I love honoring my friends and colleagues and the lives they shared with a special love.

Thank you, Dr. Kyle for sharing Potter with all of us. The pure and raw love and grief in your story… thank you for giving us this to hang onto as we think of our own journeys that share these same sentiments. I couldn’t wait to share this with you all too, as we are all in this together in loving and subsequently losing our precious loves:

It’s April, 2020 . . .

It has taken me well over a year to sit down and write this second blog post, when in theory I had planned to write a blog post every single month on one pet cancer topic or another to share with everyone. I suppose work, other Paws4Potter activities, and life in general “got in the way” of doing that. I can’t even say for sure that I will start doing these monthly from now on, but I am hoping to create them a little bit more frequently than once a year!

It’s April, 2020 . . .

We are currently fighting a global pandemic due to COVID-19, trying to physically and mentally handle “social distancing” and pressing the pause button on everything in life that is “non-essential.” Most of us have never been witness to such a frightening global situation before; it will surely be found in our children’s children’s history books in the future.

I have never been a “germaphobe” by any means, but I find myself wishing to hole up inside my home and not emerge until the coast is clear, or at least clearer. But, I cannot in good conscience do that when there are potentially animal lives at stake around me. Veterinary medicine, luckily or unluckily, does not get put on hold. I took an oath as a veterinary professional, and I will continue to do what I must do to honor that. It doesn’t make me any less afraid. It doesn’t make me feel that my profession is better or more important than another. It simply is what it is.

I thought that perhaps with all of the “social distancing” that we are supposed to be doing right now, I would have a lot of time to get other things accomplished . . . spring cleaning, yard work, organizing things, scrapbooking pictures from years ago, etc. But, life has remained busy with work, re-scheduling events, devising safer ways to work during the COVID-19 crisis, and thinking about COVID-19 in general. I had hoped that things would start slowing down enough so that I could restart these blog posts, to share information about different pet cancer topics with anyone who wants or needs to read them.

And, now, it’s April, 2020 . . .

This is the month that I start thinking about Potter’s diagnosis more heavily, the month that I start seeing Facebook memories of our last “good” outings – like the one pictured above – and wonder if he was starting to show outward signs of his illness that I was too blind or oblivious to pick up on. I have scrutinized these Facebook memory photos for the last 5 years that they have showed up, looking for any small shred of visual evidence of him not feeling well.

It took me a very long time for the sadness of Potter’s diagnosis and passing to change from a sharp and slashing pain to a dull and ever-present ache. It took an even longer time to not feel guilty for that emotional transition.

I’ve read a lot about pet loss and the grief associated with it. I know that there are multiple stages of grief and that people move through them at different paces. Some, if not many, of those people fall backwards in those stages. I know that I certainly have.

People experience grief differently from everyone else, even though there are formalized “stages” that everyone goes through at some point or another. What one person may consider extremely unbearable may be considered easy to get through by another. And, none of those feelings or reactions are wrong.

But, I don’t think that the grief that we experience ever truly goes away. Grief does not come with directions or a timetable. It’s messy and inconsistent, for lack of better words to describe them. And, just when you think that you are finally feeling better and can find joy in the memories that you have of your best buddy, something random changes things, and your patched-up, almost-but-not-quite-healed heart breaks again.

The grief comes in ebbs and waves, depending on the time of year, depending on your current mood, depending on the environment and situations you find yourself in.

It’s April, 2020 . . .

I’m currently thinking about what life was like five years ago.

Five years ago, Potter, Dad, and I were taking a much-needed walk in the Cedars, the name of my dad’s piece of hunting property that is not far from our hometown. I was on a much-needed vacation from work, and I had promised myself that I would take Potter to as many of his favorite local walking spots as I possibly could. By far his most favorite spot was the Cedars.

I captured his true joy when I took this photo. He always loved walking over there, smelling all of the wonderful woodsy smells, chasing after deer and other woodland critters, and simply being a dog. Little did I know at the time that this would be our last visit to the Cedars during Potter’s lifetime.

It’s April, 2020 . . .

I know right now that these memories are creating small ebbs of sadness in my life. Every time I see one of these Facebook memories of Potter, I smile but internally become a little sadder . . . sadder knowing that there would be very few outings left before his passing, sadder knowing that I couldn’t do anything to save him, and sadder knowing that, in hindsight, I didn’t take the time to “just be” with him during those last few weeks of his life after his cancer diagnosis.

I also know that, as April turns into May and May turns into June, I will start feeling that more intensified grief. It will start coming in waves again. At least, five years after Potter’s passing, I can somewhat brace myself for those feelings that I am sure will be coming. I think that is probably true for many people who have loved and lost a best friend – the more years that pass, the more likely you can brace yourself for the moments of more intensified grief. I think that they still occur. I don’t think that they are meant to go away and never come back. But, I think that we learn to shield ourselves from the “shock” of them, at least.

It’s April, 2020 . . .

Grief will continue to come in ebbs and waves. It will never truly go away. I don’t even want it to. That’s not because I am masochistic or even pessimistic. It’s because I truly believe that our best buddies take a piece of our hearts with them when they pass on. That final piece cannot be completely patched up with band-aids, cement, glue, or any other substance. Grief leaks into that empty space, reminding us of our loss and vulnerability.

It’s April, 2020 . . .

I have been rambling on and on about grief in a post that is supposed to be about pet cancer.

But, I am not going to edit or delete it. Over the last five years, I have met so many people through Paws4Potter (not to mention my profession) who have experienced this intense grief over the loss of their beloved pet. It’s a topic that is often hush-hush and not discussed as openly as it needs to be.

There are so many people out there who need to be able to share their pets’ stories, and I want to let those people know that it IS okay to share them.

Surround yourself with folks who have been through a similar situation, folks who feel the same intense bond with their pets that you do. Those folks are the ones who will “get it.”

Many of our cancer-fighting warriors beat their cancers, but the reality of the situation is that some of them do not. And, what comes in that aftermath is an intense grief that many people do not know what to do with.

It’s April, 2020 . . .

I wanted to share these feelings with all of you to let you know that you are NOT alone if you are experiencing this kind of grief over your pet. Some of us have lost beloved pets, and some of us are anticipating that loss in the near future.

Make sure to take care of YOU, surround yourself with people who will comfort you and empathize with what you are experiencing, and reach out if you need someone who will listen to you.

Our best buddies are pretty much “on loan” to us. They never stay on this earth with us long enough. They bring us such pure joy and unconditional love. That love is like no other, and it comes with a hefty price tag when they leave us behind. But, I would rather pay that hefty price than to have never known that kind of love.

It’s April, 2020 . . .

It’s time to get back to the drawing board. It’s time to start making more plans for Paws4Potter for the remainder of the year. It’s time to start getting creative about new ways to reach more and more people about pet cancer.

But, it was important to me to share this post about grief. And, it likely won’t be the last time that this topic will come up.

Grief has a beginning, a middle, but no end. It’s not meant to have a final chapter. It’s like a book with the final chapter ripped out. You can go back and relive the beginning and the middle, but each time you do so, you are more prepared for what’s on the next page, so the shock of it all isn’t as intense.

But, it still goes on . . . it’s never fully written. It morphs and changes, but it still goes on.

And, so does our love for our best buddies.

I love you, Potter . . . xoxo

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