This is a story about grief. Is it ok to grieve for your pets? How long should you grieve? Are you a bad person if you have a hard time with pet loss? The answer to these questions will vary between people. For me, pets are like my chosen family. They are the reason I survived my childhood’s emotional pains. Pure, unconditional love is hard to say good bye to and our beloved pets are filled with unconditional love.

It was the start of my third year at Black Hills State University. The day was beautiful and I reminisced as I slowly walked down the steep trail towards home. I crossed the county road at the bottom of the hill and headed for my back yard. As I passed the small house in the alley behind our fence, I was smitten by an 8 week old blue merle Australian Shepherd puppy on the neighbor’s front steps. He had cornered a large orange tabby cat at the top of the steps and was herding the cat back and forth, not allowing him to pass. Although if the cat really wanted to pass he would have, but seemed to be appeasing the puppy and playing the game!

My neighbor came out the door as I watched the puppy. She picked him up and let me hold him. I instantly fell in love. I said if she ever needed to give him away to please let me know. A few hours later I answered the doorbell to find my neighbor holding Scooby in her arms. She said her landlord would not let her keep the puppy and asked if I really wanted him. I was so delighted! I truly was in love with this dog. I can’t explain it, but it was like we had a bond that was so deep and connected; we were meant to be together. He eyes were bright blue, his fur was thick and soft like silk, and he was built like a baby panda bear. Immediately he started herding me and made me his job!

When I teach clients about animal types, I group working breed dogs into a category and describe how they need to have a job. They are not the type that would be happy hanging around relaxing with the family. They are on the job 24/7. Australian Shepherds, Cattle Dogs and Border Collies are on the top of my list! In my clinic when I try to acupuncture, laser or massage working breed dogs, they struggle with the concept of “relax!” I feel truly lucky if they rest for 15-20 minutes before they realize that they stopped working and jump back into “I’m awake now and need to go to work mode!” For them, less time is more effective than say a black Labrador retriever. Labs would love a whole hour of massage and body work and then still enjoy hanging around another hour on the couch just chilling for a while before they decide to get up and eat or chase a squirrel.