Loving pets through their lifespan, no matter how long that is, brings lots of lessons in veterinary care. I've had dogs with seizures, cats with metal hips, diabetic cats, dogs with irritable bowel, dogs with chronic cough, cats with abscesses and dogs with embedded fox tails and hernias. I've companioned several animals as they passed on.
By the time we get towards the end with our animal companion, if we had that much time, we feel like we could recite the Merck manual.
Then, as the end comes into sight, we remember, or we learn for the first time, that grief is coming. No matter all the excellent care we've given, all the meds and special foods we've learned about, we anticipate the loss and we dread it, even if we're doing our best to keep our pet comfortable and our spirits up.
Even with all the love surrounding the sadness, no one is an expert at grieving. Grief comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. It's watery and arid. It's messy and sharp. It's soft and weighted. It speaks its own language with us. The wave of sorrow rises and falls. Guilt, worry and fatigue follow along.
So, when I or one of my friends or clients are grieving, or fraying as the end comes near, I only know to say "listen", "ride" and "love". The nice thing about grief is that she shapes and carves into us something rich with history, memories, gratitude, bitterness and sweetness and maybe a willingness to love some more, again.