Dogs are much like children. You have to feed them, put them to bed at a reasonable hour and, of course, you congratulate them when they go No. 2. And just like children, a new addition to the family doesn’t replace the old. Even when your dog passes away and you decide to get another.
This past summer my Yorkie, Jessy, died unexpectedly. While on vacation for a weekend, I came home to find out she had been in the hospital for four days and was to be put down that day. I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye.
The death of a dog is one of the hardest things to go through. There’s nothing like coming home and expecting a happy face to be waiting for you at the top of the stairs — tail wagging (a little stump in Jessy’s case), head bobbing and warm and welcoming eyes — to instead find a cold empty house.
Jessy lived at my parents’ house, and although I moved out more than two years ago, I still found that loneliness every time I came to visit. When our previous dog Teddy, a West Highland Terrier, had passed away, Jessy was the one who got us through it. Although she wasn’t the most compassionate pooch (she was more of a “let’s play and then cuddle” pup), she kept this brightness in the house that we all needed. When she left, there was no one to fill that loneliness.
The day that Jessy died, my dad said he didn’t know if they’d ever get another dog. “It’s too hard,” he said. In later weeks, both my mother and father found that living without a dog was even harder. You can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them, eh? Three weeks later they were already looking for another dog. First my mom wanted a Yorkie while we all tried to persuade her against it. “But if it looks like her, it’ll feel like she’s still here with me,” she said one night. At that moment, I made my goal to talk her into a Westie.
On September 1, my parents brought home Shea Farrell, an adorable, vivacious, yet surprisingly calm, Westie puppy. Although he is the same breed as our first dog (my mother’s allergies makes her options extremely limited), he has a personality all his own. And we do compare him to Jessy now and again — he doesn’t scarf down his food in a minute flat, he likes to lie beside you on the recliner, and he’s a bit of a scaredy-cat — but we never feel like he replaced her. In fact, I think about how much she would have loved having a little brother to play with.
Many have asked us if we got a new dog too soon. “Isn’t that like trying to replace your dog?” My response is always no. Many dog owners may feel they need to mourn for longer, and that’s completely understandable. Getting another dog just a month after his passing may make you resent the new dog. Each person needs to find the right time, when she feels that she is ready to open her heart up fully. My family just so happened to be ready in five weeks. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t mourn her properly or don’t think about her every day. Just like Teddy, who died more than six years ago, I accept that I will still be missing her many years from now.
Shea Farrell has been the one to make each day easier. His unconditional love is a reminder why having a dog is so worth it, even though they’re not with us nearly long enough. Just like Jessy brought us love and happiness when we lost Ted, Shea has been a bundle of joy (he is a baby, after all), and, honestly, a welcome distraction. I forgot just how much work a puppy can be!
Shea may physically replace Jessy in the sense that he uses her bowls, sleeps in her doggie bed and plays with her toys — although we stored away her favorites, of course. That aside, he doesn’t replace her. He couldn’t. A new dog brings new life to a home because no two dogs are the same. That’s part of their charm.
Each new dog that enters your life brings something new to the table. Teddy had this compassion that taught me early in life that the best way to be there for someone was to literally be his or her shoulder to cry on. At 10 pounds, Jessy didn’t take anything from anyone. She had a Napoleon complex and she wasn’t afraid to show it. And now there’s Shea. He’s so mildly tempered, he rarely even barks. The runt of his litter, he’s meeker than both Jessy and Teddy, but he knows when to make his feelings known. With a crew like that, how can you ever expect to replace one dog for another?
Have you ever adopted a new dog shortly after one died? How was the experience? Tell us your story in the comments.
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About the author: Shannon Farrell is a freelance beauty and fitness writer residing on the Upper East Side of New York City. When she isn’t testing the latest mascara or running through Central Park, she’s dog watching. There isn’t one in Manhattan she hasn’t commented on. #crazydoglady