Pet Grief

It’s been a rocky couple of weeks for my friends who have pets. My publishers just lost their beloved pup in an accident, my friend’s 16 year old JRT finally let go after years of non-stop action, and my 8 year-old gosh-daughter’s hamster went “missing” in a house full of cats. After many hours of searching, the hamster was found, alive and exhausted in the back of a closet, thereby staving off an agonizing choice for her parents. The hamster passion/obsession is nearly all consuming for the girl (as is Minecraft), and even though the whole family is moving to Tajikistan in August, a hamster-less summer is almost unthinkable.

Which brings me to a tough subject. When you lose a pet, how soon do you take on a new one? I know a few people who lost a pet and decided that was it for them, that life with a companion animal was too heartbreaking. I know that when our first cats were gone, we cleared all the cat stuff out—event the tower—and went cat-free for more than a year. But as the years go by, the interval shrinks for my husband and me. Perhaps we are more efficient at grief than we used to be, or perhaps we are just more selfish. Either way, as soon as one of our slots open, (we have 2 dogs and 2 cats), we tend to fill it. I still cry when Facebook tosses up a picture of my beloved Newton—a mutant Chihuahua who soaked our house in urine for years but was our #1 Party Boy—but then I grab up Penelope, the cranky terrier who smells like a turtle and generally runs things these days, and I feel that pain of loss drain away.

Right now Penelope is harassing me to go on a walk, and her breath smells like cat poop. She hates it when I blog. Charli cat loves it when I blog because I light the candles and she’s into fire. I give it one minute before Penny and Charli start beating the crap out of each other, so I have to wrap this up. My friend who lost the elderly JRT is already looking at rescue sites and manipulating her family to agree to a quick re-up of dog energy in the house. She can’t imagine living without it, and that makes a ton of sense to me. Jackie Brown cannot be duplicated—she was a crafty dame who played hard, slept hard, and sometimes snuck into other people’s houses to sleep in their beds—but she leaves a void that yearns to be filled by another Big Personality. And if you are the sort of person who has committed some portion of your life to making the lives of animals a little better, then why delay? I feel like there should be no shame in “replacing” a pet, and that we can grieve and love at the same time. In fact, those emotions go damned well together.

RIP Jackie. You were all heart. I have more pictures of you than I do of my own dogs, dammit.

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