I wrote about the death of our dog Jefe (left) last week. I said that he gave us so many gifts – so many moments of laughter and love – during his lifetime. Thinking about it since then, it occurred to me that pets like Jefe provide us with another sort of gift, an existential gift.
Dogs have a relatively short lifespan – typically 8 to 15 years. That’s enough time for us to see them grow from puppies into adults and then into those frail years. It’s also enough time for us to learn to love them. Sometimes very deeply. But then they die and we have to deal with the grief of losing them. It’s painful, but we go through it and we move on.
We’re likely to experience the death of half a dozen pets before we are middle-aged. That’s half a dozen opportunities that our beloved pets give us to practice the grieving and recovery process – to prepare us for what we will one day have to go through with the humans we love and have loved for the longer length of human life.