Ahimsa Dog Training, Seattle

You’re Not Crazy, You’re Mourning: Grief from the Loss of Your Dog

To love a dog is to truly know the meaning of unconditional love. If you were lucky enough to share your life with a dog, especially a ‘soulmate dog’ who has passed or is nearing the end of life, then you also have the flipside of such a strong relationship: grief. Every experience of grief is unique, so you can’t really be prepared for the loss of your dog. Some of the things that you might do or think while grieving may make you think you are going crazy. This article will help you understand some of the common feelings, behaviors, and thoughts that may come with the loss of your dog. It is my hope that while an article can’t get rid of the sadness or fill the empty hole in your heart, it may encourage you to find a way to grow from this experience and see it as yet another gift from your dog.

Is my grief normal? How long will this last?

You may be surprised to have so much grief from the loss of your dog, or to be experiencing grief before your dog is even gone. This grief is completely normal, and may be misunderstood by the people around you. They may accuse you of overreacting. It is, after all, ‘just a dog.’ You may even tell yourself that and try to avoid working through your grief or want to ‘get rid of it’ as soon as possible. Your grief will probably not be gone in a few weeks or even months. Because of the special relationship we have with our dogs, grief of a beloved dog can often be more intense than the death of a family member, and coming to terms with the change will take as long as it takes. The good news is that you do not have to ‘get over’ the loss of your dog; you do not have to forget your dog. Mourning and processing your grief will allow you to change the relationship with the tangible dog of fur and drool to a relationship with a dog within your own heart and mind. Your dog will always be there, as will your love.

Other losses cause grief, too

There are many losses that we grieve, whether we are aware of it or not. If you do not consciously process that grief, it can remain dormant until the next loss, and over time, you build up a big pile of losses as time goes on, and sometimes a loss is so strong that you are forced to grieve not only that loss, but others as well. So instead of just the one loss, you are processing a “multiple loss” of the current loss plus whatever else you have lost in the past. Some of life’s experiences that can cause grief are:

  • Death of family friends, pets
  • Loss/change of a home, moving away from parents, etc.
  • Loss/change of a job or job description
  • Birth of a child / acquisition of a dog (loss of the lifestyle that came before)
  • Hysterectomy (loss of ability to give birth)
  • Divorce (loss of partner, lifestyle, and can involve the loss of kids or pets)
  • Kids moving out (loss of current family lifestyle)
  • Break-ups with friends or friends moving away

Seven Principles of Grief

The idea that every loss is a multiple loss is one of the Seven Principles of Grief by J. Shep Jeffries (2007). If you want a giant overview of the grief process, I recommend you read that book. Here is his full list of grief principles:

  • Principle One: You cannot fix or cure grief.
  • Principle Two: There is no one right way to grieve.
  • Principle Three: There is no universal timetable for the grief journey.
  • Principle Four: Every loss is a multiple loss.
  • Principle Five: Change=Loss=Grief.
  • Principle Six: We grieve old loss while grieving new loss.
  • Principle Seven: We grieve when a loss has occurred or is threatened.

I’m losing my mind. Is that normal, too?

Yup. Many people (especially ones without dogs) don’t understand that dog lovers experience real, strong grief when they lose their dogs. They may give their condolences upon first hearing of your loss, but may not realize that you continue to be in pain as time goes on, and wonder why you are still crying, irritable, or otherwise ‘not yourself’ as time passes. You may wonder, yourself, whether you are going crazy. Here are some cognitive symptoms of grief, from J. Shep Jeffrey’s book, “Helping Grieving People” (2007, Kindle Locations 1462-1480):

  • Responding sluggishly to questions
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of interest in usual activities—work, sports, games, collecting, social clubs,
  • Loss of pleasure—avoids sex, entertainment, food, and social events
  • General numbness—shutdown of reactions to social stimuli, no pain, and no joy
  • Intrusive thoughts about the loss—constant barrage of thoughts
  • Confusion and disorientation—difficulty with time sequences, location
  • A sense of futility about life—”What’s the use?” and “Why bother?”
  • A sense of helplessness—”Can’t do anything to help myself”
  • Uncertainty about identity—”Who am I now?” and “How do I present myself to others now?”
  • So-called “crazy” thoughts—hearing or seeing the lost loved one; feeling like they can communicate with them
  • Mental fatigue—too tired to figure things out, mind just won’t work

5 Tips for Self-Care

These are things you can do to help even if your loss was a long time ago. You will always love your dog. But if the loss was recent or tears still overcome you whenever you think of your dog, the grief may not be fully processed, and your health and relationships can suffer because of it. There are many other things to do, but here are five important ways you can take care of yourself.

