I always tear up when I think of the days I won’t have my two dogs around anymore. In his article titled “When my dog Lucky died, I disappeared, too,” TODAY writer Bob Sullivan notes the pain of the obvious reality: a dog’s life is only a percentage of a human’s. Chances are, you’ll love a dog and lose a dog through just two big phases of your life. He says the biggest change in your life is becoming invisible to the outside world.
Sullivan’s pet Lucky — a sweet-mannered Golden Retriever who traveled around the country in the passenger seat of his Jeep – passed away just before they were to leave for another cross-country trip. Lucky was his usual companion, and it saddened him to think about telling people Lucky wouldn’t be around for this trip. “But my sadness grew even deeper as I realized that my entire life, right down to how I interact with the world, had changed,” he wrote.
Milo and Bella, my two pets at home, are definitely aging faster than I am. As I think of how afraid I am of getting (more) grey hair; their tufts of hair are getting greyer and frazzled by the day. Their faces, mostly their eyes, show age I’m afraid to come to terms with. Unlike Bob Sullivan, I acknowledge that my pain is completely selfish. I always think of how I would feel if they went somewhere without me.
When you lose a pet, you lose a loved one. There’s an inner happiness that can’t be matched when your pet wants to cuddle and watch movies with you all night, or can’t retain the excitement when you’ve walked in the house for the first time all day……or within the last five minutes. You don’t just become invisible to the outside world, but you feel invisible in your own household.
It doesn’t matter whether or not you understand why you feel like no one else really sees you anymore. The fact is: you do. You’ve lost a family member and to most pet owners, your best friend. Personally, I’ll miss taking pictures of Bella when she’s just begging me for love or adventuring around my room she’s explored at least one million times. I get a certain amount of comfort when I find my other pet, Milo, curled up in the corner of my closet watching me get ready for whatever day I’m going to have. It hurts to leave them at home crying for attention, yet I still feel great about how badly they want my company during the day. Even in the greatest relationships jealousy sometimes still makes you feel like they love you enough to even care.
Those moments, no matter how minor, are significant.
Bob Sullivan lost his dog Lucky. When he realized he was alone without him, he turned to social media hoping to gain some attention. In the end, it wasn’t the same. It took the writer more than a year to come to terms with his loss. Eventually when he admitted he was ready for another long-term relationship, he found Rocky — the auburn-haired Golden Retriever pup who was full of energy.
Sullivan made an important note. I’m not in public often with my pets, but I do find myself talking about them quite a bit. He found himself having a “sidewalk cocktail party” with anyone who crossed his path while walking Rusty. It’s true. Your pet gains you recognition all the time. Just like walking with a newborn, you’re getting “Wow, what a cute face!” or some other comment about how great of a personality they have at such a young age. These small comments are positive interactions that overall boost the self-esteem. And with the unique characteristics of Rocky’s hair color and puppy ways, Sullivan often found himself making 100 of these transactions a day.
“I loved every minute of it; my heart was filling up. I’m sure Lucky paused from chasing a tennis ball in heaven to smile down at the scene,” says Sullivan.
My dogs are probably nothing like Rocky or Lucky. Still, at times, they remind me to stay young and playful. Both of them have personalities I will never be able to fully explain. They stopped enjoying playing with toys about 6 years ago, so when they drop something at my feet, I know they’re just doing it for me. It gives me a story to tell and a memory to hold on to.