Many non-pet owners can’t understand the love people have for their pets. They dress them, groom them, cook special food for them, have expensive toys, etc. They even refer to their pets as their children. I don’t have a pet, but my cousins and aunt do (and apparently, I have a four-legged first cousin).
Seeing all of this pet love up close has given me a little insight into the love between a person and his dog. I can understand somewhat how pets are really a part of the family as any other member. And it can be devastating when a pet dies. The owner/parent does mourn in his or her own way.
Recently, I received an email from someone who couldn’t understand why someone couldn’t just get over the loss of his longtime pet and family member.
I’ve been out with someone a few times. Last week he canceled a date because his dog died suddenly, and he couldn’t bring himself to go out on a date that night. We rescheduled. He called a few hours before the rescheduled date, apologizing, but said he still wasn’t up to dating and he wanted to reschedule again.
I want to know if this is normal behavior. It’s not like his grandmother died. I get it. His dog died. He hardly spoke about the dog while we were on dates, so it wasn’t like I was familiar with the dog and their “relationship.” Is it normal for him to cancel, reschedule, and cancel again over the death of a pet? I don’t own a dog, cat, fish, or bird, so I wouldn’t know.
Thank you for your letter, Shira.
There’s the short answer and the long one. I’ll provide both.
Short answer: Yes, it is normal for someone to grieve the death of a pet they’ve had for many years and loved very much. Would you rather go out with him, and have him not invest his whole self because he’s thinking about his dog? I don’t think so. It wouldn’t be fair to either of you.
Now for the long answer. I will begin by letting you know that I am not a pet owner either. The closest I came was owning a goldfish that was given to me in sixth grade. I kept Coco alive for nearly a year. The water was changed every week, he was fed daily. No matter that I kept him in the empty cut-open Coke bottle I had since the day I brought him home with me on the school bus; I cared for that fish. And then one Friday afternoon, when I knew my father would be changing the water in “the tank,” I heard him scream, and that’s when I knew Coco was gone. I was a sorry about it. But I quickly recovered and moved on. In no way am I saying owning a fish is like owning an animal that you can actually interact with and share emotions with, but I was sad for a few minutes. So now compound that by having a dog (or cat for cat people) that you’ve had for years, probably even grew up with, suddenly die. He/she isn’t there to greet you at the door when you get home anymore, or there to cuddle with when you feel down, or there when you want to play fetch or go on a run. Maybe you can understand it as if a friend moved away – except this friend will never call or write.
It doesn’t matter if “Avi” didn’t speak about his dog at length on each date. If he did, would you be asking me if it’s normal for someone to talk non-stop about his dog? You could have also written, “He casually mentioned that the dog he had from childhood just died and he didn’t seem to care. Is that normal?” It’s a no-win situation. Are the canceled dates a deal-breaker for you? Do you think he was too attached to his dog and is overexaggerating his feelings? Are you thinking that this makes him soft and emotional, whereas you think men should be strong and never show emotion?
Since Avi appears to be grieving for his dog, I’ll take a guess that he had the dog for a long time, maybe since he was a young boy. Whether it’s a person or animal, everyone processes death differently. To ask if Avi’s reaction is “normal” is asking about someone’s emotions. One can ask if it is normal for a girl who only dated someone a few times to judge how he’s reacting to something he finds devastating, but she doesn’t. Not to be rude, but yes, Avi’s reaction is normal for losing his dog/best friend, and I think (my opinion only) you sound a little full of yourself to even ask this question. I’m sorry if someone’s sorrow is getting in the way of your dating life. Give Avi a little more time. Obviously, he thought he would be able to date and not feel so emotional for when he rescheduled the date with you. I’m sure he asked himself if he should reschedule again or go. No one likes to cancel or reschedule a date. Don’t judge Avi based on this. If he has feelings for you, I’m sure he’s doing his best to get to a place where he can date again (and it will be soon. If it isn’t then we can talk). Once you continue dating, leave all the negative thoughts about canceled dates and go with a fresh mind. But if I were you, I wouldn’t bring up the topic of grieving or mourning for the dog, unless Avi does. And if he does, let him lead the conversation. He may want to reminisce and needs an ear to listen. Or he may not mention anything at all. Play it by ear.
Hatzlachah to you all.