We all have our own ways of grieving, and mourning the loss of a dog is no different. For Shannon Arner of Wake Forest, North Carolina, losing her dog Pharrell has been immeasurably difficult.
“The pain has been just about unbearable, and the loss is 1,000 times worse than we could have imagined it would be,” Arner told PupJournal.
She went on to say:
“It has been a tough struggle. Working through it with help… it takes a village with grief, apparently. Every single day, I wake hoping it isn’t real.”
In an effort to cope with the loss, Arner and her husband Gerry decided to put an obituary in their local paper.
“When I lost Pharrell, I felt (and still do) like my child was gone,” she told PupJournal.
Shannon was inconsolable after the loss of Pharrell, whom she had for nearly 15 years. She was looking for a way to let her family and friends know about his passing and all that he meant to her, so she started typing on her laptop. The obituary was the result.
“It was as if I needed validation for his passing, maybe if I saw it, it would be real? I’m not sure. I wanted the world to stop. I wanted everyone to stop and recognize that my world was falling apart without him. I also wanted people to honor and recognize his passing, maybe make something positive come from such tragedy.”
Shannon adopted Pharrell (named after the musician) when he was six months old from the Wake County SPCA. Her family had adopted a dog when she was growing up, and the experience of having rescued an animal left a positive impact that led her to adopt again as an adult.
She was drawn to the adorably unique mixture of Chihuahua and Staffordshire terrier (Chi-Bull), and asked to meet him.
Arner wrote in her own memorial of Pharrell: “As soon as we got outside he jumped all over me, licking, giving kisses… I knew immediately that this little boy was all mine.”
From that day on, the two were inseparable. Arner created her pet care business, Pet ‘n Nanny, as a way to make money during her college years, but was inspired by Pharrell to go full time after she adopted him.
“He had separation anxiety, like so many pets do, and he was not able to be boarded,” Arner said. “It encouraged me to professionally care for pets in their own home… Since Pharrell was my child, I knew what pet parents were looking for.”
Arner and Pharrell saw many changes over the years, including her marriage to husband Gerry and moving in with his two cats, Wilson and Kiko. As Pharrell got older, they decided to adopt a second dog — named Betty White — to keep him active.
They mourned the losses of Kiko, and then Wilson. Pharrell began to develop arthritis as he aged, changing his favorite activities from hiking and chasing a ball to walks in his stroller and naps in the sun.
“His joy for life didn’t cease,” Arner wrote.
Shannon made Pharrell’s fourteenth birthday an extra special one, with a party, streamers, and doggy-friendly cake just for him. She and her husband even rented a house in Beaufort to vacation with the pups, knowing it might be the last time.
The arthritis continued to worsen, though Shannon made every effort to make him comfortable with heating pads, joint massages, and lots of TLC.
In late January, before the family could take the vacation to Beaufort, the bad days started to outweigh the good. The only option left was the one Arner had been dreading since the day she fell in love with Pharrell.
Arner never left Pharrell’s side when the time came. On February 4th, 2017, she spent the whole day at the vet with Pharrell, taking him outside in sessions and holding him in her arms so he could enjoy the sunshine for one final day.
“Pharrell tried to comfort me; he gave me love and kisses and tried to make my heart less painful.”
Eventually, Pharrell told his mom it was time.
“We went outside of the vet school, with cows in the distance, under a cloudless night sky, full of stars as he took his last breath. I felt my boy’s heartbeat stop. My own heartbeat, outside of my chest, just stopped. It is something I cannot get out of my head and it is killing me. My sweet angel…my son…my heartbeat, is gone.”
The days and weeks following have been incredibly difficult for Arner and their family as they struggle to cope with the loss. The one small shining light is the outpouring of love and support that they have experienced after the obituary went viral online. “It warms our hearts as they are trying to heal,” she told PupJournal.
Shannon couldn’t say enough about her fur baby. “That little brown package of love was adored by everyone who met him,” she gushed. “He was the coolest dog, ever, who had no idea he was a dog.”
Arner talked about how he broke bully breed perceptions of those who might have been afraid of pit bulls, and how he changed minds that Chihuahuas could only be yappers.
Furthermore, Arner wants to spread the message of how rescuing animals doesn’t just save their lives — it saves ours as well. “That little boy saved me from myself,” she said. “I was a mess when I met him.”
It’s for that exact reason that Arner chose to end the obituary by asking those who read it to honor Pharrell’s life by volunteering and adopting from a shelter themselves.
“As heartbroken as I am, I wouldn’t change one single decision of adopting my sweet Pharrell. I would love to hear that at least one pet had been adopted due to the obituary. It would make some of the heartache worth it.”
Pupjournal also hopes that Pharrell’s life and obituary inspires more people to adopt a pet, and we offer our sincerest condolences to the Arner family during this difficult time.
Shannon Arner’s entire memorial post to Pharrell can be read here. Make sure you still have some tissues left.
All images courtesy of Shannon Arner