SNIFF NOTES: Heartfelt Reflections on the Bond Between Humans and Their Beloved Pets


One of the toughest aspects of having an animal is often the moment we have to say goodbye. Our animals don’t live as long as we do and for many of us, it can be an incredibly devastating loss.

I’ve talked to a lot of people over the years who, after they suffer that kind of loss, can’t bring another animal into their home. They just can’t open themselves to that kind of heartache again because the pain is just too much.

While I don’t necessarily understand it, I respect their viewpoint. A lot of people aren’t able to put their heart on the line time and time again.

But for those of us who have loved more than one four-legged soul in our lives, I found a beautiful picture a few years months ago that sums it all up from a dog’s perspective.

It’s called “A Dog’s Will and Testament” and the final lines say, “So, when I die, please do not say, ‘I will never have a pet again, for the loss and pain is more than I can stand.’ Instead, go find an unloved dog, one whose life has held no joy or hope and give MY place to HIM. This is the only thing I can give…The love I left behind.”

It’s utterly poignant and gorgeous and so very true.

Through all of my conversations with like-minded animal-lovers about what it means to share your life with a pet, I must say my I had a conversation recently that really opened up another perspective.

I was talking with an animal-lover who recently lost her beloved pup and she realized that she couldn’t be without an animal in her home. She told her husband that she felt as though she had lost a part of her identity, a part of who she was, when she had to say goodbye to her dog.

She said she identified as a dog owner and without a dog in her life, she didn’t feel like herself. She didn’t feel whole.

I told her then, as I’m telling you now, that I’ve never heard it expressed quite that way before and it was impressive.

Our animals really are a way we establish who we are, aren’t they? Even on bad days, when life really hammers you down and you find it a struggle to get back up after tough times, isn’t it comforting when an animal looks to you for love and comfort and sustenance?

Doesn’t it make you feel just a little bit better when those green eyes or brown eyes give you that look of love?

Doesn’t it, in some respects, make you who you are? That even if your job or your significant other or your family or other aspects of your life get you down, isn’t it nice to think, well I’m Cooper’s mom, too, and he really loves me, so that’s gotta count for something, right?

I know there are many times when I’m snuggling with my cats when I realized how special our relationship is and it makes me happy to not only have them as a part of my life, but that I’m also a part of theirs.

Our animals really do become a part of who we are – their existence in our lives does speak to our identities.

And maybe that’s how it should be.

Maybe people would truly feel good about themselves if they called themselves Rusty’s Dad or Grayson’s Mom. Maybe it would be just a little easier to face struggles in our lives if we thought about our pets in that way.

I think the best way to sum it up is with the memorable quote, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.”

I bet a lot of us are the world to our animals and it’s really important to remember that.


Jennifer Vanderau is the Publications and Promotions Consultant for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter and can be reached at [email protected]. The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at 263-5791 or visit the website CVAS also operates a thrift store in Chambersburg. Help support the animals at the shelter by donating to or shopping at the store.

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