Three and a half weeks ago my dog died a horrible, violent death that did NOT involve a car, and left nothing of her body. Our family has been reeling and grieving this loss, trying to come to terms with it. She was a part of our family, present at the birth of my youngest daughter (who was born at home), and important to all of us.
Why am I bringing this up? Because I can’t stand how many people are asking me when I’m going to get another dog, or telling me we should get another dog. It’s obnoxious. It hasn’t even been a month yet, for Christ’s sake! Some people asked me 2 DAYS after she died!
For the record, we have another dog. He’s helped somewhat, primarily because we love him so much, we can focus on that love instead of our hurting, which helps with any loss, I know. Heck, I got Ava the day after the death of another dog I lived with. How is that different? I can hear some people say. For one thing, that dog was my boyfriend’s. I loved her, but I had only lived with her a few months and she was attached to him. She was a dear, and my heart broke losing her. But there were many other, much worse situations going on in my life at the time that did not involve the death of any loved ones that led me to get Ava. It was the combination of these things that led to the decision to bring home a puppy to love.
The thing about pain, grieving, and loss is though, that you can’t bandaid them away. If you do, these emotions will come back to get you in other ways, and it will all probably be worse and prolonged. I knew this when I brought Ava home. And for the record, I was also seeing a therapist for all the other stuff going on.
The questions about getting a new dog bug me the most primarily because they seem to imply that dogs are simply replaceable. They’re all four-legged furry things that have to be taught to potty outside and behave appropriately. They live relatively short lives. They can be left at home all day without much trouble (most of the time, anyway).
Yet the implication belies the individuality of each animal. I’ve lived with lots of animals in my life, and just like people, every one of them was different. Each one had its own personality. Each one touched my life in different ways. To presume that Ava could simply be replaced, like a pair of shoes or a car, shows such a lack of . . . something, I can’t even find a word to express it.
I get it that I view animals differently than most people. I do not think people are more important than animals; humans are animals who happened to develop brains that gave us the capacities we have. Ultimately though, we are all equal lives in my mind. This belief system is perhaps part of the difference between myself and those who think Ava can simply be replaced. Others think of animals as things, as property. Even our legal system reflects this, and I’m not naive enough to hope the rest of the population agrees with me.
But shit, show a little sensitivity folks. Would you tell someone who lost their husband to go get married again? Lost their child, go have a baby again? Obviously, the depth of emotion we feel for a human is much more intense than that for a dog. I would not have been able to leave that place alive if it had been Isabel or Milla instead of Ava who had been killed, I truly believe that. I could survive the loss of a spouse, but I’m not sure I could the loss of a child.
Yet for me, the sentiment on some level is the same. Ava was an individual. She was a part of our family. She wasn’t a couch, or a car, or a rug. She was special to us and to a lot of other people as well. She can’t be replaced. Someday when I’m feeling up to it, we may invite another creature to come and live with us, but for now, I wish people would just stop telling me to get another dog.