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On Birthdays and the Protocol of Grieving


Happy 42nd Birthday to me!

Sublime was the location of my birthday dinner, and I brought my camera so I could take pictures of all of the gorgeous, scrumptious food and promptly forgot to take even one of the appetizers, entrees or cakes, so they brought me some ice cream. The restaurant is a block or two from the ocean, on a canal, and in the parking lot is . . .


As for The Protocol of Grieving, Connie sent me a sweet story she called "a tiny bit of good news." It's about the rescue of a snow-covered cat by people in a library who were the caretakers of Dewey, the now-famous library cat. Dewey passed away and here's what made me think:

"When Dewey had passed away, our library board decided to put a (two-year) moratorium on getting another cat here, to at least allow some time to pass and to allow people to grieve over Dewey and get used to the library without Dewey in it. That was one of the things that was just brought up recently, but with all of the book deals with Vicki and Dewey, and the movie that might possibly come out, they have kind of said, 'Let's just hold out a little while longer yet,'" Larson added, noting that two-year moratorium ended last month.

And here's my question: When a beloved "pet" dies, do you have some kind of protocol in your mind that involves not getting another "pet"? Do you think you're somehow not honoring the life of the deceased animal by saving the life of another one for a period of time? Do you have the word "replace" in your mind and that's insulting so you don't want to do it? Do you delay because of the pain associated with having and then losing someone you love?

What's your protocol for grieving?

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Happy birthday! The world is a better place with you in it and your birthday was a gift to everyone 🙂

    Regarding your grieving question: I don't have a protocol, but whenever a pet has passed away in the past I have resisted adopting another one right away. It's not out of respect for the dead or anything like that, it's simply that I'm not ready for more change and more strong emotion. I feel overwhelmed and I simply need time.

    4 out of 6 of my current furry family members have come into my life unplanned, so that's part of it, too. If you're open to it, cats and dogs will find you. You don't really ever need to look for a pet. Certainly planning for one is great, but I've found that I don't really need to seek out rescues to share my home with. They'll find me.

    December 21, 2008
  2. Connie Graham #

    Grief is a very personal thing to me. I rarely share with others when I have lost one of my dear critters. This year has been particularly difficult, having lost Carbon, Carly, Caryn, China, Cisco and Cole. On January 10, 1990 I finally made the decision to euthanize my most special of cats, Casey. He had been seriously ill for 3 years and there was nothing else that could be done for him. I was devastated and shared my feelings with my closest personal friends. One of them said to me, "He's just a cat." Frankly, that hurt nearly as much as the loss and convinced me that I need to keep the depths of my pain to myself.

    All that said, I feel the greatest testament to our love of the ones we have lost is to give another animal a loving home. I've never had to go searching for a cat or dog to help, they seem to show up. So, regardless of the timing, if I'm presented with an animal in need, I do what I can to help. I've never understood how people who purport to "love" their dog or cat refuse to give a home to another after they have lost their 4 legged companion. So many lovely, healthy, wonderful cats and dogs are desperately in need of being saved from euthanasia in our shelters or cruelty and death on the streets. I think the love of those who have passed should be shared and allowed to grow with a needy animal. What better way to keep their spirits and love alive?

    My advice to those grieving the loss of their cat or dog is to focus on the many years they shared and not the brief moment in time when they lost their companion. Think of those silly, goofy and sometimes annoying things they did to make you smile.

    December 21, 2008
  3. Deb #

    I seem to grieve for a really long time. I lost my dog in July '99, and it is only in the past year that I could even contemplate living with another dog. It took probably a year after she died before I could see someone walking their dog without wanting to cry. I think that if I'd had another dog already, it would have been different. I lost a cat in Jan '01, and had a period of a week or two when I was sort of hysterically saying that I needed to find another home for Tempest because I couldn't handle the thought of dealing with her death someday (even though she was only 2 years old at the time), and would never have another cat or dog in my life again.

    I don't think it is a protocol. Maybe it would be easier if there was a path I could follow, steps I could take, and that would be that. If I had adopted another dog years ago, it wouldn't still seem like such a big deal.

    I think elaine has a point about them finding us. Last thanksgiving Rich and I were taking a post-dinner pre-dessert walk, and we came across two dogs running around the neighborhood. I was able to get one to come to me, the other we never did catch, and we finally found some people who recognized the dogs and we were able to find where they lived. If we hadn't been able to, I'd have taken them in. And then there was Lucy.

    But even knowing all the dogs that need homes who are in shelters right now, riding by a shelter twice every day I go to work, I can't being myself to actively take a step towards adopting one. I have the same hesitation regarding adopting another cat as well. (Though Tempest herself makes a great excuse, as she's quite happy being an only cat.)

    It has nothing to do with respect for those I've lost, and "replacing" them seems ludicrous as they're all so unique and it is impossible to imagine that any individual could be duplicated, but for me, it is too hard to take on a future loss when I'm still grieving a recent loss.

    December 21, 2008
  4. Dan #

    Happy birthday, Mary. Thank you for writing this blog.

    December 21, 2008
  5. Happy Birthday Mary!!! I love waking up to your blog!

    December 22, 2008
  6. I tragically lost my first dog (puppy) 18 years ago. My heart was in such an awful state of grief. I had all that pain and all the tears – and so much love that needed a place to be directed to… We went to all the pounds to finally find a skinny runt mutt now known as "Midas".

    In some strange sort of way… loosing Ranger enabled another to live. That helped me process the grief… but of course, it's never easy, and each (death) gets worked out differently.

    Happy Birthday Mary! Thanks for all you do!

    December 22, 2008
  7. Happy Birthday, Mary! I hope your day was wonderful. Thanks for all your hard work and for being such an amazing advocate for the animals. You rock!!!

    December 22, 2008
  8. kim #

    Happy Birthday Mary! I checked out Sublime's site and it looks, well, sublime! Do you know how they manage to operate while giving 100% of the profits to animal causes? Do they pay the staff or is everyone a volunteer?

    December 22, 2008
  9. Mary Martin #

    Thanks everyone!
    And Kim, the staff of Sublime is paid. I'm not sure the place has actually turned a profit yet, considering it was closed for over a year due to hurricane damage. Nanci Alexander, the owner, also took on a partner at one point and though I didn't go during that time, I do know that the change in the restaurant didn't go over well at all. So there has been much difficulty, business-wise for Sublime. Any profits would go to the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, which Nanci founded. There is a table with literature as soon as you walk in, and you can add your info to a mailing list for events, such as vegan and raw cooking classes. Nanci is in the restaurant every night saying hi to people and spreading the vegan word. The food is fabulous–I just wish it didn't take over an hour to get there!

    December 22, 2008
  10. Patty #

    Happy Birthday, Mary. I wish you many more.

    Regarding grieving…it was very hard losing my first dog, Shawnee, to osteosarcoma. She was wonderful. There is no replacing her. She was a greyhound bred to be exploited and I did all I could to see that her years in retirement were comfortable and happy. I offer that to the dogs that remain in my house, one of which I acquired after losing Shawnee. I miss her, but will always take care of as many animals as I can within my means (without having to get a divorce!) That's the least I can do, and they give me great joy.

    I just want to mention that the animals also grieve. When we brought Shawnee to the vet for the injection, we brought the other dogs to see and smell the lifeless body so that they would know what happened to their companion. There were many sad days in my household. It was very clear that the whole pack missed our beloved Shawnee.

    December 22, 2008

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