Pets are family. Anyone who has a dog or cat knows that their furry little one is a precious treasure. Even when they pee on the carpet. Or vomit in the car. At least pets don’t grow up, leave home and only come back for money and food. But I digress.
One of the hardest parts about having a pet that becomes one of your best friends is when it comes time to say goodbye. Not just leaving your loved one behind when you travel out of town on vacation. I mean goodbye, yeah, like forever.
I remember when my mom called me after having to put down our dog. He had lived with us since he was a puppy. I was so devastated that I had to leave work and go home. My neighbor couldn’t leave the house for weeks after her Siberian Husky died. It seems to me that there should be more pet loss support groups to assist people with the process of grief.
For some curious reason, we can forgive our pets more easily than we forgive ourselves or forgive our families. Pets never become workaholics spending every minute away from home and destroy families by eloping with a co-worker. Pets don’t physically or verbally abuse their family members. Pets don’t eat the last slice of chocolate cake. The simple truth is that sharing your life with a pet is one of the purest expressions of love in this world.
Recently I found a gentle and compassionate website that helps pet lovers who have experienced a loss. Pet Loss is a website which specializes in support, information and advice about how to deal with your grief.
Another consideration before making a decision to own a pet is to understand the life expectancy for each individual breed. According to this WebMD Healthy Pets article
“All dog breeds are the same species, yet they age at very different rates,” says David Waters, DVM, PhD, professor and associate director of the Purdue University Center on Aging. “We still don’t understand why.” What veterinarians do know is that the larger and heavier the dog, the shorter its lifespan. Plus females live longer than males. Yeah, where have I heard that one before?
The article continues, “Many purebred dogs come with a laundry list of health issues that can cut into their life spans. Some issues are specific to just one breed, while others can be a problem in many breeds. Owners can play a big part in increasing their pet’s life span. Good nutrition, proper exercise, not letting pets become obese, and proper veterinary care will help pets live healthier, longer lives.
The American Kennel Club lists the most popular dog breeds from 2008 and their average life span, according to The World Atlas of Dog Breeds.
- Labrador retriever — 10 to 14 years
- Yorkshire terrier — 12 to 15 years
- German Shepherd — 10 to 14 years
- Golden retriever — 10 to 12 years
- Beagles — 12 to 14 years
- Boxers — 11 to 14 years
- Dachshunds — 12 to 14 years
- Bulldogs — 10 to 12 years
- Poodles — 10 to 15 years
- Shih Tzu — 11 to 15 years
- Miniature Schnauzers — 15 years or more
- Chihuahuas — 15 years or more
- Pomeranians — 13 to 15 years
- Rottweilers — 10 to 12 years
- Pugs — 12 to 15 years
- German shorthaired pointers — 12 to 15 years
- Boston terriers — about 15 years
- Doberman Pinschers — 10 to 12 years
- Shetland Sheepdogs — 12 to 14 years
- Maltese — 15 years or more
Bottom line, enjoy your pet whether you spend a few happy years together or more than a decade. If you need help breaking through a devastating loss then perhaps you can start your own pet loss support group. This Wall Street Journal article about Toledo veterinarian Dr. Alan Moore at Trilby Animal Hospital has some excellent ideas about how to make it happen.