My Turn: Until it happens to you


Monday, November 20, 2017

Years ago, a co-worker of mine lost her beloved dog and she took a couple of sick (bereavement) days off. At the time, I had no pets and scoffed at the idea ... actually, I was a bit indignant at the thought. After all, it was just a dog and how dare she take time off from work over the death of a dog. I was such a fool!

A couple of weeks ago I lost my beloved dog of 15 years, Jada, to cancer and my world fell apart. I truly could not function. I remembered reading something I had read regarding a pet’s death; “Let the first and last voice your pet hears be yours.” And I honored that passage by holding my treasured baby in my arms, speaking into her ear, telling her what a good girl she was and how much I loved her until the life went out of her. I could just barely walk as I left the room at the vet’s office. As I looked back at her small body still lying on a blanket on the table, I heard the assistant ask if I wanted to send anything with her body to the crematorium and I said, “Yes, me.” And at the time, I meant it. I just didn’t want to live anymore.

I realize that someone who doesn’t have pets or even like them must be saying, “What is she, nuts, it’s only a dog.” And my comments to them are these: To me, Jada wasn’t a dog, she was my baby and a family member. She spent over 15 years of her short life with us, and we treasured every day. She was the first thing I saw in the morning and the last thing I kissed and petted before bed. For years, she slept with me and when she could no longer jump up on the bed, she slept in her bed beside mine. She was my friend and my constant companion. She followed me from room to room, even to the bathroom. She also had a bed next to my computer chair in my office. She loved me unconditionally, not caring if I was dressed or not or what my state of mind might be. She looked at me with such love, and I actually believed that I was seeing her soul in her beautiful eyes.

Jada made me laugh every day for the entire time she was with me, no matter how angry or sad I was. I can honestly say that she adored me, and the feeling was mutual. I practically worshiped her. No matter what mischief she got into or the stubbornness she developed in later years, I could never stay angry at her for more than a second.

I never left home without her. She had a special bed in the car, boosted up so she could look out the window. She loved squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and cows. She spent many hours perched on the back of a love seat looking out the window. We paid $500 for a love seat that belonged to her.

For the first two days after her passing, I couldn’t even talk to my kids, and when I finally could talk to people, all I did was cry. I felt like she took my heart with her. I felt flat and empty, had no interest in anything or anyone. Although I was devastated when I lost my sister, and later my mom, I never felt the kind of pain I did when I lost Jada.

You may be wondering why I wrote this. Well, my son urged me to because many people can’t say these things to anyone for fear of criticism or being ridiculed. My advice to them is this: It’s OK to have some or all of these feelings. That’s what loving a pet is all about.

Sheila Quinlivan, a former Recorder employee, lives in Winchester, N.H.