How do you explain that your fur baby is more than "just a pet"?

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Fur baby mug by Etsy seller PURELeecreations
Fur baby mug by Etsy seller PURELeecreations
With a heavy heart I waited for the mobile vet to come and put my fur baby to sleep.

She had been by my side for thirteen years — my rock, my best friend, my baby. She has been the best dog, the biggest comfort, most loyal friend and such a gentle soul. She has been with me through four breakups, the start of a marriage, and several job changes and mini life crisis.

I chose not to have human children and instead to have the four legged furry kind. A lot of people have a hard time understanding for me she is not just a pet she is FAMILY.

Most of the time I can choose to ignore the people who say "it's just a dog." But, after losing my fur baby, I cannot ignore them anymore. How do I accept their caring when they don't get it? How do I help them get it? Or should I even bother to try? -Ducky

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  1. Honestly, even if you chose to have human children, that doesn't change. After years of trying we have a baby on the way and I still sat down with my dog and cried and reassured him that he was my first baby and that he's never being replaced.

    They're family, it baffles me that anyone would think otherwise 🙁

    I'm sorry about your fur baby. It's never easy and that hurt may fade but it sticks with you.

    25 agree
    • It is sooo nice to hear that. It seems like when most people have kids, they talk to us non-kid people as though we can't possibly understand love. And we're ridiculous about our animals.

      8 agree
  2. I'm kinda in this situation myself from the other side. My in laws had to have one of their dogs put down the day before yesterday and my MIL is devastated.

    I like her dogs, but I've never had a pet because my Mum doesn't believe animals should be in the house except in the fridge or the oven (she doesn't even like my step-sister bringing her dog to the house) and my brother is allergic so we never had any. In addition, she, and to an extent we, grew up in a culture where dogs were kept outside (as guard dogs, not pets) but you wouldn't let them inside the house. One of my earliest memories is of my uncle shooting a stray cat, which was horrifying at the time but in that particular country there were a lot (and I mean a LOT) of stray cats and they were genuinely considered in the same 'vermin' category as rats.

    I want to be able to comfort my mother in law because I love her and her dog was sweet but I have a hard time 'getting it' to the extent that I feel I need to in order to be of use! Your post has made me think that even more, so if anyone has any pointers for me to be helpful I'd be grateful for them!

    2 agree
    • Treat her like any other grieving person. You wouldn't be quantifying the loss if it were her brother or father or whomever, so don't treat it as anything different from that.
      Follow her lead, offer your condolences like you would with any other death, if she's having a particularly hard time, offer to take care of some things for her (grocery shopping, cleaning, bringing over a meal). Just treat her the same way you would treat anyone who lost someone they loved.

      16 agree
      • You're totally right, I wouldn't be quantifying it. Which is why this post is so timely and useful for me. I'm not from the US either (lived here just over a year) and I can't think of one single home I've been to since I moved that hasn't had a pet. That isn't the case in my home country – probably because homes are teeny tiny, 90% of landlords won't allow them if you're renting and the cost of living is pretty high. Thinking on it, I know 2 families at home that have a dog. That's it.

        My in laws live about 6 hours drive from us, is it appropriate to send a card? My husband doesn't 'do' cards, so no point asking him! I guess when it's people there's a funeral and protocol around that… I'm sorry, I'm sure I'm coming across like an absolute clueless idiot…

        2 agree
        • A card would be really thoughtful – I've even seen ones for pet condolences! (Only at the fancier places, but still.) You could maybe find some online though?

          6 agree
          • I think a card would be sweet. I tried to google up a good one but they all just made me cry so I gave up, heh.

            If your MIL is the type to believe in the afterlife you can probably find something with the "rainbow bridge" thingy on it, which is sort of nice.

            https://rainbowsbridge.com/Poem.htm

            3 agree
          • Or just a card with a nice front that says inside that you are thinking of her.

            1 agrees
    • Wal-green's carries pet loss cards! At ours, they have one for cats, one for dogs, and one that just says "your pet".

      Please don't send the rainbow bridge poem, unless you know her feelings on it. I personally find it offensive and never mention it when people lose a pet.

