We have known for almost 8 months that this day would come.
Somehow, that knowledge doesn’t make it easier when it happens.
Buddy was a rescue dog and was an absolutely gorgeous Husky, Lab mix with an amazingly gentle soul.
It took Buddy a while to realize he was finally safe in his new home and bonded with the family and extended family.
Personally, I always referred to him as one of my grand puppies and I always had treats or toys for him whenever he would visit.
As we buried Buddy Wednesday evening, it struck me just how much of the family he really was.
Watching my grandchildren I noticed how differently we all grieve and how difficult it is for some kids.
That Special Bond
Dogs have a unique way of connecting with us on a very deep subconscious level.
Their unconditional love and the deep connection we develop with them can’t be matched by any other species and perhaps even some humans.
With a bond that deep it makes perfect sense that we would grieve their loss so deeply.
Another thing that makes losing a dog so difficult is we tend to form routines around the care of the dog.
For example, letting them out to do their business first thing in the morning, taking them for walks, playing outside with them, feeding them.
Pets, especially dogs, are very much a sounding board for our troubles. We talk to them and tell them everything when we are going through hard times, and they are always there with a nudge or a lick to help us feel better.
When you take the time to think of how much of your day was spent in either caring for them or playing with them you realize just how much of your time was devoted to them.
While Buddy didn’t live with us, his loss is certainly felt.
Every time we go to my daughter’s home we are reminded of his absence.
Buddy is no longer greeting us at the door, or leaning on me while I talk to the grandchildren. He would also lay on my feet whenever I sat somewhere.
He will be always missed.
As I mentioned earlier, Buddy was a rescue dog. We are unsure of the conditions in which he lived before he was rehomed with our daughter and her family.
The early years
He had a front paw that had been broken and never properly set and so it healed crooked. It didn’t seem to bother him though.
Through the years he bonded with not only the family he lived with but extended family as well. Our oldest son had a golden retriever, Charlie, who became best friends with Buddy.
During countless family bbq’s Buddy and Charlie could be seen happily playing and enjoying being together. Regular doggie playdates became a thing within our family.
Initially, you couldn’t make any sudden movements around Buddy or would cower and pee.
My daughter also said she had to learn to discipline her children without raising her voice or Buddy would get between her and the children.
He was very protective of the kids right from the start.
Eventually, arthritis set into that front paw and started causing Buddy a LOT of pain.
He never whined or became aggressive with the pain. He just started not using that paw and it sort of just got dragged around. It looked really awkward because it was a front paw.
Upon the advice of their veterinarian, they had that front paw amputated at the shoulder.
At the time that seemed so devastating and we all felt so bad for Buddy.
Turns out that was the best thing that could have been done for him.
Almost as soon as he was out of surgery he was a happier dog as as you can see in the photo he has the biggest smile I have ever seen on a dog.
Everyone could see the difference and it didn’t slow him down at all. In fact, I think he got around better without that leg dragging.
The later years
Buddy was doing great. He adapted to life on three legs amazingly well. This was probably because he had given up using that leg long before it was removed.
One day last summer, our son-in-law noticed a lump on a hind leg. At his next wellness check at the vet the lump was mentioned.
The vet examined it and decided to do a biopsy.
We were all shocked and devastated by the news that Buddy had a rare and aggressive cancer.
I should mention you could visibly see this tumor grow from one vet appointment to the next which were only about a week apart.
Since he was already a three-legged dog the usual course of treatment (amputation) was not an option.
They were told this cancer was very aggressive and they should start to prepare for the end.
By October the tumor had grown to 8 times the original size and several other tumors had been discovered throughout his body.
We were beginning to wonder if Buddy would make it through the winter.
Spring arrived and Buddy was now beginning to shake whenever he stood up and the vet advised the end was near.
Last Tuesday our son-in-law decided to take Buddy to the vet again when Buddy could not get up to go outside. In fact, Jeff had to carry him to the car, very unusual because Buddy loves car rides.
Turns out Buddy has a tumor on his heart that is almost the same size as his heart.
It was decided that Jeff would take Buddy home for one final night with the family.
They threw an old mattress on the floor and the kids cuddled with Buddy all evening. They all had cheeseburgers for supper including Buddy because they were his favorite.
The following day Buddy was euthanized with all his family present.
Stages of grief
Yes, we all had time to prepare for this moment but it certainly doesn’t make it any easier.
There is no right or wrong way to experience grief.
Everyone grieves differently and we will all have to go through the various stages, some faster than others.
Whether you experience the loss of a pet or a human loved one you will find yourself reeling afterward. It does seem all too surreal and you may even think it is all just a terrible dream. It takes time for it all to sink in.
For our 13-year-old granddaughter, this happened very quickly.
