Life is a journey best experienced with a companion or two. That’s exactly why in the many years I’ve been on this planet (I’ll withhold exactly how many it’s been), I could count the times I’ve gone without a pet on one hand, and I suspect I’m not alone in this fact.
But dogs, using up all the joy and love of life at a much faster pace than we humans do, tend to burn out a bit faster, slow down a bit earlier, and pass after just a decade or so on this planet. It’s an unfortunate reality that every pet owner is forced to face at some point. Putting down a pet or watching one pass unexpectedly is one of the most sombering experiences in life whether you’re young or old–whether it’s the first time or the 50th.
There’s certainly a grieving period associated with the passing of a pet, much like you’d expect with the passing of a loved one. It’s a period of loneliness that often conjures up thoughts of buying a new fuzzy friend to help ease the pain. To a degree, you’ll feel guilty. You’ll feel as though you’re not giving it adequate time, that you’re forgetting about the being that was formerly one of your best friends. You’ll feel as though you’re replacing him or her too soon.
And therein lies the issue–the word “replace.” Your new pets aren’t replacements any more than your new friends replace old ones. Animals, like humans, are individuals. They have thoughts feelings, emotions and personalities. Interact with more than two different dogs and let me know if you disagree on any of those notions–I’ll happy debate you on the subject.
Not only will your new pet not act as a replacement for your old one, it can’t act as a replacement. No pet will ever replace the previous one because each will add an exciting and emotionally-charged element to your life that is a little different than the last. The individuality of each pet you own means that you two grow and change and experience new facets of life together–you watch as he or she struggles to get up the steps in old age the same way you will one day do the same.
As for how long you should wait, that’s up to you. Don’t let anyone tell you that getting a pet too shortly after the passing of another is the wrong move–take the amount of time to grieve that you are comfortable with. Recognize that these heartbreaks we suffer not only as animal owners, but animal lovers, don’t just pass, they remain with us. Despite having owned dogs all my life, I’m confident that I can (but for your sake, won’t) name every dog I’ve owned.
Do you know why? Because each had a profound impact on my life that they and only they could.
I’ll tell you about one. Right now I have a one year old German Shepherd named Maks. He’s a handful to say the least, but I love him and despite the relatively short time he’s spent on this planet so far, we’ve formed a close bond. He’s not just my pet, he’s my friend. He’s my travel companion. What he’s not is a replacement.
I haven’t forgotten about Hobo, my old, straggly Rottweiler who passed away before I got Maks. Hobo too was my friend, my travel companion and my every day buddy–someone who, even when I was in a poor mood, was excited to see me–and I won’t forget that. Maks isn’t replacing him because no one can.
And that is why we can’t think of our new pets–our new friends–as mere replacements.