Have you ever had a dog that when he or she passed away, it hurt like nothing you have ever felt before?
Maybe you currently have a dog and thinking about losing him or her is unbearable?
Yes well, I’m not going to give you the magic answers for that, when I lose a dog it cuts me deep.
But I wanted to maybe share some thoughts, well at least my thoughts anyway for what they are worth, on why the death of our dogs may be such a huge deal to us.
When thinking about this, I started by separating the Stages of Life into 4 groups.
This is not official, it’s just my thoughts.
Puppy (8 weeks to just over a year…?)
When a puppy comes into my home it’s cute, but also an exciting time.
We have a new family member that everyone is getting to know.
There are surprises, good and bad, challenges to overcome and goals to meet.
We are toilet training, crate training, establishing a reward system, establishing a communication system, establishing a diet and sleeping habits for our puppy, just to start!
Then there is socialisation too
Puppies go through quite a number of developmental stages in their first year of life.
These can effect how your puppy perceives certain events or environments.
We also want to be teaching our puppy what to expect living with us.
How to follow our guidance and live comfortably within well taught and fair rules and boundaries.
How successful you are at this matters with some pups more than others.
For example, if you have chosen a Working Line German Shepherd for example, I feel that the things I
Mentioned above are highly important to get right.
If you have a more relaxed breed, they may not be as important, but important none the less.
The payoff, if you want to call it that , is when your dog travels into adolescence, he or she is a great dog to be with.
He or she is well balanced, confident, responsive to your direction, motivated, flexible and has very reasonable expectations.
His or her social values for other people and other animals including dogs is measured meaning that when around others, your dog can remain focussed and engaged with you, rather than becoming overstimulated in some way.
You put in the work in the first 12 months and get it right, you will have a decade or more of return.
Adolescent (18 months to 3 years or so…)
So now our pup is an adolescent, 18 months of age or so and living his or her best life with you.
Maybe your dream was to compete in a dog sport or maybe the dream was your puppy will become your assistance dog?
It’s probably lay around now, if you have nailed that first year, that these dreams are starting to look real!
It’s exciting as your pushing towards your dreams and the time to enjoy them for the first time is probably right around the corner.
You have a young, energetic dog that just loves to get going.
Does life get any better?
Well, we may enjoy that dog and new experiences for a while and we explore and learn what we can achieve.
Time flies and your beat mate is 3 years old, mature!
You notice that your dog is working smarter rather than harder now.
He or she is more precise and in tune with you and seems to know what your thinking before you even think it!
You and this great friend have HISTORY together, MEMORIES and more importantly, a lot of adventures yet to take and explore.
In an ideal world you may get 3-5 years of this, very settled, dependable and predictable dog.
Very little is new now, you both go through life as a team now and enjoy each experience knowing how each other will tackle it
What a great time to be alive.
But one day you say to your best mate, “hey let’s…” and he or she lays on their bed and rolls over onto their back, legs in the air l, saying “nahhh let’s just hang out here”
You give another cheer and up your dog jumps and out you go. But between that and a few grey hairs, and some other signs, your dog is a senior.
Senior dogs that you have lived with are amazing. They are so wise, they know it all, have seen it all and know you oh so well.
Yeah they may not be the athlete they once were, but gee that can really be comforting to be around.
When people are you together they sometimes ask “how old is she /he?” And as you say 10, you catch your breath and wonder where the hell ten years went.
You have that uneasy feeling as your thoughts wander into, how long will they be around?
Vet visits might be a little more common now, there is the strange lump somewhere, maybe he or she is a bit stiff when they get up after a long rest…
Your dog has given you so much in this time, ten years is a lot of giving and I like to think they come and help me learn things, help make my life good, remind me to be humble bull ignoring a well known cue because I have been a little slack with the reinforcement lately…
If your lucky, you will have a few of these golden years to soak in, old dogs are just incredible.
But then one day, as it inevitably does for every living creature, the light dims and goes out.
We are broken, we hurt so much. Dare I say it, more than when a human passes…
Maybe it hurts FOUR times as much, because our puppy, adolescent, mature and senior dog is all gone, all at once.
I like to try and tell myself that they are not gone.
The memories are still fresh in me.
The lessons that dog taught me or still sharp in my mind and I practice those lessons daily.
People ask a few months later “he where is your dog?” And I was not thinking about him and bang, now I am.
You can feel your throat tighten, you stumble to get some words out and then deal with their condolences.
This is hard.
This is hard.
Now some people will vow never to get another dog because it hurt too much losing the last one.
Look I totally understand those thoughts, but I really feel that, you should get another pup.
The life you had with your mate that has passed pups be that next puppies dream home.
Change that emotion from sadness or happiness by starting that process all over again.
Let his new puppy benefit from the lessons your last dog taught you.
You don’t replace your last dog, they are not replaceable.
You move to the next chapter of life and make your next puppies life amazing, just like you did your last.
What I described above happening in those periods, puppy, adolescence, maturity and senior was a dream run.
Some people don’t start with a puppy, some dogs don’t get the training they needed to, should have, or wanted to.
Some people don’t get to the senior stage with their dogs either…
I meet people like that every week, but don’t for a second think that will affect how much they love this dog, quite the opposite really.
If you don’t get the puppy stuff right, you will need to work harder in adolescence, if you didn’t get their in adolescence, you may need to work your butt off in maturity to enjoy a full life with your dog.
If your senior though never got over that dog aggression or huge desire to chase cats, you can still add some management, training and get some great results.
Dogs are always willing to learn.
Help them be the best they can be for both you and them.
They are never around as long as we want them to be.