Expat Diaries: Losing a Pet While Living Abroad

Our little Lucy was born on 23rd June, 2003 in Iowa. Ironically,ย that’s the day my family and I left California to move to New Jersey. I was 12 years old. We all loved living in California and it was a really tough day on us all, especially my mom. Lots of tears were shed leaving the Golden State for the Garden State.ย Several months later, on 8th November 2003, my mom, little sister and I were all at the Garden State Mall in Paramus New Jersey. Just before we left, I begged my mom to stop at the pet shop to look at the puppies. My mom was bound and determined we were just there to look, but I was bound and determined to come home with a new member of our family ๐Ÿ™‚

My mom and little sister loved these little white malteses, whilst I noticed this lively, little dapple red, miniature dachshund in the corner, all by herself. She was sleeping and when I walked over, she looked up at me with her big, expressive eyes, and I knew at that moment, she was coming home with us. I asked if we could hold her and the staff had said she had been there the longest out of all the puppies. They weren’t sure why she hadn’t been adopted, but I knew it was because we were meant to find her.

Well, after 10 minutes playing with this adorable little dog, she pounced on a cricket and my mom was sold. A quick phone call to my dad and the deal was settled – Lucy was coming home with us. We decided to name her Lucy, after Lucille Ball – after my mom’s favourite actress, who also had bright red hair, a mischievous personality and was so loving.

In the years that followed, Lucy has been an integral part of our family. She’s been a source of comfort to all of us, in the good times and the bad times. She’s seen us graduate, get new jobs, move across the world, get engaged. She’s travelled all over the USA with us on family vacations. We’re all so lucky to have found this little 11 pound friend who, by some twist of fate, made us live by all of her rules.

Lucy was sadly diagnosed with doggy dementia a few years ago and has been in decline ever since. 15 years on and our little Lucy has crossed over the rainbow bridge. She lived a fantastic life and brought us more joy than she knows.

My mom called me on last Friday evening to tell me the terrible news and naturally, I was in floods of tears. Being so far away from my family during a time like this is possibly the hardest thing ever. I am upset that I can’t be there properly for my mom as I know how hard this is for her to have to go through and I am sad that I can’t be there to give my childhood dog a proper goodbye.

On Saturday, my mom and sister took Lucy to the vet and I said my tearful farewells over FaceTime. For the first time in years, Lucy looked into the phone screen at me and I knew it was her way of saying goodbye.

I spent the weekend reflecting. It’s sad losing a pet. It’s sad being so far away from your family. And it’s sad not being able to jump in a car and just be there for them. Severe homesickness set in, but it was really comforting having wonderful friends to spend time with. I received so many lovely messages from friends and even acquaintances asking how I was doing and sending their well wishes. It was the best way to cope with this depressing situation.

I’m not writing this post because I have a solution to the pain, but from going through this very tough time, I have found the best way to cope with it is to take time to yourself to reflect and have the phone at the ready to talk to your family. It’s ok to cry and be sad, it’s all part of the grieving process. Everyday will get better and better. Surround yourself with people you are closest to.

For now, I’m focussing on being there as much as I can for my mom and sister, even if its from 3000 miles away. I’ll always have the memories of my little dog Lucy and I know in my heart that she’s up in doggie heaven, snuggled under some covers or playing with her toys and loving life. We’ll always love our Lucy.