      2 agree
    • Wow Victoria, I'm not sure how to say this but that attitude seems very… cold. No wonder you have trouble comforting your mother-in-law; it's hard when you have nothing of your own experience to draw on. Hopefully, just the fact that you feel bad for her and are trying to empathise will help.

      Grief is a very difficult thing, both for those going through it and those around them trying to comfort them, and there are no magic words you can say. Other people's suggestion of a card saying that she's in your thoughts is a nice idea, especially if you're a card person (I'm not, so this probably wouldn't occur to me). It depends how you usually communicate with her – phone calls, through email, text message? I text people a lot and so have sent condolence text messages in the past, which lets the person know I'm thinking of them without dragging them into an awkward phone call if it's not convenient for them. It depends what feels right for you. Also it depends how your husband is reacting, such as whether he's already had a long conversation about it with her and you just want to do a follow up to express condolences.

      2 agree
  3. Please don't misunderstand what I'm about to say: I totally respect the depth and breadth of your grief. I've been there personally, when I lost a fur baby of my own. That grief, however, pales in comparison to the idea of losing my human daughter. Not because I didn't really, really love my animal with my whole heart, but because animal lives are expected to be much shorter than our own.

    We don't grieve in the same way for a person who dies in their 80's as we do for the death of a 20-year-old. When a life has been long and well-lived, we say, "He/She/They had a great life. Let's celebrate that." So I think the same applies to animals, in people's minds. It isn't meant to be cruel or belittling, but to acknowledge that this was the normal lifespan of an animal.

    I think it's important to understand that the disconnect comes from an honest place. Many people find that their feelings toward their animals change immediately after the birth of a human child. The shift is dramatic, even profound, and it can be very uncomfortable for parents when you equate your fur babies to their human children. And in order to have an honest conversation about this kind of thing, we have to acknowledge that discomfort.

    So let people comfort you in the way they can. If anyone tries to tell you that it's "just a dog" after you've just lost one, that person is significantly lacking in empathy. They're broken, and it isn't your job to fix them. I hope you can accept genuine concern and caring–however it manifests–because I'm very sorry for your loss.

    34 agree
    • Honestly it's very uncomfortable when people say things like "it can be very uncomfortable for parents when you equate your fur babies to their human children."

      There's this attitude that "well, you don't have REAL children, so you don't know. Your love is immature, weak, less-than." It goes hand in hand with all the other bullshit childfree women get to hear about how they're basically less-than-fully-realized-human-beings if they don't reproduce.

      Does it matter? Does the fact that having human kids made you (not you specifically, but hypothetical you) feel differently about your pets have ANY bearing on how other people feel about their pets? Consider the fact that these may be self-selecting groups: the type of people who want human babies over animal babies are more likely to have them. Then there are people like me, who have no desire for human babies, who would absolutely resent being a mother, but love their dogs to death. We are all wired differently, and none of us is wired "wrong", but that superior "motherhood is the only real love" attitude is BS.

      I agree that pet grief is often different because it's a bit more like grandparent grief – often the animal is old and at the end of a good life, and we're able to celebrate that while also missing him/her. But A) that's definitely not always true, sometimes pets die prematurely, and B) unlike most elderly relatives, a pet is very much a part of our everyday lives and routines, and we're involved in their constant care. Losing my last remaining grandparent will be incredibly sad (and, crap, I need to call her.) But losing one of my dogs would have a much bigger affect on my daily life and routines.

      66 agree
      • I understand your point, but feel your missing mine. It isn't about "motherhood is the only real love." That's absurd; I disagree wholeheartedly with that attitude. But it's about compassion running both ways.

        The person asking the question wanted to know how to deal with people saying, "it's just a dog." I think it starts with a basic acknowledgement of the fact that many very caring, compassionate people simply don't relate to this level of animal affection. We want women who chose to be mothers to understand that fur babies are as important as human family; we, similarly, have to try to understand when people do not feel that way. For (I would wager) the majority of people, human lives are of greater emotional import than animal lives. Please excuse my bluntness, but we (as a species) eat animals. We eat animals we raise from babies. So we have to understand the disconnect. Why this animal? Why this death? Does that make sense? Am I talking in circles? I'm getting overly philosophical here.

