The "New" Pet: When Is The Right Time?

Part I of Dr. Jeff Werber's three-part series on end-of-life issues for pets focused on when to say goodbye. Part II focused on the particulars of euthanasia. Now, Dr. Werber answers the question, "When is the right time to bring a new pet into my home?." For more from Dr. Werber, find him on Facebook or on his website at www.drjeff.com.

In Part I of this series I shared my thoughts and offered some guidelines about when to think about euthanasia, and in Part II talked about the process itself.  In this, the final, segment I want to share some insights about when to consider the “next” pet.

When discussing the idea of getting another pet after the loss of a former one, I’ve heard it all.  Nothing surprises me any more.  The sentiments are usually those of “not now,” and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “never again!”  Early in my career I often heard clients tell me that “this is the last one,” or “I won’t ever go through this again,” or “it’s too painful,” to something as strange as “Fluffy would never want me to replace him!”  It used to sadden me that after a loss like this, a fair number of clients actually felt that they would never want to open their homes or hearts again to another pet!  When hearing it, I could never believe it.  Well, now I know better!  In reality, practically EVERY one of these clients DID come back to me with a new bundle of fur—some after several weeks, some months, and even some after several years—but all did come back.  Now this does NOT surprise me!  If fact, when I hear those same comments now, clients telling me that this pet was their last, I quietly laugh inside—because now I know better!  Odds are, I will see them again.  Once you’ve experienced the joys of pet parenting and sharing your lives with pets, it’s really difficult to live without them.

When is the best time?  This is such a personal decision, one that I will often tell my clients that they will know when the time is right.  I do try to have them not anthropomorphize and tell me that their deceased pet “would not want them to replace him!”  For me, I try to open my home to a new pet as soon as possible.  Of course we take some time to grieve, but regardless of when we welcome a new pet into our home, this new pet will never erase the memory of our recently departed pet.  What works for me is the thought that I want to fill the void created by that loss, and the best way to do that is with another pet.  After a loss and the emotional drain that comes with it, we experience such an emptiness in our hearts.  Our other pets seem to feel this emptiness as well.  In my opinion, there is nothing that can fill that emptiness better than another bundle of warmth, love, and affection.  By getting a new pet (hopefully an adopted one from a shelter or a rescue), not only will you be saving a life, but you will be benefitting emotionally as well.

 I experienced something else many years ago after Woody passed, and we brought home Theo, another Black Lab—our third.  Besides being adorable, we noticed so many qualities that Theo often displayed that reminded us so much of Thor and Woody!  Actually Theo got us thinking more about Thor and Woody than we probably ever would have without him.  It was then I realized that the best way to memorialize a lost pet is through a new one.  That new pet will inevitably exhibit some behavior, quirk, or expression that will immediately remind you of your past pets, and bring that huge smile back to your face.  

Currently we have 11 amazing pets—five dogs and six cats—and there’s no shortage of unconditional love (or shedded hair) in our home, but despite our current crew, the memories of our past remarkable pets are forever embedded in our hearts.

If you’ve recently lost a pet, we grieve along with you, but as soon as that magical time is right, as soon as you’re ready to put some joy back into your life, go out and open your home and heart to a new bundle of love!

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent the beliefs, policies or positions of PetHealthNetwork.com, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. or its affiliates and partner companies.

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