On Glow there was a recent blog post about getting a dog after losing a baby. The whole issue of having a dog as a baby substitute and how that affected you and your relationship with the dog and any paranoia about the dog's health. I wanted to comment, but after reading the other comments I did not. My perspective about pets acting as a child substitute is so colored by my profession and my loss that I was afraid what I had to say would upset others. I love my pets, I spend crazy money on them and deal with issues that most people would euthanize before even thinking about living with (a 65 pound fecally incontinent dog). You know that I never thought that I would have children? I was going to be this professional woman with dogs and kids held little interest to me. Obviously that changed! However my pets have always held a higher place in my life than many people's. My DH used to tease that I loved my German Shepherd more than him, I told him that I had known her longer. I used to worry that when my dog died I would need to be hospitalized from the grief, but I found out that there are wounds that cut so much deeper... losing my baby was so much more painful than losing my dog could ever be.
After Grace died I actually became a little intolerant of people grieving excessively over their pets. Telling me during a euthanasia that this is worse than losing a child or like losing a child did not go over well. I stayed closed lipped and maybe seemed closed off, but better that then scream at them that my baby is dead and your dog dying is nothing compared to the heart break I feel every day. Fortunately that has gotten better with time.
I have not gotten any new pets since Grace died, I have lost one, my sweet cat Louie, but not added any. I know that my Audrey dog is old, really old. She will turn 15 at Christmas if she is still with us and her age is showing. Her hips are shot, she has bad arthritis in both knees and now is limping on one of her front legs as well. She has inflammatory bowel disease, low thyroid and dementia. She poops in the house 3-4 times daily. She licks her legs at night and the noise drives me crazy for some reason. I cannot tell her to stop since she is almost completely deaf. I worry about her quality of life. I worry that I am keeping her alive for the wrong reasons. However, she eats, pees outside, loves to bark when she is in the yard at people she sees walking by. If she is awake she follows me every where I go, even if she struggles to get up. She has been with me through my entire adult life, I was 22 when I got her. She has been with me through vet school, my internship, my failed business partnership, my marriage, the death of Grace and now the pregnancy and birth of Rosabella. I cannot imagine life without her, but I know that I will have to experience that soon. I will grieve her when she is gone, but it will not hurt like losing my daughter.
I will probably get another dog after she is gone. Our pit bull is turning 9 in the fall and we need a dog for Rosabella to grow up with. I could not have even conceived of getting another pet after Grace died, I could barely care for the ones we had, but when our pets die I like to think that they go to wherever Grace is and that she can play with them and be loved and protected by them. Maybe that will help me when Audrey passes, knowing that my favorite dog, the dog of my young adult life will be watching over my lost baby, the way she watched over me all these years.