Dear Amy: I know you are an animal lover, and so I would appreciate your perspective on this.
I’m a veterinarian and always offer sincere condolences when a client loses a pet. I will send a card, make a donation to an animal charity, and often follow up with an e-mail or phone call.
Recently I lost my much-loved dog, and have been slightly appalled at the reactions of people I have known for many years. The general attitude has been that I “should be used to it.”
A veterinarian never gets used to it. It is such a helpless feeling to not be able to cure your own pet, even when you know that everything possible has been done.
I am trying not to have hard feelings over this, but it’s difficult.
Amy says: I am so very sorry. Every person who has lost a beloved pet grieves the end of a friendship that is very hard to describe but should be easy to understand. Losing this connection brings on a special sort of heartbreak.
I’ll quote the late poet Mary Oliver, whose collection “Dog Songs: Poems” (2015, Penguin) is a tender, touching and funny tribute to the dogs who romped through her life: “Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. / It is no small gift.”
You should not have to interrupt your own grieving in order to continue to educate humans about animal loss, and yet, if the people in your world don’t get it, perhaps you should let them know exactly how you feel.
You might say, “My own experience treating animals has not hardened my heart toward any pet’s suffering and death — and certainly not my own dog’s. I will never get used to this sort of loss.”
Ex still in the picture
Dear Amy: I started dating my husband in 2012. We’ve been married for six years.
He and his ex were married for 13 years. They have two boys that I have helped to raise. They are now adults.
My husband’s ex-wife is a wonderful person. She is very close with my mother-in-law, which is fine.
My problem is that I have just now started to meet the “family” and I still don’t know all of them.
Whenever there is a family function on his side, my husband’s ex always is invited. I feel like no one will ever know me because she still is there at all the functions. We have a graduation party to go to and she is invited to that.
I don’t have a problem with her personally, but I would like to experience family things with just that family. Am I asking too much?
Amy says: Your husband’s ex remaining close with his family could be nice for families that can manage it. But most can’t.
Think of it this way: If she was a sister-in-law or close family friend who was present at every family gathering, her presence wouldn’t prevent you from getting to know everyone any more than any other individual’s presence would.
In short, I’m suggesting that you ignore her status as your husband’s long-ago ex and concentrate on your own best behavior. Be cool, be calm, ask caring questions and let your in-laws see your sparkle.
You can cement these relationships further by hosting some of your in-laws at your own home in smaller groups (it is not necessary to invite your husband’s ex). Little by little, you would build experiences with them individually.
Send questions to Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.