WHAT I DID TO COPE WITH GRIEF AFTER LOSING AN ANIMAL COMPANION 

By ZOE SALVADOR 

Zoe holds Hector in her lap. To this day, she cherishes this memory. 

When I was about five years old, I was obsessed with rabbits. Words could not describe how much I absolutely adored them. From their fluffy bodies and pointed ears to those cute little button noses, I was completely in love with them. So imagine my surprise when my parents finally told me that I could have one as my animal companion. I was over the moon with happiness. 

MAKING NEW MEMORIES

The day we brought my new furry friend home was a day I would never forget. I didn’t know what to name him, so I took the first suggestion from my brother: Hector, a handsome name for a handsome rabbit.

With my parent’s assistance, we made sure that Hector got the best care possible. We actually got some of our advice from a rather well-known magazine, the very magazine you’re reading right now! We gave him a large enclosure and made sure to feed him only the kind of food that was suitable for rabbits. I also made sure to be very careful with him during playtime, mostly letting him wander around a safe area so he could become comfortable with the space. For the most part, I would simply watch him in his enclosure. It was an outdoor enclosure with a mesh covering to keep out any possible intruders.

I was so happy with him. I believed that he loved me as much as I loved him. 

DEALING WITH LOSS 

After having him for around three months, the worst imaginable situation happened. It’s an event ingrained in my mind to this very day. I found out that Hector had passed away in our garden, the culprits being the stray cats wandering around. Someone had accidentally left his enclosure open.

I still remember how my mind processed the event. The first thing I did was go to my bedroom and cry. I remember that my mom had to rush home from work to console me. I was absolutely heartbroken.

A few days later, I was still incredibly sad. My mom wanted to cheer me up, so she showed me some of the photos Hector and I had together, which she had recently developed. I took one look at those pictures and thought, “I need to make something in his honor!” 

HONORING MEMORIES

I promptly took a few of those pictures and pasted them onto an album I was saving for a special occasion. At the top of the page in broken script I entitled it, Pets Who Died.

Though that may sound a bit morbid for a five-year-old, it didn’t seem that way to me. I thought it was a great way to honor his memory. Under his photos, I would write little notes about what we did that day. Doing that helped me forget about the fear and sadness that came with his passing. That album made me think of all the happiest times we spent together.

Since then, I’ve had a much easier time dealing with grief. When my other animal companion, a beagle named Daisy, passed away in 2016, I did the exact same thing. I added Daisy to the album to honor her memory.

REMEMBERING

It’s been about 16 years since Hector has died, but the impact he had on me changed my life forever. His death is something that I no longer associate with grief. I think of him today and I only remember all the joy he brought to my life, not the traumatic end.

Without him, I might not even be a writer today. Making the Pet’s Who Died album kickstarted my interest in writing.

I’m hoping anybody out there dealing with the loss of an animal companion is able to recover, and I’m hoping that the story I shared can give you a few ideas. Sadly, I have since lost the album, but that hasn’t stopped me from making albums for my current animal companions. After all, it’s never too early to honor your loved ones!

Enjoy the time you have with them. Cherish those memories; keep them safe. The time you have with them may not last forever, but the love always will.