Sometime after midnight, we were awaked by a bloodcurdling, painful cry from the foot of our bed. I sprang up reaching for the light as my husband exclaimed, “Oh, No!” Immediately, I expected the worst.

The frightening cry came from our ten-pound Shih Tzu, Comet. Given his recent health challenges, my husband and I were both sure in that instant his life was ending- right there at the foot of our bed.

As my husband stroked his small frame, he pleaded with him to stay with us. Within a minute or two, Comet had regained awareness and wondered why his sleep had been interrupted. Except for his chronic cough, he seemed physically fine. The only conclusion we could draw was that he had a doggy nightmare.

For weeks now, I’ve tried to prepare myself for Comet’s death with little success. I’ve tried to be unemotional, pragmatic, and even logical about the whole situation. But when it comes to losing someone you love there’s no such thing as rational.

Comet is my twelve-year-old Shih Tzu who sports a unique double loop tail over his back. He’s small in stature and walks on his toes. Over the past four weeks, his doctor and I have been trying to diagnose and treat a continuous hacking cough. All normal causes have been ruled out.  As of today, no medication has provided much improvement. He coughs constantly, up to 16 hours a day. The never-ending cough, the sleepless nights, and the anticipation of him dying at any moment have taken an emotional toll on me and the rest of our family.

In coping with the sadness and fear of losing him, I’ve tried a few things. I’ve tried shielding my heart by removing emotions. I’ve tried looking at replacement puppies. I’ve even tried willing him to pass so I can get on with the grieving. Please don’t judge me. Everyone handles situations of loss differently and to the best of their ability.

Conversely, when Pinot, Comet’s brother died on January 1 of this year, I never saw it coming. I had no time to prepare. No time to think about options or actions I might take. Before I knew it had begun, it was over. I was devastated. My heart was broken. It took me several months to recover from the loss.

The bottom line to being courageous in loss is to know-

  1. Each loss is different from the one before
  2. How you respond to and deal with loss is personal
  3. Your feelings/emotions are appropriate-no matter what others think

There is neither a right way nor a wrong way to deal with loss. There is only your way. And that way is the courageous way.

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