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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 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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