        "Does the fact that having human kids made you (not you specifically, but hypothetical you) feel differently about your pets have ANY bearing on how other people feel about their pets?"

        No, but it does affect a person's ability to empathize. They may not be able to relate at all. Sometimes you have accept sympathy, and understand that empathy isn't possible. That doesn't mean the sympathy isn't sincere.

        So, as I said, accept the concern as it manifests. Know that the love is real, even if they can't empathize. I'm sure the inadequate condolences aren't coming from a cruel or ignorant place.

        22 agree
        • I think you, Jennifer, and you, Alex, are both beautifully showcasing the two biggest sides of this coin. You both have excellent points.

          13 agree
      • Alex thank you for putting this much more eloquently, and civilly, than I ever could have.

        7 agree
    • ^This. I think we just have to accept that some people don't relate to it, and that's just how it is. Sad, but true. It's heartbreaking to lose a pet, particularly one you've had for a really long time, but not everyone is going to see that, and if someone says "it's just an animal", you probably don't want to hang out with that person much anyway.

      I would never refer to my cat as my "daughter" (well, except jokingly on Facebook) because she is not my daughter, she is my cat. But that doesn't change the fact that I've had her for 12 years and she is my most beloved pet and I don't know what I would do without her. We lost our 21 year old cat two years ago, and we had had her her whole life and she died peacefully on her own terms in her favorite spot, but that doesn't make it any easier and I still grieve for her. Our pets ARE members of the family… but just like childfree people might not necessarily understand why anyone would choose to have children, petfree people won't understand why the death of "just a dog" would hurt so much.

      I'm so, so sorry for your loss, OP. *hugs and warm fuzzies*

      7 agree
      • Agree – I call my animals my "babies" but never son/daughter. Unless one of them does something bad and then I like to tell my SO "YOUR daughter puked on the new rug." 😉

        Also, I am so sorry for the loss of your 21-year old cat. I am preparing to lose the 18 year-old cat I adopted as a kitten when I was 9, and I know it's going to be such a devastating loss to my entire family. One we are not, and will never be, prepared for. I hope her passing is as peaceful as the one you described. <3

        1 agrees
        • I'm so sorry about your cat, Yellow. I hope she passes peacefully when it's her right time. I'm sending love and good vibes to you, your kitty, and your family <3

          1 agrees
  4. I think that those who don't get it, just won't (or at least not until they have a pet of their own that they feel that way about.) But a lot of people DO get it. Surround yourself with those people as much as possible.

    And I'm so, so sorry for your loss <3

    9 agree
  5. In six weeks I'll be moving out of the flat I share with my now ex boyfriend and my beloved fur baby. That cat is my everything. Unfortunately he'll be living with my ex and not me (this is in the cats best interests). The thought of leaving him is truly heartbreaking.

    A friend of mine was trying to tell me that I'll end up getting another cat and I'm adamant that it won't be happening, especially while my baby is still alive and missing me (I hope, cats are fickle!). It went on for a little while but I shut the conversation down with "Please stop. You're not helping and it's upsetting me."

    Yes it places a guilt load of blame on them but it's true, their actions were upsetting me. It hasn't been brought up since but it hasn't affected my relationship with them. Sometimes you just need to set that boundary.

    5 agree
    • With the separation or loss of a pet, I see it that you will never stop loving that pet. A new pet will never be a replacement for your previous one! Some people find it helpful to embrace that to relieve any guilt they have over wanting to get a new pet. Other people really do need to have time between pets, but some people find getting an additional (not replacement!) pet is an outlet for their love and care-taking needs.

      5 agree
    • I wonder if this person is also of the opinion that you can simply replace one human child with another – it is the same maternal, connected, daily loving and devotional relationship. That does not just go away. I am so sorry you are being separated from your baby and I hope you can work something out with your ex to still see him. <3

      4 agree
      • Thank you, I'm lucky in that we've got a plan so I can visit him and I'm first on call for cat sitting duties.

