The question of whether I would ever be the parent of another dog was heavy on my mind and heart after the death of my beloved Abby on March 20, 2018. I was bereft and exhausted from five years of significant caregiving for Abby (and Bailey who had died in 2015), and not at all sure that I could love another after this incredibly special pair with whom I had shared my love and life for nearly two decades. Abby was my heart dog, and I missed her dearly.
I knew that I needed to rest and allow myself to go through the grieving and mourning process. I was emotionally spent and physically on shaky ground. I cried, I wept, I moaned, I reached out to caring friends and Day By Day for support. I realized that I was disoriented by the lack of responsibilities associated with Abby’s declining health. There were no more trips to the veterinarian, no more subcutaneous fluids, no more accidents on the carpet to clean, no more special home cooked meals to prepare. I found myself feeling like a sailboat without a rudder, adrift in the uncharted sea of this new life without my beloved girl.
When I was home, I felt lost and alone without Abby. It was too quiet and there was no one to check on, cuddle, and care for. When out of the house, I had this constant nagging feeling that I needed to go home to check on Abby, and would then need to remind myself that she was no longer there. I was extremely uncomfortable in this new reality.
I found Mother’s Day to be particularly difficult this year. I was, for the first time in 30 years (counting my two beloved cats Jesse and Maggie), no longer any being’s mother. There were no sweet cards “from the pets” and I felt their loss deeply. Would I ever be a pet mom again?
Around this time, I started asking myself if I felt that I still had love to give to a pet. I also asked myself what Abby, Bailey, Jesse, and Maggie would want for me. The answer to the first question was a resounding “yes”, while the second was that they would surely want me to share my love and my life with other needy animals as I had done with them.
On June 2, I asked my friend Bill to accompany me to a pet adoption event “just to look”. When we arrived at the event, a friend came out carrying a small dog that had just arrived by truck from Hub City Humane Society in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I asked his name (Lenny) and if I could hold him. Lenny lavishly kissed my face in the same way that Abby had done just before leaving me for Heaven. I was smitten with this sweet little boy and spent the next hour getting to know him. Before long, I was signing little Lenny’s adoption papers and we were driving off with my new boy. I was filled with joy.
I decided to change his name to Finnegan (Finn, Finny) and was elated to once again be a pet mom! We bought Finn all new collars, leashes, beds, (too many) toys and treats, food, etc. and brought him home. It was delightful to have life in the house again – although it seemed a bit like having a stranger move in. Finn was fun and lively and active. He could both see and hear (unlike Abby in her later years). I enjoyed having my new boy in my life. Then, a very unexpected thing happened. My grief over the death of my precious Abby spiked. I missed her terribly and spent the first night with Finn wondering if I had made a terrible mistake. Maybe I had acted too soon. Perhaps I should give him back to the rescue group. He wasn’t Abby, never would he be, and I really just wanted her back.
By the afternoon of the following day, I realized that I was falling in love with sweet Finn. He was as close to a perfectly mannered, sweet dog as anyone will ever find. He was not Abby, nor should he be. He was different, and that was good. Abby was pleased with our new addition, I was certain. Finn had rescued me as much as I had him. We were now family and I was extremely grateful to have such a loving little dog in my life again.
I was not yet done adopting. In early July, I saw a matted, dirty, extremely sad Shih Tzu mix named Dog 344 on the Facebook page of the Hartford Animal Control. I knew that her days were numbered and sent a message to the Animal Control Officer inquiring about her. On July 3, Finn and I went to meet Dog 344. She was certainly a diamond in the rough and I again wondered about my decision as the words, “I will take her” left my mouth. Was this the right decision? Had I just disrupted my new life with sweet Finn? Was this the time to add another pet? Already?
Well, our new girl (now named Grace) took her first trip to the veterinary office and then had an extreme makeover on July 5. She was a precious little doll under all those mats and filth. She is sweet, loving and affectionate. Grace, Finn and I are now a happy family, and I am extremely grateful that I was able to be open to the possibility of loving, mothering and caretaking again. Our home is lively, fun and filled with the joy of two young happy dogs. I am now completely convinced that these were the right decisions for me (everyone is different, and remember this is just my story). I also now recognize traits and habits in both Finn and Grace that remind me of my beloved Abby and Bailey, which somehow solidifies my decision to adopt them.
The grieving and mourning process continues as I know it will. I know that I will never “be over” the deaths of Abby and my precious other babies. It was their time then, and it’s Finn and Grace’s time now. To everything there is a season. My beloved Abby, Bailey, Jesse and Maggie live on forever in my heart and are never far away.
Blessings and peace to all who are considering whether to add another pet to their family after loss. It is not easy, but can be extremely worthwhile and gratifying. May you be guided to make the best possible decisions in the proper timing for you!