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Karen B. London
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When a Beloved Dog Dies
How do others help you handle the grief?
Dog lovers support each other

My dear friend Trisha McConnell recently lost her 16-year old dog Lassie. She has written extensively about all her dogs, including Lassie, in books, magazines and on her blog, and many people who have never even met Lassie felt the loss and grieved along with Trisha. In fact, following her blog entry about Lassie’s passing, there are over 300 comments of love and support.

 
This tells me that as a community of dog lovers, we are sticking together and helping each other with the toughest task many of us face—saying good-bye. When we need one another, our community steps up, and that is something to feel good about. It’s so important when you lose a dog to be around people who understand how big the loss is and to hear from friends and family (or even strangers) that they share our pain.
 
That sort of support is priceless because, regrettably, there are people out there who just don’t get how hard it is to lose a dog, or don’t seem to realize that dogs are part of our family. (Sometimes people say things like, “Well she was getting old, you must have been expecting it.” Or, “It will be nice to get a puppy and have a young dog again.”   Or worse, “Well, it was only a dog after all.” These sorts of comments may be well meaning, but are never helpful.)
 
Whenever I learn that someone I know has lost a dog, I send a card with a note about my favorite recollection of that dog, what that dog meant to me, or what I will always remember about her (or him.) I always hope that an expression of love and caring will be welcome, even though nothing can take away the pain. I’d like to hear from you. What did people do that helped you heal from the loss of a dog, or at least made you feel loved and supported? (And if you’d like to share any comments that would have been better left unsaid, feel free to do that, too.)

 

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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 Anonymous | February 10 2010 |

When my Sheltie passed away, I received condolence cards, e-mails, hugs, and shared tears. Some of these people were old friends and some of them were very new acquaintances that I had met through a Sheltie rescue organization, where I got my little Kiki. I was so touched by their kind words which I knew were from the heart and from their own experience(s) and that they knew what I was going through.

Submitted by Jane | February 11 2010 |

When I've had a dog die, many people responded with cards or emails.This always meant a great deal to me. I no longer need any one else's validation of what animals mean to me and how their dying affects me. [That wasn't always the case.] So, there are lovely people in my life who don't connect with animals much and I have no expectation that they will ever understand my depth of love for a dog. The words of support and sympathy from any one are welcome and if there are also thoughts expressed that don't fit into my belief system, I let that go. It's taken me about 30 years to realize that what I feel for animals is real for me and it doesn't matter what others believe.

Submitted by Patricia | February 11 2010 |

Karen wrote me the most exquisite letter about Lassie.It was especially appreciated because it was full of stories about Lassie, and the special things that Karen remembered about her. It helped me to think about Lassie when she was young and healthy, and helped get my mind off her last days. I think letters like that are especially helpful, along with an understanding that grief is recorded in the brain as if it was pain. Some other friends sent the kinds of things you would send if someone had surgery, and all of it helped more than I can say.

Submitted by Christine | February 12 2010 |

When our dear only 3 1/2 year old dog died of an heart attack while playing with another dog along a river walk, I was crying my heart out of me and stroking the good chap for a long time until the animal ambulance arrived. Dog-walkers (known and unknown) passing by came to me, took me in their arms and comforted me. This was helping me to get over the shock.

Submitted by Kim | February 12 2010 |

Whenever our friends lose a companion, my family and I make a small donation to one of two animal shelters in honor of their pet. Then, the shelter sends a card to them to say their beloved companion is helping a shelter dog or cat. Even though their grief is intense, our friends have told us they smile through their tears as they read the card letting them know their wonderful animal companion continues to touch others in this way.

Submitted by Kathrine Konetz... | February 13 2010 |

Prior to starting a new job several years ago, I was interviewed by the entire office staff, and I mentioned that I had a blind dog who had recently been diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, and that when the end inevitably came, I would need some time off to grieve. I figured if they were going to hire me, they ought to know that I took my relationship with my dog very seriously. When Jack did die a year later (he was such a fighter), everyone in the office gave hugs and shared tears and stories of their own beloved pets. It was so nice to be in an environment of animal lovers who understood. My sister came to be with us for Jack's last day and she was such a source of comfort for me, as she knew and loved Jack as much as my husband and I did. For me, every word or gesture of sympathy was very much appreciated and remembered, and my heart goes out to Ms. McConnell for the loss of her wonderful Lassie. I have enjoyed "meeting" all of her dogs through her books, and I hope that all the warm memories of Lassie make her loss a bit easier to bear.