        Jasn- replacing/having an additional/however you phrase getting a new cat feels quite insulting to me, like you're downplaying the affectionate bond I feel I have with him. For me, it isn't just that I want an outlet for caring behaviour that any acquired item would fill. I want my furry baby or nothing

        2 agree
      • Strange as it may seem apparently some people do think that, at least as long as you're not biologically related to the child in question. I used to know someone who was dating a woman with a kid. After 4 years they broke up and he was more upset that he'd never get to spend time with her kid than that he wouldn't see her (which isn't all that surprising since they'd agreed to break off their relationship).

        A mutual friend told him, totally seriously and straight-faced, that he could easily find another single mother looking for a boyfriend. As if any other random kid in the world would automatically replace the one he'd been a surrogate parent to for years.

  6. First of all, my condolences OP.

    Second, I think even within the community of pet-owners there are different views on this.

    For me, my pets are my children. Period. We plan weekend adventures to include them (well, the dogs at least… The cat prefers to stay and protect his home turf). We talk about them to our friends and family an embarassing amount, and we post pictures on facebook for the 'grandparents'. But I will admit, I think part of the reason I can love my pets so deeply is my lack of human children, both present and future. That's a whole other story, but for health/genetic reasons, no babies for us.

    I have friends with pets and no kids (at least no kids yet) who rarely take their dogs out aside from a quick necessary walk, never talk about them and you'd almost forget they owned them except when you go to their house. I don't want to suggest people like this don't love their pets, but maybe their level of attachment is a little less extreme then us "my pets are my children" folks.

    3 agree
    • This is how our childless by choice lives are with 1 dog and 2 cats, and the occasional foster dog. We plan trips and outings around the dog (VRBO has been great) and dote on the cats, who are brothers and have been with me through a lot. We take pictures and talk about them all the time. We plan doggie play dates and exchange petsitting services with friends. We just bought a new house, and made that decision and renovation decisions around the animals just as people would with their children. My family loves my animals, but I think my in-laws do not really "get" it, and that's fine. I can't expect them to understand something they have never experienced themselves, just as I hope they do not expect me to understand what it's like to have a human child (is it OK to respond to baby pictures we are sent with dog and cat pictures? No??). They do try and make an effort to ask about the animals sometimes, which I do notice and appreciate as they have human grandchildren from my BIL, so it could be easy for them to forget our babies even existed. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt and keep everything in perspective – but sometimes it is hard.

      3 agree
  7. Honestly, if someone in your life brushes off your grief with "it's just a dog", then they obviously don't need to be in your life, especially on any sort of personal level. Honestly, no one would say something so callous to a mother that lost her newborn child, even though a dog has way more personality than a freshly spawned human potato. "Well, it's just a newborn. Not even talking yet! You can always get another one."

    13 agree
  8. So sorry for your loss, OP.

    Regardless of a person's ability to understand the depth of another person's grief, I think it's heartless to say "it's just a ____ ". Grief is grief and should be respected. If someone's spouse dies, would you say 'at least it wasn't your child'? If it's your grandparent, do they say 'at least it wasn't your parent'? (I mean, probably some people say these terrible things, but THAT'S NOT OKAY). Grieving is not a competition. Different people are allowed to feel sad about different things. Just say "I'm so sorry you're going through this tough time." You can't force empathy but you can keep your mouth shut.

    12 agree
  9. People have a really difficult time relating to other people's grief. If we haven't been their then we can't relate. How many women who have had miscarriages have been told to get over it because "it wasn't a real baby" or "it was meant to be." I have a friend who lost a baby during childbirth. She is regularly told that she should get over it because she never knew the baby and she can always have more. Some of the people saying those things are probably just bad people but most are just people who don't know because they've never been there. Someone who has never truly unconditionally loved an animal will never know the depths of the grief a fur parent feels when they lose their beloved pet. It took me years to get to a place where I don't resent people for the thoughtless things they said to me during my own grief. My advice is while grieving surround yourself with those who get it and can support you. Focus on healing you, not on changing them.