  1. Feel your feelings without shame. You grieve the loss of your dog because you are human and you truly love your dog. Your feelings are real and need to be honored.
  2. Express your feelings and talk about the experience of your dog’s life and death or loss. Talk to friends, post on Facebook, blog about it. It is normal for other people to assume you can move on quickly, because it wasn’t their loss. Don’t count on people to bring up your loss. They may think that avoiding it will make you feel better. Denial may help, in the short term, but it will come back to haunt you. If your own personal network is tired of hearing about your loss, then go to a support group and/or connect with people online. You don’t have to spend any time with friends who belittle your loss, compare your loss to theirs, or change the conversation to be about them instead of you and your dog. A lot of us try to be stoic, but we’re not doing anyone any favors if we don’t process our grief, because it can come out in other unpleasant ways (back pain, crankiness, overemotionality, underemotionality, lack of ability to form good relationships, you name it).
  3. Honor your dog’s life with some sort of ‘shrine.’ Put together a slideshow or video of your dog’s life. Make a collage for your wall with photos and/or your dog’s collar. Do a memorial ceremony where friends and family who knew your dog talk about his life and how it affected them. Create a web site in honor of your dog.
  4. Give yourself permission to not grieve all the time. It’s okay to be happy even after the loss of your dog. You can set time aside to not grieve, or set time aside to grieve, with some time limit.
  5. Exercise, eat, and get out of bed. Dogs can provide companionship, exercise, and even give us a reason to get up in the morning. Without your dog, you may have to push yourself to do these things, but it will become easier over time. Even light exercise, like walking around the block, can have a great effect on your mood. Walking where you normally went with your dog may bring up a lot of memories with your dog. Allow yourself to feel the grief of that loss but when you are ready, also to remember the joy you shared with your dog.

4 Healing Tasks for the Grieving Person or Family

As I’ve said before, everyone’s grief is different, but the Jeffries book that I mentioned before lists five things that you might do as you mourn your dog’s death or loss. I wanted to share this with you because you may be more familiar with the outdated idea that there are stages. Instead, we simply encounter grief in waves and eventually (if we’re persistent) work our way through these five tasks in our own personal order.


  1. Sharing Acknowledgment of Death or Loss. Really, truly understand the finality of the loss. This is where having a shrine and memorial ceremony come in. Work on open communication about the death in your family, including children, in an age-appropriate way. Doing something together as a family to celebrate the life of the dog and mourn the loss can help heal, as can involving friends.
  2. Sharing the Pain and Grief. Talk about the loss and keep talking. Express emotions. Feel. Don’t be surprised if your partner expresses his or her pain differently. That’s normal and does not mean s/he is a monster. Do not hold in what you are feeling in order to keep someone else from feeling bad. It’s good for both of you to talk about your guilt, anger, shame, pain, etc.
  3. Reorganizing the Family System. This is the logistical part of loss, as in “now I have only one dog to feed, not two.” Or “Do I bury my dog or cremate her or both?”  “How do I deal with the change of relationship with my remaining animals?” “Now that the dog-reactive dog is no longer with us, should we start going on more walks with the other one?”
  4. Creating New Directions, Relationships, and Goals. This is not a fast process, not a goal to reach as quickly as possible, but be aware that this is something that is healthy to do. This task might involve getting a new dog or other pet, perhaps the same breed or perhaps a different one. It might mean deciding to volunteer at a shelter to get your dog fix in some other way, or doing the traveling that you couldn’t do with your dog. If your dog was reactive or had other behavior problems, you might feel guilty about seeing his or her passing as an opportunity, but it’s also a realistic truth. This final task is about moving on and exploring new options for your life now that the situation has changed, while still holding your dog in a special place in your heart. Task four also involves exploring the possibility of your loss as a profound self-development experience. More on that next.

Your dog’s final gift to you

Life with a dog can teach you a lot: how to live in the moment, how to enjoy the smell of fresh-mown grass or the first snow of the year to its fullest, even how to forgive. The death of your dog can also teach you to live in the moment, give you insight into what it means to be alive, and give you an opportunity for growth. This chance to learn is a parting gift from your dog. Joining a pet loss support group and reading books on grief (see below) will help you put your grief in perspective and give you a way to continue processing your grief. It’s very important to express your feelings during this time. “The outward expression of grief, or mourning, is how you externalize those thoughts and feelings and ultimately, integrate them into your life” (Wolfelt, 2004, Kindle Locations 47-48). It may also be helpful to work with a therapist. While the grieving process is not a problem to be fixed, it is a time of tumultuous emotionality, from relief and intense guilt to anger and sadness. The loss of your dog may be an opportunity to understand the grief process and to work on the unprocessed grief of other losses in your life.

Recommended Reading

  • Kowalski, G. (2006). Goodbye, friend: Healing wisdom for anyone who has ever lost a pet. Novato, CA: New World Library.
  • Wolfelt, A. D.  (2004). When your pet dies: A guide to mourning, remembering and healing. Bozeman, MT: Companion Press

Pet Loss Support Groups near Seattle

Written by Grisha Stewart, Ahimsa Dog Training, Seattle [Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [del.icio.us] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon] Tweet This Post!
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45 Responses to “You’re Not Crazy, You’re Mourning: Grief from the Loss of Your Dog”

  1. Anne Says:

    We are experiencing this at the moment having lost my heart dog almost three weeks ago. I am lucky that I work in the animal care industry with so many who understand that losing a dog, especially one so special, is going to have a major impact on your behaviour, emotional state and ability to take part in life. I have amazing support from friends, family, clients and colleagues and it is still difficult so I can’t imagine what is must be like without having that support structure. But I am beginning to be able to appreciate his life and the part I played in it, and he in mine, more and more so healing is on-going. I will say no more as its still difficult to think about it and translate those thoughts to words. Thank you Grisha for writing this.

