Just a Girl and Her Dog

A year ago this month I lost my best friend, Fezzik the Dog. He loved me like nothing else I have ever known and taught me to love myself. He was full of what we called “character” and acted like a goofy puppy until the last weeks of his life. Fezzik’s sole purpose in life was to provide joy to anyone who crossed his path, and to find ways to steal and eat butter.

Fernie is a dog town. Most people understand what losing a pet means to us humans.

Anyone who tells you, “it’s just a dog” has never been blessed with unconditional dog love. They likely do not know what it is like to have a wet nose wake you up in the morning to say I missed you. They would not know the power of staring into a dog’s eyes on a difficult day for comfort, or how wonderful ear snuffles can be to generate laughter.

The death of any pet can greatly impact our lives. When Fezzik died the physical pain was so strong it felt like all 100 pounds of him was sitting on my chest. I felt lost and threw myself into my work to avoid accepting that he was gone. I was numb. I talked to anyone who would listen about what he meant to me. There were “Fezzik waves” when I saw his collar hanging by our front door, or when I walked into Barkside without him. I wanted nothing more than to look over at his favourite spot by the fireplace and see him grinning back at me.

I share this story to normalize the sadness that comes with saying goodbye and as a reminder that however you grieve is okay and that there is no timeline, no rules.

I have moments of deep regret. Did I do the right thing? Did he really have cancer? Did I miss something? Is there something more I could have done? The responsibility of choosing a compassionate end for your furry friend is incredibly heartbreaking. It was, to date, the hardest thing I have ever done, but I would not trade my almost eleven-year friendship just to avoid that discomfort. Logically, I knew it was cancer and that my friend was very sick. In my heart I wanted him back, so I questioned my actions. In conversations with others I have since found common humanity in this process; we all wonder if we did enough, knowing they gave us so much in their short lives.

A year later I find comfort in imagining him on a mountain peak behind our house. I think of him running free and healthy with the dog friends who went before him. Every day I look up, say hello, tell him I miss him, and I thank him for all that he taught me in life.

If you are struggling with loss, here are a few things to consider:

  • Find a way to honour your friend. Mark a favourite spot (with permission if necessary) with a sign or plaque.
  • Lean into your feelings, every single one you feel is okay: sad, anger, regret, etc.
  • Give yourself time and permission to be sad.
  • Talk to others about your loss. Seek out people who will truly understand.
  • Remember there are no rules or timelines for grief. This includes when and if you welcome a new pet into your life.

For anyone who is contemplating a compassionate end for their friend, reach out to your vet for advice and check out this list for signs that it may be time topdogtips.com/when-to-put-your-dog-down-checklist/

The content provided in this article is for information purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you find yourself in distress, please reach out to your local physician who can provide mental health resources in your community.