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Ask a Vet: Take time to grieve for your lost pet
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My vocation can make you a bit nutty. Or maybe you have to be eccentric to even get involved.

Either way, my job lends itself to strange behavior. Speaking of which, what’s your favorite worm?

The roundworm is your classic spaghetti worm in puppies or kittens. The common tapeworm looks like a wiggling grain of haunted rice. And ringworm, well, it isn’t a worm at all.

My favorite worm is the earworm. It is the annoying type of song that gets stuck in your head and won’t leave, no matter what you do. For me, lately, it’s not a full song, but a line from a particular tune.

In “Mr. Bojangles,” the eponymous character has a dog that dies. Just up and dies. And after 20 years, Mr. Bojangles still grieves.

That’s important in two ways. Grieving is important. It’s a part of processing loss, and it’s generally necessary to move on from a trauma. Without allowing some level of grief, our minds often get stuck in a bit of sorrow that never lets us go. So please, if you lose your pet, grieve.

I lost my longtime dog seven years ago. I got him before I needed to shave and lost him with gray in my goatee.

He was worthy of tears. Of all nonhuman matters in the world, few things are as worthy of tears as our loyal pets.

So let yourself feel that. Don’t run away with a new pet immediately after the loss. You may end up resenting the new arrival. After all, they’ll be held to an unfair standard.

Once your grieving is mostly completed — I’m still working on mine — work to move forward. We all move at different speeds. It took me five years to get another dog.

But if you find yourself or someone else overwhelmed, reach out for help. Don’t spend too much time in grief or it can drown you (see Mr. Bojangles’ example).

Clients have harmed themselves after the loss of a pet. And although my job involves medicine for pets, I care about the humans, too.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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