Grieving for a Pet.
When Roy Hattersley, the former shadow home secretary, was interviewed by the Daily Mail he talked so movingly about losing his former rescue dog Buster.
“Buster’s death,” he says, “was the most painful thing I had ever experienced, more painful than losing my mother. Buster and I were so close. I didn’t live with my mother. I didn’t put out her breakfast in the morning or walk her in the evening. She didn’t sleep in a basket in my bedroom.”“In objective terms, I am sensible enough to put human life above dog life. But one’s affections aren’t objective.”
Roy Hattersley and dog Buster were inseparable for 15 years
When questioned about what he missed most about his beloved Buster Roy said:
“I enjoyed the knowledge that he was dependent on me, and I admired his apparent belief that I was dependent on him.”
Making that decision
Roy talked eloquently about the end of Buster’s life.
“For 15 years, I watched him grow up, grow wise and grow old. His vet predicted he would be happy to the end, but that one day he would just be too tired to carry on. ‘When it happens, he will let you know,’ I was told.
And so he did. Every step of his brief morning walk was a struggle. Breakfast was eaten with slow determination. Then he lay down with no intention of ever getting up again. The final decision had to be based on what was best for Buster. So the temptation to put off the fatal decision was resisted. After a moment of agonising indecision, I made the fatal phone call. The vet arrived within the hour.”
The grief you experience when losing a pet can be so shocking, especially when you yourself have made the decision to put your own pet to sleep. Whilst doing it for all the right reasons the emotional impact can be enormous.
In Roy’s own words:
“I do not pretend that my grief was unique. Many families, I know, have been devastated by the death of a dog. I merely state, as a matter of fact, that nothing has ever caused me as much pain as Buster’s death.
Nor have I ever behaved with such a shameless display of emotion.
I sat in the first floor room in which I work, watching my neighbours go about their lives, amazed and furious that they were behaving as if it was a normal day. Stop all the clocks. Buster was dead.”
Do not underestimate how the death of a beloved pet can impact you and your family, do allow yourself the time to feel the pain of losing your pet, it is an important part of the grieving process. Everyone will experience it differently but it is important to let yourself feel it in your way, for as long as you need to feel it.
Getting another Dog
It may take a very long time or you may need to get another pet as soon as poosible, only you will know what you need to do and give yourself permission to do whatever feels right, your grief is a powerful guide and will let you know when the tie is right.
“I eventually realised,” said Lord Hattersley, who now owns Jakie, “that not having a dog would have been a denial of all Buster provided. To be true to Buster I had to continue enjoying the dogginess, the canine qualities, the sheer joy of having a dog.”
Lord Hattersley said that the new dog will not be a replacement. Buster was irreplaceable. His successor will be a dog in his own right. But he will be a reassertion of all that Buster stood for: the incalculable blessing of possessing a dog.