The Pain Is Real: Why Losing A Pet Really Hurts

October 13, 2017  |  

Credit: Bigstock

When Empire star Taraji P. Henson recently lost her dog Uncle Willie, her pain was palatable, even through social media. Posting several photos of her and her beloved pooch, Henson made it clear that the loss of her pet dealt a significant blow to her. And a fan encapsulated Henson’s feelings perfectly when she posted: “Ppl might think losing your pet is something so simple. But it isn’t they become apart of your family. They make us smile when we are down and than when there gone we miss them the most. @tarajiphenson I’m soo sorry and I hope you fine peace in this time.”

While some may not understand the incredible bond between a person and their pet, there is no denying that a dog, cat or any other animal can change your life in a similar way that a child could. As an animal lover myself (and proud mommy to a few little furry ones of my own), I completely understand how devastated Henson must feel. Every day when you get home from work, when you wake up to start your day, when you face highs and lows in your life, your pet is there to comfort you in their own special way. Whether a gentle nudge against your leg or a flurry of sloppy, wet kisses, your pet has the sort of unconditional love that is so genuine that it can make your heart soar. And, in Henson’s case, it certainly seemed as if she had that close of a relationship with her adorable Yorkie.

Though it’s heartbreaking to see how devastated Henson is, there is also beauty in the love she had for her pet. The fact that she was able to make a connection so deep with her pooch is a reminder and shining example of how enriching and special welcoming an animal into your family can truly be. That’s not to say that getting a pet is a decision that should be made lightly. Pets shouldn’t just be for your amusement or for a selfish desire to not be alone when you get home. Bringing an animal home should be as much for their benefit as for yours and it’s that philosophy that instantly makes their presence more than just a novelty. But once you’ve confirmed that you want a dog or cat for the right reasons, the entire process of finding the special one is amazing.

As avid animal enthusiasts, we certainly subscribe to an adopt, don’t shop mentality. With so many pets who have been cast aside by former owners or who have just run into some unexpected misfortune, there are few reasons to shell out thousands of dollars for a designer pooch when your furever friend could be sitting in a shelter right now. When you head to a shelter, leaving your heart open, you’d be surprised which dogs and cats might appeal to you most. You wanted a cocker spaniel, but end up with a husky. You wanted a kitten, but you end up with a senior cat who is still a joy at 12 years old. As cliche as it may seem, sometimes the pet chooses you more so than you choose the pet. But once that match is made and you welcome this new addition to the family, your life is forever changed in a really great, satisfying way.

Sure there is a learning curve. From having this furry monster wake you up to cuddle in the middle of the night to an unfortunate accident or two as you start to learn any quirks, having a pet and integrating them within your daily life isn’t always easy. Just like having a child, your life is no longer just your own. Be it going on vacation or working extra hours in the office, it’ll become a necessity to ensure that your pet is taken care of. Even what you choose to keep laying out in your home might have to change. Maybe leaving that bag of snacks out on the counter that your new furever friend can easily jump to isn’t a good look. There are plenty of daily actions that might need an alteration or two in your new normal. Yes, you’ll be frustrated, you’ll be tempted to second-guess why you’ve taken this responsibility on, but when push comes to shove you’ll always remember that it is the best, happiest moments that matter most.

For instance, when I moved in with my now husband I also moved in with his two cats (he’s not a crazy cat man, I swear!). One was really shy, having spent most of her life on the streets, and was more apt to run and hide from me than she was to allow anyone (even my husband) to pet her. The other was very affectionate and had tons of personality, though it was clear she was a bit jealous that a new woman (me) had moved into her home. And while I made steady progress with both of them, it wasn’t until I got my wisdom teeth removed that I really felt the joy of being a pet owner. Undergoing two rough wisdom teeth extractions was far from a walk in the park and even less so when there were several hours before I could get my hands on any sort of pain medication. Laid up in bed, unable to eat and in horrendous pain, I was nearly on the verge of tears, moaning and groaning as if that was going to help matters. But then the door slowly swung open and these two little furballs entered the bedroom. I remember both of them looking up at me, almost confused as to why I was laying there so clearly uncomfortable. Then, they both jumped up onto the bed (mind you, it was exceptionally rare to have both of them in bed at once, especially without my hubby there). They both slowly crept over to where I was curled up on the bed and proceeded to nuzzle me and lay by my side, doing what they could to comfort me at a time when I felt simply awful. It was this small action that really taught me the emotional impact and support that animals can provide.

Henson, undoubtedly had collected years worth of these sorts of memories with her Uncle Willie, making his death one that will leave a mark on her for days, months and years to come. And while we can only imagine the heartache she’s experiencing, there is one thing we’re certain about: Though their relationship and journey together ended and she is suffering, we are confident that Henson wouldn’t trade one moment she spent with Uncle Willie. Because like all animal lovers and pet owners, the joy of those precious moments with your cat or dog outweighs any of the most trying times. All good things must come to an end, but the road to get there is something you’ll never want to forget or forgo.

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