How hard and devastating it is to remove paw prints that your pets left in your life. 

Since the year began, several friends and I have been through the deaths of our pets. People react differently to this, but the closer your pet was to your heart, the more devastating it can be. A friend who lost a dog he’d received as a puppy in college asked me, bewildered, “But why do I feel so lost and empty now that Sparky is gone?”

He was embarrassed because Pinoys generally treat those who become depressed over the deaths of pets as if they are being silly. They are often told not to be so emotional, or to suck it up and get over it.

These are the words of people who do not―and perhaps never will―understand the bond that pets form with us.

Perhaps the most poignant thing I’ve heard from a friend was when she wrote on Facebook about losing Baudelaire, her cat of 16 years. Yvette Tan wrote, “Many people would say ‘she’s just a cat,’ but Baudelaire has comforted me more times than I can remember, knowing exactly when to come and snuggle when I am down. And though Baudelaire and I ignored each other half the time, it was a comfortable kind of minding our own business, because we knew that the other one was nearby, or coming home, and that trust and knowledge was enough.”

Such creatures have crossed the invisible line we often draw between them and us: when they become companions in good times and bad instead of mere animals to be cared for. They have, in other words, become friends. And everyone has the right to mourn the passing of a friend.

I had to make the decision to put our old cat Kito to sleep several years ago. He was in terrible pain and was so listless, ants were crawling on his eyes. It’s harder when you have to choose to euthanize a pet who is clearly suffering. You want to hold on, to hope that he or she will get better, but then you realize how selfish this is in light of their suffering.

No animal will ever replace a beloved pet, but you can give your love to another little soul who needs it. There’s a good reason why we say beloved animals have gone over the “Rainbow Bridge” when they pass on. Be consoled knowing that you were blessed to share your life with them, even if only for a while.

This story appeared in Animal Scene’s April 2015 issue.