Ask Amy: In Need of Comfort After Pet’s Death
“I did not know how to let go”
Advice columnist Amy Dickinson responds to a reader who is in need of comfort after a pet’s death, including feelings of guilt after trying painful treatments to extend the dog’s life.
Thank you for occasionally running questions from people about their pets. I was especially moved by the question from “Sad Pet Mom,” whose dog had died prematurely from cancer. I cried when I read your response and your concluding thoughts about animal-lover Betty White meeting all of her dogs on the other side of the “rainbow bridge.”
I’m writing because my own dog had a very tough death, after extended painful treatments. I wonder if I should have put him through all of that suffering, but I did not know how to let go, and now I blame myself.
I could use some words of comfort, now.
The choice you were facing is the heartbreaking reality of having a pet, because if you are lucky enough to see your animal through countless hours of joy and companionship, at some point you quite literally hold your companion’s life in your hands.
My point of view is grounded in my experience growing up on a dairy farm, where humans are responsible for – and witness to – daily brushes with birth, life, illness, and death.
Several years ago, I took one of my cats to a large teaching vet hospital for treatment (on a Friday). While waiting, I saw a couple come in with a tiny ancient dog curled up and quivering on a pillow. They were asking an attendant what treatment the dog could receive so it could survive through the weekend.
My heart broke for everyone concerned. The humans just wanted two more days, but I did wonder if they could gauge the animal’s suffering against their own.
You did your best. As your dog was receiving treatment, you couldn’t know if he might recover, and he couldn’t express his own suffering in ways that you could understand.
Know this, however: One reason we love our animal companions so much is because their own loyalty and affection seems so unwavering.
No matter what, your pal loved you to the very end.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from when a spouse demands immediate attention to DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2021 by Amy Dickinson