Dog-lover needed two weeks off work with grief when her beloved pet died | TeamDogs
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Dog-lover needed two weeks off work with grief when her beloved pet died

She compared the experience to ‘losing a child’

Fiona Callow

Posted 51d ago

By Fiona Callow and Jessica Sandsome


Losing a pet can be a devastating loss that hits owners extremely hard, with one grieving dog lover comparing it to “losing a child”.


Wendy O’Grady, 47, was signed off work for two weeks due to her crippling grief after her beloved Labrador passed away.


The retail store supervisor from Egham in Surrey, instantly fell in love with puppy Zac when her husband Mike, 51, brought home the nine-month-old chocolate Labrador.


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A surrogate child to the couple who were unable to have children and a source of comfort to both, the pair were grief-stricken when their precious pup was diagnosed with cancer at nearly 12-years-old last month.


The diagnosis forced them to make the heart-breaking decision of putting their beloved pet down.

(Image: PA Real Life)


"Losing Zac was just like losing a child," Wendy said.


"I can’t even explain the grief. We were inconsolable. After 12 years, to not see him come to the door when I came home was heart-breaking."


The couple have suffered their fair share of heartache and, after Wendy suffered 10 miscarriages during 15 years of trying to conceive.


Mike bought Zac home in December 2009 from a farm in Wales aiming to lighten up their lives, and the change was instantaneous. 


"When Mike bought Zac home, he completely lit up our lives. It was an instant connection.”

She added: "The first moment I saw him, as we sat in the back seat of the car, I fell in love with his sweet nature."


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Soon, Zac was the centre of the couple’s lives and Wendy said: "He just became our baby.

"He was full of love and made us into a family."


In 2012, the couple adopted their dog, Purdy, now 10, who is a black Labrador and pointer cross and the pets "became instant friends."

(Image: PA Real Life)

(Image: PA Real Life)


But tragedy stuck in July, when Zac became unable to walk properly and the vet discovered he was seriously ill.


"He had cancer in the spine," Wendy explained. "We took him to the vets as soon as he became poorly and he was put on medication for seven days.


"But his spine was literally crumbling away, there was nothing anyone could do.


"The medication didn’t work, and we slept downstairs with him for five nights as he was in a bad way. He was so unwell and in a lot of pain."


She added: “On the last night, nine days after he became unwell, he wasn’t himself. He was sick and wetting himself and we just looked at each other and said we can’t let him continue."


Making the tough decision to put Zac down on July 12, the couple say they were faced with indescribable grief.


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(Image: PA Real Life)


"It was such a hard decision. We were with him at the vet’s surgery as he passed and it was just awful. I just couldn’t cope with losing him," Wendy said.


"I can’t describe what it felt like. Purdy was devastated. She even came to the vets with us to say goodbye and gave Zac a kiss.


"The grief was so bad that I was signed off work for two weeks.


"Zac was like my child, he was the glue that held our family together."


But when Wendy tried to open up to people about how she was feeling, they often seemed uncomfortable or didn’t want to discuss it.


"I think it would have been helpful if they had addressed what Mike and I were going through," she said.


Now the couple have created a memorial for Zac in their garden, planting a rose bush surrounded by a love heart fence, and keep his ashes inside an oak box engraved with his name in the living room.


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"We’ve done a lot in Zac’s memory," Wendy said.


"We keep his ashes in the living room so he’s always with us. Friends had cushions and plates made with his face on so he really is all around us."


But despite such sadness the couple found a moment of happiness when on August 21 this year they received a surprise gift from a family member, a puppy, Zebedee.

(Image: PA Real Life)


"We have a new addition, Zebedee," Wendy said.


"He’s only nine weeks old, my mother-in-law got him for us as an anniversary gift and we picked him up a few days ago.


"He’s really amazing, he boings and bounces everywhere."


But Wendy stresses that though Zebedee is a much loved new addition to the O’Grady family, no dog could take Zac’s place.


"Zebedee is not a replacement," Wendy stressed. "He’s a new addition to our family, but we are still grieving for Zac. I get home from work and still expect him to run out and greet me."


Wendy hopes explaining the loss of her beloved Zac will help others understand how devastating it can be.


"More people have spoken to me about Zebedee than about Zac. I think they think our puppy is some kind of replacement, but that could never be the case.


"I think people should be more open and just talk about it. We lost a member of our family and I think it should be addressed."

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