    9 agree
  10. I have a son, a daughter on the way, and two fur daughters. Those dogs are as much my family as my two children. Nothing has changed in my intensity of love for them, and nothing ever will. I have had people tell me countless times that "once you have a child, you will change." WRONG. It's never 'just a dog,' to me, and I totally understand what you are saying. Since the age of 4, when we got our first family dog my life has included dogs/pets as equals when it comes to needs/wants. I know it is hard to deal with people who blow you off, or who constantly say things like, "how dare you compare your dog to my child?" I've heard it, and done my best to ignore it as well. It is not easy. I wish I had a magical answer that would expound the passion I feel for not only my own dog, but the random puppy left outside the store whom I console, and say "mommy/daddy will be back soon." What I try to say is my heart doesn't shrink, it only expands. Just like people love their first child just as much as their last, I love my dogs just as much now as I did before I had kids. Some people just don't have that kind of heart. They dole out love likes it's a finite resource. I like to think that I love like a dog—with a boundless sense that no one is unworthy unless proven otherwise. My apologies, as I can't seem to answer your query well, as I see it through my own filters. What I say to a lot of people is something like this—-Family are those you turn to when things get bad. Family are those who spread joy with you when you are joyful, and comfort you when you are sad. People can certainly fill this role, but for many of us, dogs do it just as well, if not better—–I hope I've at least empathized with your situation a little. Love your dogs as your family, as your children, because they deserve it. They only want to be your family, so there is nothing wrong in treating them as such.

    12 agree
  11. When I lost my dog I was devastated. I work in the industry as a Registered Veterinary Technician and I understand how profoundly these situations devastate my clients but I was unprepared on how hard it was going to be. Like your my dog saw me through breakups, college, marriage and my first child. She was with me through a lot of life. When she was gone I was comforted by my father's kind words. He is normally very quiet but he told me he felt this was the most significant loss I've endured in my adult life. I will always be thankful for his words which made me feel as though he did understand this was a true family member loss. I am so sorry for your as well. Maybe my Oden has a new friend to play with over the rainbow bridge.

    1 agrees
  12. A friend of mine was allowed 2 weeks of bereavement leave from work when his dog passed. He lived alone for 16 years with his rottweiler that he raised from a 6 week old puppy. I can't imagine losing anyone, animal or otherwise, that I had a daily relationship with for 16 years! In my friend's case, he essentially lost the equivalent to his spouse – his routine revolved around this dog.

    Study after study shows that people and animals can have some of the strongest bonds, (sometimes stronger than human to human bonds.) In my opinion, anyone who tries to reduce a valid relationship between humans and animals by saying "JUST a dog" is completely uneducated to some amazing scientific studies that prove otherwise.

    10 agree
    • What compassion! I use my sick time at work to care for my pets, but it is amazing that an employer recognized their relationship and the loss as the loss of a true family member.

      5 agree
    • Two weeks is a lot more time than most people get for deaths of human family members….that must be a great place to work.

      10 agree
  13. This is so relevant to me, but I came here to say that the house rabbit sanctuary I just adopted from (after my beloved Tabitha passed, and my beloved Twitch was killed while we were on our honeymoon) posted a wonderful article in their summer newsletter about pets and grief. It also offers some resources for the DMV area to support groups and counseling. The feelings are REAL. The relationship was REAL. No one can take that away.

    Here's the link to the newsletter with the article in it: http://www.friendsofrabbits.org/newsletters/2016/FoR-Spring2016.pdf

    3 agree
  14. I am pretty good at dealing with pet grief, as a wildlife carer I have not only raised orphans that were attached to me completely (marsupial babies live in pouches so their whole world is their mummy) but I have seen more than my fair share of premature fur baby death. When people try to say stuff like that I call them out on it, when I am upset I pull no punches. I tell them what they said was a shitty thing to say because while it may have just been a kangaroo to you to me it was a baby I hand raised doing 1 hourly feeds for two days straight when he/she first came into care to help them survive. I put hours into nurturing and caring for that animal, I literally carried them around in a sling on my body 24/7, I have a right to be attached to it and a right to be upset and if you don't have anything nice to say then you need to shut your mouth.

