By Jacque Reid, Editor In Chief

Today was a difficult day.  Two weeks and three days after the death of my beloved dog, Sugar-Shane, I had to retrieve his ashes from the vet.  I miss him so much and it will be difficult to find peace tonight.

Sugar was a surprise Christmas gift from a boyfriend in 2004.  I  loved him instantly.  I have owned pets over the years since I was a little girl, but my bond with Sugar was special.  Maybe because he was the first pet I owned while actually living on my own… no parents, no roommate, no men.  He became my priority.

Another possible reason for our connection… Sugar was also with me in the years that my desire to have a baby went from being an after thought, to an extreme necessity, to imperceptible.  It was an emotional roller coaster for me, but now believe it turned out for the best.  I never really thought about it until now, but  I believe Sugar and eventually his sister, Zoe, satisfied my maternal instincts.  They became my babies, my family.

Sugar’s absence affects me deeply.   What intensifies my sadness is the fact that I was not there to say goodbye.  Sugar had developed congestive heart disease about a year ago and was often going to the doctor.  They warned me that trouble breathing would be a sign that his heart could be failing.  So on the evening of May 8th, when I noticed he seemed to show signs of labored breathing, I took him to the emergency vet.  They suggested I leave him overnight, so he could spend time in the oxygen cage to help his breathing.  I reluctantly went home.  The call came a little after 3 am.  He had gone into cardiac arrest.  By the time I arrived at the vet, he was gone.

I did get to hold his body and kiss him one last time.  I rocked him and I cried like I have never cried before

I am without question depressed.  But that is normal for a true pet lover.  The greatest challenge is living up to society’s expectations of how I should handle such a loss.  Most people just don’t understand or respect my grief.  I am working on being okay with that.

What has helped, aside from wine,  supportive family and friends, is that I decided early on to manage my grief.  I kind of took it on like a project.  I went on line and found great suggestions on what to do.  The first thing… I let myself experience my grief, unapologetically.  When I feel like crying.  I cry, even in public.  I also don’t try to suppress my thoughts of Sugar.  His picture is my screen saver on my phone, he is all over my social media and I have pictures of him near my bed, where I also placed his ashes.

I also don’t try to pretend I’m not struggling with this.  People ask me how I am, and I tell the truth… without going into great detail.  I do make sure to go into detail and talk about Sugar with close friends and my therapist.  I plan to attend group therapy for other pet owners dealing with loss.  I am really looking forward to that.  In addition, I bought a great book that’s helping to put everything… his death, my guilt, my grief, insensitive people… into perspective.  The book is The Loss Of A Pet by Wallace Sife, PhD.  I highly recommend it for anyone dealing with pet loss.

My other dog, Zoe, is also getting me through this without her knowledge.  She misses Sugar too.  So to help her deal with her grief, I have made sure to play with her more, brush her more and just give her extra attention.   It comforts us both.

Overall, the most helpful component of managing my grief has been my Christianity.  My church, along with dear friends, played a key role in the memorial service I had for Sugar.  It was the perfect tribute to his life, complete with gospel music and a Bible based eulogy delivered by a minister.  I also asked God to help me with my grief and He is doing just that.

Today, I was planning on going alone to pick up Sugar’s ashes.  I was really dreading it.  Then I received a phone call from a girlfriend, who just happened to be in the city.  She said was near my office and wanted to stop by.  The funny thing is that she had other plans for the afternoon that fell through, so she took a chance to see if I was around.  Usually, I am not.

I told her I would be there until a certain time and then I had to go, not telling her what I had to do.   When she arrived we talked for a bit and I shared what a difficult time I was having.  She actually said that because she wasn’t a dog person, she didn’t know what to do or say.  She said she wished she could do something. The time came for me to head to the vet and she said she would walk me out.  That’s when I finally told her where I was heading and she offered to go with me.  I said okay.

It was the first time I had been back to that place since the night Sugar died.  I really didn’t want to go alone, but I didn’t know who to ask to go with me.  God stepped in.

God also reassured me that Sugar is in Heaven right now…  happy, healthy and waiting for me.  That gives me tremendous comfort.   And with that, I’m taking it day by day.