn’t realize how badly the guilt would feel afterwards. Our number one priority when we knew Bella’s condition was her well-being and quality of life and the minute we saw that deteriorating, we knew that we had to put her down. For the days, weeks and months after there was this constant guilt that consumed me though. I felt like I had let her down, that maybe we did it too soon and that maybe she would have got better and we could have had more time with her. It was a slippery slope and every time I would fall into this feeling of guilt the best thing that helped was validation that I had made the right decision. Leaning on those around you is the only way to get through this. If you feel overridden with guilt talk to your friends and family and they will be the first ones to tell you that you did the right thing and made the right choice.
You get to decide if or when you get another pet. For all the pain and sadness that we went through loosing Bella, there were thousands of hilarious moments, fun adventures, and unconditional love for almost nine years – and it was the best nine years because she was in it. There was never a question that I would get another dog – the love and joy they bring to my life is something that I’ll always want to have. Everyone is different and some people will want to wait, some will want to get another pet right away, and some will get two. You’ll never know until you’re experiencing it when you’ll be ready. Don’t let anyone tell you when is the right time to get another pet or what pet for that matter. Only you can know how you’ll feel and even if other’s don’t understand it, they aren’t the ones living your life so you do you! We had some people question why we hadn’t gotten another dog sooner and other’s who questioned that it was too soon. Each time it made me either feel guilty or defensive but I know they were only trying to help. In the end, we knew we did what was right for us and that’s all that matters.
Remember your pet is here for a good time, not a long time. My mom told me this when we were saying goodbye to Bella and it really is so true. Unfortunately, our pets do not live forever (even though we expect them to) but they do live the most fulfilling lives and they enrich our lives tremendously. Whenever you feel upset wishing your pet could have been with you longer, try to remember those good-time moments – moments where they were at their happiest, having a blast living the life they had and that you were so fortunate to be a part of.