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Losing the Dog That Was Your First “Baby”
It’s one of life’s common stages
My friends Matt and Susie just lost their wonderful dog Bodhi

“It’s because we all got a dog before we had children,” one friend of mine said.

Another replied, “It’s so true. They were our first babies.”

Both women were referring to the recent epidemic in our little circle of friends of elderly dogs dying. Most of us first had a child upwards of 10 years ago, and many of our families have a dog in the 13 to 17-year old range. That naturally means that there have been many losses recently and that there a few dogs who are not likely to be around this time next year.

I’m used to thinking about the stages of life—engagements, weddings, babies—but I hadn’t noticed how in sync the dog stages are, too. Many people get a dog right after graduation or soon after getting married, and those people often face the tough loss of that dog around the same time as each other, too.

There’s another stage of dog loss that happens for the people who get a puppy when their kids are little. Those people tend to get a dog when their youngest kid is around 5 to 8 years old because they are old enough to help out and not grab at the puppy as small children often will. They often face the loss of that dog right around the time that their human children move out of the house.

It can help in a misery-loves-company sort of way to know that others understand your loss because they are suffering, too. Have you lost a dog “right on schedule” at one of these times?

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer whose clinical work over the last 17 years has focused on the evaluation and treatment of serious behavioral problems in dogs, especially aggression. Karen has been writing the behavior column for The Bark since 2012 and wrote The Bark’s training column and various other articles for eight years before that. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University, and teaches a tropical field biology course in Costa Rica. Karen writes an animal column, The London Zoo, which appear in The Arizona Daily Sun and is the author of five books on canine training and behavior. She is working on her next book, which she expects to be published in 2017.

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