By Cesar Millan
There’s a story that’s been going around the Internet about a six year-old boy and his reaction when the family dog had to be euthanized because of cancer.
As the adults are lamenting the short lives of animals compared to humans, the boy, Shane, suddenly announces that he knows why dogs don’t have longer lives, and I guarantee that his answer will bring tears to your eyes.
Shane told his parents and the vet, “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right? Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”
I was fortunate to have Daddy around for sixteen years, which is a very long time for a dog his size, but which is barely any time at all for a human. Junior is about five years old now. A human that age would just be starting kindergarten, but a pit bull at five is already almost middle aged, or about forty in human years.
Sooner or later, every dog lover must one day face the inevitable end of that relationship, and it can be one of the most difficult things we ever have to do, especially if we have to face the decision of putting a dog to sleep because of incurable terminal illness. This is why the Pet Loss Professionals Alliance has created National Pet Memorial Day on the second Sunday of each September. This year, it’s September 14.
This is a day for people to remember their lost pets in various ways, including memorial services, visiting gravesites, or planting trees or shrubs in their honor. There’s even a memorial service online if you’d like to participate.
But there are other ways you can honor a deceased pet, often by helping to save the lives of others. Here are my suggestions.
Spend time helping out at your local rescue or animal shelter. They always need volunteers in all capacities, whether it’s walking or bathing the dogs, cleaning the kennels, or providing general support. If you’re looking for a new dog, this is also a great way to get to know the available animals intimately before making a choice.
If you don’t have time, then you can give money or needed items to humane organizations, rescues, or shelters. Most organizations and shelters have wish lists published online showing the items that they need, and shelters and rescues will always need things like clean blankets, newspapers, and dog food.
If you’re not ready to become a full-time dog owner again, consider fostering a shelter dog. This is often a necessary but life-saving step between being in the shelter and finding a forever home. It will also help you hone your skills with dogs as you get to deal with different animals with different issues, temperaments, and energy levels.
Probably the best way to honor a deceased pet is to save another life by adopting a new shelter or rescue dog. But keep two important things in mind. The first is that one dog can never exactly replace another, even if the new one is the same breed and looks exactly like the old one. You have to let go of your past experiences and live in the moment with your new pack member, the same way that dogs do.
The second is that you should never adopt a dog to help you get through the grieving process. This will just be bringing the dog into a pack with negative energy. Take the time necessary to properly mourn for your lost dog, then approach the adoption as an exciting, new, and happy chapter in your life.
If you have lost a dog or dogs in the past and have dogs now, take a moment every day to silently thank them for coming into your life and teaching you how it’s possible to love everybody all the time and be nice. Then show them that appreciation by giving them the exercise, discipline, and then affection that they need to live balanced lives.
In the ideal world, dogs would live as long as parrots (eighty years or more) or turtles (possibly centuries). That way, we could all have a life-long relationship with the same dog. Unfortunately, the oldest dogs on record only make it to between twenty and thirty years, and there are only eighteen of them known.
The average lifespan of a dog is only about twelve years — more for smaller dogs and less for larger dogs, which is exactly the opposite for parrots, by the way. In that short time, there’s a lot that they can teach us about life and love. We just have to learn how to listen to what they’re teaching us. If a six year-old boy can do that, so can we.
Stay calm, and always remember!
How have you memorialized your lost pets? Let us know how in the comments!