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Lost My Sweet Speedy, Hurting So Much


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I am so guilt ridden and heartsick, I can barely breathe. Speedy was a very happy and healthy 13 year old lab mix. I adopted him 13 years ago this month when he was only a puppy. I had Speedy before my husband and I started dating, he has been there through three moves and three children.

On Sunday afternoon, my husband let him outside, and was busy doing something, so he walked back in, intending to let Speedy back in in just a few minutes. That didn't happen. He got sidetracked, had to leave, and left him outside while I stayed at home with the kids. I was busy with my nine month old, and cleaning up from our daughter's birthday party the night before.

Several hours later, I suddenly realized that Speedy was nowhere to be found. I panicked and ran through the house looking for him before I ran outside to see if he had been left out.

There was no sign of him.

My heart sank, I immediately called my husband and the search began. We called every clinic, animal control, shelter, anything we could think of, and did the same yesterday morning. While my husband was at work, I printed out 100 small pictures of Speedy and hand wrote his details and contact information on the back. When my husband came home that evening, he and my son walked around handing the pictures to our neighbors asking if anyone had seen him or knew anything.

Turns out, one neighbor did see something. She saw him stumbling around, disoriented, and called our subdivision manager to see about him. Speedy ended up collapsing in a man's driveway that didn't care to "deal" with him, and so by the time the manager came to get him, he had passed. He then, placed my precious, sweet furbaby into the dumpster. By the time we found this out, the dumpsters were empty. I don't even have his collar to hold onto.

I am so sick with guilt. I don't know if he was hit by a car, or if he died of heat exposure. He was outside and forgotten, probably felt abondoned by his own family, and died, what I can only imagine was a painful, terrible way to go.

At some point in the afternoon, I heard crying outside, but it sounded like a little dog, and it never crossed my mind that it could have been Speedy. I think it was though. I think he was crying for my help, and I ignored it.

I don't know what to do, I feel so sick, so sad, so heartbroken.


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My dear friend,

I am so very sorry to learn of the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of your beloved Speedy, and I can only imagine how painful this must be for you and your entire family. Please accept my deepest sympathy for your loss, and know that I am thinking of you.

It's important that you, your husband and your children understand that the grief you're feeling now is a normal response to the loss of someone you love. How each of you reacts to the loss of your precious Speedy depends not only on the circumstances of his death, but also on how attached you were to him, on your individual relationship with him, and on the role he played in your lives. I'm sure that, each in your own way, you gave your hearts to this dog completely, just as he gave his heart to you. It's only natural that, when you lose that which you love so much, you feel the overwhelming pain of loss. No matter who or what you love, the greater the love, the worse the pain feels when you lose the object of your love. (See my article, Coping with Pet Loss: Am I Crazy to Feel So Sad About This?)

The circumstances of your dog's death suggest to me that you may be feeling very guilty and angry with yourself for whatever part you think you may have played in Speedy's death. There may be a part of you that is very angry with your husband about this, too. But at a time like this it's important for both of you to remember that neither of you deliberately set out to bring any harm to your beloved dog. Like all the rest of us, you are human, terrible accidents do happen, and there was nothing intentional about this at all. Anger is a powerful emotion that can be frightening, but feeling angry doesn't necessarily imply that either one of you will lose control or take your anger out unfairly on others. Nevertheless, before either of you can get through it, let go of the intense emotions attached to it and move on, your anger must be admitted, felt and expressed, if only to yourselves. Keep in mind that feelings are neither right or wrong, good or bad. They just are. What really matters is what you do with what you're feeling. When you simply acknowledge feelings of anger to yourselves or to a trusted other without actually doing anything about them, no harm is done, to you or to anyone else. On the other hand, if you suppress that anger and hold on to it, eventually one or both of you may explode, turn it inward and get depressed, or aim it at innocent others. Anger is sheer, raw energy, but you can find healthy ways to discharge that energy and channel it – through physical exercise, writing and talking, for example.

Feelings aren't always rational or accurate, either. Feeling guilty about the circumstances surrounding Speedy's death doesn't mean that you are, in fact, uncaring, irresponsible dog owners who intentionally set out to bring harm to your dog or place him in danger. As I'm sure you know, one of the most wonderful things about our animal companions (unlike humans!) is that they love us unconditionally, they are forgiving of all our human faults, and they never, ever hold a grudge against us. If anyone knew how much he was loved by all of you for the time that he was in your life and a member of your family, surely it was your precious Speedy.

In the end, there is nothing anyone can say to erase the load of guilt that you are carrying around with you now. The only one who truly can forgive you is yourself. Guilt is one of the most common reactions in loss – in situations such as this, it is only human nature for you to feel guilt for what you may have done or failed to do. If after examining all the facts you decide that you or your husband should have done things differently in this case, then the only thing you can do at this point is to learn from your mistake and promise yourselves that if either of you is ever presented with the exact same set of circumstances again, you will do things differently next time. A sudden, unexpected death like this can teach some valuable lessons about how fragile and temporary life is, and that if we have something to say to someone we had better say it now, because we may never get the chance again to say it. Can you let this be one of Speedy's legacies to you – one of the precious life lessons your family can take from this tragic loss? Are there any other lessons here that you may need to learn? Take some time to think about and talk with one another about all of this. It is one of the most important tasks in mourning: to find meaning in this loss.