  2. Grisha Says:

    Sorry for your loss, Anne. Healing is a process and there are ups and downs. Good luck to you on this journey.

  3. Nancy Says:

    I’m sorry for your loss Anne. I lost one of my furbabies 4 weeks ago today. He was 14 and diagnosed with lymphoma. I’ve been through chemo and I know “they” say most dogs handle it well, I couldn’t put him through that, not at his age especially. It’s still poison and has to weaken the immune system in dogs like it does people, dogs just don’t complain.

    Thank you Grisha for writing this. I haven’t lost one in 14 1/2 years until Max 4 weeks ago and the emotional roller coaster is hell. I know friends mean well, but the comments like, you have 3 other dogs or, are you going to “replace” him, hurts. You can never replace one of your “kids” whether 2 or 4 legged and as much as I love my other 3 dogs and 2 cats, they are all unique and it’s not the same in the house, how could it be. Thankfully I have a doc that, even though she doesn’t have dogs, knows how I feel about mine and respects it and gave me a med so I can get some sleep at night and help with the anxiety. I think this article is not only helpful for those of us who have lost our precious, furry child, but hopefully it will help others to at least respect our pain and realize some of us truly do love ours with all our hearts. That unconditional love is one that only animals can give.

  4. Grisha Says:

    Thanks for sharing, Nancy. There are a lot of things that people do or say that can accidentally hurt, like handing you tissue when you start to cry (versus just letting you talk or cry and having tissue around, in case you need it). Any tips from your own experience that you can share for what people should or should not do would be useful for the people reading this blog.

  5. Connie Says:

    A very thoughful and helpful article, Grisha. As a nurse, I’ve done grief counseling with many patients and families, especially when working in the NICU. As someone who works with dogs and their humans, a trainer, handler, doglover…I’ve done grief counseling with many humans, while also helping the human moms and dads come to terms with what they may experience while grieving for their pet. Your article very gently explains the many faces of grief…none of them crazy or wrong. Whether it be the death of a human loved one, or a beloved pet, encouraging the person who is grieving to talk is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Some people say, “no, that will just upset them.” They are already upset, and letting someone talk about the good times and the sadness helps a person to deal with their grief.

    It’s been 10 wks since our beloved Sheltie, Jake, crossed the Bridge, but we had 6 months to celebrate his life and slowly prepare for his death. He was 13 1/2 yrs old and started having seizures last November.

    What is still hard to think about and talk about is my heart and soul dog, Lacey. Three days before Jake crossed, Lacey was diagnosed with primary lung cancer. A total shock.
    On her behalf, I opted out of surgery and the chemo and radiation that would have followed. We were hoping for at least 6 more months with her. It was 5 weeks. I can’t say thank you enough to our vets, their staff and family. My husband has been there for me every step of the way, as have so many of my friends who understand the loss of a beloved pet. Some words can sting, especially when a family member says, “Well, she lived a better life than she would have with someone else, but you have to remember she was just a dog.” Sigh…

  6. Susan Says:

    Aloha Grisha,

    My beautiful boy, Bruno crossed over the Rainbow Bridge on Sept. 3, 2009 and I am still griefing the loss of this guy. It was nice to read this and know for sure that I am not crazy. When I adopted him for an older German lady who had him chained as the guard dog, I always told him “You and me together forever.” He went everywhere with me and he was such a people magnet. 130 lbs. of love and joy!! He is in my Heart each and every day. What a blessing having that unconditional love in my life. Nothing like it!! Mahalo nui loa from Maui, Hawaii.

  7. Megan Says:

    This is very difficult for me to write. If I had my way I would suffer my grief in private, but this article has stirred up deep feelings and I feel if even one pet (or person) can be saved from the heartbreak we suffered by me sharing our experience, it is worth bearing the pain to share our story. Last year our beautiful and beloved 15 month old puppy Ziva drowned in a backyard pool. It was as innocent as a day could be. Beautiful and sunny – our two Boston Terrier dogs, Kaia & Ziva, were playing like crazy and loving the freedom of the fenced backyard at a friend’s home. Many dogs (including our own) have played and enjoyed this yard for years… but something unthinkable happened when everyone was enjoying a perfect summer’s day. One minute the pups were running freely in the yard and the next minute we couldn’t recall Ziva. Kaia was by our side. Ziva has a tendency to wander so we were not overly concerned at first until after the traditional “Treat! Treat! Treat!” call was met with no response. Subtle panic set in as we immediately thought she had gotten out from the fenced yard and had wandered into the woods or across the busy road. It wasn’t until our friend said “We should check the pool.” She also immediately said – “But I am sure she is not there.”, but she was wrong. The solar bubble cover was on half the pool and as we rolled it back we saw our beloved Ziva lying at the bottom. We dove in and pulled her out. We did CPR, mouth to mouth, and everything we could think of to revive her, but we were too late. We will never know if she fell in while playing with Kaia; if she was trying to get a drink and leaned in too far; or if she was just simply chasing a butterfly (as she is known to do) and didn’t look where she was running; but somehow no one saw or heard her jump or fall into the pool where she couldn’t manage to get out again.

