Memory of beloved pets can comfort you, ease the loss

If you’re like me, the new year is a time to count your many blessings and to look back at the highs and lows of the previous year. The replay is not an exercise designed to arbitrarily whipsaw emotions, and it’s been decades since I’ve made New Year’s resolutions (I just try to live a life of self-improvement). Rather, it’s an effort to sear into my consciousness the things for which I want to remember every detail. The most special of all these memories involve the loss of pets.

I know I open myself up to attack when I say this, but I honestly grieve more for the loss of pets than I do people – even the deaths of family and friends. I love people, so maybe I need counseling to figure out this paradox, but I bet if I joined group counseling for the same problem, we’d fill the largest sports stadium you could find.

I think that’s because when pets die, we face a loss of unconditional love, limitless affection, daily doses of smiles and laughter and to-die-for loyalty. When pets die, we tend to think the gifts given are always lopsided on their side of the ledger.

Pets swell our hearts with their unfettered joy, then break them when they go before us. This year we lost an amazing dog, our precious Quora. She was a 15-pound fawn-colored canine cocktail (Pomeranian, Shar-Pei and Cairn terrier) whose most unique gift was her love of shoes. We’re not talking the stereotypical leather-chomping puppy; no, Quora possessed a talent so unique that we should have had her on the hit show “America’s Got Talent.”

Quora would go into an open closet or mudroom and take all the shoes out and put them in another room. We’re not talking a pile of shoes, or dropped helter-skelter. No, the dog we nicknamed Imelda Barkos or Shoebacca would transfer the shoes in the exact order she found them. Let’s say there were three pairs of shoes – one pair of tan sandals, one pair of red heels and a pair of black boots – side-by-side on the floor of the closet. Quora would pick up a shoe, prance proudly with it in her mouth through the house to a random room, then place it right side up, in the same order, left to right like she found it (always with the right and left in perfect place). I know what you’re thinking: Hard to believe. I probably wouldn’t believe it if I were reading it, but it’s true.

So as the year closes, our family goes through the highlight reel of Quora’s 14 years on Earth. I could write thousands of words about her, and in fact, I did. It’s one of the ways I grieve. But I know that many of you, too, have had to say goodbye or give the final grace to a four-legged family member who left too soon. Know that I understand the depth of your loss and pray for you to find comfort.

I want to leave you with three thoughts:

▪ Greatest pet in the world. I used to end a radio show by saying, “There’s only one greatest pet in the world ... and every family has her.” This is true.

▪ Better too early than too late. Most pet owners agonize over the decision to euthanize a pet. My advice is always: “I’d rather be a month too early than a day too late.”

▪ Warm memories. Over my four decades in practice, I’ve signed thousands of sympathy cards for pet owners who’ve lost a pet. Here are the words I find most comforting and use: “May the times you shared forever be the warmest of memories.”

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and journalist Kim Campbell Thornton, affiliated with