In any event, my dear, there is nothing you can do now to go back and change what has already been done. Instead, to cope with the guilt, you might try to find some way to communicate with Speedy's spirit and ask for his forgiveness. That may be by meditating, by writing him a letter and saying all you need to say to him, by finding a quiet place and lighting a candle and speaking to him in your mind – whatever way you choose is up to you. The point of all of this is to find some way to forgive yourself, to apologize and make amends to the one you believe you have harmed, to learn from your mistake and to move on.

Guilt and anger can eat us alive unless we find someone to talk to about our feelings, someone who will help us look at the situation more objectively. If you and your husband find that talking to each other is not enough, I encourage either or both of you to find someone you can talk to who understands the bond you felt with Speedy, who understands the mourning process and will listen to you without judging you. I don't know if there are any pet loss services in your area, but in addition to the information, comfort and support you will find in this online forum, you can go to the State-by-State Guide to Support Groups, Counselors & Pet Cemeteries, if you feel a need for in-person support. Sometimes sharing our story enables us to unburden ourselves and to obtain the absolution we may need from others. None of us is perfect; we are all human, we've all made mistakes and we've all done things about which we feel guilty. I also encourage you to listen to this audio clip from a radio program on the guilt that accompanies pet loss.

As I'm sure you know, it's important that you take the time needed to grieve this loss of Speedy, including the processing of and coming to terms with all that anger and guilt you both may be feeling over the circumstances of his accidental death. Grief takes an enormous amount of energy. There is no specific time frame for grief, and this too may differ for each of you. (See my articles, Real Men Don't Grieve, Do They? and Understanding Different Mourning Patterns in Your Family, as well as "It's All My Fault" by Dana Durrance and Laurel Lagoni.)

I hope this information helps, my dear. My heart goes out to you and your family at this sad and difficult time.

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Dear Marty,

I cannot begin to find the words to thank you enough for your response. Your words were so kind and reassuring. I followed your links, and I also listened to the radio clip referring guilt and pet loss. You said something that stuck out to me, "Good people feel guilt."

Wow. I had painted a picture of myself in my mind as being a horrible, unworthy monster, undeserving of my Speedy's love. Your words have truly lifted me. I do still feel guilty, but I don't feel like a monster. This was a horrible, painful lesson to learn. I would give anything to have my sweet Speedy back here with me. But I do believe that we will one day be reunited, and that is at least a small comfort to me in this difficult time.

Thank you again, and God bless.


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I want to give you a huge hug and my heartfelt sympathy in your tremendous loss. I am a huge doglover and can well understand all you must be feeling. Your Speedy only knew that you loved him and were always there for him through thick and thin, there is no way he would attribute to you the feeling abandoned. In short, he probably just didn't understand what was going on. I do know, that from a medical standpoint, it is highly likely if the heat overcame him that he would only be uncomfortable to a point and then it hits the brain, and they no longer are aware of what is going on so would not suffer in the same sense that they would if they were fully aware. The same may hold true if he was hit by a car...they may be confused and not understand but the body has a way of often protecting us from pain with shock as a numbing factor.

One of my favorite dogs I've ever had was Fluffy. I took Fluffy and our cat to the vet one day for shots. When I got home, I was getting the cat out of the carrier and giving him medicine. When I got done, I closed the van and drove to work. Unbeknownst to me, Fluffy had snuck back into the van and was being real quiet because he didn't want to get into trouble. I worked at a mill and since there was wood particles in the air, I always kept the windows rolled up. It was very hot (the car would get up to 140 during the day). That night I went out to the car and opened the door, and little Fluffy rolled out into my arms, stiff as a board. Here I was inside an air conditioned office while just right outside my precious little dog was dying! Perhaps he barked, trying to get my attention, but with the noise from the mill, I couldn't hear it. I imagine I felt all the same things you must be feeling. I know the agonized cries that came from me were gutwrenching. I begged the vet to do something, what I don't know, he was already stiff, but in your frantic mind you want a miracle, a dog so vibrant just can't be dead!

I have never stopped missing Fluffy, and it has been about 13 years since this happened. We buried him in our back yard, but even without a body, you can erect a memorial. We made a cross and etched his favorite words on it "Go", "Treat", etc. Perhaps you have a favorite toy of his you can bury instead? I scattered my husband's ashes in the backyard when he died, and buried my "Lucky" there, only to discover an animal later dug up her bones...so you see, the bones don't always stay even if we are able to lovingly bury them. The point is to honor their memory, which you can still do. Nothing will destroy your memories with your precious dog. And one day when all is said and done, we will be with them again.

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