Kelly's Dog Blog — Whatever Helps You Heal

Choosing whether or not to get another pet after one dies

December 15, 2018
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As I was walking to the exam room at my chiropractor’s office a couple weeks ago, I passed a small office with a safety gate across the door. On the other side was a large sleeping puppy.  As much as I wanted to reach over and stroke the thick, wavy fur on the animal, I couldn’t bear the thought of waking it, so I kept moving. 

During my session, my chiropractor and I had our usual chat about this and that. “I’m not sure you noticed, but I got a new dog,” Dr. Lloyd stated. Before I could comment, he continued, “We had to have Bear put down a couple weeks ago.” 

I was familiar with Bear, a 13-year-old Golden Retriever, who had also occupied various spots around the office. Dr. Lloyd had mentioned in the past that Bear’s health was quickly declining and that the family might be making the painful decision soon. 

“Oh, I’m sorry, but congratulations on the new addition,” I replied.

“Yeah, Bear was a good dog,” Dr. Lloyd said, then almost apologetically added, ”I truly didn’t expect to get a new dog for a while, but this little guy, Cooper, became available last week, so my wife and I jumped at the opportunity.  That, and I truly missed having a dog around.“ 

“I totally get it,” I smiled knowingly. My own dog Wrigley had crossed the Rainbow Bridge just weeks before Bear, but we had five other dogs, so, although there was a void, it was somewhat less prominent. 

Related: An Emptier, Quieter House

“He’s a Labradoodle,” Dr. Lloyd continued, “He’ll be big, like Bear.” 

As I left the exam room, I peeked in on Cooper, who was now wide-awake and tail wagging. I reached down and gave him a loving pat, knowing deep in my heart that Bear would understand.

Years ago a coworker of mine, Pamela, had to have her Black Labrador Max put down. Max having been her devoted companion for over a dozen years, Pamela was understandably distraught. Over the years she had plenty of opportunities to adopt another dog, but never did. Upon suggestion, her staunch reply was, “No one could ever replace Max; besides, I’m just too busy these days to have a dog.” 

I know of a family with four children who had had a Springer Spaniel named Jake since the oldest child was a toddler. Jake’s passing left such a huge and painful void, the parents immediately brought home a new Springer Spaniel puppy. Although the children were by then old enough to understand that the new pup was not a replacement for Jake, it turned out to be quite cathartic just the same. 

Whether or not to get a new pet after a beloved pet dies is a very personal and usually well-thought-out decision — not an “out with the old, in with the new” state of mind. We all have our own way of healing when we lose a 4-legged family member. Getting a new pet is in no way disrespectful or dismissive to the deceased pet, any more than the lonely surviving spouse remarrying after the death of his or her partner. It’s life continuing on, and the room we still have in our hearts — once-broken hearts mended and rejuvenated by new love.