DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: I'm writing in response to Grieving Pet Owner. Far too often I read of someone's companion who has departed, leaving the feeling "never more, never again." The playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote The Doctor's Dilemma. At play's end, a woman holds her dying husband, promising she'll never love another man, never marry again. But her husband tells her she must! If she's been happy in their marriage, she has every reason to be with another man, to marry again and know the happiness it can bring. But, if she has not been happy in their marriage, then there's no point in repeating the experience. In 1980, I had the incredibly good fortune to fall in love with a basset hound puppy -- Elvis James. He quickly took over my whole life. Nephritis claimed him in 1988, leaving an enormous void. I desperately wanted to respect his memory, be true, never forget him. Then I remembered the words of the playwright. Within a week of his passing, I adopted a beautiful beagle girl to call my own. Now, 21 years later, I'm grateful I remembered GBS's words. -- Dog's Mom
Dear Mom: Obviously you still haven't forgotten Elvis, but the new puppy shortened the intense pain of losing him. No doubt you thought about him frequently for a long time, especially when the puppy was little. The crime is not in letting go when an animal has died, but in not paying loving attention to it while it lived. You loved Elvis greatly, and when he passed he had no more need of your earthly attentions. Why not give your love to a second dog? It's not like pet lovers have a finite amount of love. They can always feel more for a new critter.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: If Grieving is looking for a constructive way to move on without the feeling that she is just replacing her old dog with the next furry thing that comes by, she could try fostering dogs for a rescue. Pet rescues are in constant need of volunteers to take care of dogs until they can find a forever home. This way the lady can still have something to care for, but without having to get attached. -- Tina's Boy
Dear Tina's Boy: People get attached pretty quickly to foster animals, yet they still have the option of returning the dog if it's making them think too much of their loss, or they simply aren't ready for full-time dog care again. In many cases, they end up adopting the animal, because they have fallen in love with each other. This is a good way to segué into a new pet/human relationship when an ambivalent person is still grieving for a recent pet.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I think it's disgusting if someone turns around and gets another pet right away. You have to give a person or a beloved animal his or her due. I think the proper mourning time for a dog or cat should be about six months to a year. -- Decent Pet Lover, Selkirk
Dear Decent: I used to feel that way -- until my boys' tabby cat Willie got run over on the road in the summer and the kids, just five and seven at the time, were heartbroken. I found a similar tabby kitten in September, just six weeks later. The boys certainly missed old Willie -- and for years afterwards they talked about him. But, the new tabby was a sweet thing, and they decided they wanted to call her Willie, too. Our second Willie has lasted 17 years. Though a tad noisy and demanding in her old age, she is still greatly loved.
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