Pet Loss and How to Cope

Understanding What to Expect

Everyone faces a loss of pet somewhere in their lifetime if they are pet owners. It is never easy and it is never something we look forward to dealing with. Losing our pet dog can be overwhelmingly painful and has been categorized as being the same as losing a child. All the emotions are the same and the grieving process is identical.

Pet loss hurts real bad. There is no other way to say it. When we lose our loving furry companion friend, we lose a part of our hearts with them. Forever. I have had well intentioned friends tell me to be prepared, even though your dog is the central part of your world, be ready, the day will come. Be ready… being ready is accepting the truth. Sorry, I’d rather sit in my Pollyanna’s world, live in the moment and think that we have forever together!

So here is a fraction of my story to hopefully help you.I just couldn’t even imagine what I would do, let alone how I would feel if my best friend had to go. How could I not have them there with me everyday, to talk to, to cuddle with, gaze into each others eyes, watch the bugs as we lay in the grass, walk in the forest together and just hear each others breathing at night time? It was unthinkable…unimaginable…and then the day came. I had to face it.

 My girl had days to live and so every minute was treated like it was our last, and we shared every waking minute of every hour together. We didn’t do much but what we did do was golden and it was together. Nothing in the world could ever replace those final days of peace and love between her and I. She told me things and I learned so much about death and dying and what was real in life.

When her time came and darkness had fallen upon us, we both knew we had to let go of each other. Having a natural death in your arms can be very peaceful, and I would have it no other way…but it still hurts. It was hard, and oh boy was it painful to let go…but I did. She had to know it was okay to move on. I released my tight grip from her helpless body and told her she needed to leave now and that it was time.

 Silence. Pure still air. A massive vacuum. No other way to describe it. I will not beat around the bush and tell you it is something you will forget about in a week or two. That would be lying. I will tell you that you will be feeling many emotions and most will really hurt. You may want to run away from the world for awhile and not be able to cope with day to day things. You may even hate yourself.

Loss of a dog will bring many feelings to the surface of your skin. Here are the emotions most will experience:

  • Shock is the first feeling we will succumb to. A numbness, a deadening of feeling anything really.
  • Anger is the next feeling we will join hands with. We will feel guilty and mad at possibly all different people. We may just direct it towards ourselves but usually it is cast on outwards towards friends and family.
  • Denial or bargaining is usually the next phase we encounter. The what ifs and if I only do…and we can torture ourselves with these.
  • Depression is the next step of the grieving process. It carries with it a profound sense of sadness. This can be so overwhelmingly heavy it can pull you down into a hole that seems impossible to get out of. Do allow yourself the right to grieve. We all need to go through the process. Be aware of how you are coping with this stage, and get help if you need to. Talking about your feelings to someone can really help. Writing a journal can also help. It is important to express our feelings at this stage. Check out support groups if needed.
  • Acceptance and healing is a stage we all get to eventually. It can be the reaching out for another furry companion. It can be the realization that you were a great provider for your pet and that pet loss is natural and we all learn to deal with it. It is the awakening that your loss of dog is really only physical and that their loving spirit surrounds you everyday. The awareness that your dog death is a death on one level and that other levels of their spirit still live with you daily.

One big thing to remember is that no matter what anyone tells you, you need to know what you are feeling is okay and is real. Some may say it is just a dog death, get over it, and I say walk away. At a time like this you need support from empathetic friends. Some people never have pets or experience pet loss. That is okay too, but for you, you need like minded friends at this stage in your life.

Remember that your loss of dog is devastating to you and also to other pets in your household and family members if there are any. Everyone will be dealing with it on their own terms. All we can do is be the best that we can be at any given moment in time. Provide the best care for our loving companion dogs, be there for them to their last breath, and know in our hearts that they loved us as much as we loved them, and that they never really left us, only in their physical form.

Have you been through a pet loss? Share your comments and opinions below.





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2 Responses to Pet Loss and How to Cope

  • Nancy Loveland says:

    We lost our nearly 14 yr old rottie just a couple of weeks ago. i’m still stuck in the crying stage, everywhere I go she had been there. She was diagnosed diabetic and hypothyroid over 3 yrs previously and also had progressive arthritis as an old dog will as well as some intermittent gastric issues later on. As she aged, the demands on us increased (mostly me), so that just drew the bond tighter. She really was a great dog, quite a character, still burying bones the day before she died.
    She died at home, with a great arching of the head and body backwards, then she was gone. With another dog a vet told me that was not enough blood getting to the brain, I don’t know.
    She was a rescue dog taken from a hoarder and just arrived on our doorstep brought by relatives. We were lucky to have her, although she sure cost us a lot of money at Cornell and our regular vet (a great guy who did all manner of stuff for us with her that they never will do!). I have learned a great deal about diabetic dogs in particular, a ton of stuff they don’t tell you, and hope to desktop publish a little booklet to help others who learn their dog is diabetic. Of course, you know who that will be dedicated to!

  • helga says:

    Hi Nancy,
    I am very sorry for your loss! It is gut wrenching and so painful losing our beloved companion, especially one that we had such a close bond with. I can say that it does get easier as the days go by, however I’d be lying if I said you will have them out of your life forever. It has been 6 1/2 years since I lost the two most important companions in my life and I still think about them often and many times those memories bring a smile to my face and warm fuzzies in my heart. Be kind to yourself, be gentle with your feelings. Understand that you will have many moments that will trigger tears and many that will trigger happiness and belonging. Your Rotti lived to a ripe old age at 14 and you were blessed to have her in your life that long. She clearly loved sharing her life with you and you took exceptional care of her for her to live to that age. Remember, they are only gone in body, their spirit remains with us forever and we can talk to them anytime we need to. I wish you much success with your book and please keep in touch. Hugs and healing thoughts are being sent your way!

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