They become family and nobody can take their place in your life. And that’s why having to say goodbye to them can bring unimaginable grief.
There’s a part of you that wakes up and burns forever when you realize just how much you love your pet.
You probably remember the day so vividly, where you wrapped your arms around your pet for the first time after it came home. And since then, your pet has been the most excited to see you come back home after a long day. Your cat snuggled beside you on lazy Sunday afternoons and claimed that spot on your bed for the rest of time. Your dog laid its head on your lap when you felt moments of absolute grief and made each day a little easier for you.
And the more time you spend with them, the more your realize they’re more than just four-legged animals. The grief that hits you when you realize they won’t be with you for long, especially in the last few days of your loyal friend’s life is something that can hardly be expressed in words.
1. You feel overwhelmed with grief that others might not understand
The day you lose your pet to death is one that you will never forget. Your home suddenly feels silent without those tiny paws softly moving around the house. And the thought of them fills you with so much grief. “You feel often isolated, socially because people don’t understand what you’re going through, because they might say, ‘get over it, it’s just a dog’—which is exactly the wrong thing to say,” said Bonnie Beaver, professor of veterinary medicine at Texas A&M.
2. You will never have the same strong bond with anyone else
Your pet becomes a part of the family and losing them can hurt just as much as losing a friend, a sibling, or any other loved one. “It’s not surprising to me that we feel such grief over the loss of a pet, because in this country at least they are increasingly considered family members,” says Leslie Irvine, a sociologist at the University of Colorado-Boulder. While everybody in the world could have let you down, your pet would never have. A study published on NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) found that people in disastrous situations rely on their pet for companionship and losing them can add to the stress.
Captured and captioned by photographer Ross Taylor: “’She’s always been my companion. Coco was there for me when he was on deployment,’ said Rebecca Cassity, as she fights back tears. Her husband, Drew (at right) was in the military and also struggled in the final moments. During the procedure Dr. McVety reassures her with a hug and consoling words: ‘This is better treatment than any one of us would get.’”
3. You lost the love and comfort of your best friend
It takes you so long to stop thinking about them because the thought of your pet was a source of deep love and comfort for you. A study in ScienceDirect even found that people who had pets might be more satisfied with their pet relationships than the other relationships in their lives. The kind of unconditional love that your pet gave you, it’s a love you know that nobody else in your life will have the heart to offer. In the most devastating situations, you no longer have your pet to comfort you anymore.
Captured and captioned by photographer Ross Taylor: I don’t feel so good right now,” said Jennifer Hoch, at right, as before she kisses Shadow, her cat, goodbye. Shadow was dying of cancer, and Jennifer was clearly in a bit of shock. I felt so much sadness for her, as well as her friend, Ruby Nelms (at left). Nelms said,“I wouldn’t let her go through this alone.” As Shadow passes away, Jennifer kept repeating, “It’s ok baby, it’s ok.” One of her final words to her was, “You’re my angel.”
4. You miss the old routine you had with your pet
The impact they had on you can change so much about your life. You woke up when they woke up. You walked around the garden and watched them curiously exploring their territory, and you couldn’t go a day without their goofy little antics. And now that they are gone, you can’t remember what life was like before they came into your life. You will dearly miss having your dog beside you as you went out to the park or miss the warmth of your cat, purring on your lap as you scratch their face.
Captured and captioned by photographer Ross Taylor: “’I always felt safe with him,’ said Juliet Rubio as she laid by her dog, Dingo, who is 12. ‘I hate this, I hate this,’ she said over and over again before the passing of Dingo. ‘He’s given me so much comfort.’ As he started to die she cried over him saying over and over, ‘I love you, I love you. Soon, you’re going to be free again.’
5. You will always feel guilty and wonder if you could have done something differently
From the day you brought your pet home, they filled your life with excitement and joy. But once they pass on, you will always wonder whether you did enough for them. You will even ask yourself what else you could have done to keep them alive or push them on to live a little while longer. The only thing that keeps you going is that they are no longer in pain, no longer suffering, and that’s the only thought that comforts you. But you know that no human and no other pet will take their place in your heart.
Captured and captioned by photographer Ross Taylor: “’I tried to do more, I tried to do all I can. But they said there’s nothing more I can do,’ Kiara Manrique said while weeping at the loss of her dog. At left is her sister, Kimberly, and veterinarian Nil Wilkins (unseen) who later reached out to comfort her.
Last Moments is a photo essay by photographer Ross Taylor to capture the final moments of a pet’s life and the heart wrecking grief the pet owners experience as they say one final goodbye. Shared on Instagram, these photographs highlight the intense emotion that comes with losing a loved one. Here are a few more photos from the series:
“I can still remember the heat of the summer day on the farm, thick with humidity. As dusk settled, Dr. Dani McVety, Rob Peterson, Erin Vaccaro and Carrie Peterson gathered around Asia for some tender rubs, moments before she was put to sleep. The care Dr. McVety provided for them in this fragile moment was impressive, and helped a painful moment pass a little easier.”
“As Dr. Erica Unz began the final injection into Mimosa, Wendy laid down onto the floor beside her dog. She started crying and repeated over and over again, ‘I love you so much, I love you so much.’ In the background is her husband, Rich. Not long after, she looked up to Unz to see if her dog had passed. She told her yes. At this moment, Wendy started to cry out loud. Unz moved quickly to comfort her with a hug.”
“Marquita Leibe paced back and forth shortly before bending down to be near her dog, Daisy, minutes before she is put to sleep. At right is her husband, Donald. Shortly after, he stepped outside to compose himself, overwhelmed with grief.”
“‘I hoped I could give him a magic pill to make him better,’ Gary Clay said of his dog, Woody, under his breath as his dog slipped away. ‘Good boy Woody, good boy. I’m going to miss you.’ • ‘Last Moments,’ is a photo essay that explores the intimacy of the human-animal bond – specifically, the last moments before, and after, the passing of a pet at home with their owner. It is a somber, and intense, testimony to the bond and the pain that comes when it is broken.”