    You will never know the grief and overwhelming guilt we all feel about this accident. It is as strong today as it was then. Ziva was one of the most loving and wonderful dogs we have ever known. We only had her in our lives for a few months, but we know she enjoyed her time with us immensely and Kaia was her best friend. My heart will never heal from the loss of our dear Ziva. She came into our lives unexpectedly and left us just as unexpectedly. But the message I wish to share with everyone and the lesson we can all take away from this tragedy is that every place is an unexpected hazard to our pets. Where dozens of dogs had been perfectly safe was a place of danger to our darling Ziva. Please always look with extra cautious eyes at all your surroundings and where you leave your dogs and other animals. Where we see familiar places and safe circumstances, may in fact be dangerous situations for our dear pets. There is no way to foresee every possible, imaginable hazard, but please – because of our loss – please look at least at backyard pools as potential dangers and please do everything you can to keep your pets safe. The loss of a pet from old age and disease is absolutely heartbreaking, but losing a pet in an accident which you feel could have been avoided carries a level of guilt that compounds the pain that will never leave you. Thank you for reading this and all the bests to you and your loved ones (2 legged and 4 legged ones included). Rest in peace dear Ziva. We love you.

  8. Sharon Says:

    People who are mourning a pet also can visit the online chatrooms of the Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement. It’s a safe place where people can share emotions. No matter whether a pet is lost to accident, illness, old age, gone missing or stolen, or any other tragic circumstance, people in the chatroom support each other and understand the pain since they have experienced it themselves. The main website is http://www.aplb.org .

  9. Chrissy Says:

    Hi everyone,
    I just wanted to let you know that I have read all the stories posted here and hope that it brings me some solitude to an aging dog.
    I have a Great Dane that is not in good condition and I know that I must put him down and it is killing me to even think of it. He has trouble breathing and if he gets over excited he cannot breathe, causing him to gasp for air. This came on suddenly and it is in his lineage of danes so I know he cannot go on for long.
    I am hoping I can cope with the loss as I am tearful already and it hurts worse than losing a loved one. He has been with me since he was born and now he is 7 and I keep praying that it is not the end yet but I know it is.
    So I know where all of you are comming from and the intensive pain that follows, my only hope is that I can function normaly, but I must admit losing him will really put the dampers on any thing I do.
    Hope more people have comments that will help me ease the pain. Thanks to everyone for their stories and I know what you have felt. Thanks again

  10. Kristina Callender Says:

    Hello Grisha,

    One of your students is a collegue of mine that told me about your services and suggested I reach out to tell you about my pet loss support groups in Northgate. I facilitate a Dog Gone 4 week pet loss support group to help end the isolation that comes with pet loss.

  11. diane krieger Says:

    Aloha Grisha and thank you for hosting this forum and for
    your thoughts. I just lost my 13 year and 5 month old beautiful
    girl, an American Eskimo, I’ve had from her first breath until her
    last.. just a week ago. I am devastated and the guilt for all that
    led to her death over the past few years. Living on a golf course
    for a year and a half and allowing her to run on that toxic grass,
    full of pesticides. Moving to a beautiful area on Kauai where she
    could be on the beach and swim. But also an area where
    irrresponsible owners of aggressive dogs allow them to attack the
    innocent. My dog had to have two surgeries and insane amounts of
    anesthesia, anti-biotics along with the shots, flea and worming
    meds they say are necessary. I guess I’m writing all of this, so
    that others won’t make the same mistakes. My dog died of liver
    disease, brought on by choices I made and my guilt is unbearable.
    My dog knows and always knew how much I loved her and she keeps
    reminding me to remember that, but it’s so painful to have gone
    through her physical lose of and her absence now and ever more. I
    know she will always be with me in spirit and I am so grateful for
    the gift of the unconditional love we’ve shared all this time. The
    communication we had the last night together on the floor, in a
    moment of telepathic understanding was beyond words. Had she been
    looking so deeply into my eyes for all these years and this was the
    only time I tuned into her and listened enough to hear her? Her
    patience with me through all of these years was saintly. She wanted
    to pass naturally and in my heart of hearts, I knew we were meant
    to have that experience together, but well meaning friends
    convinced me to ‘get the vet there asap’. He came to my home the
    next morning, when she was already so close to going. It just
    wasn’t necessary to intervene with her process. She was fine with
    it and though she wanted to stay as long as possible, she was in
    the moment with her reality. The vet did not explain to me what he
    was going to do. When he gave her the sedative, she clearly said
    with her eyes: ‘NO’, but relaxed into it when I told her it was
    okay. The vet than came into the room 20 minutes later and had me
    lay her on the floor, where he proceeded to put a lethal syringe
    (enough for a horse) directly into her heart. I told him ‘this is
    NOT necessary’, but he said it was quick. I was in shock and left
    traumatized. In this case, with my dog not in pain, but passing
    naturally in eye contact with me, our final and profound moments
    together were stolen. The lesson here is: FOLLOW YOUR HEART AND THE
    GUIDANCE OF YOUR ANIMAL. Do not let anyone or anything lead you
    from that path. I ask my beloved friend for forgiveness and I know
    as always, for all the times she wanted to go to the beach and said
    ‘hold on’, for not being on the floor with her for a week instead
    of one night… she forgives, as selflessly as she loved. These
    ‘just dogs’…. they are light beings, they are our sacred
    teachers, they are our hearts. Her name was ‘Pua’ and she will live
    on in me.