    I find that people who say things like "It's just a dog" will not listen to kind words or friendly reminders, they need a sharp shock to realise that while they may think it is insignificant, you feel grief and they have no right to belittle or diminish your grief. Just because someone doesn't understand your grief does not mean they have a right to fob it off or treat you like it doesn't matter to you. Tell them straight up. I am grieving, was a central part of my life for 13 years, I cuddled her every day, I talked to her, she was there for me when I needed and I do not need to put up with your disrespect towards me because I am sad.

    10 agree
  15. For me, my pets are not my children, because they don't stay kittens for their whole lives. What they ARE to me are lives for which I have assumed responsibility. They are creatures that I have taken to live with me in a situation where they do not have the means to feed themselves, free themselves if they are stuck, clean their surroundings, or escape if something is hurting them. They aren't my children, but they are lives that depend on me. To me, that means they eat first, they are made comfortable first, they are cared for first. And when they grow old and pass away, it means that the work I have to do is to relinquish my sense of responsibility for them. I can't protect them from their natural life spans coming to an end, and if they are passing away due to illness or injury, my work is to realize that I can't protect them from that illness or injury running its course. The thought that I may have done something which abdicated my duty to care for them is intolerable to me. No, I wouldn't treat them like children, because in my mind that's sending them to school and watching them every second like parents do with toddlers. I treat my pets like lives that I am responsible for enriching and caring for.

    8 agree
  16. Some people are just shitty with grief.

    If it was a pet you lost then "it was just a dog."

    If you miscarried then "it's not like the baby was actually real yet."

    If you had a stillbirth then "You can have another."

    If the child dies very young then "God needed another angel."

    If someone dies at a tragically young age then "It's part of the grand plan for the universe."

    If someone dies at an advanced age then "well, it's not exactly surprising."

    And these horrible things can come from some otherwise good people. (They can also come from some real garbage people.) I don't know that you can ever make them understand that minimizing someone's grief only magnifies it, not mitigates it.

    7 agree
    • This so much. There will always be someone who minimizes your grief, no matter what the source.

      When my mom died of cancer, "At least she's not in pain anymore."

      When my grandmother died at 98, "Well, she was 98."

      None of this makes the hole in my heart any smaller. People don't know what to say, so they say dumb things. If it's said in a clumsy way of caring, let that spirit be what you hear.

      1 agrees
      • I know what you mean, but as you say, hear the spirit of what they're saying even if it's clumsily worded. I doubt those people were trying to minimise your grief, but rather they didn't know what to say so were grasping at anything that could be a positive, however slight. They might be the kind of people who try to find the silver lining in every cloud and were REALLY having to stretch to find one in those situations.

        I've been in both positions: had people say "At least they're not suffering anymore" to me when I've lost someone, and said something similar to others. I've even known someone say it while referring to their own grief. I know from experience it doesn't help, but what does help is that the person was trying to offer their sympathy, no matter how meaningless the phrasing.

        1 agrees
  17. This is extremely close to home for me. I just lost my beloved munchkin cat 2 weeks ago at the age of 12. Though he was older, his passing was sudden and unexpected. He was completely fine on Friday and had to be euthanized on Sunday. I am also child free by choice and Bajo was my *baby*. He was my whole world and I was his.
    I have been a veterinary assistant for 10 years now, I am around animals all of the time and I have helped in a great many euthanasia procedures so you think I would be better prepared than most? Not even close! I always had in the back of my mind that Bajo may pass away one day, but I always said that he was immortal and I was so glad I would never have to go through that (side note: denial is not a good coping mechanism). I hear clients say things like the 'just a dog' comment or when we wont treat someone's pet for free the 'I guess I will just take him out to the desert and shoot him then' comment. I have to tell myself to feel sorry for them because they will never experience the love that I had with my fur baby.
    OP, I am so glad you were able to be with your baby at the end in your home where she felt safe. I am sending warm fuzzies to you

    1 agrees
    • How awful. I think unexpected deaths are somehow worse to cope with than expected ones after, for example, a long illness. There are no words to help. I'm so sorry for your loss. And it's terrible clients at your vets' say such callous things 🙁 Makes me wonder why they would have a dog at all.

