How To Cope With The Loss Of Your Pet


As I sit here 6 months after the sudden loss of my beautiful dog “Brucie baby” I still can’t quite believe he is gone.

He was my constant companion, my shadow. When I would visit my sister at the weekends my niece and nephews would barely see me as they called over my shoulder for “Brucie baby” who was always just a few paw steps behind me.

How lucky I was!  How lucky I am! that this furry little guy was part of my family for over 12 years…

So how to begin to explain how we humans might cope with such a loss.

All I can do is try to begin to share with you my experience.

Hopefully it may be of some help and comfort to anyone who has gone through or is going through a similar time in their lives.

This is also a tribute to Brucie and to all our beautiful pets!

A tribute to remind us in this hectic world, to appreciate the greatest gift that our pets give us…the gift of living in the moment!

Appreciate today!  Appreciate now!

Give your pets a cuddle if they are still with you and if they have left you, embrace instead the countless happy memories of days gone by.

Our pets bring us fun and adventure and can teach us so much about courage and love…

So as February is the month to celebrate love, I will find the courage to tell you about Brucie, in the hope that it will help any of you who are suffering loss to cope and also that his story will inspire kindness towards and appreciation for all of our beautiful pets.

Embrace The Memories

When I collected Brucie as a small puppy (a ball of fluff really) from his canine Mums home in Rathfarnham I had my oldest nephew Thomas with me.

He is the one who named this amazing new addition to our family…Thomas was 5 years old and a huge fan of Batman so he decided “Bruce” would be the perfect name as “Batman” is “Bruce Wayne”.

“Bruce” sounded a bit too mature for this 9 week old pup so we compromised on “Brucie” “Brucie Baby” to be precise and the title stuck for all of his nearly 13 years.

He was the cutest thing I had ever seen and fit into the palm of my hand.

So many happy memories…Our adventures up the mountains to the Hellfire Club or strolling through the markets in Marlay Park …racing along the beach on holidays… overnights with his human cousins were his absolute favourite.

Give Yourself Time

Sometimes people think they shouldn’t feel for a pet the way they do for their family…that they are “only an animal”…well as any of you who have been lucky enough to have a pet know, of course you need time to grieve.

Just as you felt joy and excitement and love you will feel sadness and loneliness for that furry companion who is no longer there.

The term “Heartbroken” is quite literal. I knew it would be difficult when Brucie left me, but I didn’t realise I would feel actual physical pain.

The phone call from the vet was heart wrenching – I found it hard to breathe as I tried not to panic.

My gorgeous boy went in for an operation and never woke up out of the anaesthetic.

He hadn’t been himself for a few weeks – my wonderful vet was working with me trying to figure out how to help him.

Eventually it led to an x-ray which revealed a suspicious lump near an internal organ that would have to be removed.

As he was twelve and a senior in the dog world it was not ideal to have to operate but there was no choice…

Brucie had been uncomfortable for a few weeks, the steroids were helping but his quality of life was deteriorating.  An operation to remove the lump was the only answer…

We do the best we can for our family and Brucie was my family.

So, give yourself time to grieve, to talk to others about your loss, to share memories…it all very slowly helps to get you back to coping with life, as it marches on regardless of your loss.

There was some comfort talking to the vet after and hearing that there was nothing else we could have done for him.

Talk To Friends And Family

Brucie being a “Sheltie” or Shetland sheepdog loved herding and his favourite people to herd were my sister’s children.  If we were all out together, he would stop and wait if the children were behind us and would refuse to move until they caught up with us.

In fact, he was so caring and gentle with them that my nephew Luke was able to walk him around Marlay park when he was only a toddler.

My niece Grainne was born 4 months before Brucie and they grew up together…one of my favourite photos was taken when she was around a year old sitting on a cushion on the floor and puppy Brucie wandered over to her, curled up on the cushion behind her and fell asleep.

They had an incredibly strong bond and she has been a great comfort since he passed.

Shared love and memories are such an important tool to help you get through the pain.

Stay Busy

Such loneliness…How to cope???

The first few days I veered between numb and weeping. Work got me through – it was a busy time and I submerged myself in the comfort of my role as a pet sitter.

That’s where I was lucky as my pet visits meant I could spend the majority of my time “living in the moment” as I walked and played with animals, seeing the world through their eyes…a blue sky, a butterfly, the warmth of the sun.

Just now!…no past, no future…Just now!

In between visits I cried.

Whatever responsibilities or job you have, let them motivate you to get up out of bed, to breathe in and out and go -and each day that passes it gets a little bit more bearable.

Surround Yourself With Animals

My daily visits as a pet sitter were so comforting in the days and weeks after Brucie passed.

It felt soothing to be around other animals.

If you have another pet remember to spend time with them…they will be lonely too and you can be a great comfort to each other.

My little cavalier cross Tiny who is 9 years old was subdued and unsure of what to do on his own without Brucie.  He was reluctant to go on walks and followed me everywhere.  We slowly began to accept this new way of doing things as just the two of us, without our cheeky talkative sheltie there to lead the way.

It is difficult!

There are days of sadness, but it is getting easier to cope with and accept our furry friend is gone.

If you don’t have another pet in your family, I would absolutely recommend visiting your local animal shelter to volunteer and help out.

There are so many animals that need our help and we need them too!

Where To From Here?

Brucie will always be with me…in my memories…inspiring my actions!

Brucie taught the children in my family how to care for animals, how to love and respect them…how to show kindness…

As my 8 year old nephew told me one day recently:

“Brucie was my best friend…I know he wasn’t a person, but he was my best dog friend”.

Thank you Brucie – We LOVE You!

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