  12. Marianella Torres Says:

    My beautiful and amazing dog died 2 weeks ago. He was a 12 year old Chinese sharpie, I’m so depressed and devasteded with his dead. He was a very healthy dog all his life, he was my best friend, my companion, in other words tommy was everything for me. As I’m writing this tears are going down my face. My heart is broken in a million pieces. I can’t comprehend that he is not here anymore, it is very difficult for me!!! I took him to the vet on April 18 because he was limping from his front leg, they did x rays, and told me that he had arthritis, but they said that his heart and lungs were ok, so they gave me all the medication for pain and also antiflamatories. A few days later tommy was a little better, but after that he started coughing and I got really worried, because he was not the same dog. I took him to the vet again, and they said that he was not looking good. They took x rays of his lungs and discover that he had all this white patches around, and then they said they needed to do an ultrasound and a niddel aspiration of the lung to be sure what could it be the problem. After that they came out with 3 possible results. Cancer, a bacteria, or a fungus. They send the sample from the niddle aspiration of the lung to a lab to see if that would it give them better results, but that was done on wesnday and tommy died on Friday!!! We were at the house and he couldn’t breath. I was very despereted to see him that way. I felt helpless that I couldn’t help him,so I rush to the vet with him when you got there they gave him oxigene. I tought that he was getting better with the oxigene and the doctor said he will keep him there all night to make sure I could breath, so I felt I was doing the right thing for him leaving him there. But after approximately 40 minutes of giving him oxigene I was in the waiting room and one of the nurses can and said run they are giving him CPR I rush to see him, but the doctor didn’t let me enter the room. I was so devasteded and I started crying, because I knew in my heart that he died and I couldn’t say goodbye. I fell that I let him down that I should of taking him to the vet earlier. I felt soooooo much pain in my heart even days before he died, but now is even worse I fell so empty without him my life is not the same anymore I don’t knowwhat to do with all this pain. I cry all the time I miss him so much, he gave all his unconditional love. We were in love with each other our bond was so strong unbreakable. I felt that every time he looked at me his eyes were penetrating my soul…. My life will never be the same without him I have an empty heart and soul… They gave me his ashes 3 days ago and I have the box with them on top of one of my night stand tables to fell that he is closer to me… I think I’m going to go to a loss counselor because I need a lot of help. Tommy I love you sooooooooo very much, I hope you can forgive me….. Lani…

  13. michelle Laurienti Says:

    My beloved Belly buttons left behind her sister of 9 years, and me her mother, best friend soul mate, i have had my girls since birth, being great danes, i knew their life span was short, having had there dad, who lived only 8 years, i did everything right, the best grain free dog food, off to the vet for everything she was a breast cancer surviver And was on Cushings meds. Her sister desa has a titanium hip, i got sick 22 years ago and have wanted 2 give up so many times, my girls would not let me, Belly was my nurse, if i was sleeping too much she would rub her whiskers on my lips, to get me moving, she was my love, life, joy, the breath in my lungs,the light of my life, our souls were connected we could understand each other by a way i cant put into words, i cant hardly wait for my time to go becouse i miss her so much, i am trying to be careful not to let my greif affect her sister, who seems to have given up, i can. oonly get her to eat a little by spoon, it has been 10so days,

  14. michelle Laurienti Says:

    I meant i have been sick for 2 years not 22, i have been
    taking desa everywhere with me i dont want her to give up,but she
    will only drink if i bring it to her, or eat if i hand feed her,
    she wont eat treats or chew bones anymore how do i will her to
    live? I cant loose her too

  15. Robin Says:

    I just lost my best friend yesterday so unexpected! Thought it was a pulled muscle, getting ready to go pick him up, vet called and it was a large tumor in his hip. a month to live he said and he would be in pain. I didn’t even get to say goodbye! He was my fourth Dane, and he turned six Saturday. We prayed for a long life, but it wasn’t long enough for me. I didn’t have my coffee drinking buddy this morning. I’m more sad than when my mother died! I don’t understand that. Was it my fault! I’ve had people say when they die they want to come back as my dog! What do I do with his big ole bed? I live in Oklahoma and was able to send his bedding and bowls and towels I dried him with to a shelter for misplaced dogs from the tornado. Lives lost 24, including children, I feel so guilty crying for my dog! But I know it’s ok. Bye Bishop!

