I usually don’t discuss losing my dogs – grief is a very private thing for me and I prefer to do it alone.
I’m certainly not the first to say it, but it rings true with me…The only really bad thing about dogs is that they don’t live longer. Over the past few months I’ve lost 4 senior dogs – two to brain tumors, one to lung cancer and one to a nasty combination of dementia and glaucoma. Currently about half of my pack is over 10 years of age. I only mention this because it means that unfortunately the next few years I will be looking at more loss. It is something that comes with the territory for all of us who live with dogs and it is never easy. To put it plainly it totally SUCKS.
When I adopt a senior dog, I know in advance that our time together is most likely short lived. My goal is to give them a nice life for whatever time they have left. Just as each dog is an individual, each relationship is unique with each dog, and in turn, each loss is different. All are difficult, but in different ways. It is different when I lose a dog that has been with me as a youngster. It is much harder which makes sense, we have more history together.
What I find fascinating is how losing a member of our pack can profoundly affect the pack dynamic. It isn’t always the case, but I’ve been surprised more than once when the loss completely changes the energy in the house. Sometimes I expect things to be different when a dog with a big personality (or a big mouth) is no longer with us, but at times I’ve been surprised when one of the quieter or shyer dogs passes and the energy shifts and things become lighter somehow. I can only assume that there was something going on under the surface with that dog that was undetected by me. It could have been an emotional issue, or possibly the illness that ultimately led to their death (that was not yet evident with the usual veterinary exam and tests), but the rest of the dogs obviously knew it or there wouldn’t be such a difference in the absence of that particular dog.
I feel like I can read dogs fairly well, but like I lot of things, I’m finding that as I get older I don’t know anywhere near as much as I thought I did. I have a unique perspective living with a pack and observing their behavior with each other. It has changed my ideas about a lot of things we assume about dogs.