March 24, 2012 A pet's lifespan depends on a number of factors, one of which is the kind of animal it is.
For example, a hamster might have a lifespan of only a couple of years, while a horse may live for twenty-five years or more. The kind of care you give your pet also makes a difference, although the best care in the world will not help a hamster live as long as a horse.
Cats have a slightly longer lifespan – around 18 years – than do dogs, who generally live for about fifteen years on average.
So it should come as no surprise that we humans will probably outlive our pets. When that happens, when we lose an animal we dearly love, it is never an easy time.
I have several friends that, within the past few weeks, have lost long-time pets – family members, really. Even though you may know it's coming, it's still difficult to imagine life without them.
When I have lost a pet I've been surprised by the number of people who think it will make me feel better to go right out and get another one to replace it. I think maybe they know I'm sad and they want to help, but they're just not sure how to do it.
One place to find help if you're grieving for a pet may be the internet. There are any number of websites that deal with pet loss, beginning with www.petloss.com, where you can find inspirational readings, chat rooms, even a list of counselors that specialize in dealing with grieving pet owners, and local support group meetings.
And if you have a friend who has lost a pet, a contribution to a local or national animal welfare organization in memory of the animal is a meaningful way to show that you understand and remember.
You may wonder at the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Veterinarian Robin Downing shared a four-year-old boy's explanation. "Everybody is born so that they can learn how to live a good life - like loving everybody and being nice, right? Well, animals already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long."
And maybe that's why we call them our best friends, because from them we learn can how to love everybody and be nice, when we're speaking of pets.