Submitted by kathy kuhl | February 19 2010 |

It has been almost two years since we lost our first dog, Maggie after 14+ years. My husband and I felt utterly alone in our grief as one of the few couples in our social circle without kids - we were dog parents. Unable to find the right way to memorialize Maggie, and being an artist, I designed and created a candle using Maggie's old collar and pet tag....this way I could light her candle each night in memory and know her light still shines on even if she is not physically with us.

It wasn't long before I made a few for friends who lost pets in the months following. Before I knew it, I had requests coming in from friends, friends of friends, family, co-workers.....all feeling it was a great way to memorialize a pet and a great gift idea for those loved ones suffering the loss.

In the meantime, we felt the love for Maggie needed to be shared with another deserving dog......afterall, we are dog parents and Maggie would have wanted us to provide the same love to another dog. We now have Nelli and a booming candle business all because of the love of one truly great dog.

Submitted by kathy kuhl | February 19 2010 |

It has been almost two years since we lost our first dog, Maggie after 14+ years. My husband and I felt utterly alone in our grief as one of the few couples in our social circle without kids - we were dog parents. Unable to find the right way to memorialize Maggie, and being an artist, I designed and created a candle using Maggie's old collar and pet tag....this way I could light her candle each night in memory and know her light still shines on even if she is not physically with us.

It wasn't long before I made a few for friends who lost pets in the months following. Before I knew it, I had requests coming in from friends, friends of friends, family, co-workers.....all feeling it was a great way to memorialize a pet and a great gift idea for those loved ones suffering the loss.

In the meantime, we felt the love for Maggie needed to be shared with another deserving dog......afterall, we are dog parents and Maggie would have wanted us to provide the same love to another dog. We now have Nelli and a booming candle business all because of the love of one truly great dog.

Submitted by Beverly McGrath | February 23 2010 |

Our dog, Mir, a female, died 6 weeks ago from lympho sarcoma. She was 4 years old. My husband and I are dog parents and have 4 other dogs, all older than she. We are still reeling from this unexpected turn of events.

We were like zombies for awhile, numb with grief. We thought we were alone until we received a sympathy card from our vet. Shortly after we started receiving sympathy cards from our friends, some included pictures they had of Mir. Finally, a good friend came, helped me sort all of our pictures and made a scrapbook for us. We weren't alone and thanks to the help of others we will walk through our sadness.

Submitted by jerry darnell | August 12 2010 |

as i write this i hope nobdy else is feeling as bad as i do,but i know there is someone who is. i lost my beloved 13 year old boxer savannah saturday morning.i had no idea i would feel this way after she died in my lap.i had talked to my vet and he told me to keep her comfortable that she wasn't hurting . i know she wasn't she never made a sound and kept her eyes on me all night.when she died i was a bit relieved because i wont have to see her suffer.some of my friends called and came by and they understood.it has been three days now and i still find myself looking for her.i know this will soon go away. i know she is in a better place and i'm happy for that. jerry darnell

Submitted by Anonymous | September 28 2010 |

My wife and I lost our cherished 12 1/2 year old pug Floyd about 8 hours ago. He was in ICU at Tufts for 3 days and, while they expected some sort of liver disease, a dignosis couldn't be found before he died. It was a gutwrenching 2 days becuase it seemed to come over him lierally in days, although he obviously was very sick with no symptoms. He was blind, and he has a littermate who is also blind. They have been with us since they were six weeks old, and the pain is unbearable. We are concerned about Otis, who is already walking around the house "searching". All the letters of yours have helped. We are still in shock, and it's nice to connect with "dog" parents who understand. We had no kids, these were our "boys". Thanks.