  16. Pam Says:

    I am so devastated still by the loss of my 2 beautiful doggies. They were 14 years old and I had them since they were 8 week old puppies. Lacey had a large liver mass and started having grand mal seizures. After have 4 of them in 2 days I could not let my baby suffer so the vet put her to sleep in my arms. 3 weeks and 2 days later, her sister Sweet pea died in my husband’s arms from renal failure. I loved those dogs more than I love myself. I can’t even think about them because I cannot bear the grief that comes with facing their loss. I yearn so much just to hold them, to smell them, to feel their warmth next to me. It does help to look at their pictures. I feel so alone and I am mad at God for taking the both of them. My life will never have the meaning it once did, and I will never be the same. They were a part of my family, and the love they had for me nothing else will ever replace.
    Thanks for this website. It helps to know that there is validity of my feelings.

  17. Susan Says:

    I lost my Sofie 8 months ago and I still cry everyday for her. Sometimes I think I am going to go crazy without her. My niece was here this weekend with her dog and I didn’t know how I was going to react. Well, I felt like Paisley was in Sofie’s home and I didn’t like it at all. Now I know there is no way I can get another dog until this grief subsides. Sofie meant the world to me. She was born in Africa and we flew her to Idaho which thankfully after days of travel she made it fine. She had 7 wonderful years here hiking, swimming and just enjoying life. At 11 she got cancer but my wonderful Vet and Washington State Vet School did surgery and radiation on her. She was good for 3 more years then she started to fail. I wouldn’t give up. Tons of meds, organic food that I made and acupuncture for pain was the last 3 years of her life. Her Vet came to house to put her to sleep. I was so nervous and upset as Sofie was my husband’s and my life. For 3 months afterwards I just sat and stared at the park our house is attached to. Now 8 months later I can function but cry all the time, and really just want her back which I know is impossible. Sofie lived till she was 14 1/2 years old and I know she struggled the last 6 months of her life. I would scream at her Vet saying to do anything to save her. I must of seemed crazy. So thankfully when I do go on these grieving sites and I see that other people are feeling what I am feeling I know that I am not alone. There are other people who seem to be caught up in this grief as I am. This Fall I am planning to get out and try to start living again. Hope it works

  18. Holly Says:

    Thank you for this article. I needed it today. We lost our beloved dog, Abby two days ago. When I say we, I mean not only my family but Abby’s daughter, Saddie as well. It’s just not been the same in our house. All the noises that were there when we got home to be greeted by the “girls”. The constant race to get to the doggy door to investigate the neighbor dogs, the begging for scraps at the table. All of it has changed without Abby there. We knew since Christmas of last year when she exhibited her first seizure that her health was in decline. We prepared for it, talked to our 3 year old about it and yet, we were still unprepared to come home to find Abby in the shape that she was in. We had been taking her to the vet, trying to seek answers. We had her on seizure medication but I knew her attacks were getting worse and the vet suspected that she had a tumor either in her brain or in her pancreas and with her deterioration, cancer was also suspected. She was 12 years old when we had to put her down. I’ve been trying to put on a brave face for our 3 year old. I’ve been trying to act normal around Saddie and yet we grieve, both of us. I’ve started to take her on walks in the afternoon and I’ve been sticking to the gym. My poor husband hasn’t said much more than a few words. I know he is processing through his own grief but I can’t get him to talk about it. It’s like we’ve lost a child, not a pet.

  19. Grisha Says:

    Thank you all for sharing…

  20. Shawn Says:

    It’s been ten days since I lost my little Chok-di. I’ve had some good days and some bad days. Today was the worst day I’ve had since I brought her cremains home a week ago. I am beginning to think my family was cursed by a witch (not as crazy as it sounds I am an anthropologist). I miss her so much.

  21. Fiona Says:

    I got my little girl as a house warming present when I was 26, six months later I was diagnosed with a terminal cancerous tumor behind my eye. My little girl bailey spent the next 2 years of her life right next to me, through surgery and chemo and eventually remission. I never forgot taking her puppy years away nor the joy she brought me during those very scary times. Since then she moved with me, went through a couple of relationships with me and all was planned for her to be at the ceremony and reception of my wedding. In amongst all this my partner and I discovered we couldn’t have children naturally so went through the process of ivf. Before ivf we went on a holiday and the day before we left little bailey was coughing, like she was choking on something. I asked my mother to take her to get an X-ray whilst we were gone. I retuned to find out the xraynhad revealed a massive tumor in her chest, eating and drinking was really hard for her. We started ivf and just after the transfer we had to make the decision to let her go. It was the saddest moment of my life. We never got a baby through any of our ivf. She never made it to our wedding. It’s now 9 months since she’s gone and it’s really hit me how much of a loss she was. In amongst a wedding and ivf I never really got to mourn her properly. She was so many things to me for over 13 years, my heart still breaks but I am so lucky to have had just a love and closeness to something like I had with her. I don’t get snuggles at bedtime and my little girl lying in my arms like a little teddy bear but I also know many people will never have had an affinity with something like I had her. So never feeling guilty over the grief of a pet. It’s a well deserved emotion that really belongs to the amazing gift of a dog.

