Pet Loss, Pet Grief and "The Dance"

Our pets become such an integral part of our lives and our families, and it is no wonder that we feel immense grief when we lose them. Coleen Ellis, a member of our Advisory Board, a Certified Pet Loss Professional and Founder of Two Hearts Pet Loss Center, recently lost her beloved dog, Harry. Here is their story, told by Coleen herself:

Meeting Harry

He was mine. All mine. For some reason, someone didn’t want him, but I did. He was perfectly imperfect, and perfect for me!

He was running the streets for reasons unknown when I found him. Or at least unknown at that time. After getting him into our home, it didn’t take me too long to understand why he was running. He was so deathly afraid of storms that he would do anything he could to get away from them. And, that included running as fast as he could to get away from it all.

I can assure you; it truly was love at first sight and I knew I was going to have that boy in my life. Having the “local” shelter (20 miles away) pick him up, fix him, temperament test him, a 5-hour drive to Kansas City, and then a 9-hour drive back to Indy was the start of his life with me. Poor guy… from running the streets to all of that as a start to the perfect life, which I’m sure didn’t seem so “perfect” to him at that time.

We named him Harry, after my grandfather. While some believed it was “Hairy” as he was that, but he was more refined than that! And, Harry fit him so beautifully!

True Companions

Life soon settled in, and he knew he’d landed in perfection. He was a quick learner and soon became my sidekick in everything I did. He traveled with me in my work as a Certified Pet Loss Professional, and he was so organic in his role at the pet funeral homes. He always knew when someone needed him, and he’d just appear by their side. He was so sensitive, “felt” everyone in the room, and worked it like a pro.

Harry, a therapy dog

He also traveled with me for my personal work and give-back to my alma mater, Fort Hays State University. We soon got to a point that I believed I was invited on campus to do work, not because of my amazingness (LOL!), but because they all knew Harry’d be a part of the trip. I would hear from people who’d show up to “see the dog,” that word would quickly spread through campus that Harry was in the house, and they’d come searching! He loved it all!

Dealing with Pet Loss Grief

When Harry died, an extremely large part of my heart went with him. He was a part of my soul and was my spirit animal, as we loved the same things. (Well, I think he just loved making me happy, which he did with a vengeance.) He knew when to just “be,” he knew how to make people feel loved and comforted, and he loved just being a part of living. He was mine, and he was perfect, and I was so proud of him.

Coleen Elis and her dog, Harry

I cried my ever-lovin’ eyes out when he died and seriously did not think I’d ever felt such a huge heartache. I briefly questioned my decision to get him, knowing that this heartbreak could have been avoided if I would not have given in to my whim.

I was kind to myself during that time and allowed “me” to beat “me” up, in every way. From the decision to get him to my guilt in his health issues… did I miss something? Did we do everything we could? Did we do too much? Not enough?

When the emotions settled down, there was one overriding thought. The heartbreak of losing an animal is the price we pay for love. And, I know this to be true. I would not give up one minute of having Big Harry in my life to avoid that heartache.

Not. One. Minute.

It was all worth it.

Just like Garth Brooks’ song “The Dance.” We do know how it will all end. I’m just not willing to give up the dance.

Love every day with your precious babes. Know that it will end but enjoy every minute of the dance along the way.

Rest in peace, Big Harry. Rest in peace.

- Coleen Ellis, Certified Pet Loss Professional, Two Hearts Pet Loss Center

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