Submitted by Karen London | September 28 2010 |

It's so awful to lose a dog, and it sounds like your experience was particularly hard given the speed with which it occurred. Plus, it's painful to know your other dog is hurting, too. My heart is with you. Take good care and know that there is a whole world of dog lovers who understand. KL

Submitted by Anonymous | March 24 2011 |

I lost a precious member of our family last Tuesday, her name was Ms. Ginger, she came to our home as a drop off someone didn't want. I can't imagain someone doing this to an animal. But they done us a favor as she was taken in an a very important member of our family for years.
My son was 9 when she came and now he has grown up and is 25 year old man, he misses her too.
When I think of her its like she was there for me always, unconditionally my best friend.Ilove and miss her. I can still see her playing in the snow a treasured rememberance.

I had her creamated and she is home with us all now. I know God has made a special place for all his kingdom in Heaven.

Roses to u my friend.

Submitted by bailey wilson | May 29 2012 |

Three minutes ago I got a text from my sisbter saying that my cousins dog had just died. I'd been the first one out of my sisters to hold him after they got him and I spent every summer down st their house which made me feel like I had lost someone important to me too. The only thing me and my cousin had in common was the love for that dog and now that he's gone I don't know what to say to him.

Submitted by Shell Brown | March 18 2013 |

Shilo came into our life around 15 years a go he was a stray all the neighbours were chasing him away but I called him over he had barbed wire around his neck the top of one ear was missing and most of his teeth were broken away he had been terribly treated we did not advertise him being found he was a cherished gift from God that's when he became a part of our family we loved and cherished him,the only terrible part about having fur family is that their life is so much shorter than hours and on Sunday it was time to say good bye to our beloved Shilo.My husband and I said if Shilo stops eating or can't stand any more it's time to help him on his journey so I spent the last hour cradling his beautiful head talking about the fun things we did together and said I love you Shi with all my heart his eyes stared into mine listening to every word and then I kissed his soft little nose and Shi licked my face .Shilo passed away at 11am Sunday the clocked chimed on his passing he was in his own yard surrounded by his family who loved him and a kind vet to help him on his journey peacefully.My heart is broken but Shilo's image and scent will be locked in my heart and memory forever till we meet again at the rainbow bridge Shi we love and cherish you mumma loves Shilo sweet kisses and hugs.To any one who has been loved by a beloved dog and now has passed please look up the rainbow bridge it is a beautiful story it helped me just to dream that there could be a beautiful safe place where fur family are reunited with their family makes your heart smile again my deepest sympathy for your loss.

Submitted by Barbara Davis | March 27 2013 |

What a lovely story. I have had recue dogs since I was 15 years old. This past weekend was the worst time of my life. I came home from work and found my beloved dachshund dead on her bed....I thought I would lose my mind. My other two rescue dogs stopped eating and drinking. I was worried about the youngest one (7 years) because he was such a lively dog and I thought he was willing himself to die...I took him to the vet on Sunday expecting that he would perk up and be okay and the vet's face told me all I needed to know. His blood work was fine last June and he showed me no signs of sickness...she told me he was a diabetic and his kidneys were shutting down..They put him on fluids and I took him home intending to return him the next day but at about 10pm that evening he left me....I was out of my mind...two dogs gone in one weekend....the pain is intense...I hope to adopt a 2 year old Dachsie who desperately needs a home this weekend.....My third dog has gotten better...she is eating now and drinking....my heart is broken in a million pieces....

Submitted by michelle | April 7 2013 |

Ok i don't know how to say goodbye to our Roxy she was a 7 yr old black and tan Coon hound mix rescue my son brought her home when someone din't want her when they adopted her we got her at 9 months old.and the best dog ever .at first honestly i had not had a dog since i was young so she was a dog .well the bond happened over the yrs and she was a family member so good ,so smart ,happy ,fun, caring ,she was the best dog taught her tricks omg i miss my Roxy she was healthy just the other day Friday April 5 she rode with me we talked she was happy she loved car rides and being with me she loved the kids now older but i did more with her i was outside i came in my husband said she threw up in house never like her to do that she was outside not looking good weak i don'y know what happened i did take her to a vet paid 50 dollars to say she needed care and needed 500.more didn't have it took her home held her talked to her my son was there to kissed her she started throwing up blood and she was gone my Roxy girl this is so hard so sudden i can't stop crying everywhere i look Roxy was there be it the car ,drive by the parks where i walked her when i pull up to house she was always looking out of window at me it's 2 days now and hard can't sleep she was always in our room with me i love her so much and miss her more the memories of Roxy will always be there in my heart .some people say it's just a dog THEY ARE WRONG it's FAMILY Roxy was there when i was down to cheer me up a good dog she was R.I.P. my Roxy girl mom loves you

