A little more than a decade ago, my parents adopted two Shih Tzu puppies, which they named Ludwig and Freddy. Born a few weeks apart, they shared the same crate until they came home with my parents, so their entire lives, they’ve never been apart. Despite this, there’s never been any question that these two weren’t from the same litter, because two more different dogs you will never find, from their appearance to their personality.
Ludwig, short and compact, is meek and shy. Loud noises frighten him, and he has the largest, most liquid brown, melancholy eyes. Oh, and he snores, rather loudly, actually. If you happen to be having a conversation when he drifts off, you’ll need to speak up a bit in order to be heard. (Or, if you’re like me, you’ll have to try to stop laughing long enough to continue the conversation.)
Freddy, on the other hand, is outgoing and adventurous. While Ludwig is the only agoraphobic dog I’ve ever seen, Freddy treats each walk as an adventure and everyone he meets as a friend. He’s big and brash and full of life, and he and Ludwig, despite their differences, are completely devoted to one another.
Freddy’s been lethargic, coughing, and seeming generally unwell, so my parents took him to the vet for some tests. The results were not good. Freddy has a large, likely cancerous tumor on his liver, and he’s dying. The vet gives him a month or two. He’s not in pain, so my parents will keep him comfortable and continue to give him lots of love until circumstances change.
If you’ve ever had a pet, you’re probably familiar with this scenario, or something similar. Unfortunately, our pets have much shorter life spans than we do, so we’re in the sad position of having to say a final goodbye at some point. This isn’t my parents’ first time sending a beloved pet over the Rainbow Bridge, nor mine, so this is a familiar grief. But what about Ludwig?
If Freddy has to go to the vet, or even if he’s just taken out for a walk, Ludwig will camp out by the door until he comes home. When Freddy leaves the house for the last time, never to return, what then? This is Ludwig’s life companion, his very best friend, and I can’t imagine the confusion and loss Freddy’s absence will create. It’s not like there’s grief counseling or support groups for dogs.
I’ve been there for grieving friends and family members over the years. I’ve had to come to terms with my own grief. But how am I supposed to console a small, soulful-eyed dog whose heart has been broken?