What It’s Like to Lose a Pet During a Pandemic

Michelle Senderhauf
6 min readJan 18, 2021

--

We don’t have many pictures of Moose as a puppy, maybe just two or three. They’re all a bit blurry. He was adorable and a handful, as most puppies are.

One of the few pictures we have of Moose as a puppy.

We were hesitant to get Moose because he didn’t pass those tests you read about on the internet when you Google “How to choose a puppy.” He was so cute and so clingy. We just couldn’t help ourselves. We thought he would maybe get over the clinginess.

Moose staring at me from my lap.

He did not.

Moose was always right there. If I was sitting on the couch, he would be curled up at my feet. If I scooted over a foot to the left or right, he would get up and curl up at my feet again. It wasn’t the horrible trait we had imagined it might be when we first considered not getting him. Hey, I never needed slippers in the winter.

He was the best little hiking buddy. He was eager to please and would go anywhere I led him. Secretly, I think he preferred the hikes he and I took through the dunes. That was where he was most photogenic anyway.

Moose at West Beach at the Indiana Dunes National Park

He loved our sweet daughter, Eve. They spent days playing in the backyard and swinging in the hammock. Once she was old enough to be away from me unsupervised, Moose would split his time between the two of us. He was always right at the feet of one of us, making sure we were both okay.

Eve and Moose at the Indiana Dunes State Park

He did have some weird quirks. He was obsessed with balloons and would sit and stare at them for an hour or more. It was like he was waiting for it to suddenly grow two legs and walk away. If we took the balloon away and hid it in a closet, he would just stare at the door. He knew it was in there.

Yes, there is a balloon in there.

Our backyard had giant spruce trees that hawks liked to sit in while they enjoyed their freshly caught meals. Moose would pick up the hawks’ discarded scraps and bring them to me with a proud look on his face. I got used to the squirrel tails and even an occasional rabbit stomach. I never got over the decapitated squirrel head he dropped at my feet. No worries, I won’t include a picture.

When he turned twelve, I noticed he stopped following me so closely. Instead, he would choose a nearby comfortable spot and settle in for hours at a time. If I got up to move, he would watch me carefully and only get up to follow if I left the room. I didn’t think much of it. He was getting old and was probably starting to feel the aches in his aging bones. Me too, buddy.

It was when he stopped getting up to follow me into other rooms that I knew something was wrong. He hardly lifted his head to watch me walk away anymore. His eyes just followed me across the room.

Moose at age 12

It was cancer. I don’t know how we were blind to the signs for so long. During a global pandemic, when we were already in shock and grieving so many other things, we missed that our poor, sweet boy was suffering. Any strange behavior (well, stranger than his normal strange behavior) was explained away as him coping with the COVID lockdown.

Now, we would have to choose to either put Moose through surgery and a long recovery or give him the best final days possible. We had agreed to make no decisions until the test results came back and we knew what we were dealing with.

We never had to make that decision.

A day or two later, he started to drip…something. Blood? Urine? We had no idea. It wasn’t good. My husband rushed him to the vet.

I was in a Zoom meeting when I got the call. There was mostly silence on the other end of the line. I could hear some sniffles and attempts to speak. I grabbed my daughter and our other dog, Nigel, and rushed down the road to the vet. The office had already been set up with COVID safety protocols weeks before—you call from the parking lot, and someone would come out to get your pet. For this, we were let in.

I looked at the little candle at the front desk. If a family was saying goodbye to a pet, the staff would light the candle to let others in the waiting room know to be quiet and respectful. No one else was there. They were all waiting in their cars for their pets to be brought back out. No one lit the candle for Moose.

His body was breaking down. It didn’t matter what kind of cancer he had or if it was treatable. His body had given up. There was no fixing him. No treatment or bandage would stop it. There was no time left. We wouldn’t get to give him his last perfect day. No walks through the dunes. No ice cream cup. No plate overflowing with bacon. Nothing. Just a few moments in an exam room on a blanket on the floor. He was in immense pain, and we had to let him go.

The vet was pregnant and was wearing her mask. I reached to get mine, but she stopped me and said it was okay. Moose would need to see our faces before he closed his eyes for the last time. I protested. I was a slobbering, crying mess, and she was pregnant. She insisted as she held back tears as she gave him the injections.

A few minutes later, Moose was gone.

When I got home, I composed myself. I had to get back to work. I had only started the job recently and didn’t want to cause any trouble. I sucked in my feelings and figured I would deal with them later. That was a mistake. I should have taken the time to grieve. Instead, it was the first brick of the wall I was starting to build around myself. If I could just keep busy, it wouldn’t hurt so much. Brick by brick. Every horrible thing 2020 threw at me meant another brick on the wall.

Now, I’m sitting alone in a cabin in the woods, near a lovely little stream. It will have been a year since Moose passed away in just a few months. It’s snowing gently, and there are chickadees and nuthatches on the window feeder. I’ve been here alone for three days and finally have enough space to truly grieve my dear sweet Moosey Moose, along with all of the other pain of the past year.

Goodbye, my sweet boy.

Moose 2007–2020

--

--

Michelle Senderhauf

I’m a writer, interactive storyteller, and game designer who uses the Internet to tell compelling stories through interactive, multi-platform experiences.