Submitted by Karen London | April 8 2013 |

Your love for Roxy comes through so strongly that I feel some of your pain, too. Please take care of yourself and know that many people understand how much grief you are dealing with. She was obviously a really special dog and an important part of your family.

Submitted by Elaine | April 18 2013 |

Our little Marley passed away on Tuesday , 5 hours before he was to be put down. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure the week before...I was not prepared for him to pass away so quickly. The vet said he could live weeks, months, possibly even years if the meds worked....they didn't.
He was a beautiful tan & grey 10 1/2 yr old large yorkie, with gorgeous thick soft curly fur. He had no teeth, so his tongue remained constantly out.
His former owner was an elderly lady who was put into a home where no pets were allowed....her remaining family didn't want him....he was an orphan......almost like me!
When I first met him, he was a cute pain in the butt. I was able to take him, for a couple of days
,before making that final decision of whether to keep him, I realized he just wanted to be loved, more, and more and more.....he was perfect! That Friday that I picked him up one last time, he was peering out of their front screen door on a hot July day. He saw my car pull up...he start bouncing like he had slinkies under his paws, so excited, she is finally here. I was in love!
He ended up giving me more than I ever realized a dog could ever give....I called him dog 101... He was my first....we learned together. I became as dependent on him as he on me....he was my beautiful little munch.
So the morning he died, it was killing me to make the decision to end his life....I think he knew it. I knew he was failing the night before. My husband & I had talked it over saying we didn't' want him suffering. That morning, I came down the stairs like always, Marley raced through the kitchen to greet me, turning in circles to say, I gotta go pee.He hadn't done that since his diagnosis. I opened the door, before I had a chance to pick him up, he was out the door. I followed him out, watched him look around the backyard like he had done a thousand times before. A cardinal was singing. I picked him up, gave him a kiss on his mop of hair between his ears that I just loved. He turned his head, gave me one wet last kiss......I told him I loved him. It was so normal!
The next couple of hours of his life seemed surreal as think back. I brought him into the kitchen, placed him on his cushion....he sat there with his head cocked over. I went to the cupboard to get him and our cat, Bob a treat like I did every morning. He declined, but I left them there just in case. He slowly walked into our family room where his bed was, started to waver. His head was in an odd position like he was having difficulty breathing.I called the vet, made the appointment for 6 so our daughter could make it home to say good bye. I called them back within a few minutes changed it for 2...that was the earliest they could do it. I could see him deteriorating before my eyes! His tongue had become icy, bluish in color. So, I scooped him up in my daughters favorite blanket that he loved and snuggled him against me. He tried to squirm out once, i told him not to be afraid, that I loved him, he then got very comfy. Staring at me as I lightly rubbed that tough of fur, softly telling him that it was okay, how much he meant to us, not to be scared, that I loved him over & over. His breathing became softer, his heart beat slower. He died in my arms within an hour of me making that final decision.
I am heart broken, guilt ridden but forever grateful he chose to die surrounded by everything he loved. I know, eventually there will be less tears shed.
The death of a pet is far harder than I ever imagined......I now have empathy for anyone who loses their beloved companion
I will miss him everyday.

Submitted by Terrie Lavelle | April 19 2014 |

I have come across the most amazing Facebook Group called "Spleen Tumor in Dogs".
We lost two of the best fur-babies to Hemangiosarcoma last year - Hope in March and Winston on Christmas Day. This group has not only provided information, the members have provided suggestions and incredible support through the diagnosis, surgery, chemo and final days of our kids. This group of people have all been touched by a horrible event in their lives. I believe that the support they give/get is so unique. I am glad to be part tof this group and to have so many of these people touch my life. I am sorry that it is under these circumstances, but am grateful for these members.

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