Getting Over the Loss of a Pet

Updated: Mar 27, 2011 12:30
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There’s no one right way to grieve, obviously, since everyone expresses sadness differently. But getting over the loss of a pet is made more complicated by the fact that society is still unsure how emotionally attached we should be toward our pets. So here are a few do’s and don’ts of losing an animal you loved.

Don’t beat yourself up over it

If your pet’s death happened suddenly or unexpectedly, you might be thinking that you could have prevented it somehow. Well, disregarding anything similar to the snail incident (below), you are probably a pretty good owner. You gave this pet love, attention, lots of people food, his own special blankets and toys, and tons of walks in the park. You did the best you could.

Unless you actually were a shitty owner

Then, yeah, someone should yell at you. Like for instance, two summers ago I found a snail at the beach and decided it would make an awesome pet. I filled up a Smartwater bottle in the ocean, added a little sand for the bottom, and put him in there. I aptly named him “Snaily”. On the ride home I thought excitedly about all the cool things I was going to put in his snail tank, like a miniature castle and some scuba divers. Yet on the two-hour drive back to the city I had somehow brutally murdered him, because he was lying motionless at the bottom of his Smartwater bottle. At first I was like, well, he’s a snail, not a border collie, he isn’t necessarily going to be animatedly snailing around his tank all the time. But two hours later when I gave him a poke and he had sort of liquified in his shell, it was official; he had definitely… passed. And I felt AWFUL. Apparently some beach snails are not supposed to be submerged in water for long periods of time??

The lesson here, which Jurassic Park also teaches us, is to not try and keep wild animals as pets. They have very complicated nutritional and biological needs!

Take as much time as you need to recover

If you need to skip work and your classes and just be depressed about it for a little while, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s better than crying in public! Get out all your pet’s stuff, be sad, and try to move on. Pets can be straight up members of the fam, so don’t try to force things going back to normal if you’re not feeling it.

Don’t discredit your bond

Don’t let anyone make you feel dumb for being in some serious mourning, no matter how odd your pet. Your turtle was SPECIAL. But just know, not everyone understands the quiet wisdom and uncanny humanity of your turtle when he is waking up in the morning and being cranky, just like a person! They will think you’re crazy. Sooooo, just prepare for that.

Watch sad pet movies

Best in Show, Amores Perros (Gael Garci­a Bernal helps everything), Marley and me, Oliver and Company (Billy Joel songs!), Gates of Heaven, and Anchorman are some of my favorites.

Don’t taxidermy your pet

Would you stuff your grandmother and put her in a “restful” position so as to have her with you forever? No. That is just creepy.

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Katy B. - Economic Inexpert

Katy B. - Economic Inexpert

Katy B. grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the home of Gerald R. Ford, Andy Richter, and, at one point, the guy who wrote Mr. Holland's Opus. She moved to NYC for her degree in library science, and is now in the Media Studies program at The New School. She hopes to one day be a film studies librarian. Ask her anything about Dewey Decimal – anything! – and she will roll her eyes because academic libraries use Library of Congress. Durrr.

1 Comment

  1. chaya
    September 22, 2010 at 11:20 am

    all dogs go to heaven! that’s a good one to watch too. my dog got a bad rep in life due to his humping problem and when he died that’s what most people remembered about him. what i remember though is that he was always there to lick my face when i cried. yes, i know, tears are salty.