Clear the Shelters

Opinion: Losing a pet is painful, but not experiencing their love is worse

No matter how much you think you’ve prepared yourself for it, you haven’t

Grief is a strange beast.

No matter how much you think you’ve prepared yourself for it, you haven’t.

I knew as my beloved dog grew older, his time would come eventually. Still, I wasn’t prepared for the suddenness of his departure from my world. The pain of his passing hit me in a way I couldn’t have imagined - until I was in it.

It felt like I was stuck in a cycle of realizing the permanence of this immense loss, then distracting myself with other thoughts or tasks before inevitably coming back to the realization that he was gone. And the cycle of grief would start over again.

Pain, distraction, pain, distraction…

The smallest of things could trigger any number of emotions. Vacuuming up his hair, a thoughtful message from a friend sending their condolences, catching myself accidentally preparing his medicine in the morning…

I would find myself hoping to feel or see him around the house – poking his head around a closed door to check on me, licking my hand as he follows me walking around the house, his ears poking up over the couch on alert as I call his name.

It was crippling at first.

But then someone told me the intensity of my pain in loss was simply an indicator of the profound love I had experienced in life.

It didn’t take away the pain, but it certainly helped changed my perspective on it.

The loss of my sweet boy changed me forever. But so did his life.

My husband and I first met Shaw when he was almost 2 years old at Chicago Animal Care & Control in 2014. We had gone to meet another dog, a corgi-golden mix, who was scooped up before we even arrived.

But as we walked through the aisles of barking dogs all shouting for our attention, we saw him. A black brindle Dutch shepherd quietly and patiently staring at us.

He had been there for several weeks and there was a possibility of euthanasia if he didn’t find a home soon. My husband knew in that moment he was ours. And the next day, he was.

The unconditional love of a rescue dog is different from any other pet I’ve had. He would have given his life for me, and in a way, he did.

He spent every day loving me in a way that I don’t know if I will ever truly grasp.

If I was sad, he was there to comfort me, licking away my tears or warming me with the perfect snuggle. If I was anxious, he offered me reassurance. If I was happy, he was there to share in my joy, even if he was unaware of its source.

I had been faced with the possibility of losing him once before.

In 2022, he was paralyzed from the neck down in a collision with our other dog while playing fetch.

But several vet visits, major surgery and multiple physical therapy sessions later and he was back on all fours, chasing a ball in our yard once again.

As long as he was willing to fight to be with us, I was going to fight alongside him.

@alexandria_deanne

This is emotional for me. Today we celebrate my sweet boy’s 10th birthday. Most who know Shaw know he’s not your average pup. He has some serious quirks, as any rescue does - and then some. But somehow, in his short time on this earth, he managed to generate love from people near and far. And when he was paralyzed in a tragic accident just 4 months ago, it was that love that got us here. His strength, his perseverance, and his complete trust in us was nothing short of incredible. Pair that with the compassion and power of our wonderful vets and the generosity and kindness of our friends, family and strangers who loved him in ways we never could have imagined and I am overcome with gratitude. It’s a feeling I will never be able properly express. I would have given anything just to have these last few months, let alone whatever time we get with him going forward. Today, we celebrate with some of his favorite people, bones, a ball and all the love he could possibly imagine. In these last few months, Shaw went from not being able to move any of his legs, to running, trotting on trails and jumping into his favorite snuggle spots with ease. He is my inspiration and my whole heart and to everyone who helped us get here- please know your love is felt in ways I simply cannot put into words, but feel so deep in my core. So here’s to you, Shawzie. May you always defy the odds and may you continue to bring so much joy into our lives. . There are too many people to tag here as thank yous. But VCA Aurora Animal Hospital and Go Wild Hearts - we cannot thank you enough for your expertise and generosity in helping us get him back on his feet. To all who donated and sent healing messages or support, know that I am sending love to you all- and I can name every single one of you. . Happy birthday bubs- you are and always will be the best boy. ♥️ #aww #goodnews #inspiring #doglover #doglove #animals #animalovers

♬ Inspiring Emotional Piano - Metrow Ar

But when it came time for the end, I felt that same reassurance he had given me so many times in his short life. Even in his final moments, he was there to comfort me and I had to do for him what he spent his life doing for me.

For nearly 10 years I was gifted an experience I will cherish forever. And knowing what it feels like to have that taken away, I would still do it all over again.

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