7 Things I Learned From Losing My Childhood Dog

For 17 years, my family had a beautiful Border Collie named Annabelle. Annabelle was not just our dog, she was a member of our family. We were blessed with 17 years full of love, cuddles, and kisses. Recently, age unfortunately caught up with our sweet girl and my family had to make the horrible decision that all pet owners hope they never have to make. It was the worst day of my life and the pain was unbearable. As someone who had never had to go through the process of loss or grief, these are a few things I learned.                                                                                          

1) While the decision is hard and painful, your loved one is in more pain.  

I didn’t want to do it, I was completely against putting our sweet girl to sleep. Annabelle couldn’t get up and she was going to the bathroom on herself. Our girl was in pain and she could not be a dog anymore. The selfish part of me did not want to make the hard decision, I wanted more time. It took me seeing my sweet girl and best friend physically unable to get up for me to understand. I would never be ready to say goodbye but it was the right decision for Annabelle, who did not deserve to be in pain.  

2) Time is precious

Over the years to right up until her last moments, we cherished our time with her. The summer before last, she had been really sick and we realized our puppy had grown old without us even realizing it because Annabelle aged so gracefully. We took her on trips, had special treats often, let her sit on the couch while she watched Gilmore Girls, we let her ride in the front seat more, and had a lot of snuggle time. The morning of the day she went to heaven, because all dogs go to heaven, we laid in the backyard with her. We cried, cuddled with her, she gave us kisses, and we listened to her favorite TV show theme songs. We took our time at the vet, we let her know that we loved her and we were with her till the end. We told her after it was all over that we would take her home and tuck her in. Our time with her was precious, every second of the 17 years we had with her was precious.

3) While we have our own worlds, you are your dog’s world.

Vets might say dogs cannot cry, most people would probably agree. But when were saying our final goodbyes, a single tear fell from sweet Annabelle’s eye. My family and I were Annabelle’s world, she loved us unconditionally and with her whole heart. As much as she loved us, she did not want to leave us just as much as we did not want her to go.

4) Respect your vet

That day was the hardest and most terrible day of my life and my family’s life. Our vet and the vet techs at Patton Chapel Animal Clinic in Hoover, AL were so kind and patient with my family. We were aloud to take our time, they were sensitive as they talked us through every step, and we were comforted by them. After she had passed, they held her for us while we prepared a spot for her to be buried and provided us with a box for her to go in. When we came back to get her, they wrapped her in her special Tinkerbell blanket for us and wrote “Sweet Annabelle” on the top of box. A week later, we received a hand written card that all the vets and techs had signed for us. As hard as that day was for us, they have to do it all the time. I have the upmost respect for veterinarians and the technicians, but I especially respect our friends at Patton Chapel Animal Clinic. As hard as that day was for us, they made it as easy as possible.

5) Make a special resting place for your loved one

Losing your pet is hard, they are apart of your everyday life and you miss them terribly. It feels like a piece of your heart is now missing. Having a place to remember them by is a great way to pay tribute to them but it is also nice for you as the owner. Whether you decide to bury them or have them cremated, pick a special spot for them to be in. For Annabelle, we picked her “sunshine spot” in our backyard where she liked to sit. We made it beautiful, my Mom got her some flowers, we covered the dirt with pretty white rocks, we put a plaque with a cross on top of the rocks, and my parents are going to eventually get a marker with her name on it. My family and I like to sit out there now, it has been therapeutic.

6) It is ok to grieve and it is ok to take as much time as you need to.

I had never experienced grief before losing Annabelle, I had lost loved ones but never anything that was apart of my everyday life. The pain is unimaginable and it has not been like anything I had ever felt before. I have hated every second that she is not here and I feel like my home will never be the same. The first few days, there was a small part of my brain that felt stupid because I thought people would expect to me to get over it quick because she was dog not a human. But I knew that I was not getting over it anytime soon and I realized there is nothing wrong with me taking all the time I needed. Annabelle was my family, friend, and the only dog I have ever had.

7) Your loved one is in your heart

Your pet loved you and spent their life wanting you to be happy, they still want you to be happy. I know Annabelle is watching over me and that I will see her again one day. Until our long awaited reunion, I have the cutest guardian angel.