The loss of a pet

Losing our beloved labradoodle Lucy has been hard. She had been really unwell last summer with a tick bite and I definitely shed a few tears back then even thinking about her passing. I remember just dreading that call I would have to make to Sarah telling her that her adored pooch Lucy was no longer with us. I was worried as I knew she would want to come back to Hong Kong but we were in the middle of a pandemic and travelling was just difficult. So when she recovered and Sarah did come back to Hong Kong, we all just treasured the fact that she was here for another Christmas. I deliberately took more photos of her and often thought about how grateful I was to get to take her for a morning walk or have her nudge me for yet another pat.

In the early evening of June 7, I made the decision to call the vet. Lucy had been breathing quite heavily and although this wasn’t abnormal for her, something inside me was like, “Nope, something is wrong, call the vet.” I am glad I trusted my gut as the vet was definitely concerned and before we knew it we were running for the ferry and on our way to the Art Veterinary hospital. Not exactly how I thought I would spend my Monday evening but I was very optimistic that we would be back home with her the following day. I also made the decision to contact Sarah and let her know what was happening. It did cross my mind not to do this as I didn’t want to worry her unnecessarily, but again, something in my gut told me that I should. At 2 am the following morning I received the call that her heart had given out and our beautiful Lucy was gone. I was shattered. I cried. I couldn’t believe it. Even though the vet had told me it was critical, I didn’t believe her. She would be fine I thought. I know I am always the “glass half full” kind of person, but I really thought she would be okay. As a close friend reminded me as I recounted this story, maybe it was just too hard to imagine the worst.

Over the past week, I have had so much love from people all around the world. They got it. The pain of losing a loved pet is real. Even though in my head I know she is a dog, not a human, but wow, it is a huge loss and I am giving myself permission to feel it. Sharing that grief with the kids has also been important. Making sure they had time to cry. Letting out the emotion is something we have to do. Otherwise, it just becomes stuck.

Being a memory keeper has its advantages. Documenting life events, both good and bad is definitely cathartic and is a part of my everyday life. I did try to make a page about Lucy in the following days after her death. But it was too hard. Just too soon. What I did do was use Google Photos to make a “Doggie Movie” that I could share on social media. (Click here to watch the video) I also decided that I was going to make a photo book that showcased 30-40 of our favourite photos of Lucy. I would include a couple of Project Life pages but mostly it would just be photos. I knew it was something I could make quite easily and quickly and be able to print multiple copies of for all the kids.

The second thing I did was open up Google docs and just write a factual account of what happened. I didn’t really want to include all the details in our family yearbook but I did want to keep a record of it. So I sat and typed. It was a couple of pages and at this stage, will just stay in my Drive. Eventually, I might upload it to Collectionaire which is a family history software I am trying out, but for now, it is written and I am happy with that.

I have used the Project Life App to create the additional pages that will be interspersed throughout the photo book. I made a title page, an “all about Lucy” page and then a couple of quote pages that will just break up the book visually. I am using Photobook Hong Kong to upload my photos and Project Life pages as it is one of the few companies here that print photo books. It will be 8x8 inches in size and I think I will go for the photo wrap cover which will include a small photo of Lucy on the front.

Yesterday I went back to the vet hospital to collect Lucy’s ashes. We selected a ceramic urn with a pretty blue and white pattern to hold her ashes. I wasn’t sure how or where to display them in our home, so I sent a quick message to my friend Kim from Lake Life Feng Shui to ask her. She was so kind and messaged back with a few tips. She suggested talking to my family about how they felt about the ashes. I am glad she said that as sometimes I just go ahead and do what I think is right, without always asking them. In fact, my younger daughter just told me how she felt about Lucy’s dog collar just sitting on the window box. She said it was “disconcerting”. Kim also mentioned that it was often best not to place them in a bedroom or close to where we all eat. Also, that as much as we want to honour her, it is often better not to have a daily reminder of her as ashes. Rather a fun photo where she was playful and happy and has that energy that we want to be reminded of! This was just SO helpful and I found much comfort in just having some guidance with this.

"A pet's love is never replaced but always remembered."