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I Have Lost The Love Of My Life


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I recently had to have my dog, my "four-legged child" put to sleep. It was the most difficult decision I have yet to make in my 34 years. I am not married and have no children so Belial was my life for 13 years and I loved him dearly. There wasn't much I wouldn't do for him. It is very hard to stop asking all the "what if" questions since the vets were just as baffled as to why he was not responding to treatment. I also keep wondering what else could I have done to get him to eat. Beyond force feeding him, and that was not really an option, what else could I have done to make him eat? And I also have a hard time forgiving myself for not holding him as he slipped away. I did not want to have any regrets about that day. I was in the same room with him and kneeling in front of him but I looked away as they gave the shot and when I turned back around, he was already gone. I had no idea it would be that instantaneous. Belial was very special to me, he was my pride and joy. I fell in love with him the moment I saw him. He was my beautiful baby boy. He was the first thing I would see in the morning and the last thing before I went to bed. I always hugged him, told him I loved him, and kissed him goodnight. If pets can be our soulmates just as humans are, then Belial was definitely my soulmate. Regardless of what life has sent my way in the past, as long as I had Belial I was okay. I know that time does help heal all wounds, but what else can I do or how can I forgive myself. I just really wish he could have told me I was doing the right thing. I miss him so much and I know I was very lucky to have such a sweet child. As much as I would love to have another Chow, I feel like I would be betraying him or belittle ling what he meant to me. I am also having a hard time with the route I chose to go with having him cremated, as far as the service goes. The veterinarian hospital he always went to referred me to a service that it takes a week or so to get back the remains, and my concern is whether or not I get my dog back. I don't think I will rest easy until I get Belial back home with me. I'm not use to being away from him for long periods of time. I just never really thought I would have to be without him. Even though I have a kitty, named Max, who also misses his brother Belial, it is just not the same. There was something about Belial that kept me drawn to him. He really was my life and I just don't know how to go on, knowing it will be many years before I can see him again. My heart hurts so much sometimes that I can't breathe, and I feel very nauseated. Is that normal, to feel that strongly?


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We're so sorry to learn of the death of your beloved Belial.

Making the euthanasia decision for our cherished companion animals is one of the most difficult things we ever have to do, and I know this must have been terribly hard for you. Usually when we decide with our vet to choose euthanasia for our animals, it is with the loving and unselfish intention of relieving our animal's suffering by creating a dignified and painless death. Nevertheless, we're still left with overwhelming feelings of guilt and remorse.

Guilt is a natural component of grief — it's only human to look back at what you did or did not do, to agonize over what could have been done differently. Sometimes, though, there simply isn't anything you could've or should've done differently. I suspect that, under the circumstances you describe, your precious Belial knew how much you loved him, and I have a feeling that, even though you were not holding him in your arms at the moment of his death, he knew you were there in the room with him, and he would have understood that this was your final act of love for him. It may be quite helpful for you to make an appointment to talk this over with your vet, who is the only one who can reassure you that you did, indeed, "do the right thing", and that your dog did not suffer in any way during this procedure.

It may also help you to know that the relationship, the bond you have with Belial will last as long as you decide to keep his memory alive in your heart. What you will learn to do over time is to let go of the pain of losing him, but never must you feel as if you have to let go of the bond you have with him and the love you feel for him.

While you're waiting for his cremains to be returned to you, it may be helpful for you to find a way to memorialize him, whether that is by planting a shrub or tree, putting together an album or photo collage, donating a book on pet loss to your local library or making a donation in Belial's honor to an animal shelter -- whatever you choose to do is up to you. If you're still tormented by not having held him at the end, write a letter of apology or explanation to his spirit and say all you need to say to him -- get all your thoughts and feelings out of your head and onto a piece of paper -- then go to a special place of remembrance you've created and burn the letter as a way of symbolically releasing all that guilt you've been carrying around with you.

You say you're having trouble dealing with all of this, but I can assure you that the guilt, pain and sorrow that you are experiencing in the aftermath of your dog's euthanasia is normal. Grief is a natural response to losing someone we love. It is also very hard work, and it shouldn't be done alone.

I encourage you to find someone you trust and with whom you feel comfortable talking about your experience — preferably someone who understands the attachment you had to Belial and who knows something about normal grief. This can be a relative, friend, neighbor, co-worker, clergy person, a volunteer on a Pet Loss Helpline or a pet loss counselor (see the Helplines, Message Boards, Chats page on my Grief Healing Web site). Check with your veterinarian, pet grooming specialist, pet cemetery representatinve, animal shelters, humane organizations or even your local librarian for information on what pet loss services may be available in your own community.

I also suggest you do some reading about the normal grieving process, both to prepare you for what to expect in the days and weeks ahead, and to reassure yourself that what you're going through is normal.

Have you had an opportunity to thoroughly explore my own Grief Healing web site? If not, I hope that you will do so. Simply go to http://www.griefhealing.com. Plan on spending some time on each of the pages there. It will offer you some measure of comfort, information and support, as well as links to many other useful resources. Once there, click on to my Articles ~ Columns ~ Books page. Scroll down until you come to "Articles by Marty Related to Pet Loss" and select the piece labeled "Loss And The Burden Of Guilt ". I've also written an on-line e-mail course on pet loss, which offers you yet another way to make sense of what you're feeling. If you're interested, you can get a sense of it here: Pet Loss: A Different Grief.

You might also find solace in reading these touching pieces, which you'll find among writings by other authors on my Comfort for Grieving Animal Lovers page: Euthanasia: The Merciful Release and The Fourth Day.

I hope this information proves useful to you, Betty-Lou. Please know that we are thinking of you and Belial, and holding you in our hearts.

Wishing you peace and healing,

Marty T

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