Dealing with the loss of a dog

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  • Jabba died on May 19 from an allergic reaction to rabies vaccine.

(CNN Philippines) — The relationship between man and dog has stood the test of time and has gone through several historical changes. There are archaeological discoveries, such as figurines, drawings and writings that demonstrate that in ancient times dogs were kept as pets.

In fact, the pairing between man and dog has evolved and different breeds have been developed for various purposes so people could benefit from them.

Let's admit it, most of us love dogs. We care for them, walk them, feed them, and sometimes treat them as our own children. They say dogs are a man's best friend.

But how do we deal with the loss of a dog?

For some, the loss is a significant life event.

Jing Magsaysay, senior vice president for News and Current Affairs at CNN Philippines, lost his beloved Chow Chow named Jabba.

Magsaysay said Jabba's death from an allergic reaction to rabies vaccine on May 19 felt as if he lost a friend, a best friend and the loss really hurts.

According to Magsaysay, Jabba served as a mascot to his family.

"I never liked big dogs. They are smelly, splash saliva all over and are a pain to take care of," Magsaysay narrates. "Then in a series of fortuitous events, I found myself one morning at the house of a colleague fetching a six-month-old Chow Chow."

Chow Chow, or Chow, is a breed of dog that originated from Northern China and has several unique characteristics that include a blue-black tongue, dense double coat, the scowl of a lion, and a distinctive stilted gait.

"It took a Chow to teach me to break down my walls and notions of the world. I am humbled and fortunate that God gifted us with Jabba. In less than the year he spent with us, I have learned so much," Magsaysay said.

Magsaysay certainly is not alone in his feelings.

Researchers suggest that nine in 10 dog owners think of their beloved dogs as members of their family. Because of this, many dog owners experience grief that almost always lasts longer than expected.

Joanna Sanchez was devastated when her Pug died of an unknown illness several years ago.

"I've never had dogs before. When Yuri came into my life, she changed my world. She gave me unconditional love that I don't always receive from other people," Sanchez shared with CNN Philippines.

So when Yuri died, she said, it was the most tragic and devastating experience she had.

"I still cry each time I remember her. The pain is almost unbearable," she said.

Many dog owners, after the death of a pet, experience what psychologists call "disenfranchised grief."

Disenfranchised grief is a term describing grief that is not openly acknowledged or socially supported.

Most people consider grieving inappropriate for someone who has lost "just a pet." Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Humane Society posted on its website the following suggestions that will help you cope with the loss of a pet:

  • Acknowledge your grief and give yourself permission to express it.
  • Don't hesitate to reach out to others who can lend a sympathetic ear.
  • Write about your feelings, either in a journal or a poem, essay, or short story.
  • Prepare a memorial for your pet.
  • When you are ready, get another pet but don't rush into that decision. It is only you who will know when is the right time.