Saying goodbye to a beloved companion animal is one of the hardest things about being a pet owner or a shelter employee. When faced with loss, social support can help us gain acceptance, process pain and adjust to life without our best friends. Support can come from friends, colleagues, family and, in the case of Mary’s neighbor, her community.
As I shared in last week’s column, getting to know your neighbors is one of the great benefits of regularly walking your dog. Mary says it best, “I just think it’s important to know that our pets not only bring us joy and happiness, but they bring people together.”
Mary’s letter touched me deeply, and I wanted to share an excerpt with you:
“I live in an area where there are a lot of dog owners and dog walkers who walk their dogs in the neighborhood. I walk my dog twice a day, and because of that, I have met so many people who are dog owners. We may just wave outside our residences, we may meet on the sidewalk allowing our dogs to ‘get to know each other,’ and as our dogs greet each other, so do we.
We exchange greetings and names, and over time we get to know each other. Some remain acquaintances, while others become friends. All in all, these people and their pets have become a part of our daily routine.
My friend has lived in the neighborhood for 12 years now, and she and her dog are a fixture. She can be seen walking her dog daily. Yesterday, as she walked her dog around the block for the last time, I was touched by how many people came up to her to express their condolences and give her support. Each person wanted to give special pats and loves to her little friend who would soon no longer be with us. Everyone loved on her dog and wished him well.
I have experienced many neighborhood dog gatherings while we are on our walks, and it warmed my heart to see so many people who care not just for my friend, but for her beloved pet as well. A few people went out of their way to come to my friend’s home to express their support.
So many people have enveloped her with love and support as she goes through this difficult time. It fills my heart with joy that I live in a place where there is so much care and empathy.
We are blessed by our animals. Our animals give us joy, and warmth and comfort. Through our animals, we meet people who can give us those same things if we are lucky enough.
My neighborhood is one of those lucky neighborhoods that provides that. I am filled with joy to live in a place where so much love is given just because of our everyday encounters with them and our pets.”
I am so thankful that I live in a neighborhood like Mary’s, and I thank Mary for sharing her beautiful thoughts. My heartfelt condolences go out to her dear friend and to anyone experiencing the loss of a loved one.
Dia DuVernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane.
This blog post originally appeared as a column in the Pasadena Star-News on January 27, 2023.