There are many ways to process the loss of a pet.
My beloved, 11-year-old dog, Schmoopy, died a year ago. It was a significant loss for me.
In 2010, my husband, Brad, had a rare form of brain cancer. He insisted that we adopt a puppy. I thought it was a ridiculous idea. However, Brad persuades me to be open to getting a puppy.
At that time, I did not know that Schmoopy was a bridge between my old life with Brad and my new life with my current husband, Aaron.
Brad and I adopted Schmoopy when he required a lot of at-home care. I was his caretaker. He had lost his mobility to cancer and relied on a wheelchair. We had added every imaginable convenience to our home to make it comfortable for a person who was slowing, physically deteriorating.
It took at least an hour to get Brad ready for bed every night and an hour to get him out of bed and dressed in the morning. Home healthcare aids stopped by three times a week to check on him, and a licensed therapist came by once a week to chat with him. And then, there was the ever-growing list of doctor appointments: the oncologist, the pain doctors, the surgeons, the neurologists, and so on.
So what did we do? We added a puppy to our situation.
We adopted a tiny, strong-willed, un-house-trained puppy. We named her Schmoopy after the "Soup Nazi" episode on Seinfeld. If you remember, Sheila, Jerry Seinfeld's girlfriend, had a strange term of endearment for him. They would argue about who was “Schmoopy”, disgusting everyone around them.
"You're my Schmoopy," said Sheila.
"No, you're my Schmoopy!" replied Jerry.
Schmoopy hated her crate. She would sleep from 11 pm to 4 am. At 4 am, she starts barking. Every. Single. Morning.
I would get out of bed, take her outside so she could do her business, and then bring her back inside. Of course, then she wanted to play, and all I wanted to do was sleep.
This schedule went on for several days.
I needed more sleep, so I had to find a win-win for Schmoopy and me.
This time when Schmoopy woke up at 4 am, I took her outside to do her business. Next, I put her crate in the backseat of my car, parked in our garage, and she slept until our alarm went off. Schmoopy slept, I slept, Brad slept, and our life got better.
Brad loved Schmoopy! She was the perfect companion for him. She would peek her head out of his partially zipped-up sweatshirt as he wheeled around our house.
Brad was determined to train Schmoopy to use puppy pads. He designed and built a contraption to safely lift and lower Schmoopy from his wheelchair to her puppy pads.
Brad believed that Schmoopy needed him. Cancer had gradually taken away his mobility. As a result, he no longer felt needed. Schmoopy filled that void and gave him a new lease on life.
I did not realize that Brad felt unneeded, so I was thrilled that Schmoopy came into his life to help him. I never imagined Schmoopy would become my lifeboat as I navigated overwhelming grief following his death.
After Brad passed away, Schmoopy was the sole reason I got out of bed every day. I preferred to stay in bed and hide from my life. However, when the sun came up, Schmoopy woke up. She would jump around my bed and bark, excitedly, until I took her outside.
Schmoopy was my social secretary. I met a lot of people while walking her. She was an extroverted, adorable dog that radiated joy — unless you were or owned a black Labrador — then you were an enemy of the Schmoopy state. People gravitated towards her happy-puppy energy, and it offered me, an introvert, an opportunity to meet people I would not have met on my own.
Six years ago, I received a text message from Aaron, my now-husband. It said: I think our dogs should meet. Our dogs met, and Schmoopy approved of Aaron and his dog Cocoa.
Three years later, Schmoppy walked down the aisle at our wedding, and she jumped into our arms right after they announced us as husband and wife.
A few years ago, I created the Parting Tails™ gift box. It includes a ritual to help people honor their pet, and process their loss. I packaged the ritual in a gift box because when you process a loss, it is a gift you give to yourself.
This past year, I used my Parting Tails™ to reflect on my life with Schmoopy. And this is what I discovered about my relationship with her. Schmoopy wasn’t just a dog. She was a bridge that met me when my old life was falling apart and left when I was on solid ground again. She was my best buddy, my social secretary, and my therapist. I am grateful she came into my life when she did and for all the memorable, amazing things she helped me accomplish during our brief time together.
God, I miss that dog.
There are many ways to process loss, like me processing the loss of my beloved dog, Schmoopy, by writing about her. If you or someone you know is processing loss, consider a gift box filled with positive rituals, care, and love. Sometimes, the simple act of giving one of our gift boxes helps someone find a way of processing loss.
Thank you for reading,
Andrea M. Tam
Founder @ Robiins
Processing loss. One gift box at a time.™