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Plugging the hole in owner’s heart after the loss of a beloved pet can be hard

COVID-19 has probably changed the rest of our lives. Everyone who is alive now will change in some way.
While I am quick to point out the ways these changes have not been ideal (just ask my best friend), not everything that is COVID-19-related has been bad.

I must lead with the COVID-19 inefficiencies and social isolation are quite less than ideal. It is hard. Everything takes longer.

I am very grateful to our clients that have been respectful and positive. (Those ice cream bars Buddy’s mom bought were a huge hit!)

In addition to all the other stressors and less than okay situations, we had to put some beloved pets to sleep. Buster, the service lab, Buddy, the chocolate lab, Max and Rusty, our first chemo patients and all the others in an emotional blur, still weigh heavy on us.

But just as COVID-19 is forcing more time with our families, we are spending more time with our pets.

We are seeing more patients, more often than before. The general vet world is thinking that because people are spending more time with their pets, they are noticing more.

I certainly have seen some pets that people have noticed the nipples on their male dogs for the first time and that little patch where teeth fit on a cat actually has a name, the mandibular labial frenulum.

However, I think most of the animals that we have seen have really needed to be seen at the time we have seen them. They are sick, hurt or overdue for care.

Some are sick or hurt because the family is spending time with them. Playing with a flying disc is fun, but also a great way to tear a cruciate ligament.

More time cooking means more treats off the table.

More time at home means more time to get into things.

I don’t think that is all of the reasons for the increased patient visits.

More importantly, I think that people are realizing how important the family pet is to the family, so they are caring a bit more. Because they are not eating out, doing fast food and extra gas and car expenses, they have money to treat the things that bother Fluffy and Tiger.

People who have lost pets and haven’t had pets in a while or ever are also thinking they might have time for a new pet. This is a part of COVID-19 that I find wonderful!

Roxy’s parents realized quite early after Roxy was gone that they needed another dog. Chanel came from the shelter and plugged that hole in their hearts.

When I was younger, I had a loved chocolate lab named Chip. He was poisoned, because I was a veterinarian.

I could not save him. I was beyond devastated. I could not function for weeks afterward.

There was a litter of yellow labs that a friend had and every time I picked up a puppy, I picked up this little yellow male pup first. But buying the pup seemed like I was tossing Chip’s memory away.

Finally, when Isaac was 12 weeks old and I had been crying in almost every exam room appointment, I admitted I needed Isaac. Note, I didn’t just want Isaac, I admitted I needed him.

Isaac’s death was a little more expected and while I didn’t rush into a new puppy or two, I knew there would be another puppy or young lab, because that is the final stage of grief resolution, moving on to a new pet.

Sometimes, it is not a new chocolate lab, but a yellow lab or a cat instead of a ferret or something else, but above all, a new loved pet.

That is why it warms my heart when I see tiny. little, flop-eared Rambo with Max’s parents; I hear that Buster’s parents are getting a beagle; and that Thor is a foster fail at Buddy’s house. These recent holes in hearts will heal rapidly from here on.

Of course, some people it takes longer. Buddy’s mom lost him almost a year ago, but this week, I get a text of a two-day-old golden that will be going home with her when he is old enough. I can’t even write this without a smile for Buddy 2.0.

I do hope that a little dog wanders up to Rusty’s parents someday. I still worry about them, but they are not up to talking with us yet. It is okay, I have some extra time without meetings or travel to think kind thoughts for them.

You may remember we were worried enough to call for a welfare check on them after Rusty was gone.

There will continue to be rough weeks! The COVID-19 inefficiencies remain and it will continue to be hot. There will be other patients to put to sleep. That will bother me, but I also get to share the joy of the new kids that come in the house.

It is the circle of life.

Welcome home, Rambo, Jack, Klondike, Tidbit, Milo, Jasper, Pickles and all the other new family members!
This world is still wonderful in a slightly different way.

MJ Wixsom, DVM MS is a best-selling Amazon author who practices at Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky. GuardianAnimal.com 606-928-6566