  18. I feel that "just a ___" comments are, at the end of the day, always a failure of empathy. It's doesn't matter (from the perspective of the person hearing about a loss) if ____ was a child, a pet, a pot plant, or a collection of stamps… what matters is that the loss is real and painful to the person, and that they are offered the support THEY need. Not the support that the giver feels they would need if they lost a similar-looking thing in their own life.

    I don't think it is worthwhile, most of the time, getting into a debate about whether pets can be equal to children, etc. People are going to have their own views, and frankly, the best time to have a meaningful mind-changing discussion about the status of animals in a family is probably not when it's really raw and personal. But it seems reasonable to ask people to appreciate how YOU feel, and to respect your need to grieve.

    4 agree
  19. My heart breaks for the original poster (and anyone who's experienced that grief – it's truly the worst thing about having pets, even though we know it'll happen from the beginning). I have to wonder who these people are who say "It's just a dog"? Are they close to you, or just random people on the street? If they are close to you it's worth taking the time to explain how you feel and why the phrase "just a dog" is so hurtful. If they are only casual acquaintances and you don't want to go into it you don't even need to tell them the full details: just say that you've recently suffered the loss of a loved one, it's still raw and you don't want to talk about. There's no point going into painful details about something if you're never going to discuss it with them again. Or if they already know the details and still say hurtful (however well-meaning) things then it's worth taking the time to set them straight.

    Basically, if it's people you know well and talk to often then tell them how you really feel. If it's a one-off conversation with someone likely to be insensitive don't go into the details so they can't be dismissive.

    1 agrees
  20. We have fish and sometimes even pet people don't get it either.

    If you have had something that is part of your life for a long time that you looked after and it dies – even thought it might have been expected and even though it might not have been a human baby it's still awful and affects you deeply. I still catch myself calling our new fish by the old fishes names. (It's been over a year)

    Also for us – people don't understand that we took our 1o yr old Shubunkin goldfish to have an operation (2 in fact) because it's "just a fish" but she was part of our family and we couldn't just leave her with a huge growth on the side of her head.

    I told the people I new would get it or at least would care enough to be sympathetic. It doesn't matter if you don't understand – at least be sympathetic. The others I just didn't even bother.

    Hugs to you.

    2 agree
    • A life is a life. I don't get why some people decide one life has more value than another just because of the body it was born into. Lives are all equally precious to their owners, whether fish, dogs, humans, snakes or elephants – it's all we have.

      I'm glad your fish was able to have an operation to help.

      1 agrees
    • I think a lot of folks (including myself) never thought a fish could be operated on.

      2 agree
    • I've had this too. When I was a kid we had two silvery fish (I don't know what kind they actually were, I was quite young) and I loved them. I fed them, I cleaned them, I argued for weeks that one was male and one was female and I didn't care if there was no way to tell because I KNEW (And then they had babies, so I was right…and learned that some fish give birth to live young).

      When one of them died I was devastated. I burst into tears in school when someone asked what happened over the weekend. And the reaction I got? "Katy…it's a fish. Who cares?"

      At the time I had no idea what to say. It had never occurred to me that anyone would say that, or think that. Sure they didn't care, they'd never even met my fish, but I cared. Surely that was obvious from the crying?

      Some people just don't understand I suppose.

  21. It's like George Carlin said "When you buy a pet, you're buying a small tragedy." It SUCKS when a pet passes because they are part of the family. But I do agree with some posters who have pointed out that even among animal lovers attitudes differ.
    My husband and I are choosing to remain child-free and be cat people instead. We currently have one who is nine years old and I know we will both be devastated when she passes. However, my husband told me that he plans on getting a new cat as soon as possible afterwards. I'm not cool with that. To me it feels like trying to replace her before we've had time to really grieve and move on without her. He said that's the way his family has always done it, one animal passes, you get another right away. My family isn't like that. When our dog died it was three years before my parents got another.
    Another big difference between my husband and I is that he point blank refuses to treat long term illnesses in pets and has told me that should the cat ever get an illness that demands daily medication for the rest of her life he will not be doing that and if it means putting her down, so be it. I come from a family who has taken out 10k loans to treat cancer in pets. While I think loans are a bit extreme I think that if daily medication becomes needed and is affordable I would do it.
    I suppose the point I'm trying to make is that even within a family people have different feelings about pets and their role within a family. So for people who don't understand I sort of don't think it's worth it to get into it. Just accept that they don't get it and move on.

