IntroductionWhen you lose a beloved pet, it’s not melodramatic to say you may feel you’ve losta major part of your heart, your family, your life. But what are you to do whenthose fellow humans around you fail to understand the enormity of that loss? It’soften tough to handle those emotions when you primarily get responses that rangefrom subtle indicators of others’ impatience with your process—such as friends whomysteriously become too busy to take your calls or to visit you while you’re inmourning—to direct-dismissal responses like, “Get over it already. It was just astupid dog. You can get another one just like it at the pound right now.”Grieving the loss of a loved one, whether he or she is human or an animal, isarguably the most difficult task we must all inevitably endure. The pain of thatloss is compounded by the withdrawal and/or rejection you may feel from those whovalue the human-animal bond substantially less than you do. It’s no wonder thatmany of us believe we must either suffer in silence—saving our tears for ourpillowcases—or deny the hurtful feelings altogether in order to appease thosearound us who can’t, or won’t, understand what we’re going through.Many of us would prefer to stuff away the painful emotions, perpetually distractourselves from them, or deny them entirely and avoid “feeling” at all costs. Thisis especially true in our American culture, wherein we spend millions on pain-relieving medications, alcohol, drugs, shopping, gambling, sex, and various otheraddictive behaviors to achieve that same emotion-avoidance end.There is, unfortunately, a high price to pay for such stall tactics, not the leastof which is missing out on the chance to be fully human, to work through the pain,and get to a place of serenity, acceptance, and a greater understanding of thevarious stages of “being”—both corporeal and spiritual.To paraphrase how my dear friend Lisa once tearfully put it after she’d lost herbeloved greyhound, Mollie, “It’s the pain and the joy and all the other emotionsyou’re forced to feel when someone you love dies that make the experience ofgrieving so rich.”The more I thought about her unusual word choice, the more wholeheartedly I agreedwith her. Allowing one’s heart to open completely to ALL the myriad emotionstangled up in loss: sadness, anger, resentment, loneliness, fear, dread, relief,guilt, wonderment, pain, and so forth, really is at the crux of human experience.And as Dr. Wayne W. Dyer quotes in his book, The Power of Intention, “We are nothuman beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a humanexperience.” We owe it to ourselves to broaden and deepen that human experience toits most profound state. Ironically, one way we do that is through ourinteractions with other spiritual beings that are here on Earth having an animalexperience.I believe there is a divine purpose for our complex humanity, just as there is adivine purpose for our profound connection to animals in general and to our petsin particular. There is something truly unique about these relationships. This maybe because of animals’ guilelessness, their unconditionally loving natures, andtheir lack of judgmental or purposefully cruel behaviors—traits seldom applicableto human beings. When such love, adoration, devotion, and faithfulness areshowered on us by our pets—with no price tag or strings attached—it allows them toburrow in to the deepest place in our human hearts, the innermost place wherein weactually acknowledge we are worthy of unconditional love and freely accept it,fears of rejection absent, all defenses down.