We Americans surely love our animals. Many American households include at least one pet. There is disagreement regarding the actual numbers, but here are the statistics for pet ownership in US households from four sources:
US Census 49%
Simmons National Consumer Study 53%
American Veterinary Medical Association 57%
American Pet Products Association 68%
Using the lowest percentage would mean about half of American household own pets. Per Statistica.com, there were about 128 million US households in 2018, so that’s 64 million owners of at least one pet.
We’re talking approximately 77 million dogs and 58 million cats. The rest of the pets in the surveys were fish, birds, small animals, reptiles, and horses.
With these high numbers, surely thousands of our creatures die every single day. So the death of a family pet has to be one of the most common life events we face. Certainly, on my pet therapy rounds at the hospital, patients often share stories about pets they’ve loved who have died.
But guess what? The acceptance of the knowledge that our pets will very likely die before us doesn’t make a difference when the pet actually dies. We feel devastated. We need hope. We need a silver lining.
My silver lining in the dark cloud of recently losing my dog Riley came in the form of the outpouring of kind responses to the sad news. Here’s how people reached out to me:
2 Remembrance gifts
6 phone calls
8 comments on my blog post Requiem for a Dog
12 sympathy cards
34 responses and 46 comments on my Facebook post about Riley dying and then 24 responses to my Thank You note to the Facebook commenters and responders
I can’t begin to express how much all of that means to me. People are so genuinely kind.
Here is a sampling of the sentiments people offered:
Through your posts and photos, Riley became a part of our lives as well. I looked forward to the posts about Riley because they brightened up my day and had a positive meaning. Thank you for sharing him.
I like to think that God offers exceptional blessings throughout a person’s life, and I believe that having an extraordinary pet is one of those divine blessings. Riley was one of those blessings. Riley loved you…It was evident each time I visited you both and in every photo you ever posted.
Any time I saw you with Riley, your love for him was so apparent. I know if love could have cured him, he’d have lived forever.
Riley reached into a lot of peoples’ hearts and pulled out a lot of love. He just had that effect.
One of the “sending forth” blessings at my church includes, “Be swift to love and make haste to be kind.”
Be the silver lining of kindness in someone’s life tomorrow.