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The Loss of a Pet

Posted in: Blog by amy on December 3, 2014

Gus and Me


As I sit here writing, our sweet dog Cosmo sits at my feet. He brings me so much joy, and our house has not been the same since his arrival this past August. But, how he got here is a story that I have thus far been unable to tell.

It was a Sunday morning just over three months ago when Marc and I decided to walk our two dogs, Duke and Gus. We were not even a block away from our home when little Gus sniffed around in the grass, let out a yelp and then just sat down and looked at me. Immediately, we knew something was wrong. We encouraged him to get up, but he couldn’t. With worry and fear, I scooped him up and ran home with Marc and Duke following briskly at my side. Gus started to go limp in my arms, and I couldn’t even register what was happening. I felt my feet moving faster as my world seemed to be slowing down. Just moments before we were happily beginning our walk. Gus was just two years old and full of energy. How could he be slipping away? What was happening? Tears slid down my cheeks as I tried to remain calm.

We let Duke in the house, grabbed the car keys and sped off to the animal hospital with Gus still breathing. Marc encouraged him to hang in there as he petted and comforted him. I sped along with hysteria building up inside of me. This little guy was my shadow. Everyone made fun of our instant attachment. I had never had a dog that was my very own until Gus. And, he was more than my own, he was my little guy. He was my love.

The hospital did everything they could as Marc and I waited in a quiet room. I sat in the corner on the floor trying to absorb what had happened. Yet, I remained hopeful. I was confident that I wasn’t leaving without Gus. In the moments that I waited there on that cold floor, the other sudden losses from my past snuck their way into my head. So, when the doctor came into the room and told me that they had done all that they could, pain emanated from every part of my being and oozed out of every hidden crevice of my past.

This two-year-old little white dog had become known as “the love of my life.” Having grown up with large Irish Wolfhounds, I never knew I could become so enamored with a little 17-pound dog. But, Gus immediately had found his way into my heart. He followed me everywhere, slept in a doggy bed that was positioned just inches from my side of the bed and greeted me every time I walked in the door with endless kisses as he circled my legs, soaking up every ounce of love that I always showered upon him.

How could that love, that warmth, that special creature, that “love of my life,” be gone? Nothing had even happened. We were just walking. I had trouble breathing now. I needed him. I told Marc that this wasn’t happening, that I wasn’t leaving without him. Marc hugged me as I continued to cry.

Gus' Paw Print

Gus had been rescued by Tails of Hope, a wonderful shelter that saved him from a life on the streets. We never knew what had happened to him in the first two years of his life, but we did know that he was safe with us. He had only come into our home seven months prior to that August day, yet we were all very attached to him.

That drive home from the hospital without him was so difficult, but coming home and telling the kids was brutal. How could they understand the reality that their dog went out for a walk and never came home? How could I even try to explain what the doctors told us? They said that Gus likely had an anaphylactic shock reaction to a bee sting. A BEE! This little guy had survived freezing winter nights on the streets of Waukegan. And, now, he DIES on a walk with his two owners whose mission was to spoil him with love and comfort. It made no sense. Yet, we had to absorb the sadness. We had to cry. We had to grieve. And then, we had to move forward.

This week marked 22 years since my dad died. Suddenly. Out of nowhere. Last week marked 11 years since my dearest friend died. Suddenly. Out of nowhere.  So, the concept of loss has been present these past few days, and maybe that is why I am now sharing Gus’ story. After Gus died, I had given myself one full day to cry and openly grieve. Days later, as I still felt sadness, I talked to a wise friend who comforted me by suggesting that Gus’ death allowed me the opportunity to be an actual part of the process of loss. With my adored dad and treasured friend, I received shocking phone calls to hear of their sudden and untimely deaths. However, Gus was giving me a final, parting gift: I was a part of the process. I held him in my arms. I rushed him to the vet. I got to kiss his little body goodbye. I was very much a part of the process.

Loss is hard. It’s head-spinning, and it can feel as if the world is stopping. I am not comparing the loss of a dog to the loss of a human life; however, loss is loss. Pain is pain. Sadness is sadness. It can be overcome. Some losses are easier to overcome than others, obviously. Some will nag at our hearts and our minds forever. So, how do you move forward?

The very next day, Marc suggested that we go back to Tails of Hope and rescue another dog in Gus’ honor. I was hesitant and not ready as my heart was full of so much sadness. But then I thought: Why not open our home and hearts again? Why not get another best friend for Duke? Why sit with that sad, dark void and dwell on the loss over and over again?

With tears still in my eyes, we went to the shelter. We met another small, white, fluffy dog who reminded us of Gus. He needed a home, and we needed to love him. Within moments, we decided to make him a part of our family. We named him Cosmo. I chose that name because he symbolized something bigger than us … the flow of the universe. Something in the cosmos. Love. Energy. Goodness.

Cosmo's First Day Home

Duke and Cosmo instantly became attached to each other. And, I, well, I became instantly attached, too. But, I was scared to admit it. My youngest daughter keeps asking me if Cosmo is the new “love of my life.” I can’t say it. I haven’t wanted to say it. I respond, “I’m pretty in love with this guy.” She pushes: “But, is he THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE?” I smile at her, and she knows. She knows that love trumps that fear. She knows that we all will take the risk again, with dogs, with people, with friends. We will love. We will hurt. We will dive in with full abandon.

Duke and Cosmo, Playing with Full Abandon


Duke and Cosmo


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3 Responses to “The Loss of a Pet”

  1. Tracie Kugler says:

    Amy, as much as already knew the story, your writing it always beautiful. I can relate to the concept of loss tremendously these days as today was my father’s birthday. First time I can’t wish him a happy birthday-tough stuff!!!

  2. Karyn Miller says:

    Because of your encouragement, I now have Marty. He is THE LOVE OF MY LIFE. He loves me like I have never been loved before. Still, I mourn for Max and Morgan and feel a sadness in my heart that I moved on without them. I hope you never have to endure another “sudden phone call” ever again. It is hard to believe that it has been 22 and 11 years. Feels unfair to have gone on without them both.

  3. Kelly Moyer says:

    I do not have words….So Beautiful. Thank you!!!!

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