"Do you think it's too soon?" That's the question Aly sent in the other day. Her story brought tears to my eyes, and I wanted to share it - and my answer - with you. Here's Aly's email:
My name is Aly and i am 16 years old. My Family recently had a house fire and we lost our dog. He was really close to us becuse as long as i can remember he's been around. We had gotten him out of the house but we think he went back in to look for my mom and older brother who were not home that night. But anyways more to the point of this, every one else in my family seems to think that we have to get another dog right away. Do you think its to soon?? I mean we only lost our dog (Duke) a month ago and they are acting like it never really happended. I guess i wouldn't really mind if we got a new dog right away but the fact that we have to get the exact same dog as before because my dad said that it was the same dog or no dog at all. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks, Aly
My response is here: Dear Aly, Thank you for writing. Your questions are big ones, and I'll do my best to answer from the heart. First of all, I'm really sorry that Duke died. He sounds like an amazing dog, to go back in to a burning house to look for your mother and brother. It's obvious that he really cared about you all, or he would not have risked his life like that. And you are a really good dog owner to think so carefully and deeply about what to do next. Everyone grieves in very different ways. Some people cry for a long time, and really focus on the pain of losing their loved one. Others clam up about it, saving their tears for private moments. Others pretend that nothing happened, that it was all not a big deal. There are as many ways to express grief as there are people. So I'm not surprised that you are feeling differently than other family members seem to. All of you are going to react a little differently, it's totally natural. It doesn't mean that any one of you cares more or less than the others, either, it just means that you process the grief differently. The bottom line answer to your question
"Do you think it's too soon?" is
I don't know. There is no rule set in stone about how soon to get a new dog. It is such a personal decision to make, I can't possibly tell for sure. No dog will ever replace Duke. Duke has his own special place in your hearts, and no dog will ever act, look, feel, or be Duke. It's impossible. My new puppy, Kanga, is a Maltese, just like my wonderful Maui was. But even though she looks a LOT like Maui did at her age, she is a completely different dog! I couldn't replace Maui if I tried, and you will never be able to replace Duke. Since you are not the decision maker (it sounds like Dad is), I would give you this advice during this time:
1. Don't make any rules for yourself about when or what kind of dog to get. Your new dog will be the PERFECT new dog for you, somehow, no matter what. Since you don't have full control over which dog or when to get it, just try to relax about it. If Dad insists on getting the same kind of dog, be as supportive as you can. He is dealing with his own grief his own way, and any dog will be lucky to be with you all. It doesn't matter whether the dog looks like Duke or not, it will be its own dog and you will love it for itself (and likely, so will your Dad).
2. Say everything you need to say to Duke so that you can focus on and take joy in your new dog. One of the best things I did when I was first dealing with Maui's death was to go over her whole life, out loud, on video. I talked about the first day I saw her, funny things she did, what she loved to eat. I told the whole story of her life right up until that day. It was so moving to go over all of it, and I felt so close to her. It really helped me to see why I cared so much and missed her so much. It helped me to grieve fully. You can still do this with Duke, just talk to him as if he is with you. Record it or videotape it so if you need to you can play it back.
3. Go easy on yourself. You have suffered a major loss - and a fire can be very scary. Don't expect yourself to just "be OK", and don't expect others in your family to react in certain ways, either. There are no rules on how to deal with loss, or how to move on. So I just encourage you to relax, be honest with yourself and others about what you want, and let things flow as naturally as possible. I guarantee that you and everyone else will know when it is the right time to get another dog. And you will also "know" your new dog when you meet him or her. It will be obvious to all of you. In the meantime take care of yourself and your family. Thanks again for writing, James

