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How Do You Cope When Things Go Horribly Wrong?

Oh boy, I wish I knew the answer to that question. It’s been 11 years since my dog Jordan was killed in a hit and run, and I’m still trying to cope with it. So, while I’m no expert in actually coping, I’ve had plenty of experience trying to cope.

Poignant Words

I jotted down the below dialogue between two characters from an episode of Law And Order: Criminal Intent. The basic story was that, despite doing everything by the book, a tragic mistake resulted in a death. Here’s the conversation:

Character 1: You have to accept that it’s possible to do all the right things and still get a bad result.
Character 2: How? How do you accept that?
Character 1: With time you learn to live with it.

The above dialogue struck me as important because, while it’s vital to find ways to cope after a tragedy so that you can put one foot in front of the other, ultimately you need to learn to live with what happened. And that was something, up until that point, I’d never even attempted to do.

Still Angry, After All These Years

Up until that point all I’d done is rage against how Jordan was killed.

I expended a lot of energy torturing myself with questions. Why did I decide to go for a walk at that exact time? Why did I take that route? Why didn’t I use a harness or a head halter instead of clipping the lead directly onto Jordan’s collar?

I also devoted a great deal of time to loathing the driver who hit Jordan and drove off, cursing him or her for being heartless and irresponsible.

And, last but not least, I unloaded countless curses upon the woman who proved utterly useless in performing the simple task of holding a lead. You see, I’d attached a lead to a little stray dog, and this woman whom I asked to help me couldn’t hold the lead for a few seconds without freaking out. As a result, my attention was pulled in too many different directions when Jordan slipped his collar.

(Ironic, right? My dog was killed in a hit and run while I was trying to prevent another dog from going onto the road and being hit by a car. A further irony is that the little stray dog ran off in the commotion after Jordan was hit, and to this day I have no clue what happened to him. I can only hope that he got home okay.)

I’m sure you can see from what I wrote above that I’m still angry. It’s certainly not the volcanic fury that I used to harbour, but I’m still bitter and resentful. I unfortunately haven’t managed to find anything resembling peace with regards to Jordan’s death. I’m still working on that.

Moving Forward

Back to the television conversation I related above. Finding a way to live with what happened to Jordan was clearly something I needed to do, but (as I’m sure you know) realising what you must do doesn’t necessarily make it easy to do. Nevertheless, it’s something to aim for, as is finding forgiveness for those who were responsible (and that includes me) for the tragedy.

I also believe that it helps to analyse what happened, so that you can do everything possible to try to avoid the same happening again in the future. And I’m NOT talking about playing the blame game here (I’ve played – and, unfortunately, still play - that useless game enough to know what a terrible waste of time it is). I’m talking about striving to do better.

In my case, striving to do better meant NEVER clipping a lead directly onto my remaining dog Jake’s collar (and, later, to Jasmin when she became a member of the family). Instead I'd clip the lead to either a harness or a head halter.

One thing I didn't change, though, is that I still help stray dogs. I don’t regret trying to help that lost dog, and have helped many strays since that terrible day (although these days I never solicit the help of a passing stranger).

No Definitive Answer

Finally, back to the question I originally posed about how one can cope when things go horribly wrong: the answer is that I don’t have a definitive answer. This is for two reasons: one, because I struggle with it myself and, two, it's different for every individual.

What is definitive, though, is that it's crucially important that you continue to look after the remaining dogs in your care despite whatever tragedy occurred. Your dogs are depending on you - don’t let them down.

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Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance

It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.

Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.

Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.

Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.

Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.

If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.

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