TV presenter Ben Fogle spoke last week of his grief at the death of his beloved dog Inca.
The 38-year-old said he that he had lost his best friend and had been unable to stop crying since he made the decision to have the 12-year-old black lab put down after her health began to fail.
Like many owners and pets, their lives were intertwined. The presenter first appeared on our screens, alongside Inca, on the reality show Castaway and it was while they were both walking their dogs that Fogle met his future wife, Marina. They are now married with two young children.
I interviewed Ben some years ago and he quickly brought the conversation round to Inca. As a dog-lover, I could totally understand how a pet could occupy such an important role in a person’s life.
Reading of his grief, I totally empathised. Losing a pet is a devastating experience, but those who react emotionally or take time off following the death of a pet are often mocked.
A few years ago, before we had Mac, we loved another dog; my grandmother’s sheltie called Lowry. After my gran passed away we took on Lowry which, as dog lovers, we were happy to do. But it also offered us a precious, ongoing link to her.
By this time Lowry was 12 years old, already an old man, but with such a beautiful, gentle, nature that he quickly won our hearts. A one-time show dog, he was extremely handsome and with impeccable manners.
Our lives transformed around him. Overnight, weekends became about walking not partying. He came everywhere with us and enchanted everyone who came to visit with his shy but curious ways.
However, around six months later, the inevitable day came. He was diagnosed with kidney failure and his end was swift but painful, brought quietly to an end with a vet’s lethal injection.
I can still get emotional if I dwell on the moment he passed away - his black intelligent eyes looking steadily into mine until the spark went out of them. With his passing, we also bade a final farewell to his true companion, my gran.
The next day I went into work, but by mid-afternoon I was struggling to hold back the tears. My boss at the time, a kind-hearted cat lover, told me to work from home for the rest of the day, which I did, but an ache remained. We missed the sound of paws tapping across the wooden floor and the warm welcome on coming in the front door.
Losing a pet is losing a personality whom you love, one who trusts you implicitly and depends on you wholly. Our grief when they go is based on selfish reasons, but nonetheless leaves us with a gaping hole in our life which is not always acknowledged and often met with bemusement.
It is clearly not comparable with losing a person, it barely merits even making the point. But often if someone struggles with the loss of an animal they will be reminded of the fact that it wasn’t a person.
However, grief is not a competitive sport and, as inevitable as death is, especially when you love creatures with a relatively short lifespan, losing a dog is always hard to bear.
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