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Comment by Marielos on May 11, 2009 at 1:46pm
I know that loosing a dog is ALWAYS hard no matter how long it goes, what new dog comes into yout life... Every dog is UNIQUE and special. I can suggest to look for the same "breed dog" from a rescue and even, try a shelter....as...through Duke you can offer a new opportunity to a dog that was abandoned. Again, ANY DOG that can come into one's life WILL ALWAYS be a blessing...no matter where or when it comes from...
Comment by Mrs. Lorna R. Lanyon on May 10, 2009 at 9:29pm
Jeanette: Don't feel that at 82 years young you shouldn't own another four-pawed companion. It won't be the same as your Sophie, but an older dog I feel is the answer to your loneliness. A puppy with its exuberance, house-breaking, first shots, etc. would be daunting, I know because at 74 and with a nine-month old puppy in the house,if it wasn't for my four older dogs, her, Mum, Dad, Grandma and Great-Grandma sharing the joys and needed discipline this wee mite needs I would find it challenging and not the warm, bonding happy experience that it is. How-ever an older dog, I'm not meaning a senior citizen, but one of two years old and up, who needs only its annual check-up and booster shots, has already been house-broken, and socialized, would, in my humble be the perfect solution for both of you. This new animal in your life could be a rescue dog, or one from the shelter in your area that needs a good home and some-one to love. Just a thought Talk it over with family, friends, doctor, and if your worried about something happening that you can no longer provide the care needed for this companion, I'm sure you'll find as i have that some-one from this support group will step forward and say, it's alright, I know the love and care your beasties need and they'll not be separated, etc. and so your mind like mine will be at peace where their welfare is concerned. There-fore don't let age keep you from sharing your home and love with another wee fur body, it's mere presence will keep you young and feeling needed. This new-comer won't replace Sophie nothing can or will, nor should it, but, it will ease the grief and pain, plus it sends the message to Sophie, who's waiting on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, that her time with you was worth-while, she did her job of looking after you, making your life more complete and meaningful by her presence that you brought another of her ilk into your home so that her work and your zest for life could continue on unhindered.. Lorna
Comment by Diane Meffer on May 9, 2009 at 1:21pm
I suppose that depends on the person, but after we lost our big Husky boy, Bandit after 12 years, we swore we would never get another dog. However, after 2 months, we were missing him so bad we started looking for another Husky. We wanted another male that had beautiful brown eyes just like Bandit. We found a woman that had a male and female to give away. We went to look at them and even though neither dog looked like Bandit, which was disappointing, we chose the female because she had beautiful brown eyes. We discovered, because of her reactions that she had most likely been abused and had been in 3 homes in 3 years and had had 1 litter of pups. She doesn't play, she don't know how. We also found out she had heartworms. Both my husband and I cried we felt so bad for her. Our vet worked with us because we are retired and on a fixed income and when we took her to start her treatments the vet sent her back home telling us she was going to have puppies in about 3 weeks. Well, as it turned out Kara needed far more love and attention than Bandit ever needed and our hearts just melted and went out to her. We had no time to think of Bandit, just Kara and her needs. She had 6 puppies, finally got her heartworm treatments, then months later when she was physically able, we had her spayed. We kept the runt of the litter (Peggy) because he has a deformed right front leg with no paw. We finally found homes for the other 5 puppies then a year later our neighbor that had taken another of the girls (Diamond) moved and couldn't take her. We took her back until we could find another good home for her. We started thinking that was the same as Kara being moved around, so we just kept Diamond also. They are truly a family and are so close. Even though we still miss Bandit when we look at his picture and remember all the things that made him so special, our girls now are really special to us too
Comment by jeanette simmons on May 8, 2009 at 10:53am
I lost my little Sophie on May 2,a Jack Russell.She was my best friend for nearly 13 years.Now I dont know about another dog since I am 82 yrs. old. my heart is broken.Jeanette
Comment by Teresa Day on May 6, 2009 at 4:22am
ive read this story yesterday and it is something that touches and tugs at the heart strings for many of us who suffered loss of a pet and especially in such dramatic circumstances such as a fire. It is true all circumstances are different and so are our beloved animals and the respective owners, and the mix has different reactions and approaches. For instance, I lost my cat Gizmo, my first pet and my beloved cat, many years ago now but never ever forgotten. She was killed by a car after pubs closing and was found by a motorist who buried her in his back garden (maybe he ran her over and felt stricken with sadness/guilt-who knows?) I was told of her demise by the local shopkeeper. I had been posting flyers through neighbours' doors and this helped me but only to learn the bad news two weeks later. I was crying incessantly and felt sick most of the time and felt i was going crazy. I kept remembering times with Gizmo and yes that always was calming. A college friend who was a PA to a company director took time off work when she lost her cat! My Gizmo will never be replaced and I never bought another cat. We had Flash and one day she will go too. I love her but Gizmo was my special cat. She had been a nervous and outdoor cat while Flash loves the indoors. I remember Gizmo slept in the kitchen on her first night and the next morning she could not be found. I was mystified and then she emerged - this black and white tiny kitten. She looked at me with her green hypnotic eyes and we connected and she then was my special kitten. She was only three years old when we lost her and I remember dreaming of the road nearby and hearing the skidding of tyres and a hurled shadow in the air and jumping up in bed. My head felt like it was aflow with soothing and light energy. It was amazing experience. I felt very relaxed for a few days afterward only to find she had been killed by a motorist. I found thinking of her life and watching a video of her was comforting and I understand what James says dealing with Maui's death. People deal with these occasions differently when losing beloved pets and grief in their way. Some cry and it brings healing that bit closer each time, others replace a pet straightaway like on a rebound. That will help some while for others it may help for while and then realise it feels not right. Some have quick fix and quick falls and others it is just what they needed. Different approaches work for some and not others. The crux of the matter is each of us are individuals and while some will heal and be happy with a new dog/cat etc and it works for them, others may find it works for a while and then it hits them it is not the same and wished they had let their emotions and feelings subside first before getting another dog. Some purely will not get another one again. When I lost Gizmo we all dealt with it differently but we never replaced her. I think it is important to all family to communicate each of their feelings about the loss of Duke and come to a collective decision what to do - get replacement now, later or not at all. It is important to try and respect the others feelings at such times and especially when the loss of a dear one was dramatic like a result of a fire. You can find your way, also a collective way, go with the flow and the answer what to do will come naturally. lots of love to you Aly
Comment by Karen Britton on May 5, 2009 at 3:13pm
Hi Aly, I don't know. I agree with everything James said to you and everything everyone has written on here. they are all truly animal lovers from DEEP within their hearts. In my case I have had 3 shih-tzu's. Not all at the same time. My first was black and white his name was Bee Gee. He died at 14 and when he died I didn't think I wanted to get another dog but exactly 9 days after I lost him I was out looking for another shih-tzu. I bought a little 9 week old, brindle colored shih-tzu and named him Gizmo. I had him for 10 years, long story short he died on the operating table during surgery. Again I got another one in less than 2 weeks. Her name is Emily. She is 4 yrs. old and with me still. In my case the pain was soooo unbearable I couldn't stand being without a dog and I know my other 2 babies were happy that I gave another little one a good home and the same amount of love that they experienced. They are all unique and you love them each in a different way. Even though I loved my new puppy and so enjoy watching them play and be silly, I laughed through my tears because I missed the one before him. So I was happy and sad at the same time. You never really get over the loss you learn to live with it, but in the meantime you are sad and happy and giving love and a home to yet another little precious soul. I am so sorry about Duke, he was a very special little guy. So smile through your tears and love again, soon.
Comment by kathleen on May 5, 2009 at 2:09pm
I had to put my 13 year old chocolate lab down March 19th. I felt like my heart was broken. I had lost my best friend. I have never felt so much pain in my life. Now I remember the good times. I still talk to her and tell her I miss her, and how she is in heaven with Grandpa, laying on his lap. It makes me feel better. My husband was talking to me about a replacement dog immediately after she passed. I just can't do it yet.
I do want a dog. I just don't feel ready. I don't know why. Maybe I'm afraid of loving something so much that I don't want to have to feel that pain of loss that it will bring in the future. I am sure this will pass and I will have my new puppy making me smile again. Time will tell. Kathleen
Comment by Carol Main-Lerma on May 5, 2009 at 12:58pm
Hi Aly, I lost my 13 1/2 year old Dalmatian Christie on Jan 4. I was devastated and thought I would never recover. She was my soulmate. I got her when she was7 weeks old and she was my best friend. I have 2 others dogs and I love them very much but there was just something very special about Christie, perhaps it was the length of time she and I were together. I did not think I could ever get another Dalmatian because it would be so hard to see the same kind of dog. I looked on rescue sites to find another dog. I found my sweet Dalmatian Chelsea at a Dalmatian rescue and went to see her. It was love at first sight. She is a beautiful girl with one blue and one brown eye and is totally deaf. I got her on April 15, 3 1/2 months after losing Christie. No dog will ever replace my precious Christie and she will always be in my heart. I believe I was lead to Chelsea by my Christie to help heal my broken heart. You will know when it is time, it is different for everyone. I keep Christie's ashes on the mantle next to her picture and have her collar there to always let her know that she is missed and loved. I encourage you to write about Duke and make an album with his pictures. My Christie has a memorial at Rainbowsbridge and I add memories to it. It is very helpful. If you go to Rainbowsbridge.com you can do the same for your Duke. They also have a Grief chat room where you can get support from others who have lost their furbabies. Take care Aly and know that your Duke is watching over you. Sincerely Carol
Comment by Jean Burkhardt on May 5, 2009 at 11:29am
Hi Aly

