For many people, losing a dog can be just as traumatic as losing a family member. Feelings of anger, denial, sadness and guilt can occur. Everyone grieves over the death of their dog differently, some people need to bring a new dog into their home very quickly, some need more time, others choose to never have a dog of their own again. Simply because the loss was a dog does not mean they can be replaced or that we should ‘get over it’. It is the same grief whether it is due to a person or an animal.
I had to say goodbye to Ben over two months ago and the wound is still very raw. He was such a big part of my life and so very loved. Having epilepsy meant that the circumstances of Ben’s death were very traumatic, and such is the human condition that I am always asking what I could have done to prevent it or what I may have done to cause it. That’s the thing about grief, we are the ones left behind and we need to learn to live with the burden of grief.
Many people have asked me what my plans are for the possibility of a new dog. At this stage, I cannot even contemplate adopting another dog of my own. However, it is not in my nature to sit stagnant for long and the thirst for learning, through a new dog, is still very much alive within me.
The solution has come from an organisation called SEDA, Seeing Eye Dogs Australia. It is SEDA’s mission to provide freedom and mobility for people who are blind or visually impaired, by providing them with trained Seeing Eye Dogs. It takes up to two years and $30,000 to successfully train and pair a Seeing Eye Dog with a client, and SEDA does not receive any Government funding. SEDA relies heavily on the dedication of volunteers, and this is where I thought I could help, and yes, they could help me.
Recently I was approved to become a temporary carer for SEDA. SEDA has many dogs, all at different stages of training and development, and many of these dogs require temporary care. They may need a break from training, require care after an operation, a break from the kennel environment, or their full-time carers may be going away.
I thought that this was the perfect way to do something with my grieving time. Having different dogs and puppies in my home on a part-time basis is a great way to help a wonderful organisation and continue my learning and teaching. Besides, a dogless dog trainer does not make much sense to me.