If you’ve recently lost a pet, you may not be ready to bring a new animal into your home. Some people feel that they can never open themselves to that kind of pain and grief again, while others decide to take some time before making any decisions.
There’s no universal right or wrong, only what feels right for you and your family.
As an animal lover, you may still want to incorporate animals into your life in some way. This can help you maintain some of the animal-focused aspects of your routine and give you a sense of purpose and satisfaction, even as you mourn your loss.
So how can you keep animals in your life when you’re not ready for a new pet?
Volunteer to work for an animal charity
One of the most obvious courses of action is to volunteer for a charity that rescues and rehomes animals.
Organisations such as The Dogs Trust, the Blue Cross, RSPCA, PDSA and Cats Protection all rely on help from volunteers. Dogs in shelters benefit from being walked, while socialisation is important for most pet species so you could provide valuable human contact.
It’s not just the big national charities or dogs and cats that need support. It’s worth having a look on Google (or another Search engine!) to see what smaller charities exist in your area. There may be a guinea pig or rabbit rescue that offers a cuddle with the animals in exchange for cleaning them out, running waste bedding to a compost pile at a local allotment, or handling adoption enquiries.
It’s understandable if you find being around other animals too difficult at the moment – some people feel it’s a painful reminder of what they have lost. There are other ways to support animal charities though – fundraising, manning a stall at a charity event, marketing, social media, doing the laundry, cleaning, etc. are all essential activities that contribute towards improving the lives of countless animals.
Volunteer with a specialist charity
Depending on your interests, experience and local opportunities, you may be able to volunteer with a specialist charity such as Assistance Dogs UK, Riding for the Disabled Association, The Wildlife Trusts, or Pets as Therapy.
This can be a wonderful way to enrich the lives of other people while still spending time with special animals.
Many charities are crying out for fosterers who will give animals a home on a short-term basis until a forever home can be found for them.
Some of these animals, particularly dogs and cats, may have behavioural issues or have been victims of abuse and will benefit from spending time around an experienced carer who can read their body language and help them adjust to a kinder life.
If you’re not ready to commit long-term to a new pet, foster caring can be an incredible way to make a difference.
Most charities that use fosterers will cover the veterinary costs and offer support throughout the fostering process. Charities that rescue small animals often need fosterers too, especially over the winter when indoor space is at a premium.
Borrow a pet
You may have heard of The Cinnamon Trust, a nationwide charity that provides care and support for the pets of elderly or terminally ill people.
Through the Cinnamon Trust, you may be able to walk a local dog on a regular basis, feed and hang out with a cat, or care for small animals in the pet’s own home. This can give older people or someone with a terminal illness peace of mind that their animal’s needs are being met, even if they are unable to provide practical care themselves.
Another option is Borrow My Doggy, a website that connects dog carers with dog ‘borrowers’ for walks, weekends and holidays. The idea is that, instead of leaving a dog at home alone all day or limiting their exercise because their carer doesn’t have the time or health to walk them, willing borrowers can step in to walk them instead. The creator of the site, Rikke Rosenlund, set it up after walking her neighbour’s dog; she realised lots of people would love a dog in their lives on a part-time basis and that many dog carers could do with a helping paw.
Closer to home, do you have a friend who would let you walk their dog occasionally or who needs a reliable pet sitter for when they go away? Maybe you could join them on their daily walk from time to time?
Donate or fundraise
Again, if you’re not ready to spend lots of one-to-one time with animals, you could still make a difference by donating to your favourite charity or supporting their fundraising efforts.
Animal charities are often over-stretched and under-resourced, and rely on donations from the public to continue offering vital services.
The world needs animal lovers like you. As heartbreaking as your grief is, it’s a sign of your kind, loving heart. There are so many animals in the world that need help and a compassionate touch that whatever you decide to do, the world will be a better place for it.
Until next time, Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support