As an animal communicator, I walk with people and their animal friends through a lot of endings and beginnings.
The pain of loss is real and raw. It deserves respect. At the same time, you are here on earth with much love to give. Plenty of animals need loving homes.
Only you know whether and when to welcome another animal into your home, but here is my perspective along with a couple of things to consider.
Eight years ago this month, I lost my much-loved Idgie, the sweet diva of a tiger cat who inspired my first forays into animal communication and Reiki. Idgie had been sick, and she and I had been saying our see-you-laters for months. Deep down, I knew other feline friends would succeed her. At some point.
When I came home from the vet clinic and faced an Idgie-less, cat-less house, the pain hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. It was all I could do to survive in the moment, much less think about the future.
Not long afterward, I read about a horrific animal cruelty case in which fireworks were tied to a kitten’s tail. Something opened up within me, and I realized how much I wanted to give another kitty a home. And Idgie had trained me so well.
One afternoon, I sat on my back porch and took a few deep breaths. My partner and I planned to visit the city shelter the next day. It was only six weeks after Idgie’s passing — was it too soon?
I connected with Idgie in spirit and asked her to guide us to our next feline companion, whenever and wherever it would best happen. What I received was her classic ears-back expression and: “Right. Like I wouldn’t be involved in that decision.”
At the shelter, Kathy and I met several kittens, but none seemed especially interested in us. Then the volunteer brought out one who was about to go to a satellite adoption center. The four-month-old black tortie prowled around the adoption counselor’s office, trying to figure out where she was and why. Then she came and sniffed both of us, accepting the gentle pets we offered.
When I sensed the kitten was open to it, I gingerly picked her up. I commented on her distinctive coloring, notably the gold streak between her eyes that seemed to stop and resume on top of her head.
“Doesn’t it look like God came along with a paintbrush?” the volunteer said.
I held the kitten so that we were eye to eye. She reached out with one tiny black paw and patted my face.
We’d been chosen.
Did the joy of welcoming Lucy erase the hurt of losing Idgie? No. I still felt like crying every time I saw a tiger cat or a picture of one that reminded me of her. Lucy succeeded Idgie, but did not replace her. One being cannot truly replace another, and there’s no sidestepping grief if we are to love fully. While I continued to grieve for Idgie, my heart filled with gratitude for the love she had given me. That love enabled me to recognize the connection with Lucy, who needed a home as Idgie had.
The only thing I can imagine that’s worse than losing a pet is never having had that animal in my life.
If you are struggling, or just wondering, here’s what I suggest:
- Pay attention to your intuition. It’s hard to do this when you are in pain. But if you can, get quiet and ask yourself if it’s time to visit the animal shelter — or contact a rescue if you’re interested in a particular breed or type of animal. If you feel a lightness or sense of excitement and joy, that indicates a yes! If there’s a heavy, sad sensation, you might want to wait.
- Adopt from a place of abundance, not lack. Another animal cannot truly replace the one you lost, or take away your pain. The last thing you want is to impose expectations on a new pet that are not about him or her at all. Stay with your grief long enough — however long that is — for your heart to open to a new and totally unique animal companion.
- Remember the animal chooses, too. (Some animals would say they do all the choosing, but you get the idea.) My experience is that each dog, cat, bird, horse, human, or whoever comes into our lives for a reason. The animals probably have a better grasp of it than we do. When you meet a prospective new companion, pay attention to the way they respond and how you feel.
Whenever you and your next animal companion find each other, you are both signing on for a beautiful, painful, and totally worthwhile adventure. You both deserve no less.