Losing Luna; the emotional toll of losing a pet.

By Siani Nunez
February 11, 2022

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On a cloudy Oct. day in 2017, I came home after school to find both my brother and my mom waiting for me in our living room. They would typically arrive at 5 p.m., so I was surprised to see them early.

Luna wags her tail for a treat. Photo by Siani Nunez.

I smiled and asked them what they were doing at home so early, but they were silent and seemed nervous. They pointed to a cardboard box right in front of me that I happened to miss, and there I saw cream and blonde fur and a small frame of an animal.

A tear fell down my eye. My mom got me a dog! “What?,” I shouted. “This cannot be real.” 

Once they pulled her out of the box, she started running around and going under our sofas and I bawled even more. I don’t know why I was crying; I guess I was just so surprised and happy.

My Luna, my light, my source of happiness died last month. It was not easy.

Luna had a lot of medical issues throughout her short life; when she came home to my family, she had fecal worms, ear infections and fleas. In the span of four years, she had gone through four surgeries, dozens of vet visits and medications. Just in the last year, she had two surgeries- one for her spine and another to remove bladder stones- separated only by a few months.

Luna was the most resilient dog I’ve ever seen- and probably ever. She had so much pain but still, she would always be happy to see me, wagging her tail and accepting my baby talk and belly rubs.

She developed a herniated disc in Sept. 2020, where she became paralyzed in her left hind leg and needed emergency surgery to remove the spinal disc that was pinching her nerves and making her unable

My dog in her happy place, Wissahickon Creek. Photo by Siani Nunez.

to walk. It would require an extensive recovery period and plenty of money, too. In total, my family spent $13,000 on that veterinary visit.

We knew there were no other options except to proceed with the surgery because she was so young and a member of our family. 

The terrifying afterthought was that there was no other way we could do the surgery again if it happened a second time. That’s why we were so devastated when she began to develop the same symptoms again a few months ago.

It wasn’t the money that was the issue- we could pay it off over time with loans. It was the fact that the more surgeries she would undergo, the more likely the problem would develop again and the more her limbs would not function the same way before.

On Dec. 9, 2021, my mom and I took her to a veterinary hospital in Center City Philadelphia, where she died in the afternoon. We mourned and prayed over her because we knew we had to put her down. But I had to ultimately make the decision; it was the hardest day of my life.

I had never experienced grief before in such a grave and personal manner; we were a family.  I had a connection like nothing I’ve ever felt before with my dog. We would stare at each other’s souls.

Luna and I, happy on Christmas Eve in 2017. Photo by Ana Nunez.

 I dedicated so much of my time to her. 

As a puppy, she was extremely hyperactive. She would nibble on my bare toes and sprint around my house when my brother would chase her with a toy.

In the spring and summertime, my family and I would take her to one of our favorite nature parks called Wissahickon Creek to explore the trails, rivers and beautiful nature around us. She was obsessed, so much so that she would tug and tug on her leash to run after squirrels and birds. 

Even though she exhausted her tiny legs running for over an hour, she never stopped being happy to see the vast world before her eyes. On those days, it felt like I was caring for a toddler, not a dog because her emotions were so eager and obvious.

It still pains me so much to think about her absence. I think I lost a part of myself once I realized her fate. No one is going to understand what it means to lose Luna. She wasn’t just a dog. She was so much more than that. She touched the lives of all who knew her- truly.

We got her at eight weeks old and she died at four years old. I said to my mom, “A fire that sparks that bright doesn’t last as long.”

I think she was an angel sent to Earth to complete a mission in my life. She protected me and brought me so much joy, laughter, support and distraction when my mental health was going south. She was such a fighter- a true survivor. Once she helped me learn from her strength, loving kindness and resilience, I think she understood she did what she had to do and her time was up.

But was she sad? No! Her excitement never ended. Her new chapter in life, heaven, would be a whole new adventure that she couldn’t wait to see.

Though I don’t have advice, this article opened my eyes to see the power in grief (you can translate it to English if you have a translating feature).

Siani Nunez

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