As they departed, I looked at the floor of the waiting room and thought, “What a mess!” and smiled. My friend and client Gary had just departed with his new Golden Retriever puppy, Grizzly. This was Grizzly’s third visit since Gary picked him up from the breeder. In fact, he was brought in within in an hour of being picked up. Gary is one of those people who just must have a dog in his life. At 13 weeks old, Grizzly is growing like a weed and has all the energy and mischief making ability of any pup his age, all without realizing just how special he really is.

Late last year, we lost Gary’s 11-year-old Golden Bear to complications of kidney failure. Over a period of nearly three years, we fought the good fight, knowing where it would all end. The end was a sad and hard day, but in retrospect a bonding for us and a dignified death for Bear Gary – we were heartbroken, as expected, but held out hope. Within weeks, he was starting to talk about getting a new Golden Retriever puppy. Often when people start considering getting a new pet so soon after the loss of another, they are looking to replace the lost pet. That can’t be done.

Each animal is a unique individual and can never be replaced. In Gary ‘s case, this was a loss he would never get over, but he would learn to live with it. What he couldn’t get over was the hole in his life and the emptiness in his home resulting from not being able to share it with a dog.

After Bear’s death, Gary and I spoke frequently, often under the excuse of me checking on him, but it was just as much for me as it was for him. You don’t treat and interact with a client and pet for as long and as intensely as we did and not become involved. We had a lot of frank talk, a lot of laughs, and shed more than a few tears together. Through that experience, when Gary told me he was ready for a new dog, I was sure it was for all the right reasons. Bear can never be replaced, but his legacy can be expanded upon.

As they departed, I looked at the waiting room and thought, “What a mess!” and smiled. The deep red carpet was covered with blond hair from Grizzly romping and playing while his Dad and I chatted and watched; the same calling card Bear left after all his visits. I started the vacuum, and watched it clean up the mess with a warm feeling in my heart.

Dr. Bland is a small and exotic animal practitioner in Oakland Park, FL. He can be reached at 954 673-8579.