Living with Pet Loss – Part II

Loved and lost a pet? Me too.

If you have loved and lost a pet, you may feel intense loneliness. The feelings of closeness between animals and those of us who live with them defy description.

You do not have to suffer alone.

There are others like you that can help ease your pain. Seeking support from other people may lighten intense feelings of grief.

I invite you to read my post, Living with Pet Loss – Part I.  In that post, I talk about our dog Nabisco, our second keeshond.

As a puppy, Nabisco went through the ordeal of being returned to his breeder three times. Our female keeshond, Dawn turned out to love dogs more than people. She had been raised, off and on with her mother and father. Keeshond dogs tend to live together, with females asserting dominance over males. But I learned that later.

Nabisco came into our lives when we offered to pet sit him for a week. The male of this breed adore affection. I soon discovered Nabisco would sit for an hour while I rubbed his head and stroked his back.

Our child hugs Nabisco and Dawn, two great keeshond dogs.

I had wished that Dawn would be more interested in us. Now I saw she came alive with Nabisco in our home. She herded him. She protected him from other dogs. She made him chase and play. Dawn looked thrilled to walk side-by-side with “her dog” Nabisco.

When Nabisco’s third family could not take him, his breeder, Shannon called us. We signed a co-ownership contact. He was ours to raise. Quickly, he displayed preference for me, dogging me from room to room.

Keeshonds are known as “Velcro dogs.”

Losing Nabisco has been the hardest loss for me. He lived fourteen healthy years. Someday, I will write more about what he meant to me. Just writing this makes me want him back.

This photo shows Nabisco when he suffered being unable to walk or stand.

Our most loving dog, Nabisco.

When he was about thirteen, Nabisco suffered a condition, preventing him from moving. He could not lift himself from lying on his side. He could not raise his head. He could not sit, stand or walk. Of course, we took him to our veterinary, who told us our dog might not recover. After months, our dog regained the use of his body, despite not being able to feel his feet.

When he first was helpless, Nabisco cried at night so we took turns staying with him. We propped him on layers of blankets and beach towels. Held his head up so he could drink. He ate small meals of soupy canned food or cottage cheese. I gave him glucosamine for his joints and pain pills. We took turns massaging and rolling him around on the grass. Inside, Nabisco had to wear a diaper.

Eventually, Nabisco was able to hold his head up. Then he was able to drag himself a little with his front paws on the grass. We slung a towel underneath him and encouraged him to try walking.

When he first took stiff-legged steps on our lawn, we cried with joy.

I plan to write of the day Nabisco died.  For now, I offer things we did as a family to work through grief after losing Dawn then Nabisco, and  sadly living a dog-less life. Our daughter was seven at that time so we read the book, “Dog Heaven.”

We looked at photos of our dogs and talked about what they meant to us. We made a ritual of preparing a beautiful spot in our garden to scatter their ashes. We lit candles, said prayers and placed roses and other flowers.

After a time, our child urged us to look at shelter dogs. I was not ready. After talking about just looking, we finally visited. Of course, she wanted every dog she saw. Then just as we were leaving we walked past the small pet cages.

“Look, Mommy, there’s a rabbit. He’s looking at me.” Indeed, there was a handsome grey and white rabbit that mirrored her every move.

“What’s his name?” I asked.

“His name is Paris.”

“Really? Paris! I think he wants to go home with us.”

We learned to pick up and hold a pet rabbit safely.

I asked if we could see him in the visiting room. We sat on opposite ends of the sofa. Paris proved to be highly curious, confident and social. He wasn’t cuddly. But he did allow the shelter manager, a rabbit expert, to handle his paws and pick him up.

We went home. Scrubbed our dog crate, water dishes and bowls. After we adopted Paris, I felt that something about caring for a rabbit eased our pain.

Rabbits need brushing, nail trimming, exercise, feeding, toys and mental challenges. We set up a metal pet playpen on the lawn then we got in with him. We read about pet rabbits. We took photos of Paris. Our summer filled with a bunny to love.

We began our healing when we had a rabbit to give loving care. We also did volunteer work as mother and daughter.

The Lighthouse Port is a community to post photos, chat, and share pet stories.

6 thoughts on “Living with Pet Loss – Part II

  1. Deborah, This post has moved me to tears. I feel your loss in the pit of my stomach, yet I’ve never lost a dog. I just know that it will be almost unbearable. Knowing that you have survived, albeit with pain, does give me a guiding light for the future. I know that your post will have the same affect on others who forecast a future of sadness. Thank you for this post.

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    1. Nicole, Thanks for reading and leaving such a caring note. I still love our Smiling Dutchmen. They clowned and frisked each day like goldfish. Dinner time, one or the other would slam into a wall from the sheer thrill of being fed. So glad we had the pleasure of raising them.

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      1. I am so honoured to have the eyes to read this beautiful piece… and the heart to understand it. 🙂 You are a gorgeous person and mother (to humans, to dogs, and to bunnies!). Happy early mother’s day to you, Deborah! x x x

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