How can I describe the pain of losing a dog? When we first bring our puppies home, we don’t think about when they'll pass away. We are bursting with the joy and fun they bring. But there comes a time when our furry companions die, and the devastating loss hits us.
For some, a dog is their only companion, for others, they are irreplaceable members of the family. There’s no easy way to overcome the pain of losing a dog. Grieving takes time. In this blog, we want to talk about coping with the loss of a dog.
Coping with the loss of a dog
Is it time to euthanise?
Deciding when to euthanise your dog can seem like an impossible decision, but take advice from your vet. If your vet is saying the time has come, you must act. They know if your dog is suffering or if treatment will help.
It’s such an awful decision to make, but your vet has made it for you. it might help to know that very few dogs die peacefully in their sleep. Most are put to sleep. Think of your dog’s quality of life and let your vet guide you.
Coping with a sudden or unexpected death
Knowing our pet will be put down in advance is tough enough, but when a dog dies suddenly or without warning, we feel the rug pulled from under us. One moment our pet is with us, then we return to an empty house, and we don’t quite know how to process it.
When we euthanise our pets, we may feel guilty about the timing, and wonder if we should have waited for our dog’s health to improve. When a dog dies unexpectedly, we feel guilty for not doing enough. Perhaps if we were more vigilant or had noticed the symptoms earlier, we could have saved them. If your dog died and you weren’t expecting it, you’ll be in shock. Feeling numb or in a state of panic is normal.
Our animals are much-treasured members of our family. They give us unconditional love and for some of us, they’re our best friends. Feeling guilt is natural.
Talk to other pet owners
People that don’t own pets may not understand the level of grief you are suffering. Others might say ‘Get over it’ or ‘It was just a dog’. Connect with fellow dog owners who understand your experiences. Understand that you’ll have triggers that can suddenly leave you in a puddle of tears. The house will be quieter, with food bowls to put away and possibly leftover pet dog. All these things are upsetting.
Sharing how you feel with like-minded people allows an outlet for your grief. Let the emotions come out, whether it is shock, utter sadness, anger, or denial.
It is a cliche to say that time heals all wounds, but as with most cliches, it is true.
How to ensure your pet lives on
Our pets will always live on in our memories, but creating something tangible is hugely helpful. For example, frame a favourite photograph and put it in plain sight, or place the ashes in a garden planter under a beautiful shrub or statue.
Ask the vet to take a clay paw print which you can display prominently. Some even keep a cutting of fur in a locket to wear around their neck. Perhaps donate leftover pet food to a local animal charity in your dog’s name or make a monetary donation to a local dog's home.
Whichever method you choose to honour your pet, do it your way.
Consider other family members
Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our grief we forget how a death affects other people. The death of a pet can have an enormous effect on children. It is so hard to find the strength to support others while you are distressed.
And remember, people deal with death in different ways. For instance, teenagers may go quiet or act up. Whereas for younger kids, this is probably their first experience of loss. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve.
How soon to get another dog?
For some people, losing a dog is so devastating they cannot bear the heartache of losing another pet. Then again, for others, the void is just too overwhelming, so they get another dog to relieve some of the pain. Whatever you choose, mourning the loss of your beloved dog is also important. Give yourself time to grieve. Don’t jump into important long-term decisions when you are so vulnerable.
The pain of grief is the price we pay for all those years of love our dogs gave us in their lifetime. And we understand that right now, you are mourning your most devoted companion and cannot ever see how you’ll ever feel happy again. We feel your pain. We don’t get over the loss of our dogs, but we can, with time, process it and move forward.