My Boys' Grief

My heart was still aching when Shiraz entered our lives. My mother acquired the male Maltese x shih Tzu following the tragic death of her previous fur-baby, Tia. Living next-door to her, Fudge and Merlot had regular play-dates. They loved and protected her, and cherished her as one of their own. My boys knew Tia was special, so when she left this world, their pain was intense. Fudge, a 5.y.o kelpie cross, is generally a friendly, happy boy, who loves meeting other dogs. He’s also a very emotional boy, who I’ve seen through the loss of pets before Tia. Neither he nor Merlot (a now 4.y.o Jack Russel) behaved normally in the aftermath of her death.

Their introduction to Shiraz was gradual, with the visits building in time according to my boys’ reactions. I’m not sure if this was the ‘right’ way to go about it, but it seemed to work for us. Initially, Fudge would mope around outside, as if he was crying for Tia and waiting for her return. And rather than putting on his usual tough act, Merlot wasn’t interested either. Instead, my baby boy became very clingy when Shiraz was around. It was heartbreaking to look into his deep, weepy eyes.

When he was ready, Fudge began to come inside and relax around Shiraz – as if he finally realised that his special Tia was never coming back. I then began to bring Shiraz over for longer visits when Merlot began to detach from me, and interact with the newcomer. It was baby-steps but after about three months, life was slowly getting back to normal.

My boys’ grief was not unexpected. Fudge feels things strongly, and Merlot had lost a wonderful playmate in Tia. However, despite the circumstances of their introduction, early signs had suggested to me, that he actually liked the little fluff-ball following him around. He was just a little unsure of him, as he was still consumed with grief. I hoped they would eventually come to accept Shiraz, and have the same close relationship they enjoyed with Tia.

It is now almost ten months after their loss. Merlot eventually responded to Shiraz’ playful persistence, and even took to sharing his bone – which is usually unheard of from him. In fact, he fully embraced Shiraz quicker than any other dog to come into his life. Fudge on the other hand, took a lot longer. There was never any aggression, but he was indifferent to Shiraz for quite a while. Not initiating play was very unusual for my big boy, and I wondered if he would ever recover.

Recently however, things have changed. It happened gradually, but Fudge actually started playing with Shiraz – more and more with each visit. It’s been wonderful to see, and has helped to ease my own pain. Tia may not have been my dog, but she had managed to wriggle her way into my heart and I loved her as one of my own. I would be lying if I said that Fudge has now taken Shiraz under his paw, or doted on him the same way he did Tia, but the little ball of fluff has finally become an accepted playmate. And I have finally stopped comparing him with Tia, and wishing for my boys to have the same sort of relationship they enjoyed with her. After all, Shiraz is NOT Tia. Shiraz is Shiraz - a spirited boy who is special in his own, unique way.


50 paws

Rae McInnes
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