Mind Over Miller: Poetic advice on grieving


Dr. Miller's offering for owners who have lost a pet.

Every practitioner has experienced, all too often, an owner's lament at the demise of a beloved animal: "Never again. I can't go through this again. I'll never own another dog (or cat, or horse...)!"

Yet we know if this person loves animals to the degree that the death of one causes grieving so deep, so sincere, and so lasting, that sometime-eventually-he or she will find another to take its place.

Early in my career, my wife found a poem by an unknown author that expresses this grief. The poem is appropriately titled "Weak Resolution."

My wife embroidered and framed the poem, and whenever I heard bereaved clients express this vow, I would escort them to the wall where it was displayed. I would explain that they had expressed a weak resolution and that the fastest way to heal the wound in their hearts was to replace the creature that had passed on. Some promptly took my advice. Others did so long afterward, suffering the loss for longer than was necessary.

I took my own advice. Debby and I have always owned two or three dogs at any given time. As soon as one becomes old and infirm, we get a new puppy before the old one has passed on.

It lessens our sense of loss, and it lessens the mourning of our surviving dog or dogs. Call it preventive medicine. Of course this policy never replaces the loss of a true friend-a family member-but it does make it easier.

When I retired from practice, I kept only two things that decorated my little clinic when I first opened my own practice-a lamp made of a worn blacksmith's anvil and hammer and this poem, framed and embroidered by my wife. We have them still.

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