Tonight I shared my loss with someone whose response was unexpectedly patronizing and dismissive. “He was just a dog, ” he said.
Two weeks ago, I was thinking that I’d have to bear my loss discreetly. I’d assumed that most people would not understand what it’s like to lose a beloved dog. But little by little, I risked telling people beyond my immediate circle of friends: colleagues, clients, etc.
What I’ve found is that dog people are everywhere. Even people who do not currently have a dog, have not had a dog for as long as I’ve known them, nor have mentioned ever having a dog.
Kim, a client, told me of a dog in her family. Her mother sobbed for three weeks solid when it died. Robin told me of a dog in her family who she still expects to greet her when she visits her parents, although the dog died more than ten years ago. Jeff, who is known for his stoicism, confided that he was “immobile for days” when his dog died 15 years ago.
These and other glimpses into their hearts have helped me to feel their empathy. I’ve never been so appreciative of sympathy, no matter how simply expressed.
I ran into Doug tonight at a conference in Chicago. He’s a former supervisor. I figured he’d want to know about Chamba, because on occasion I would bring Chamba to the office. Doug seemed to like him. I said, “I have sad news. Chamba died two weeks ago.”
That’s it. I wasn’t weeping or particularly emotive. He cut to his just-a-dog lecture so quickly I can’t remember if he even squeezed in an “I’m sorry.” It was practically a diatribe.
Where the hell was this coming from? As an example, he mentioned $500 being an unreasonable amount to spend on keeping an old dog alive. I told him I’d spent several times that. He asked (rhetorically, I think) whether it had been worth it. I said yes.
Doug acknowledged that Chamba had an interesting life story. That’s about it.
Thanks for the reality check, jerk.
And sincere thanks to the dog lovers I’ve discovered who have been there all along.