Now, the aim of this post is not to upset anyone. I am so sorry if you have experienced this recently. It’s a horrible subject and can feel like the worst thing in the world when it has just happened. It’s just I have now had experience of my horse Stanley passing away very unexpectedly in 2003 and now also my beloved dog Ziggy too. I am afraid it is something that as animal owners that we may have to deal with unfortunately and when it happens it is horrible. Although not a nice subject, even if this post makes one other person feel better in a similar situation it was worth writing. As someone who is currently going through this and has experience of this before. I want to remind you and myself that time is a wonderful healer and you won’t always feel this sad.
I wanted to write this post today particularly as my beloved pet dog Ziggy passed away two weeks ago. Although he was old and we knew he had always had a heart condition it still came as a horrible shock that quite frankly we just weren’t prepared for. In 2003 my horse Stanley passed away in his field after suffering from a brain aneurysm, which was completely out of the blue and I thought by perhaps telling you the things I have struggled with after losing Ziggy and Stanley then perhaps it could help someone else feel better, who has been in this situation too.
The shock. Firstly the shock of both of these events was immense. Yes my dog Ziggy was old but he hadn’t been unwell and he had actually been to the vets 3 weeks before and had a full ‘Old Dog MOT’ which included his heart being checked, his blood taken and his vaccinations and he was fine. Similarly although completely unrelated the death of my horse Stanley was even more of a shock as he had no underlying health conditions at all. In both cases the shock was the hardest part at first. It takes a few days to actually believe it has happened and you secretly hope that you are just having a horrible nightmare that you are going to wake up from. To help with this, do what feels right for you. When Stanley passed away I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t go to work for a few days I was just too upset. However with Ziggy I continued on with my normal routine and I found that helped. It’s weird, just do what suits you and what you feel like doing.
TALK. Again this time around with Ziggy passing, I have been able to talk about it and have done with a lot of my friends. It has definitely made me feel better, as there is no elephant in the room and my friends have had an opportunity to offer their support. However when Stanley passed, I couldn’t talk about it and didn’t really for a long time afterwards. Perhaps it was a little different when Stanley died. It did actually change my life as I had a huge chunk of my life that no longer existed. No more riding or going to the stables everyday. When he died I didn’t get a new horse, so a massive part of my life disappeared with him. I returned to the stables to collect my things, but was so upset no-one could approach me to talk about it and I didn’t even see or hear from some of the girls at the yard again. It’s not their fault I closed myself off and didn’t ever go to the stables to see them again. I couldn’t even bring myself to ride again for a whole year. I even felt sad driving past the fields where he was kept, so there was no way I would have been able to go visit the stables. I just didn’t want to.
Thinking you could have done something to stop it from happening. Now, I had this with Ziggy. Despite me saying he had a check up 3 weeks earlier, he had seemed a little quiet for the previous few weeks. For the first few days after it happened I kicked myself for not taking him to the vets again. But you what he seemed fine and the test results proved he was fine 3 weeks earlier. We were in the middle of two brutal heatwaves and he just seemed hot. That was it. But I felt responsible like I hadn’t looked after him properly. Which of course is not true at all. He had a long and very happy life with us and was looked after like a fricking king! I just needed to remind myself of that! It was the same with Stanley, as when he passed it was completely out of the blue. I even had an autopsy done and the vet told me there was no way of knowing that this was going to happen. But as the person responisible for these animals that we adore you can’t help but feel that you could have done something, anything to prevent this from happening. Unfortunately though that is just not the case sometimes.
Feeling silly that you are so sad. Both times I have found this hard. But my animals are part of my family and it feels like I have lost family members when they have passed away. You know, I have found that some of my friends really get it, some just don’t. More people understand about Ziggy as all of my friends knew him and what a big part of our lives he was. However with Stanley, some non- horsey people just didn’t understand. My good friends did, so I surrounded myself with them. But you can’t pretend to be happy all the time if you are sad. Talk to the people that do understand and try and keep busy if you feel like you can.
Carrying on. Now both times this has been hard. I found being in my apartment without Ziggy very hard. The silence is unbearable. My mind actually played tricks on me too, I kept thinking I could hear him and expected to see him. But it is seemingly better each day. I’m afraid that time is the only thing that will help in this situation. With Stanley, my routine changed completely. I didn’t have to go to the stables everyday and day by day I got used to that. It just took a bit of time.
Missing them. For me this is the hardest part. It is inevitable you are going to miss them terribly. This is normal and it is ok to feel sad. I find getting up and not walking Zig the hardest. But even now a few weeks down the line it is better. Some days are easier than others of course and the last few days have been really good but today for some reason I really miss him. But I’m afraid it will just go like that. Try and think of some happy memories you shared together and I find keeping busy has really helped. I know that I will miss him for a long time but I have to remind myself what a lovely life he had and am actually relieved he didn’t become really ill and suffer before he passed away.
Unfortunately I think time is the best healer. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t feel guilty or silly that you feel sad. Feel the feelings and let them out! I assure you, you will feel better. On the other hand, if you aren’t a big feelings person take my hubby James’ advice – don’t dwell on things. This does really help me when I get in a sad slump, however I think I do prefer to get my feelings out! Which ever way you choose it’s fine. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
I would like to assure you too, that I now never feel upset when I think about Stanley. So much time has passed and I have healed to the point all I have is very fond memories of our time together that I will never forget. The rawness does fade and eventually you stop missing them. It doesn’t mean you love them any less than you did. It just means you have healed. I am looking forward to that point with Ziggy, as I am not there yet but already I can look back at our time together and am so thank you that we had twelve wonderful years together.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who reached out to me after hearing the bad news about Ziggy. I think nearly everyone I know contacted me, which was very nice and it meant a lot to me and James.
Please make sure you reach out to someone if you are feeling sad and have experienced a loss recently. Please speak to your family and friends and do not try and cope alone.
There are lots of websites available that may help you too. I have listed some I have come across.
Copyright of Louise Dando and In Due Horse 2019.