As a therapist, many people come in with issues with grief. For years I have tried to help clients figure out the well know Elisabeth Kubler Ross Stages of Grief and what stage in their grief they are in: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It has been sad to watch clients suffer and deal with grief. I have wished many times that I could help take their pain away. Until one month ago, I had never lost anyone or any pets that were close to me.
One month ago, my husband and I decided to go for a light walk/jog with our two kids and our 14-year-old dog Ivory. It was a normal 75-80-degree summer midwestern night. We had finally started to get fully adjusted to our new lives here, as we moved here from the city about 1 ½ ago. As we ran than night, Ivory no longer kept up. She kept her beautiful smiling dog grin but almost like a stubborn mule didn’t want to go faster than a brisk walk, so we did not push her. This dog, was the kind of laboratory/husky mix that for the last 13 years had pulled me on our normal runs down the street. She had so much energy I wondered if I’d ever catch up to her. I never wondered if she would die, she was literally the smartest and strongest dog in the world and my first dog and most beloved animal. After that slow jog, she barely made it back inside the house and by the next morning she could no longer get up to go potty or eat. She was diagnosed with cancer all over her belly that had spread to her brain. Two days later we were forced to put her down. I am still confused until this day with how we did not know about her cancer and worry that our job pushed her over the edge.
My whole world was shaken up after losing our dog Ivory. Her and I conquered the world together, she was there for me when I had felt so alone, so confused and so lost. She was that companion that when everyone was busy she was excited to be by my side, day in and day out. We have been busy with our two young children both under 3 years old, did she get cancer because of her broken heart and because she thought she was being replaced? Does she watch us from heaven? Does she feel lost without us, just like we have without her? Was it okay that I was not strong enough to be there to put her down, and that my amazing husband was the only one who could stand next to her in her possibly most scary time in her life?
I am writing this to cherish Ivory’s life and her spirit. She was there with me during my 11-year process of becoming a Licensed Clinical Therapist. She puts the hours in next to me, and even put up with me when I was tired and just did not feel like taking her on a walk, when I should have.
Her life will never be in vain. I just pray when I work with clients that I can relate more to their loss. A loss, is a loss whether it be a parent, child, friend or pet. It changes us, it makes us question everything and reevaluate our choices, our time and even our distractions and values. Losing Ivory gave me two specific pathways of how to channel the pain and emptiness. I could get stuck in the sadness of losing her and become angry with the world, myself and maybe even God? Or I could find ways to work through the pain, and lift up Ivory’s spirit by remembering all the unconditional gifts she gave to myself and so many others.