I agree that James words are so true. Duke will ALWAYS be in your heart and you will remember him as long as you live. Over my 62 years I have lost many many dogs and each time it was an act of love(I think) to rescue another furbaby in need of a home. Of course-there are times when I see one of their pictures and the tears will come BUT I will never regret having any one of them. When I lost my last dog-Patty-a Dobie-GSD who was only about 6 years old to lymphoma on 3/18/07-I though my heart would break. In June of that year I saw an ad in the paper for a similar girl named Macy who needed a good home-she had been a shelter dog but her owner couldn't keep her due to a job change. Well-I truly believe in my heart that my Patty sent her to me-to comfort my aching heart and arms. I hope all these words from all of us here help you in some way my dear.
Comment by Jerry Dunham on May 5, 2009 at 6:08am
James gives excellent advice, and in reading the comments I've been very impressed with the wisdom they contain. I work in dog rescue and deal regularly with people who have gone through such a loss, but I have little to add.

My biggest concern is your statement that "we have to get the exact same dog as before because my dad said that it was the same dog or no dog at all." That's a bit scary. There IS no exact same dog. Even a clone of Duke wouldn't be the exact same dog, as those who tried it have found out. Dogs that look exactly alike don't act alike. If you have siblings, I'm sure your dad didn't expect them to all turn out exactly alike. Your dad really needs to adjust his expectations, or he's guaranteed to be disappointed.

Many of the dogs we have in rescue that need new homes are here because someone got a dog expecting it to be a certain way and was disappointed when the dog turned out to just be himself or herself. Many such dogs don't even make it to rescue, but die in shelters because there isn't room for all of them in rescue.

Jerry Dunham
Rescuing Great Danes and hounds

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