One question we’re often asked is, “when is the right time to look for another pet?”
Of course the honest answer is that there isn’t one simple response – some people are so distraught by their previous bereavement and accompanying grief that they never want to have to go through the process of losing a friend again. Others may feel that they still have so much love to give, and by welcoming a new pet into their lives they are able to honour the memory of a much-missed friend. And sometimes, as is so often the case in life, fate steps in and circumstances take over before you’ve had chance to rationalise or consider – sometimes you just know (or you just can’t say no!)
What we can say with certainty is that grief and loss are incredibly powerful, personal experiences that cannot be defined or explained. None of us will ever know how we will cope with loss, and indeed the level of ‘coping’ will vary hugely from day to day. That’s why the best advice is usually to wait a while before deciding on a new pet; and only you can decide how long this time needs to be.
Some practical factors to consider might include:
- What else is going on in your life? If you are about to undergo a period of change or stress, such as moving home, switching jobs, taking a holiday or undergoing an operation, it would be sensible to delay bringing home a new pet until such a time as you are able to commit the required time and resources to helping him or her settle in.
- Your general sense of positivity. Whilst none of us ever forget the much-loved friends we have lost, for most people a time does come when we are able to think about the predominantly happy memories of our time with them, rather than dwelling on the more recent time without them. Once you have reached this point, you may feel that it is appropriate for you to move forward with a new friend, a new relationship.
- Fostering or looking after pets for friends and family. It can be difficult to know for sure if you are ready to take on a new pet, and so fostering for a local rescue centre can be a great way to enjoy some time with a new friend, without the full commitment. Similarly, offering holiday care for a dog or cat known to you is another good way to test out how you are going to feel about having another animal in your life.
Often we may feel guilty if we bring home another companion – it can seem as though we are trying to replace a friend, attempting to fill a very specific pet-shaped hole with another pet. Of course this is not the case – those of us who care for animals are drawn to the individual personalities and traits of each. We don’t simply ‘get a new pet’; we choose to share our love and our lives with a unique character. Nor do we just ‘get a dog’, we welcome George, or Spot, or Snowy into our home and our heart.
So whilst we can’t tell you when is the right time to bring home a new friend, we can tell you that you shouldn’t ever feel guilty about doing it. You will know when the time is right, and it won’t matter what anyone else says. Sharing your life with a furry friend is both a privilege and a joy, and denying yourself the opportunity to love and be loved again would be such a shame – especially when there are so many animals looking for a lap to sit on, and adventures to share.
Until next time, very best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support