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Karen B. London
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How Long to Wait for the Next Dog
Everybody’s answer is different
A beloved dog

The loss of our dogs is nearly inevitable since their life spans are not as long as ours, but that never lessens the pain. The logic of predictability rarely helps a grieving heart. For many people, part of what does help is welcoming a new dog into their lives as soon as they can find the right one. For many others, it takes a long time before they are ready for that, and some never are.

It’s common to feel that the house is just not a home without a dog and that this absence must be remedied quickly before arriving home one more time without the sound of four-legged footsteps running to the door. If a new dog will ease the sadness and bring joy, then there’s no doubt that adopting a new dog is the right course of action.

For people who need to grieve longer before they feel prepared to love another dog, then waiting makes sense. If working through the pain without the complication of a new relationship feels right, then it’s only sensible to hold off on getting a new dog. Among the reasons that some people wait before sharing their lives with a new dog is the feeling that loving a new dog would be disloyal to the dog who recently died.

I deeply respect this view, though I don’t personally share it, in large part because of a comment my mother-in-law made years ago. She is an exceptionally kind and tolerant person whose view on her dad marrying again soon after her mom’s death was that it just showed he really enjoyed being married. She took it as an indication that being married to her mom made him happy and that he naturally wanted to be married—and happy—again. It’s a perspective that’s unusual, but one that prevented many bad feelings from developing.

Though some people want a new dog right away and others want to wait quite a long time, still others have no time frame in mind. They simply wait until the right dog comes along, whenever that may be.

If you’ve lost a dog, how long did you wait until a new dog joined your family, and why?

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

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Submitted by Allison Nastoff | December 27 2011 |

When our family's beloved german shepherd died when I was in seventh grade, my parents wanted to wait to get another dog, but my sister and I were among those who felt our home was missing something without a dog. Finally our parents relented and six months after our german shepherd's death, we adopted a puppy from the humane society. Unfortunately, this dog had been abandoned and as a result had serious behavio6 issues we just couldn't handle, so we had to return him to the humane society. I realize now that our hearts ached so much over the loss of our dog that we weren't thinking rationally. We just wanted a dog, any dog.
Eventually the right dog did come along, my guide dog Gilbert. But the experience gave me an appreciation for the value of waiting until time has healed the emotional wounds.

Submitted by Frances | December 28 2011 |

I lost my beloved little dog in a sudden, impossible accident, and it felt as though my heart had been torn out. I knew the only way I would come through without falling into a deep depression was to get a puppy immediately, and for me it was exactly the right thing to do. I was very fortunate that the puppy I found was well-bred, with a wonderful temperament, and immediately available - I hope I would have retained enough common sense to walk away if I had been less certain, but I know I was not totally rational at the time.

I love my two dogs dearly, and they fill my life with happiness, but I still grieve for my Flissy, and probably always will.

Submitted by Left bank | December 28 2011 |

There are so many dogs in need of homes my first reaction is to adopt another as soon as possible. That said, I feel more confident doing as much research as I can about the breed of a the dog I'm interested in and the organization from whom I'm adopting. So that takes a little time.
Our dog died of cancer in Aug. 2010. We were going to be out of the country for 6 weeks in Oct. and Nov. so we knew we had to wait until our return before bringing a new dog into our home. We finally found the dog who spoke to us at the end of January, 6 months later.
In that interim I felt such pangs of yearning when I saw people so proud of their canine charges on their walks or shopping in the aisles of the local feed store. Now we have a beautiful, funny, sometimes fearful, loving hound with whom we're sharing our lives and growth in understanding her special needs. I hope we prove worthy of her.

Submitted by Shirley Zindler | December 28 2011 |

As a shelter worker, and dog lover, I usually have multiple dogs in my household. Everyone responds differently, but for me, having a new dog to love gives me a focus besides my grief when we lose one. Also, seeing all the homeless and deserving dogs in the shelter, it feels so good to provide a loving home for one. Every dog is so unique and special that none will ever take the place of the one who has passed, but they each fill a special place in the heart.

Submitted by left bank | December 29 2011 |

Well said. We have to keep our hearts and our homes open to the dogs who wait to find solace and protection before it's too late. Rescuing them is a testimony to the ones who went before.

Submitted by !woof Nicodemus™ | January 3 2012 |

You will know when the time is right. They will find you and will be your next miracle; specifically sent to you from them. —!woof http://www.twitter.com/nica_knows

Submitted by Stacy L. | January 3 2012 |

In November of 2010, we lost our beloved little toy poodle at the age of 14. My husband and I knew we definitely wanted another dog, since we had another dog (a 12-year old schnauzer mix) and we didn't want her being without a buddy for too long. Our original plan was to wait until the following spring (when weather was better), but after a couple of weeks of just a one-dog household, it got really lonely in the house. Even though Cookie was old and her illness was brief (and there wasn't anything we could do, kidney failure), we still needed to go through the grieving process. It took about a month to get to true "acceptance" and then we were just sad and missed Cookie. The funny thing we realized was that we wanted to get a puppy...badly. We went back and forth trying to decide if we were trying to "replace" Cookie, and decided we weren't. No dog would ever replace Cookie. LOL. The biggest thing for us was realizing that we could love a new puppy and mourn Cookie at the same time...it wasn't an either/or situation. Six weeks after Cookie died, we adopted a little 10-week old blonde mini poodle puppy. She brought so much life back into our house, and totally rejuvenated our 12-year old dog, Daisy. A year later, Callie is a rambunctious year-old poodle and Daisy is a spry, healthy, and very active (thanks, Callie!) 13-year old. We know Daisy's time with us is waning, and I hope when the time comes and we have to let her go, that we won't take too long before bringing a new friend for Callie into our family. :)

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