This past Sunday, my family said goodbye to our loyal and beloved German Shepard, Velo. For nearly 10 years, he filled our lives and our home with joy and unconditional love as our four-legged friend.
But Velo was much more than that: He was a working dog, a police K9 who, for seven years, saw my husband through too-many-to-count dangerous situations. He was a protector and my husband’s best friend, and I was always comforted by the fact that they were together.
His loss has left a void much deeper than I expected: I pull into the driveway, and expect to hear his welcoming bark; I reach for the leash when we go for walks; I look out onto our deck expecting to see him standing guard. My grief around the loss of him is profound and painful and raw.
So it came as perfect timing on Monday that the Experience Life team gathered to review upcoming content for our September 2014 issue, and one of the articles was about grieving the loss of a pet. In “Losing a Pet,” Jon Spayde quotes Sandra B. Barker, PhD, NCC, LCP, director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine:
“Many people simply don’t realize how attached they were to a pet,” Barker says. “They think they’ll get over the death quickly and easily but find themselves struggling with the surprising intensity and duration of their feelings.
“Our pets are present nearly all the time, day in and day out,” says Barker. “They remind us of many episodes in our lives —the good times and the difficult times — and when they die, we may feel that unique and important parts of our lives, parts that they symbolize, have passed with them.” (Look for the full story in our September 2014 issue.)
These words made me realize that the acknowledgement of Velo’s importance to me, my husband, and our girls is not to be minimized: He played a significant role in our lives for many years and will always be part of our family. And though we miss him greatly, we will find ways to celebrate and remember him, from looking at photographs and talking about him, to burying him in his favorite corner of the yard this spring.
In the meantime: Thank you, dear Velo, for protecting us, for making us laugh, for tolerating little-girl antics, and most importantly, for being the best dog we could have asked for. You fit us to a tee.
In memory of Velo, and the family pets who fellow members of the Experience Life team have recently lost:
- Nell: Creative Director Lydia Anderson’s Australian Shepard
- Spit: Senior editor Courtney Helgoe’s cat
- Lily and Cheb: Production Director Jane Meronuck’s cats
- Biz: Senior editor Courtney Lewis Opdahl’s cat
- Brigit, Snoopy, and Spot: Director of Business Operation Craig Cox’s dog and cats
TELL US: How have you celebrated the life of a beloved pet? Leave a comment below or tweet us @ExperienceLife.