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Pet grief can be hard to carry

This is a hard post for me to write.

This week, we lost our pet Mancha (pronounced mun-cha - it's Spanish for 'spot). He's been our constant companion for nearly 14 years, our shadow. And since grief is part of what I do for others, helping to carry this heavy burden, I thought I would share my grief with anyone who cares and stops by - for in the sharing, my burden is slightly lessened.

Mancha chose us. We were looking for a female dog of a different colour so he was not the one we initially looked at. But on that day when we walked into a backyard and the puppies all came tumbling out of the home, he picked us. As the others chased around and fought, tumbled and played, chewed and yapped, he walked calmly up to us and sat quietly in Andrea's lap. He picked us. From that moment on our hearts were his, he was ours.

When I worked, he wanted only to sit next to me - and, if possible, on me. He became a lap dog, until to his forever-lasting regret, he grew too big for any lap. He loved us, unconditionally, and forever. He shared his time equally amongst us and our children - or, as he saw it, his brothers and sisters. He loved everyone who ever came to our home, they were instantly his best friends. He shared almost every moment of our lives for a decade and a half, filling so many memories. There are a million stories of him I could tell, warm and funny, cute and sassy.

He was the best dog, and I'll miss him.

And my grief is bigger than I could ever have guessed.

I feel like I've lost an arm, a leg, some essential part of me. There is a constant twinge in my heart that calls for him. There is a missing space everywhere I look that needs a hairy companion I can no longer see. My life was so enriched by him being here, that I now feel bereft and robbed. I ache to place my arms around him just one last time, and knowing I can't is the worst pain there is.

I am not writing this for anyone's sympathy or for any other reason than to let anyone who reads this know that grief is universal, and no amount of knowledge can make the valley easier to walk through. I've known grief before. I work at GriefLine, helping people to cope with grief, often the same flavour of grief I'm feeling today from the loss of a loved pet. I work as a counsellor, helping people cope with grief of all kinds.

And yet, my own grief journey lies before me, unchanged. I will walk through the dark valley one more time, without Mancha, and missing him every step of the way.

But I will not walk that valley alone.

My wife whom I love more than I could ever say, walks beside me. My children, pains that they are (but also wonderful, amazing, colourful and loving human beings that they are too) walk beside me. My friends, family and colleagues walk beside me. As long as I reach out, there are those who walk beside me.

So that I do not need to walk this valley of grief alone.

If you walk your own valley of loss, reach out. You are never alone unless you wish to be.

And for me, I smile when I think of one day being reunited with Manch, the other side of that rainbow bridge, with the world's biggest goofy grin.

Please, take care of yourselves, and each other.



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