After the loss
WHEN WILL YOU BE READY TO WELCOME A NEW PET INTO YOUR LIFE?
By Amy Sugar, D.V.M., BSc. DOGS IN CANADA March 2006 Page 24
My clients, heartbroken after losing a beloved family member, often seek my advice about when the 'right' time will be to welcome a new pet into their lives. I offer guidance and support but have found that, as with most important questions in life, the answer often comes from within.
ADVICE ON TIMING
It may seem that everyone you meet has advice to offer about when to get a new pet.
The best advice is to never let anyone talk you into getting another pet before you are ready.
There's no rule on timing. It is variable and related to the period you and your family need to grieve and reach closure.
When considering another pet, ask yourself if you feel emotionally ready to start a new relationship. Reflect on your feelings when looking at potential dogs to adopt.
Are you comparing this dog to your beloved one that has passed away?
Do you wish to replace that same bond you had with your pet? Remember, you need to feel open to bonding with a new pet and forming a relationship.
GETTING A NEW PET FOR YOUR CHILD
There are several issues you need to be sensitive about when children are involved. First and foremost, never get a child a new pet because s/he is sad and you want to fix everything. As much as it pains us all as parents to see our children sad, they too have experienced a devastating loss and need to grieve.
In many cases, if you get a new pet too soon, your child won't have had a chance to grieve and reach closure. If you try to replace your old pet with a new one, you devalue your child's feelings and relay the message that the living things we love are replaceable. The bond between a child and a pet is as unique and special as each of their individual personalities; it can never be replaced.
Remember to ensure your child understands that neither the pet nor the relationship can ever be replaced, but a new one can be embraced. Keep the lines of communication open and encourage expression of emotions about grieving and their thoughts about a new pet.
A very young child (toddler) may accept a new pet readily and sometimes even react to the pet's death with very little emotion. This is normal and simply due to the fact that at this age they have problems understanding the permanence of death. If your toddler is acting out with undesirable behaviour such as tantrums or sleep disturbances as a reaction to the pet's death, a new pet may help. However, parents must be ready for a new pet emotionally, as well as for the challenges a new pet may bring.
A NEW DOG, A NEW LOVE, A NEW RESPONSIBILITY
It may be years since you've had a puppy in the house so your family needs to recount all the training, work and costs incurred with a new addition. Take the time to research the temperaments and care requirements of different breeds. Choose a breed that fits in well with your family and lifestyle. Obtain an approximate list of costs from your veterinarian for the pup's first year vaccinations, spay/neutering, etc. Find out about pet insurance. Involve all family members in the selection process and preparations. Now, enjoy your new-found love. Savour the moments of bonding. Embark on building a new friendship - the truest kind, the kind only a dog can bring.