Linda Arndt ~ Canine Nutritional Consultant

Death of a Pet - Grieving and Starting Over

The Loss of a Pet - Starting Over

The year I was born my parents purchased the Encyclopedia Britannica, it was the thing to do during that era, I supposed to get a jump start on your child's education. I know for me, one volume of that encyclopedia was read over and over again. Recently, I was cleaning out old files and closets and came across that one book, it was volume 7. Damascus - Education was printed on the binding. I don't know what happened to the other volumes and don't remember even looking at them as a child, but this one was warn from use, it had traveled with me for years tucked away in a box.

In the middle of this book on page 495 was the section entitled DOGS, and the pages were worn, taped and glued from being looked at over and over as a child. One page in particular was in disastrous condition, hanging by a thread, in the upper left hand corner was the photograph of a fawn Great Dane. I remember as if it were yesterday….I asked my mother if we could get a Great Dane. We had always had a dog or two and I loved them, but I was fascinated with this image of this magnificent creature. Whenever I asked, the response was always the same - when you are grown and you have your own house, you can get your own Great Dane. The rest is history!

The magnitude of purchasing my first great dane and the loss of her to bloat at 2 years of age, was an enormous "marker event" in my life. I had saved baby sitting money since I was 12 years old for my first dane and I even had to take on a second sitting job just to pay for my Aqua-Net hairspray to keep my famous "flip" hairdo in tact! I digress…..
The point of this article is to express my understanding of the tremendous loss owners feel when they lose their pets. I had waited so long for my first dane and losing her was like losing a child to me. I mourned her death for a year. Then I realized something very important.

IF I love this breed so much, and IF I am always going to have one, then I need to appreciate every single day they are with me. And when I loose one, either by old age, illness or because I had to make that dreaded decision to put one to sleep, then I must get another. Because of this loss, I learned to love the breed as a "whole" and realized there are thousands of Danes put to sleep each year because they are not fortunate enough to have good homes. This is why I tell pet owners it is important to bring another pet into your family, after the loss of one.

I always discussed this topic with my puppy buyers. If you are going to own a giant breed, especially a Great Dane you need to know they are a pretty fragile creature in spite of their size. With that fragility comes numerous problems, including having a shortened life span - they are a freak of nature, manmade and fragile and although I have had many live to be old - 11-14 yrs, and I have lost some under one year of age as well. As in everything else in this life, there are no guarantees.

So when a pet owner writes me about the loss of their pet, I tell them it is time to reinvest your heart. Remember another Dane is a not a replacement, or a substitute for the one lost, and getting another puppy to care for does not diminish the importance of the one lost. This will be another compliment to your life, not a substitute - and do so means with no expectations that the new animal is like the old one. Nothing replaces the ones we lose.

As human beings, some of us have this intense need to nurture and love something unconditionally. They are our gift in this if you love the breed, you will own the breed and love them as a "whole" breed and let them mend your broken heart.

It is my experience, 38 yrs in this breed and working with helping people and their dogs, that the human heart is big and there is plenty of room for one more to love. It is time to put the mourning aside and reinvest in another dog. Always holding dear the ones we lose, they are still with us, just in a different form. I also believe and have experienced the ones closest to us come back to us again.

I have come to learn to love the breed as a whole, but this has taken a few losses for me to fully understand this concept. To be honest, I am not sure that I invest emotionally in just one animal, like I used to. It does not mean that I love them less, I just have pushed back a little, knowing their time is fleeting. I love them in a more of a "grand way," as in a deep and profound love of the breed as a whole, rather than specifically, one dog or another.

I don't know if that makes any sense unless you have owned and lost as many Danes as I have in the past 38 years. I know losing them is an awful part of the "life process," but it is about the human spirit needing to love and nurture something that gives us unconditional love and acceptance. Our loving them is really rather selfish in a way, but I suspect that is why they were put here on this earth, for us to learn and experience selfless, unconditional love. I know without my dogs, I would not know of this kind of love.

I have three stories I would like to tell - The first is one is shared with my friends the Grays. In my article called "Saying Good-bye," it is about the ritual of planting a beautiful flowering bush or fruit tree over the remains of our dogs. It's nice to have something visible to represent them and celebrate the cycles of living things.

When I lost my one of my Danes, unexpectedly to spay surgery, the shock of it made it difficult for me to accept her death. I was not ready to give her up, so I wrapped the box of her cremated remains in beautiful wrapping paper, with a big pink bow and a card with my letter of good bye to her. She loved to sleep on my bed, so I placed this "gift" on my dresser and there it stayed for several years. Everyone else thought it was simply a gift - well they were right - she was MY gift.

My first brindle male went to work with me at Ball State for 10 years of his life. Everyone knew him on campus, and in town, he knew no strangers. Nate loved to go for a ride in the car and we were never separated, he would given his life for me. From him I learned the meaning of devotion. When he died, I put his container of ashes in the back of my car where he always sat, and he continued to travel everywhere with me until the time came when I could accept his passing and remove him from the car to be planted under a rose bush.

One last ritual I do is to take a small portion of the ashes of each of the animals that have passed through my life, and place them in a small container that I made out of ceramics. This container is kept in my safe deposit box at the bank, with instructions in my Will to combine their ashes with my own someday.

Are there some dogs that were harder to lose than others? You bet there are! They take a piece of you with them when they go. But I have learned not to hesitate to start over again, to bring another one into my life. I have learned to shorten my grieving ritual - from long and drawn out, to intense and relatively short.

This starting over does not in any way diminish the worth of the ones that have passed on, but instead I think of each of them as a beautiful strand of pearls. Each animal that has come into my life is an individual precious pearl that makes up the whole pearl necklace of life.

Linda Arndt - Blackwatch Kennels

Confetti - Died February 2008 - 13 yrs of age.

Home |About Us | Album | Interview | Articles | Links | Breeders Showcase | GREAT Great Danes | Linda's Artwork | Email:

Copyright © 2002-2003 GREATDANELADY.COM