    1 agrees
  22. My mother died when I was 21 and one of the things I learned is that grief is an experience that doesn't translate well between humans. It's a very isolating experience. It doesn't matter what the source is. Once grief strikes, the chasm between you and everybody else is huge.
    My advice is to seek like-minded individuals, like support groups, or even professional help, if depression is taking over as well. Your friends who are naturally empathetic will just recognize that you're hurting and not question the source of the pain.
    I wouldn't put any time into 'educating' anybody on the value of your pet. If somebody feels they need a reason why you haven't "just gotten over it already", just explain that your pet's death triggered a depression that hasn't lifted yet. Most people will understand that.

    If they still don't get it, you have my permission to punch them in the head and then say, "Do you understand that?"

    1 agrees
  23. I lost my beloved kitty of 20 years (she was about 21 and came into my life when I was about 8-ish) two months ago and still tear up/cry at thoughts of her or photos or other calico kitties. I honestly had to be half-carried out of the vet after she was put to sleep. I think the people who have zero idea about how hard it can be when a pet passes on don't understand the bond that can happen. Especially when you were the animal's "chosen person." When it comes to those people who don't understand its because they clearly have never had it. My kitty would be by my side at all times I was home. On my lap while we watched TV, curled up by my side while I slept, trying to see what I was eating, etc. Almost every aspect of my life while at home involved her so the loss was a punch to the gut, reminders of her everywhere. Even my morning routine went from an hour to half an hour because she was gone. When someone says "it was just a pet," they think of an out-of-sight-out-of-mind situation where all they need to do is put some food down and make sure they don't do their business on the furniture, maybe give the animal a pat on the head, and they're done. When trying to understand why someone is so emotional think of it like they had a close friend who slept over every night, was always there for them, and needed a lot of help feeding themselves. It's that level of bonding. So if you can understand why thedeath of a friend would hurt someone, then you can understand why the death of a pet can hurt.

    1 agrees
  24. “The gamers are like loved ones to us all, ” reported Papas, that's 4 1/2 a few months pregnant with her as well as wife Matt's following youngster. “They’re fantastic people today. Ever since the daytime having been revealed, We can’t let you know how supportive they have recently been. ”

  25. I read something interesting about this, basically saying that the difference is that we raise our human children to leave us. They are fully dependent on us, then we teach them to be human and "launch" them out into the world. Pets are loving perfect companions, and imo family, but they never need to grow out of the baby stage and be independent. We always have to pick up their poop! I think something about the growth and change of the parent/child relationship makes it feel like a different experience to many.

  26. It's not just pets. Some people simply seem unable to understand other people's grief unless they have been in the exact same situation. When my husbands grandmother died and I was in tears at work (I'd just found out) one of the first comments I got was "but…she wasn't your grandmother?"

    It was meant in total innocence – the person saying it genuinely couldn't understand why I was upset that someone who had been an important part of my life for the past decade and who I had huge respect for had died, because we weren't biologically related.

    I try to remember that when someone else is upset over something (a death or another event) and I don't really understand why they feel that way. It doesn't matter how I'd feel in that situation, what matters is how THEY feel.

    But if I'm honest the main thing that comes to mind in this situation is the Dragon Riders of Pern series and Robin Hobb's Royal Assassin series (and the Tawny Man series which follows it). Both deal with people who are bonded to animals – literally share their mind and their feelings with them. And both deal with the death of one partner in that relationship on various occasions. I know I can't even really imagine what it would feel like to have that depth of feeling for an animal, or even another person. I cannot imagine what their grief would be like either. But I can understand enough to get upset about it (even just remembering it, and they never bloody existed in the first place!).

    It doesn't matter if I understand why the other person is upset, it doesn't matter if I've been in that situation, or can imagine myself in that situation or not. What matters is how THEY feel, and doing what I can to support them through it.

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