What you can learn from my loss

Buffy, the best dog in the universe. October 21, 2012 – January 20th 2022

In the early morning of January 20th 2022, I said goodbye to my sweet angel Buffy. I held her tightly, kissed her and told her I loved her over and over again as she was put down to end her suffering. Only 5 days before I had been playing in the snow with her, snuggling her on the couch, petting her thick fur and so blissfully unaware that I was only days from saying goodbye. Buffy died of cancer, hemangiosarcoma, often called the Silent Killer because it is often undetectable until end of life.

Losing her so suddenly is still something I’m processing and frankly struggling with. Grief is difficult in the best of circumstances but suddenly losing a loved one leaves you feeling like someone has ripped out a part of your heart and turned your entire life upside down. Even though I have so much to process and much more to write about Buffy and the incredible life she lived, I wanted to share some important takeaways for those of you who haven’t yet had to say goodbye. 

“Spoil” your dog. When you lose your four-legged family member, you won’t regret giving them too many treats, buying them too many nice beds, sharing your human food, letting them get muddy and making a mess. Instead, you’ll be wishing you could give them one more treat. You’ll wish you let them run around in the mud one more time. You’ll feel like you should have bought them even more luxury pet bets or ordered them their own pizza. There is not a single thing I gave her that made her happy that I wish I hadn’t. I just wish I could have kept doing those things. If I’d been able to have even one more day with Buffy, I would have filled it with all her favourite things from pizza, duck, mud pools, more fetch, more snuggles in bed, more of everything she loved. 

Make the positive changes now. You don’t know how much time you have with your dog. You just don’t. There are no guarantees and that means it is time now to give them the best life you can. If you’ve been debating ditching a particular training tool, or trying to integrate more enrichment, more off-leash time, etc, just do it now. Give your dog the best life possible. Give them the opportunity to be themselves as fully as possible. You will not regret making your dog’s life better but you could regret never getting the chance to try to. 

Buffy was such a perfect dog. I often forgot how much of a hard time I had with her in the first several years of her life. She didn’t come to me the perfect sassy but happy to please dog she had been after age three. In fact, she was a dog that a lot of people would have used punishment and aversive tools on. As a puppy, she was non-stop energy that required a lot of patience, planning and compassion to handle. More than once she escaped her pen and had the best day of her life tearing apart my home. She destroyed the bottom of her crate and dug into the carpet of my last rental in Ottawa. She ate my sister’s shoes when I moved in with her and ripped one of her young trees out of the ground. I didn’t teach her to loose leash walk until she was three (it just wasn’t a priority for me) so she pulled HARD on walks. Even with all of that, I never used punishments or aversives. In fact, Buffy was who she was because I took the time to teach her how to behave, to motivate her, to harness that energy for fun instead of chaos. I am grateful every single day I never used punishment tools or methods on her. She was able to shine so bright because her spirit was never dimmed by uncertainty, anxiety, or fear. Today I have no regrets that I gave her the best life she could have ever had. 

Being in the darkness of grief has actually provided me with crystal clear clarity on what is most important in life, at least for me. Spending time with the ones you love. That’s it. All I wish for right now is more time with Buffy. At the end, when we lose a soul we love, all we will want is more time with them. So spend that time with them now. Nothing else matters as much. Absolutely nothing. Enjoy the time you have because you never know when it will end. 

Help me honour Buffy’s life by celebrating life with your dog. Share the pizza, let them roll in mud, throw the ball a couple extra times, buy them a new toy. Live together right now. #LiveLikeBuffy

“We are here to love each other. That’s why you are alive. That is what life is for.”

– Maya Angelou

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