The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Loss of a Pet

I am tortured with the knowledge that my dog will soon die.














































(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Loss of a Pet 

I am tortured with the knowledge that my dog will soon die.

(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner: Steve, you're having some problems feeling a little down and out?


Steve: Yes I am.


Dr. Kenner: And you also have problems because you have a pet that is aging?


Steve: Yes.


Dr. Kenner: Tell me about how those two go together and what's going on?


Steve: She is just old. I know that she's old.


Dr. Kenner: She is who? I'm assuming a dog?


Steve: My dog, I'm sorry.


Dr. Kenner: How old is she?


Steve: She is roughly nine and a half years old.


Dr. Kenner: What type of dog?


Steve: That's a really good question. She's cute, that's all I can say.


Dr. Kenner: We got ours at the pound, so we had three dogs - actually we've had four dogs over the years - and we had three at once and they were wonderful. Two of them were wonderful mutts. So tell me, what's the depression about?


Steve: Every time I look at her, I know that she is getting old and I just have a hard time facing losing her.


Dr. Kenner: Okay. And so you're basically experiencing what in psychology is called grief, but it's anticipatory grief. Whenever you lose a top value, a person or a pet, a loved pet in your life, and you start to think about life without that pet, if you absolutely love the pet or the person and you don't feel sad, depressed, down and out, there's something wrong with you. Basically, it's proper to feel the grief or the anticipatory grief. It's proper. Actually that helps your mind cope a little better, if you know what's happening. It helps your mind cope better when the loss occurs, because you've already done some of the making the mental connections that you need to make that this dog won't be with you your whole life. What is your dog's name?


Steve: Her name is Smiley.


Dr. Kenner: Smiley. That's hard too.


Steve: She smiles.


Dr. Kenner: The dog smiles? Is it a fun, playful dog?


Steve: Oh yeah. She loves everybody. Everybody is her friend and every time she looks at me she gives me a grin.


Dr. Kenner: So you've brought her up well.


Steve: She's a good kid.


Dr. Kenner: That's hard too, because some people don't have dogs that are like that. Dogs, like people, come in all different varieties and some dogs snap, they bite, they might let you pet them a little bit and then they turn on you and growl. 



Steve: She's my best friend and she comes to me and whenever I'm down, she always does something stupid to make me laugh. 


Dr. Kenner: She's not critical of you.


Steve: No.


Dr. Kenner: She's not snapping. One of the values of having a pet or a more intelligent pet, in terms of you're not telling me you have a goldfish, you have a dog, and they have a more advanced awareness. It's not as wide as a human's, obviously, there's a whole different dimension when you bring a human into the picture, but a dog can be so playful and can reflect your own sense of life and it feels like you both are on the same wavelength. That's what you've created, so partly you want to feel proud of yourself, Steve, that you've been able to develop this bond with your dog, which tells you what in the future?


Steve: I'm not sure I follow you?


Dr. Kenner: The fact that you've had your dog for how many years? You said she's nine and a half, but I don't know if you've had her for - 


Steve: About eight years.


Dr. Kenner: Eight years. And you've been able to develop a bond with your dog that is playful and joyous and lighthearted and whatever other advantages you have with your puppy. Not a puppy, but we called our dogs puppies.


Steve: She is at heart.


Dr. Kenner: They were always our puppies, and just like your kids are always your kids, right? And she is your best friend, so you need to allow yourself, number one, to grieve and to know that it's normal. The anticipatory grief. You need to recognize that you are capable of that bond. Focus on yourself for a moment, that you were capable of creating that bond with the dog. Which means that you're capable of creating those types of close bonds.


Steve: Okay.


Dr. Kenner: How might that help you going forward?


Steve: I can see that.


Dr. Kenner: You want to spell it out clearly - I'm capable of being playful. Do you have friends?


Steve: Oh yes I do.


Dr. Kenner: Do you have that bond with your friends too?


Steve: Somewhat, in a joking manner. My intimate private life is only shared with my dog. My private thoughts and that. My friends, I only have one that I do share with.


Dr. Kenner: And you can trust that friend?


Steve: Yes I can.


Dr. Kenner: Phenomenal. Is this a male or female friend?


Steve: A male friend.


Dr. Kenner: So you want to know about yourself, that the qualities that you bring to the relationship with your dog, you actually have with a buddy. And he may not have that same intimacy of being there every day, but you have a very close friend. Have you been married in the past?


Steve: Yes I have.


Dr. Kenner: How old are you now?


Steve: 53.


Dr. Kenner: Have you considered it again?


Steve: No.


Dr. Kenner: Okay, so the dog is the substitute companion?


Steve: Correct.


Dr. Kenner: You know, your dog is in one sense irreplaceable. We had our dog Jason and we had another dog after that - we had three other dogs after that - but Jason was unique. Jason was a phenomenal dog. The other dogs, Sheppy was a shepherd, not unusual, brought other qualities to the table. He was my dog. But Jason, my husband had a lot more time to connect with Jason. If you have the time, you can eventually get another dog, but that's really not good of me to tell you that now. It's like telling someone who is going through the death of a loved one, "Oh, you can remarry in the future." I want you to know that you have the capacity to develop friendships, and you can consider even getting closer with your buddy.


Steve: Okay.


Dr. Kenner: Know that it's grief. Know that you'll have many tearful moments and that it's normal.


Steve: Thank you.


Dr. Kenner: You're very welcome Steve. Thank you for the call.


Movie clip - Independence


Male: I've brought them up here to illustrate the point of conformity. The difficulty in maintaining your own beliefs in the face of others. Now, we all have a great need for acceptance, but you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others might think them odd or unpopular. The herd may go, "That's baaaaad." 


Dr. Kenner: That's from Dead Poet's Society. They're laughing there, but how hard is it for any of us to hold our own when a lot of people or important people in our life disagree with us? You might say, "I really love this book," and someone says, "How could you ever read that?" And you go, "I really didn't like it." You change your song. And you betray yourself every time you do that. Or, someone says, your husband might say, "Where do you want to go on vacation?" "Wherever you would like honey," when that's not the case. There are many places your husband would like to go - maybe he'd like to go fishing and you don't want to spend the whole vacation fishing. You want to hold onto yourself. You want to be able to value your own mind, your own values, to name them to yourself, to take them out of the closet, dust them off and give them a hug. I love those values, whatever they are. Whether you love gardening, whether you want to go back to school for a new career, whether you're passionate about the career you're currently in and want to grow it. Whether you love your kids and take a lot of value in bringing them up properly and really do the research to figure out why you stumble at times. You want to value your own life and that will make you happy. Not sacrificing, not dutifully following what other people want, not conforming. But truly figuring out what you want in life and pursuing your goals. Not stepping on other people and not letting them step on you.