By Maddi Fink
In the third grade, my parents took me to pick out my first dog. Growing up, this collie slept next to me every night and followed me wherever I went. In March of 2015, we had to put him down due to severe lymphoma. The day he was put down, I realized why people say that dogs are man’s best friend. I did not realize until he was gone what an important role such a simple creature had in my life. Losing my very first dog may have been one of the hardest things to go through, showing me just how important dogs can be in people’s lives.
English teacher Deborah Deppe is an Australian Shepherd owner who lost her precious Pete in December of 2015, but still shares her love with her three year-old pup, Andy.
“Dogs are our companions that accept us with all of our flaws. They give us love and comfort without asking. They are definitely part of the family,” said Mrs. Deppe.
Sometimes the death of one’s dog seems to be just as hard as losing a loved human. Sandra Barker, the director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University said to the Washington Post, “when they realize that the difference is the pet gave them constant companionship, and there was total dependency, then they start to realize that’s why they’re grieving so intensely.”
We spend so much time with our pets, we often tend to not realize how dependent we become on them. After losing the best friend you had for so long, your whole life changes.
Library Assistant Stephanie Lopez describes the difficulty of losing her Scottish Terrier, Watson.
“He was my bud, my best friend, my snuggle buddy,” said Mrs. Lopez.
Losing a canine friend can lead to psychological damage because of intense grieving. According to Virginia Hughes of National Geographic, mourning a pet can lead to physical illness as well as post traumatic stress disorder and functional impairment. This is because you no longer have the social, physical, and emotional benefits you have had for a certain, often extended, period of time.
Linda McCubbins lost her beloved Samoyed, Rudy, in early November of 2015.
“His death left a big emptiness in our lives. He had always been around. He sat under my chair each morning as I ate breakfast and read the newspaper. He was always at the door to greet me when I returned home. He was the best walking partner anyone could ask for. The loss affected me mentally, physically, and emotionally. I just did not feel physically well and it was very difficult to focus on my job the week after his death,” said Mrs. McCubbins.
Having a dog impacts health physically, socially, and emotionally in ways that one may not even realize. Physically, having a dog increase activity and functioning, decrease blood pressure, and lower cholesterol. Dogs have the ability to predict seizures and can be trained to alert an owner of a hypoglycemic episode. Socially, dogs create a sense of well-being and promote interaction. Plus, dogs are a great conversation starter. The emotional benefits of having a dog seem to make life much easier. Dogs reduce stress, give us physical contact and affection, help adjust to hard times, and reduce anxiety and feelings of loneliness.
VCU freshman Eleanor Ritzman recalled the routine changes after her Poodle, Cosmo, passed away.
“When our family lost Cosmo, we were devastated. He was our first dog, and it was very difficult to cope with his passing. After his death, things in our household became different. I didn’t wake up until later as usual because he wouldn’t be there to bark at 8:00 in the morning to wake up the whole family. There was no longer a dog in the home who would argue with your commands or challenge you with discipline,” said Ms. Ritzman.
Right before my beloved dog was put down, my mom sprinkled some of the holy water she had kept in the house onto him. Thinking back, I began to ask myself, “Do dogs go to heaven? Will I ever see you again?”
Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis have made statements claiming the souls within canine friends. Souls are what give us personality, emotion, and life. As man’s best friend, dogs tend to have certain quirks that other types of pets do not show.
Mrs. Deppe’s Shepherd, Pete, always seemed to know when she was having a bad day. He would comfort her with his head or paw. Mrs. Lopez’s Terrier, Watson, would accompany her daily while she would sit in her recliner. Mrs. McCubbins’ Samoyed, Rudy, sat under her chair every morning, joined her on her walks, and greeted her with nothing but love whenever she returned home. My own Collie, Sammy, followed me wherever I went, slept at the edge of my bed, and never failed to be beside me whenever I picked up my guitar.
The smallest things these animals do have such a large effect, it is almost impossible to think of these dogs without souls. Souls give us personality, love, and other emotions. Souls are what make it to heaven after death. To think such pure creations that are filled with nothing but love and affection do not make it to heaven? That thought is almost unbearable.
“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” – Will Rogers.