  22. Nicole Says:

    I just lost my dog today. Sugar the Shihtzu, she was a therapy dog for children and seniors. She was so stubborn about staying in the yard and on a leash no matter what training I tried. So tonight I heard brakes and tires squeal and sugar screaming out in pain. She never stop screaming and crying untill the vet gave her the injection to put her to sleep. I was in a bad relationship when I got sugar and went through so much with her. It was like she helped me and gave me strength. My ex could treat my how he wanted but when he went for her I had to leave. She slept with me every night even shared my pillow. I never went anywhere without her. She even would go to the fancy hair salon for color extensions in her tail. I just am so lost but know it will get better it’s just nice to have somewhere to share my story

  23. Drew Says:

    I just put my 13 year old mixed shep/lab Lucky boy down two days ago and I am just on a roller coaster of emotions. To look at him sitting down on his bed in the middle of everything you’d think he was 3 or 4. All ways happy, with a bit relaxed grin on his face softly bobbing his bead to the beat of his breathing. Never complained or cried for attention- just as long as he got a little of the focus here and there. He developed arthritis and degenerative myo in his rear and started to really show it about a year ago- trouble getting out of the truck to go play or the curling of a back paw when he stood in one place for a while. That’s what I’m grieving- the fact that- outside of his hips getting bad- there was nothing wrong with him. No deafness or loss of sight. He ate like a horse and loves going for walks on the beach. I read so many of you have had these horrifying cancers and diseases that you’ve had to endure with your dogs- I feel for you most sincerely- but mine was taken from me because of some stupid hip problem. I know he was in pain and this is just me being selfish but that he had to DIE really just destroys my heart. He did have a great life and NOBODY will greive me as much as I do him. It was merciful and humane to put him down but this really sucks. I’m going to honor his memory and wait for him to bring me my new friend. Love you, little pal- always

  24. Pam Says:

    I just read your comment and I just wanted you to know how sorry I am for your loss. I lost my 2 babies within 9 days of each other in June and it was devastating. Things have gotten a little better, but the deep sting of loss will always be there.
    Just know that I will be praying for you and there are many of us who understand what you are going through, and you are not alone.

  25. Sue Says:

    I lost my handsome, wonderful 18 month old German Shepherd,
    Levi, to Lymphoma on 12/10/2013.. Two days ago. My heart is broken,
    and I miss him constantly..I find myself thinking that I need to
    get home to feed him and give him his medicine, or let him go
    outside. I wake up and expect to see him..my house is so quiet
    without him..I am devastated and I feel so sad..18 months old is
    too young. He was such a handsome boy…

  26. Connie Says:

    I have been devastated since the death of my 10 year out cocker spaniel, Joey. He would have been ten on January 5, 2014, but he died on December 6th, 2013. He died of an enlarged heart and complications from that. I only knew he had that illness the same day that he died. He was fine up until 12/6. He was shaking uncontrollably when my husband took him outside at 8:00 a.m. on 12/6, so I called the vet and took him right into his office. They said he had a high fever and after taking xrays they found that he had an enlarged heart and fluid on the lungs. This all happened so fast, as Joey was fine up until that morning. They gave him Lasix and antibiotics, and I was with him for 3 hours in the vets office. They said I could take him home as his temp was down, and he peed which was good as it meant the Lasix was working. They took a heart test to see if his heart was damaged, and said I would know those results the next Monday. I took my Joey home around 11:15 a.m. and he peed outside, then he ate and drank, but only 4 hours after leaving the vet with Joey, he started going in circles and turning his head to the right. My husband and I got in the car to take him back to the vet around 3:30 p.m. and while we were backing down our driveway with Joey in my arms, to go the vet, Joey lifted his head up high, like he could not breathe and I started to cry and tell him I loved him and he would be okay, but then his head fell down on my lap and he died. We just sat in the car and cried and cried. We drove to the vet and they said that a blood clot from his damaged heart must have gone to his brain. I haven’t stopped crying since this all happened. What made things worse is that my daughter’s beagle, Fred, died only one month before on Nov. 7, of kidney failure. My daughter and Fred have lived with us for 5 years. Fred and Joey were great pals. We are grieving over the loss of them both. Life is not normal in our house and won’t be for a long time. I keep reliving the day that my Joey died and feel so guilty, that maybe there was something that I could have done for him. What gets me, is that I had Joey in the vets office 3 weeks before he died for a general all over check up, as I wanted to be sure he did not have what Fred had, and the vet told me that Joey was in excellent health. SO, if he was in such excellent health, then why did he have an enlarged heart 3 weeks later? I am angry and so heartbroken that I don’t feel I can bare this loss. I miss him terribly. Joey was barely 10. Fred was almost 12. I feel that Joey should have lived a lot longer than 10 years. He was the sweetest, most lovable soul mate, and I will never, ever forget him. How does one get over such a loss? My life will never be the same.

