Grieving the Loss of a Beloved Pet

This Thanksgiving, I have an extraordinary guy to give thanks for. His name is Herkamur, and he passed away on Saturday, November 19th, after a long and challenging battle with cancer. Herkimer was a beagle/shepherd mix and Murphy’s “big brother.” My boyfriend, Chris, adopted Herk in 1991 when he was just a puppy, given up by a family who didn’t want him anymore.

Herkimer was the very first dog that I ever lived with. Before then, I thought I was a “cat person.” Herkimer showed me what a beautiful treasure it is to have a dog in my life. His love knew no bounds; it was unconditional and all-encompassing. He was always so excited to see me, no matter if I was away for days or out in the yard for a few minutes. That was something I had never experienced before, and I was hooked. It didn’t take me long to fall in love. Sometimes I joke with Chris and say I fell in love with Herk first. Herkimer turned me into a “dog AND cat person.” Herkimer’s passing has been difficult on both Chris and me, and our entire animal family. Of course, Chris has taken it the hardest. Herkimer was his best friend and companion for 15 years. But Murphy and our kitties have also been acting a little funky, so I began to search the Internet for information to guide me on how I could help us all through this difficult time.

I found some great resources on grieving the loss of a pet. Drs. Foster and Smith have a Pet Education website with an extremely informative article that explains the stages of grief, how grief is expressed, the healing process, and how other pets grieve. It also gives tips on how to comfort your grieving animals and many excellent references for further reading.

Bella Online has a page entitled, Saying Goodbye to Your Dog, with many links to articles and websites, including The Pet Loss Support Hotline, a toll-free number you can call for counseling through The Center for Animals in Society at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California. There are also links to free pet memorial websites, such as In Memory of Pets and Rainbow Bridge, where you can post poems, photos, and tributes.

Chris and I may decide to post a tribute to Herkamur on one of these memorial sites, but right now, it’s a little too soon. Writing is a very healing expression, and posting this entry has been very healing for me. I want to thank Mama Ella for allowing me the opportunity to share a little bit about our beloved Herkamur and what he has meant to me. I hope that the information I found will be helpful for other grieving pet mama and daddies. Although there’s an ache in my heart for our darling Herkamur this Thanksgiving, I also feel some comfort and joy thinking of the great times we’ve spent together, the heaps of love we shared, and the idea of his youthful spirit finally being set free.

So this year, when I give thanks at the dinner table for my health, my family, a loving boyfriend, and all of my good fortune, I will also make sure to give extra thanks for the privilege of having Herkamur in my life for four exceptional years.

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