Lilly owned a pet boutique downtown. She took her golden retriever, Hank, to work with her every day so he could greet and socialize with her customers. After 9 years together, Hank was diagnosed with end-stage lymphoma, and Lilly made the brave decision to end his suffering after he became ill. Almost a year after Hank’s passing, Lilly said, “Sometimes I think I’m ready to get another dog, but then I feel like it would be an act of disloyalty to let another dog take Hank’s place.”
Like Lilly, many people don’t know if or when to get another pet. The answer is neither simple nor similar in any case. The situation can be more complicated when children and other family members are involved, or if an existing pet in the home is ill or stressed.
Deciding whether or not to adopt a new pet after a much-loved companion has died is difficult for most people. Naturally, many individuals have an impulse to immediately “replace” a pet they’ve lost in order to fill an emotional and physical void created by the initial loss. Adopting a new pet may make us feel good in the moment, but what happens when we realize that this new pet is nothing like our other companion?
It is important to try not to rush to a decision until you have time to sort out your feelings. Family and friends who mean well may suggest a new pet to provide you comfort and support. Although adopting a new pet may help you heal, be sure to allow yourself enough time to grieve the loss of your beloved companion.
Before you or your family adopts a new pet after a loss, ask yourself the following:
Why do I want to adopt a new pet? What do I hope this pet will provide for me?
Does the rest of the family agree with the decision, or are there differences? How do the children in the family feel about adopting a new pet? It’s common for children to push parents for a new pet right away, but it’s important for them to realize that we simply cannot replace loved ones.
Do I have enough time, energy, and financial resources to give to a new pet? Am I ready for the challenges a young or new pet may bring? Will the new pet integrate well with other existing pets?
If, after some time and thought, you are still having a hard time deciding whether or not to adopt a new pet, consider becoming a “foster parent”. By fostering an animal through a local humane society or rescue group, you’ll provide temporary housing for an orphaned pet that is awaiting permanent adoption. You’ll provide a necessary service while testing your own readiness without a long-term commitment.
Some people are uncertain if they should ever get another pet because “it would hurt too much to experience that type of loss all over again”. Unfortunately, grief is the price we pay for having loved. However, through all the grief we must remember that we loved a particular animal dearly and that love was returned a hundred times over. There are so many animals living in shelters who need the kind of loving home you so willingly provided for your companion.