In fact, they were all still in the room at the vets, moments after Buddy passed and she sat there looking at Buddy, suddenly she just stated what we were all feeling, “I can’t believe he is just right there, dead.”
At that moment, Kaileigh started experiencing shock, the first stage of grief.
Don’t rush yourself through this stage. You need time to process the loss.
Anger was felt by everyone. We were angry that Buddy had to suffer so much in life.
His early life before any of us knew him was full of abuse.
Then he had the pain of that injured leg that ultimately led to amputation.
And then cancer, why did such a good dog have to suffer so much?
Allow yourself the freedom to feel the anger.
You could be angry at God for letting this happen.
Sometimes you could be angry at the pet for leaving you or the vet for not saving them.
It is all part of the process and is normal to go through.
This may come in the form of thinking you are perfectly fine with this loss. You may think you are not grieving or not feeling sad.
Our oldest granddaughter(16-years-old) was supposed to start her first job later that day.
We all told her if she didn’t want to go that it was fine we would all understand and support her. There would be other jobs.
She insisted she was fine and could go to work.
She did get through her shift but collapsed in her father’s arms when he picked her up sobbing uncontrollably.
You may feel angry at yourself over the loss of your pet and they may feel like guilt.
My daughter was overcome with guilt because of the fact that Buddy was euthanized. Even though she knew he was suffering and this was the kindest most loving thing she could do for him at this point she is questioning their decision. Was it the right thing to do? Was it too soon?
Kaileigh (13-year-old) got quite depressed and didn’t want to go to school the rest of the week but her mother insisted she needed to go.
She had a really hard time and was either crying or on the verge of tears constantly.
Kaitlyn (16-year-old) was also depressed. She stopped eating for a few days.
As a family, we have been looking out for each other and Kaileigh has now stopped crying and Kailtyn is eating again
Eventually, we will come out the other side of grief and accept that our pet is gone.
We can now fondly remember them without breaking down and take comfort in all the wonderful times we had together.
It takes time to come out the other side of grief and it can’t be rushed.
Each of us must pass through all the stages.
As odd as it may sound, Alex the youngest (6-years-old) was the one who reached this stage the quickest. In fact, Alex was comforting everyone else.
He was wanting to plan Buddy’s funeral so we could all honor him.
Alex was busy hugging everyone and telling them Buddy doesn’t hurt anymore and he can run with four legs now.
Does grieving affect diabetes?
We were concerned about how Alex’s little body would react to the grieving process.
After all, it seems like everything from exercise and sleep to the changing seasons affects his type 1 diabetes in some way so these concerns were real.
Grief is a form of stress and stress does affect diabetes.
If like his older sister Alex had refused to eat, his blood sugars would have dropped dangerously.
Because grief is a form of stress his blood sugars could also rise abnormally.
The best thing you can do for any diabetes who is going through grief is to frequently monitor their blood sugar level.
Be sure to make any corrections when needed.
So how did Alex do?
Well, he was running a little high so we ended up giving him a bolus shot of insulin.
How we grieved
We had a little funeral for Buddy and it was quite planned out. Things would be occurring for several days after the initial burial.
My husband, as the patriarch of our family, was called into service to dig the grave with his tractor.
Alex was of course supervising every step.
Once Kaitlyn was home from work we had a little service. We all shared a favorite memory of Buddy.
Some of Buddy’s favorite things were placed in the grave with him, his bone, a favored toy, and a note from Kaileigh.
Then we all placed a handful of dirt in the grave, then my husband completed the burial with the tractor.
There were plenty of stories, hugs, and tears.
A plan was made to head out on the weekend to find a large stone to serve as Buddy’s gravestone,
Kaileigh is quite a budding artist and wants to paint the rock for Buddy.
It will then be sprayed with a protective coating and placed at the grave.
In it, we will place his collar, paw print from the vet, and favorite pictures.
Once the shadowbox is assembled it will be displayed in their living room.
After our experiences of the past week, I now understand the grieving dog loss is no different than grieving any loss.
We must all pass through all the stages of grieving before we can begin to enjoy life again.
I hope that sharing our very personal and still raw grief can somehow help you through your own if you are ever faced with the loss of a beloved pet.
There are actually stages of grief that are normal to pass through including:
- guilt depression
While grief is a natural process it is still a form of stress and can affect diabetics in varying degrees.
It can either raise blood sugar levels as it did with our grandson Alex or it can cause a blood sugar drop which can be dangerous.
If you are diabetic and going through grief be sure to check your blood sugar levels frequently.
Have you ever lost a pet?
How did you manage your grief?
Do you know any diabetics who went through grief?
How did they manage their blood sugars?
Leave your answers in the comment section below.