*A BIT ABOUT ME and my journey*
How did By My Side Pet Loss Support come about? This is a question I get asked a fair bit.
The answer to that question is below.
I will never forget the reaction I received when I lost my mate Boofey back in 2009. There were people that suggested I wasn’t quite ‘right in the head’, that ‘it’ was just a dog and perhaps I was going crazy. These reactions truly made me feel as though I was insane, that perhaps I shouldn’t be grieving so deeply over a dog. I scolded myself repeatedly – you’ve had multiple losses including two brothers, your only siblings, a beautiful friend with a life cut so devastatingly short in the happiest of times, this is ridiculous! Maybe it is just me, I thought. So I ‘sucked it up’ and cried continually in private and put the mask on to ‘function’, which was very barely.
After a prolonged amount of time and lots of study and research I know that everything I was feeling was normal. It was the most intense pain I’d ever felt in my life and it was prolonged largely because my pain was denied, or minimised. I didn’t quite know the depths to which I would feel this loss.
Does it mean that other losses in my life were ‘lesser’ on the intensity scale? Is there a need to compare? I don’t think it’s about comparisons as each and every loss is different but one thing I will say is the humans I have lost weren’t in my care for years, they were capable adults, they weren’t by my side as much as my Boofey was. He was with me all the time, whether in the company of others, or just the two of us. The bond between animal-human is not like any other.
Now I know on that dreaded day in my late 30s:
I had to say goodbye to my faithful protector and guard dog that had been by my side since I was 15 and living alone.
I lost a constant companion who saw me through many twists and turns in the time he was by my side.
I lost a last connection to my eldest brother who had gone long before and had known Boofey when he was a puppy.
I lost a ball-obsessed, crazy maniac that chased chooks and was stubborn.
I lost a true mate that moved house with me too many times to count on two hands.
I lost a presence that grew up with me through my teen years and into my 20s and 30s.
I lost my identity as Boofeys mum.
Just a dog?
Pet loss and grief is very painful and very real. We cannot underestimate what someone might be going through when their pet has been diagnosed with a terminal illness; has gone missing; has died unexpectedly; has been hit by a car; is ageing, has died in an emergency such as flood or fire; to be surrendered. It is heartbreaking.
Grieving people aren’t crazy. They aren’t losing their mind, although they may feel that way. They are feeling very intense feelings which depletes them on every level possible, loss shakes us to the core and makes us do a lot of questioning. For a time people are unable to do what they were doing due to their exhaustion.
I will never apologise for loving my Boofey the way I did and still do. If it wasn’t for ‘just a dog’ I’m not quite sure I’d be still going.
I know that if I could have had validation, acknowledgement and a normalising of my feelings at the time, particularly from professionals that I sought out at the time, it would have made me feel a tiny bit better. To have had a space in which to express my feelings as much as I needed would have been so nice. Pet loss and grief was and still is to an extent hidden away. Thanks to Boofey I now offer a place of non-judgement and can empathise with people that are losing a pet, or have lost pet/s. They can walk their journey of grief whilst I am by their side.
I hope this has answered the question for those that have asked and if this has triggered some intense emotions please reach out to those who ‘get it’. We’re all in this together.