Anyone who has ever owned a dog knows that they are so much more than just a pet, they are a part of your family.
And that's why it's so hard when they pass away. Whether they lived a long, healthy life, or left us way too soon, the pain of the loss is something that is almost unbearable.
But there are people out there who tell us to "get over it" because "it's just a dog." Those words are so hurtful because to us they were so much more.
Well, while there is nothing that I can say to make your loss any less painful, at least we now have research to back up the fact that the mourning process is very much real. Not only that, but it's actually been found that it may be harder to get over the death of a pet than it is to get over the loss of a human.
I know that might sound crazy, but here are the claims the study makes.
The thing is, we bond with our pets in the same way we bond with other people. The same hormones and chemicals are released in our brains that make us feel loved and connected, and after spending years together they are no different than the rest of your family.
But why would that make it harder to get over? Well, there's no acceptable way to mourn the loss of a pet.
If one of your human family members passes away, there are countless resources you can turn to to manage the pain. You are surrounded by loving supporting friends and family members who try to help in any way they can.
You can turn to counselling and therapy, all without any kind of criticism from others because they expect you to be going through a hard time.
However, when your pet dies, you are expected to carry on with your life as though nothing had happened.
You've got to return to work, keep up with your social engagements, and continue on with the rest of your life without any kind of understanding from the majority of people.
Sure, your closest family and friends know what's going on, but even they may not really understand how deeply this is affecting you.
Without those extra resources to help deal with the pain, you're left repressing all these emotions and not really getting the opportunity for resolution.
It's not just about losing the pet themselves according to psychologist Julie Axelrod. She suspects that part of it is that you're also losing a source of unconditional love and comfort, as well as a companion.
Also, this loss leads to a huge disruption to someones daily routine, sometimes more than the loss of actual human loved ones. You have to schedule your day around your dog, and suddenly losing all of that order can leave a person feeling completely lost.
One of the saddest things that happens to dog owners who lose their companions is that for a while after they continue to interpret things as though it was their dog. For example, something will fall over in another room and they will call out to see if it was the dog, or they may even hear the noises they would make when there actually was nothing.
It's our memories playing tricks on us, but needless to say it's kind difficult.
Guilt also plays into it quite often, as with animals we are often forced to make a difficult choice to end their suffering. While it's the humane option, it doesn't make it any easier to say goodbye. We can't help but feel like there was more we could do, and it brings another level that we just can't handle.
So next time you start to feel upset over the loss of a pet, remember that it is absolutely okay to be heartbroken. They are a member of your family no matter what any non-dog lovers say, and it's absolutely understandable that you still miss your dog, science says so.
If you know someone who recently lost a pet, maybe let them know that you're there for them. The gesture may be exactly what they need.