Pet Adoption Helped Us Heal Our Hearts

*This post is dedicated to my Tessie Girl. Guardian of my Fritzlings, announcer of the daily mail, and my first rescue.

I never thought we’d be getting a puppy.

In fact, I had laid out my expectation that we would be getting an adult dog when the time was right. But, here we are with a puppy; our family feeling a little more complete than it had for the last year.

You see, a year ago we made the decision to euthanize our oldest dog. She had advanced lymphoma and for about 6 weeks we carefully monitored her good days and her bad days until the bad days were outweighing the good. Even with the time to prepare, the loss was devastating. A piece of me died as I stroked her through her last breath and heart beat.

Tess was my first rescue. She was my first pet as an adult. The lady down the street had a box of puppies she was giving away for free. They had so many fleas that there were pockets of them where fur should be. I couldn’t walk away without one of those puppies. Tess lived a long 14 years and was a greatly loved dog. She was a founding member of my family and I never wanted to say good-bye.

Pet Adoption Helped Us Heal Our Hearts

The loss of a pet takes time to heal.

Finding our footing again was hard. Not only did I have to come to terms with my loss, I had to help my children navigate theirs. I had to temper my oldest’s desire to get a new pet within a few months of the loss. Her preference for coping was to fill her Tess-sized hole with a new dog to care for. That was absolutely okay. She has an amazing capacity to love and her high school has an emotional support dog that I believed help her become ready for a new pet so quickly.

My youngest’s grief was more like mine. A few weeks after the death, she told me that she just feels wrong on the inside all the time. Me too, kid. She and I spent a good amount of time snuggling our other dog Daphne for several months. It was the only thing we knew how to do. I think Daphne needed it, too. She lost a sister in all this.

My son’s grief was the hardest to process. His seemed to lay beneath the surface only to bubble up when you least expect it. Like the time he put on some flannel pajamas and saw that there was white fur on it. Or the time, almost a year later, when he is asked to to think about someone special during a somber and reverent flag retirement ceremony. I think, especially because he is a boy, that the best I could was to let him own his grief and cry. 

As with any type of grief, the amount of time before you feel normal again is different for everyone. That includes all the family members in the same house. Some of us were ready for a new addition to the family long before others.

To be honest, I was the hold out. I was hesitant at adding a new pet at all because all our current pets are seniors. I know that within the next 5 years, I’ll be going through this again at least once and probably 3 times.

Yet, here we are with a puppy…meet Kuma.

Pet Adoption Helped Us Heal Our Hearts

October is adopt a shelter dog month.

Among many other worthy causes this month, there is a space to highlight the need to adopt a shelter dog. Dogs that just want to be loved. They are waiting for their forever families. I wanted to say yes to all of them. Circumstances as they are, a puppy was the best fit for the family out of the adoptable dogs at the Cedar Valley Humane Society. One week shy of the 1 year anniversary of Tess’s death, we brought home our new member of the family.

You know how, as parents, you wonder how in the world you can possibly find the room to love another child? That’s the same sort of question I faced in getting a new dog after the loss of the first. I was absolutely sure that I couldn’t reconcile the two. Kuma is the little light of our very long grief tunnel.

Even though October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, maybe a dog is not the right fit with your family. There are many, many cats looking for families to love them. You can also find small animals like rabbits and rats. (P.S. CVHS has three rats up for adoption and they are named for three of the Golden Girls. How cute is that?) Our family strongly supports adopting a rescue animal. If you are looking for that special guy or gal to bring some pet joy to your life, then a rescue animal needs you.

Local rescue options are: 

Cedar Valley Humane Society

Cedar Rapids Animal Care and Control

Last Hope Animal Rescue

Saint Rescue and Adoption Center

Fur Fun Rescue

Dogs Forever

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I didn’t know that October was Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. However, when I learned that it was, it seemed like a really big sign for me. This is the right time to adopt a dog. My husband asked if I was ready for another 15 year commitment and the answer was, “Absolutely.”

Tess taught me the value of animal family members.

Kuma is teaching me that it’s okay to have a new beginning.

Will you consider adopting a pet?


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