Opening Your Heart to a New Dog After Losing One

Last week I wrote about putting to sleep my very lame old girl, Jazzy, and I was deeply touched by how many people expressed their condolences. I was moved by the many people who shared their own stories of heartache in making that loving decision to help over the Rainbow Bridge an old dog compromised by pain and immobility, whose good days of running with their ears flapping in the wind were far in the past.

Donna Spector's puppy Gabby We know when we add a pet to our family that in all probability they will leave this world before we do, usually with us by their side, wetting their fur with our tears. Yet most of us are willing at some point to embrace that inevitable pain again, because the thought of living without our cats and dogs is impossible. However, there are some people whose pet dies and they find the sadness so unbearable they will never have a pet again — my friend Wendy, who loves dogs and has a perfect lifestyle for a pet (she and her husband are retired, are home most of the time and travel hardly at all) has kept her vow to never get another dog after hers died decades ago.

When my own amazingly special 7-year-old Weimaraner Teddy (whom I re-homed from a horrible situation when he was 7 months old) had a horrible week-long death from liver cancer, I thought I would never recover from the anguish of his prolonged death — he had 7 great years followed by 7 dreadful days, and I couldn’t bear it. But within weeks I found myself driving down to Virginia Beach from Vermont to pick up Maisie, a 9-month-old Blue Weimaraner from the rescue down there. So you really never know when your heart will be ready, and it’s not a function of how much you loved the one who has left you. This was proven by the fact that my friend Donna Spector — who is Halo’s veterinary consultant — needed a full year to be emotionally ready for another dog after she lost her dear old “bestie.”

Donna with Gabby Then I opened an email with photos from Dr. Donna of a gorgeous puppy. “It took me a year but I am IN! I already love this little girl — she better be ready for me!” As Donna described it, “This little miss is ‘Gabby’ — she is exactly 6 weeks old and is a Goldendoodle / Black Lab cross — so a fine mixed breed! How she came to me is a funny story. The owner had purchased the mother (the Goldendoodle) with the intent of breeding her one time. She did this so her kids could get the experience/responsibility. They bred her to a friend’s black Lab. One of the doctors I work with is their primary vet. One day at the clinic she asked me if I would ultrasound the mother dog so the kids could see the heart beats etc. Of course! Lo and behold there were 7 puppies. They had arranged homes for the 6 they had been expecting, so I graciously offered (eagerly slobbered over the opportunity actually) to be the home for the seventh ‘tiny nugget.’

“I just feel it was meant to be. The timing was everything: I was at the clinic on this one day — they needed one more home for a puppy. For months my husband and I had been talking about getting a new dog this spring and I had been agonizing over getting a puppy vs. adopting a rescue dog, worried about training and safety issues with my children (who are all very young). And this little girl walked into my life! The next dog we’ll all go together as a family and adopt.”

I want to be the first to send out a big shout-out to Gabby in Chicago. I know she will have an incredible life with Dr. Donna — who will have an incredible life with her, too. And it’s easier not to think about the end from the beginning, when we are marveling at the simply pure love and joy our pets offer us.

—Tracie Hotchner
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