Rachel and I recently experienced the loss of our beloved dog, Fluffy. We rescued the little Chihuahua from a puppy mill and she was our constant companion for nearly a decade. If you’ve never shared your life with a pet, you might not understand how strong that bond can be. Losing a dog can be just as traumatic as losing a friend or family member. For many of us, our pets are part of the family. They provide us with years of uncritical and unconditional love. Despite our flaws, our pets never judge us.

Mourning their loss can be difficult. Society doesn’t offer any formal ways to express just how much pain we feel when they die. Grieving the loss of a pet is a slow process. I’ve found peace and comfort in my garden.    

Admittedly, our garden has been neglected and is overgrown. Fluffy was diagnosed with cancer last November and her prognosis was poor. We didn’t think she’d make it through Christmas, but she made it through June. She was her happy, carefree self right up to the end.

Tending to the garden didn’t seem as important as tending to her. Looking back, Rachel and I were mourning her loss before she was even gone. Rachel couldn’t have been more attentive. She managed Fluffy’s meds, making sure she was always comfortable. She also made sure Fluffy never ran out of her favorite bones. Dr. Miller and his staff at the Dog and Cat Clinic cared for me and Rachel as well as Fluffy. We’re forever grateful.

After she died, keeping up with the garden was even more difficult. I’ve lost several dogs over the years, and it never gets any easier. Fluffy loved running in circles through the garden and everything reminded me of her.       

I’ve finally gotten my garden mojo back, but I know it’s going to take a while to get everything in order. The loss of a faithful companion makes us feel out of control. Gardening is a way to regain a sense of some control. Rituals and routines can help us work through painful emotions. The simple tasks of gardening can be very comforting when we feel disconnected from the rhythms of life. Planting a tree or memorial garden can provide a living reminder of our animal friends.

Rachel and Ivan Minnis are avid gardeners. They live in Leavenworth. For more information, visit The Minnis Rose Garden on Facebook. Contact them at rnlyes@hotmail.com