Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Loss of a Pet

Our little black wiener dog honored his predecessor today. He napped on her grave under a tree that commemorates her. It was as if he knew this was the anniversary weekend of her death.
Dan the Man soaking up the 70 degree November sun in Kansas
Seven years ago, I put down my red dachshund named Lexy. She was eleven-years and nine-months old, a little younger than most of the kids I teach. Her back legs went out, something that happens to a lot of wiener dogs due to their elongated bodies and the strain on their spines.

I had raised her from the time she was a puppy. Trained her to ring bells to go out and potty. In a month, she had it down. Later that summer, my niece Jessica helped me train her to walk on a leash by enticing her with food.

Lexy, named after a South Dakota weather forecaster Lexy Hickok, arose at 5:50 am every day when I first got her back in June of 1995. I wanted to sleep init was summer. So one day, I said, "We're going back to bed," and I stuck her under the covers with me. That was the last time she slept in a cage. Then I got married, and she slept alone in a doggy bed.

Lexy and Dad nap ~ Summer 1995

One can imagine the pain of losing a house dog who is a constant companion. My dad said he understood when I told him I cried over Lexy’s death more than I did Mom's.

Shortly after my dog's passing, fellow dog lover Kaitlin Nance, a former student of mine, gave me the book, For Every Dog an Angel. For anyone who’s lost a dog, the words will not seem silly. I knew I wanted another dog; I just wanted to wait until summer time when I could give it my full attention.

Lexy ~ Tank, Kaitlin's dog ~ Pepper in July 2007

But I was. So lonely.
I missed Lexy. So much.

Guilt over all the changes during her last year of life did not help me. I tried to enjoy Pepper’s company, but it was not the same. He was not Lexy. I would walk Pepper at night and just bawl. I bought an iPod to drown out my thoughts.

Some suggested I should get a dog right away, others said I better wait, yet others said maybe I should not get another oneever. After all, we had Pepper. In addition, I feared my new husband would not want another dachshund after the way Lexy behaved at times. But I wanted one. Another one. Another dachshund.

Lexy's second Christmas in 1996. She did not like that doggy coat.
My husband saw my sorrow, and three months later in March, he drove me five hours one way to get a dog from a rescue. It was a black and red dachshund I found on His papers came with the name Daniel, but I wanted a fresh start for this little fella whose story I will tell some time in a future post, so I renamed him Dan the Man. He’s my little love who teaches me about patience and kindness in a way no human can. 

Dan the Man with me in May 2012

How does one move on after the loss of a pet?
It is tough. So tough.

Give yourself permission to mourn. How do you do this besides tears? Create a special memento of your pet. Mine is a box full of pictures and a journal full writings. In fact, that’s when I started writing consistently again. Lexy’s death in 2007 caused me to return to my default mode. In that journal, I wrote messages to her.

Lexy with me on the last day of her life.

Also, realize the time to grieve is different for everyone. You might choose to never get a pet again. Only you can make that decision, but do know that you are not being disloyal to the one you lost if you want another companion. My time ended up being three months because I could not stand it any longer.

One day at lunch, my friend and colleague Jill Weber said, “It helped my mom when she got another one." Her words gave me permission to make room in my heart for another dog.

And room I had.
Dan the Man’s spot is right beside Lexy’s, and today, his resting on her grave confirmed it.

saying good bye

How have you dealt with the pain of losing a beloved pet? What did you do to cherish the memories?


  1. Precious, Melodie. I so understand. Years back, our puppy was run over by a train. Such a long story. But a friend said to get another dog. So we did ... and though I still hurt for her, my mind was preoccupied with a new puppy ... and it helped to heal my heart.

    I have cried so much since our sheep was killed. It sounds so silly to say ... a sheep. But when you love animals ... it hurts to lose them.

    1. Oh Shelli, a train? How awful heartbreaking. Your recent post about the sheep—I understood the sadness immediately when I read it.

      Last year our fish in our above ground outdoor pond died. They had survived a few winters out there, but I guess they couldn't take it last year. I hate to think they suffered.