On Sunday, April 29, 2012, my beloved dog Kota died as a result of complications from megaesophagus and a MS-like autoimmune disorder. She had just turned 13 years old.
Kota had many special needs — she couldn’t eat or drink independently, so I had to hand-feed her and provide her with daily fluid injections. She also lost the ability to walk, so I provided her round-the-clock care, popping her in and out of her wheelchair, taking her to the bathroom, and basically acting as her legs. There’s more, but I won’t bore you with the details. It was a lot of work, but caring for her was a pleasure. We had a very, very close bond, in part due to the amount of care that she required. So her death was absolutely heart-breaking — the most difficult pet loss I’ve ever experienced.
Kota’s death left an immense, raw hole in our family’s hearts and in our lives. Even our dogs were mourning — moping, looking for Kota, whining and so on. We have 5 other dogs, but they’re all so very, very different in terms of their personalities and roles. Often, I’ve found that when one pet passes, another pet in the household steps up to take over the deceased pet’s role and in my experience, this makes the loss a bit easier to handle. But this didn’t occur this time around.
We realized very quickly that we would adopt a new dog and soon. It’s important to note that we did not set out to find a new dog to “replace” Kota (if only it was that easy!) For us, we wanted to counteract some of the awfulness of Kota’s death with the wonderfulness that is adopting a special needs animal who needs a home. Our family needed a distraction and we welcomed the opportunity to help another animal who needed a loving family.
I knew that we wanted to adopt a Miniature Pinscher. Kota was a MinPin and we really loved that aspect of her personality — we love the spunky, bold and bouncy-ness that’s found in this breed.
We intentionally sought out a black and tan MinPin. Kota was a red MinPin and for us, we felt as though a red MinPin would be too similar to Kota. We didn’t want to look at the new dog and think “Kota”; we wanted to look at our new MinPin and think “new dog, who has a unique personality and happens to be similar to Kota in many ways.”
In my experience, this is a major consideration if you’re thinking about adopting after the death of a pet. If you adopt a pet who is the same breed or who looks very similar in appearance, it may result in a situation where you only “see” your deceased pet. It can be difficult to see your new pet for who she is; this makes it difficult to love your pet for who she is as an individual. You don’t want to end up in a situation where your new dog or cat only serves as a painful reminder of the one you’ve lost; you need to be able to see your pet as a unique individual. For some pet owners, this may mean adopting a pet who has a very different personality, appearance or breed.
Our search led us to a 4-year-old black-and-tan MinPin named Mallory (nickname: Malley). Mallory was rescued from a puppy mill situation; she was a “breeder” dog. She spent her first years of life living in a cage, with little human contact. The only physical reminders of her ordeal are her scars (from skin infections) and teeth — they’re worn down to nubbins in the front, as a result of chewing on metal bars or chains. She has the classically spunky and lively MinPin attitude. Her energy level is through the roof and she is the happiest, most excited little dog I’ve ever met (she’s also quite mischievous, which makes her a bit challenging in terms of training, but it’s precisely what we all needed — her happiness in particular has been very contagious!
Her personality is quite different from Kota’s, which for us, has been a very good thing. For instance, within moments of meeting Mallory, she was giving us kisses and trying to jump on our laps. Kota would never dream of kissing a stranger; in fact, she was often aggressive with new people due to the abuse that she suffered early in life. These differences make it easy to see (and love) Mallory for who she is as an individual. So for our family, adopting a dog with a very different personality was a good decision.
These points are all important considerations when you’re thinking about adopting after the death of a pet. Similarities can be good, but too many similarities can make things difficult.
For many, the idea of putting away a pet’s belongings — the dog dishes, the pet bed, the leashes, the toys and so on — is heartbreaking. In addition to missing the dog, you may miss the routines, such as the walks, cuddling on the couch and so forth. For this type of individual, adopting a new dog soon after the death of your pet can be a good experience.
But if you can’t bear the thought of walking another dog or cuddling on the couch with a different dog, then it may be a good idea to hold off on adopting. There’s also the decision of whether to re-use your dog’s belongings or to buy new supplies, while putting away your deceased dog’s belongings, keeping them somewhere special.
For us, dog beds, toys, leashes and many other items are “communal” — all of our dogs use them, so it wasn’t problematic to allow Mallory to use these items. But Kota did wear clothing (she was very thin due to her condition and she chilled easily) and there were several clothing items that I opted to put away. I couldn’t bear the thought of another dog wearing these outfits; they were “quintessential Kota.” I also put her collar away in a special place; that’s another item that’s not “reusable.” So this is another consideration: think of any items that you closely associate with your late pet and put them aside instead of giving these items to your new pet.
For more tips and information on how to deal with a dying pet or a loss, see PetLvr’s related articles.
Photo Source: Alfonso Diaz on Sxc.hu