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The Importance of Family Pets, Grieving the Loss of my Best Friend, Bonnie

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

“Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor;…”

Our dogs, cats become full members of the family. As a result, strong emotional bonds form between them and the family. When they die people grieve, sometimes with the same intensity as when a human relative passes away. This is just what happened when our family pet Bonnie passed away.

My best friend and trusted family member, Bonnie, died this week. Bonnie was a wonderful family pet. She lived to the ripe old age of 14, good for a Labrador Retriever. We are grieving the death of a good friend and a beloved member of the family. Even though Bonnie was not a service dog she was a therapy dog who visited hospitalized patients who were recovering from surgery or a variety of illnesses. She was a warm and friendly dog who had an instinct for cuddling with people and allowing them to pet her all they wanted. She was a delight at home and was close to the entire family including my grandson.

I know that there are people who think it’s that it’s ridiculous to grieve for an animal. One person told me that I should thank God that it was not a child who died. Aren’t there enough resources to grieve the loss of either one? The loss of a child is the worst thing that occurs. That is certainly true. The loss of my dog is a personal loss for myself and my family. In any case it’s best to not argue with people who think this way and reassure yourself that your feelings are normal.

Why do many of us become attached to pets? For one thing they provide us with unconditional love. They do not judge us when we become angry. They are fun and bring lots of joy, entertainment and companionship. In fact, dogs and cats have a long history with human beings going back to ancient times. For some cultures they were sacred. They helped with the hunt and provided protection and security.
 
What are some of the roles dogs and cats play for people?
For elderly people they are good companions that relieve any possible sense of loneliness. For children they teach responsibility and respect for all life. Studies show that petting a dog and cat can lower blood pressure and relieve depression.

Dogs even work for us. They are trained to be the eyes and ears for the blind and deaf. On February 12, 2008 I posted an article “Mingo: Loss and Grief and Celebrating the Life and Work of a Service Dog. The article can be read at this URL:

http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=28813&cn=58

The point is that dogs like Bonnie visit hospitals and nursing homes to give patients love and acceptance.

In my opinion having a pet is a win-win situation for people as long as they do not suffer from allergies, love animals and have the time and resources necessary to care for them on a daily basis.

The fact is that my family and I are grieving over the loss of our best friend and companion, Bonnie. We know that Bonnie has joined her pal, Mingo at the rainbow bridge, that slice of heaven for our furry friends.

Your comments are welcome.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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