Explaining the Unexplainable Pain of Losing a Pet
By Jill Sullivan, Publisher of Woof Magazine + Founder of Project Pawsitive
I never imagined one of my saddest moments would be putting a new roll of toilet paper onto its holder. The whole act of it made my eyes well right up and my nose start to clog. As quickly as that roll was installed, I was unwinding it feverishly and blotting my eyes as I let out quiet (ok, really loud) sobs. Today, it hit me. He was never coming back.
“He” was my chocolate lab named Killian — almost 12 when he died and the very best friend I’ve ever had. Sitting there today on that cold, lonely floor, I felt sucker-punched. Nearly a month into my mourning and it’s still as raw as ever. I’d do anything to see him happily trotting down the hall while dragging that long trail of toilet paper behind him, snorting with glee the whole way. Just. One. More. Time.
For years, our toilet paper was always sitting on top of the window casing. High enough for him not to reach, low enough for him to look so incredibly endearing as he tried his best to score. This was just one of the ways he made me laugh so hard I’d snort too.
I invested a lot into my boy’s health and wouldn’t change a single thing. Diagnosed with kidney disease when he was just a year old, I knew we had a bumpy road ahead of us. When you’re told he’d only live three to five years (If you’re lucky, Ms. Sullivan.), it makes you cherish each day. It became my quest to give him the longest and happiest life possible.
Today, I realize that quest was mostly selfish on my part. I’d never felt so connected to a living being in my life and the very thought of losing him crushed me every time I thought about it. I knew the pain I’d feel would rock me to the core and sit like a lump in my throat waiting to explode when anyone asked, “How are you doing?”
In April, the reality of Killian’s mortality and my powerlessness reared its ugly, horrible head. I stroked his beautiful, gleaming fur in which I’d nestled myself hundreds of times, as the oncologist frowned and closed her chart. “It’s called a carcinoma, and it’s killing the one good kidney he’s got left. He’s got one to four months to live (If you’re lucky, Ms. Sullivan.).”
Those first couple of months were a breeze for us. Yes, we bumped up the IV fluids and increased some medications, but my boy was happy. I was happy too.
Until June Came
June started off pretty good until one day he was too tired to get out of the car. It’s okay, it’ll pass. Let’s just get some more fluids into him. He didn’t sleep well last night. He just needs some rest.
June was the last full month with my sweet boy. The weather got warmer and Killian got sicker. He spent a lot of his time on the cool tile floor and tried so hard to eat the smorgasbord of food I’d prepare to get him to eat. When he was three years old, he somehow managed to break into our pantry and eat an entire bag of dog food. Killian was never not hungry. Until June came.
Saying goodbye to Killian was one of the most painful days of my life — a tie with losing my dad. We were lucky to give Killian a dignified, peaceful way to Heaven. Even though I still feel him with me when I need him most, the pain is so gut-wrenching and the grief is so real. It sits like a lump in my throat waiting to explode when anyone asks, “How are you doing?” Just like I knew it would.
I brought a roll of toilet paper to my desk. Sitting so still at the wooden corner as I type. What I wouldn’t give to have my boy take it and run. Both of us snorting with glee the whole time. Give your sweet animals an extra kiss and hug tonight and cherish every single second.