Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How Do You Know You're Ready for Another Dog?: Life After Pet Loss

After losing a dog, a lot of people ask, 'How do I know when to get another?' Although I'm no expert, my answer is always the same, 'You'll know,' and 'The right dog will find you.'  Now, I'm not saying there's a dog out there with a compass and your photo (although, wouldn't that be cool?) but I truly believe that dogs are brought into our lives by a higher power.  Their love is so genuine, unconditional and pure, I just feel like there is some greater force at work that ties them to our lives and makes us better people.

After losing Milo in 2013, I knew in my heart I was not ready for another dog, yet at the same time, I hated living life without a dog by my side.  I would visit my neighbor's dogs on a daily basis because I was so lonely for the feeling of a furry companion by my side.  I can't even explain it.  I just missed walking in step with a dog.  I am so grateful to Daisy and Lucy for getting me through some awful, lonely days.  Just seeing their sweet faces and walking next to them was a huge comfort (and I'm grateful to my neighbors for putting up with me hanging around their yard!).

How can you not love little Miss Lucy?

Thank you for keeping me company, sweet Daisy girl.

We happen to have an animal shelter less than five minutes from our house.  Shortly after Milo passed, I went there with our son to see a Jack Russell mix they had up on Petfinder (see, I was looking at Petfinder. No harm in looking, was what I told myself).  This JRT was so cute and looked a lot like Milo.  His name was Benjamin Button, and when I saw him in the shelter, my heart dropped and I immediately whispered, "Oh my."  But once I met him, I knew he wasn't meant for us.  He ran away from us and seemed so disinterested.  At one point he ran up to my son full force, pounced on his chest, then ran away.  I  knew he wasn't the right dog for us.  It was hard to leave him there in that shelter, hard to walk away, but I believed he was meant for someone else.  Sure enough, he was adopted a week or so later.

Then there was the puppy from the shelter at the Farmer's Market.  A sweet basset hound mix who curled up in my lap and had ears as soft as silk.  'You can take him home today,' the shelter volunteer coaxed. But then so many people swarmed around and seemed interested in him, especially a little girl nearby.  I kind of got pushed aside, so I thought, 'he's not meant for me, either.' Perhaps he was destined to be the best friend to that little girl.

There was also the dog I met at a shelter fundraiser.  I took him for a walk.  His name was Jackson.  He was sweet, I was unsure.  I couldn't tell if I was feeling sorry for him or if I really wanted him.  Then all of a sudden he turned and tried to pee on me.  It was almost like he was saying, 'You're not right for me either.' After I left him, I checked up on him on Petfinder, and sure enough, he was adopted by someone else, too.

There were other dogs in between.  Dogs who made me sneeze terribly and shelter groups that never followed through with calls or emails.  So I gave up.  I said, 'forget this.'  And that's when Spot came into our lives.  I didn't go looking for him, not exactly.  I didn't even want him, really, not exactly.  But there he was with his crazy black and white hair and scruffy beard.  There he was with his gentle spirit and long legs. He seemed to love our son and wanted to come home with us. It was like a little switch clicked inside of me that said, 'He's the one.'

There's 'The One!'
But don't get me wrong, it's not like we adopted him and there was a magical, perfect ending.  As I've said before, loving another dog doesn't make you stop loving the dog you lost.  Spot is one part of a long journey since losing my Milo.  Having him here means learning to let go a little bit, learning to release the grip I've been holding on Milo's memory, like the string of a balloon.  It doesn't mean I have to forget him (impossible anyway) it just means I have to learn to love another.  I want to learn to love another.  I want to make room in my heart for both of them, because I know what a gift a dog is.

Spot chose to curl up next to Milo's pillow.

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