• By: Dave Gross

A punch in the gut

A punch in the gut.

An overwhelmingly heavy, heavy sadness.


Remorse. Anger. Self-frustration. Tears.

A feeling unlike any other feeling; a feeling that no one else gets it or cares enough to understand it.

Loneliness and fear.

Sounds like a hefty case of depression, doesn't it?

It probably is.

Enduring the loss of your pet is a devastating course. One that veers off into dark, uncharted waters. Waters you'd prefer to skip.

Such is the case for me.

Twice in the past 4.5 years I have lost my precious and precocious best friends.

First Hollywood in the summer of 2015. And just a few weeks ago, Duke, my rescue, had to be put down.

I was there for both final moments. It was the honorable thing to do, show up and be there for them in the last stage. They'd been there for me – showing up – through every stage, thick or thin, thin or thick.

Getting to that table in the veterinarian's office was struggle enough, but what came afterwards – and continues today – is far more of a vicious war.

Grief. Monumental m-f-ing grief.

If there is a document out in the wild blue yonder that tells you how to grieve and how to grieve properly send it my way. But clearly there are no set rules. Just suggestions.

Pets give you structure, and God knows we all need structure. This is particularly true of dogs (I've had both cats and dogs).

Dogs don't sleep in. Sure they'll sleep the day away, God bless them, but when 6:30 or 7 a.m. clangs, it's time for a walk around the neighbourhood. No questions asked. When it's time to go, it's time to go. Ditto for the evening stroll.

The loss of that everyday structure is torture. I've actually tried walking the route myself when my two guys left, by myself, but that just makes my heart want to drop onto the pavement. Not suggested.

Next to structure, we lose that bended ear that always listens. Listens to your triumphs and your disappointments and your complaints and – sometimes – just how your day is going. Listens without judgement (I think!) or opinion.

But when you're sad, they feel it and comfort. It's in their makeup. They're there. Leaning in, looking up into your eyes.


It's a huge loss.

Hoolywood the Rottie and Duke

Dogs give us so much. It's immeasurable until you actually lose one, then you start counting the ways.

When they leave, we're left hollow and without much purpose where there once was a tonne of purpose and responsibility.

So we begin the process of grieving.

There's no improper way to do it. The message is: get on it, digest it, roll in it if you need to, and get through it eventually. Eventually, can take a very long time. Sometimes eventually doesn't come a' knocking.

I can tell you with Hollywood (the Rottie up top), my ex-wife and I tried everything to properly grieve. We cremated him and spread his ashes in his most favourite spots. We had a ceremony with readings to say goodbye. We put all his toys and dishes away out of sight.

These were Band-Aids on a Grand Canyon of a hole. But we tried.

The only thing that helped was time. People kept telling us it would someday get easier and a little more manageable and they were right. When I think of Hollywood today, 4.5 years later, the memories are pleasant and stir a smile or two. There's a lot of 'remember when?' God how I loved that dog.

Two weeks ago today, Duke (up top next to Hollywood) said goodbye.

It's been hellish, and I'm sure anyone who's lost a pet will agree. This is not fun. It's like my grief has become bipolar; one minute it's there, the next it's a little less there. But it always comes back, almost taunting me: "Thought you'd lost me, eh? Not so lucky!"

There's not much you can do about grief. It's there and it's put down roots for for however long it fancies.

So now?

The clock ticks on grief.

The damn thing can't move fast enough.