The Pain of Losing a Pet

By: Heather O’Neill

We don’t own a dog. But my 9-year old son desperately wants one. When he was 4 he said:

JD: “Mama, do you know who wants a dog for Christmas?”

Me: “Who?”

JD: (with both thumbs he points to himself) “This Guy.”

Our family is never home. Between work, school, sports, etc., it would not be fair to a furry bundle of love to leave them alone all the time. That’s not my only reasoning …… We also do not have a fenced-in backyard, my mother-in-law (i.e. free babysitter) is deathly afraid of dogs and I’m not so sure my husband is up for owning a dog…..a blog for another time I’m guessing 🙂

Unknown-1I am fortunate to have a brother who lives nearby with his family and you guessed it ….. A lovable, joyful and spunky chocolate lab named Sully. My son will often comment that Sully is his favorite cousin. Good night prayers always include Sully. When shopping, he will often ask to get a new chew toy for Sully. He’s always on the lookout to save our empty peanut butter jars for Sully who loves to lick them clean. 

Unfortunately, Sully was diagnosed this past summer with advanced cancer. Even with treatments, we were not sure how long he would be with us. I purposely did not share this news with my son because I did not want him to worry and perseverate on death. 

He knew Sully was sick and not feeling well, but did not know to what extent. 

Last Monday, while we were at my brother’s house, Sully seemed extra affectionate. His tail wagged a little more, he nuzzled everyone and anyone he could get close to. His smile was infectious and everyone took a little longer to pet him and whisper sweet things to him.

“Such a good boy.”

Sully’s “pep” faded a little each day last week. By Friday, he laid in one spot on the living room floor, of course as close to everyone as he could get. 

That night I walked into the house and realized things were not good. My sister-in-law’s eyes were red-rimmed. I knew it was time. 

As I entered the living room, he lifted his head and wagged his tail. Even in his pain, and discomfort he was greeting me and letting me know he loved me. 

I sat on the floor beside him, gently pet his head, and rubbed behind his ears. My son moved over to sit with me. He nuzzled Sully’s face and whispered sweet things I will never know.  Unknown

I knew this was the last time we would see Sully. I choked back tears for my brother, his wife, my nieces and nephew, and my son. This one was going to hurt …. badly. 

I got the text later that night that Sully was in puppy heaven and finally at peace. We were at a basketball game and my son was acting like a typical 9-year-old boy, having fun with his friends and laughing. I wanted these moments to last for him, knowing that disbelief, heartache, and other cruel emotions when losing a loved one would set in soon enough. 

When we finally told him, he was heartbroken. While Sully wasn’t “his dog,” it was the closest to owning a dog he’s ever come. And this pain stings. 

This energetic, snuggle-buddy, lick-your-face-every-chance-he-could, bundle of chocolate brown love brought such joy into our lives. The world lost a little bit of luster this weekend. 

We love you Sully and are going to miss you tremendously. 


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