  27. Jack Says:

    We put our 11 year old beautiful American Bulldog down yesterday evening. She was a very special pooch and will leave a gaping hole in our family. I can’t believe how a family pet can make you love them with all your heart and they have never spoken a word their entire life. It’s only been a day and I’m crying like a child I’m 36 mind you. I will forever remember and love you Electra. R.I.P. Our beautiful girl.

  28. Yuzo Yamada Says:

    My dog, Jay, was put down on Friday, February 14, 2014. He was my life, and I am in shambles right now. The pain is overwhelming, and I wish it would go away soon. He was the sweetest pitbull, and anyone who met him would have felt the same way. His life slipped away in my arms through euthanasia…he licked my face the entire time before he went. A good part of me left with him.

    RIP Jay, I hope I see you again.

  29. Verysadmom Says:

    I haven’t loss my dog through death. I was forced to drive a long way and place my 9 month old puppy in a cage. I’m crying since y walked away. I took a picture of her. I’m broken, I want her backm but the person who force me to drive there gave his contact information, but I think I can still prov I’m her owner. Wish me luckm she is very attached to me.

  30. cindy Says:

    I lost my best friend. I am so stuck. We were his 4th home . When I got him the vet thought he was 3-4. He had a brain tumor -he was 20. I have no one to really share this pain with. People wonder “why are you still crying” its been a week already”. I wake up and there are no brown eyes looking at me for his breakfast or the last few spoons of my cereal. He’s not by my shower door when I get out. He’s not watching me do laundry and his head isn’t on my lap when I watch TV or read I’m carring around his blanket. I am lost…………….

  31. Barkley's Girl Says:

    I’m in tears reading the stories of other pet parents. My Barkley went to wait for me at the Rainbow Bridge on August 26, 2013. I’m still broken up about losing him. He was my first pet and we were together for almost 14 years. I call him my “doggy Lama” because he taught me so many lessons about life, love, and loss. I too worry that maybe I didn’t do enough or maybe made the wrong decision to euthanize him. I have to remind myself that I love him and I loved him enough to be willing to let him go when his little body couldn’t contain the beautiful soul and loving heart he shared with me and my family every single day of our time together. I love you Barkley. Thank you for choosing me!

  32. Sarah Riedel Says:

    I just wanted to say thank you to the moderators of this site for providing a safe place for grieving pet owners to remember their beloved lost friend and help each other through the many stages of the grieving process. We lost our best friend Ernie this past January – he was 14 years old and he was like a human in a dog’s body. He was also the mascot of our glass gallery and a prominent public figure in town. His loss was felt keenly not just in our family but through the whole community.

    With most people too upset to attend, my partner Luke and I were chosen as the two to take Ernie to his final appointment. Always the kindest, he made sure Ernie was as comfortable and as unafraid as possible. To him it was just another ride in a car. He had me remove his collar before we entered the vet’s, and since Ernie had been so weak, he carried him into the office himself. I had intended on staying in the room, but once they started describing the process I broke down in tears and reluctantly left the room. I didn’t want Ernie to see me upset because I knew he would pick up on it – he was so sensitive like that. I sat outside for a few minutes and then saw the vet exit the room. He offered me a brief apology. I looked through the doors and saw Luke there lying on the floor with Ernie in his arms. It was absolutely the most heartbreaking single image I have ever seen in my life. I can still see it six months later. They had been best friends for life and it was right for them to go together. I still cry thinking about it.

  33. Lisa Says:

    Hi, I just had to put my cat Lindsay down Last Friday 06/06/14. She was my best friend. I found her in my condo when we did the final walk through and my heart just melted and I knew her and I were going to be together forever. She was about 2 and a half years old at that time the vet said. She lived to be almost 15 years. She ended up getting hyper thyroid disease and in time the disease took over.

    RIP Lindsay

    I know I will see you in heaven

  34. Ann Says:

    Two weeks ago we put our beloved Brittany (Mia) of 12yrs to sleep. We noticed enlarged neck nodes on May 28 and saw the vet the 29. We were told she had lymphoma and had 1-4weeks without treatment. I prayed to god to heal her and I’d do anything for her. He gave me two memorable days of her feeling like she was 5 yrs old. Running and enjoying her friends. But on June 2 we new it was to be a day to say I love you and sleep well forever. .She was tired and fatigued and I had to give her back to heaven. I want to say that I was selfish and I wanted her well and with me. I cried more than I cried for my mom. I miss her terribly. I go to work and I’m better but when I com home I could cry for a while. I have her ashes and pictures but she put a hole in my heart and I don’t no how to heal it.

  35. Justin Says:

    Thank you for this page. yesterday I had to put to rest my 8yr old great dane Brutus. I have lost both parents and yet losing my big boy seems to hurt a thousand times worse. I know I did the right thing by him yet I can help but feel like I betrayed his trust in me. I will always question if I could have helped him more. I have a hole in my heart 10 times the size he was. I am glad to know I am not over reacting with these emotions. Thank all who have shared for opening up your hearts to the rest of us

  36. David R Says:

    I Am Still Here!!!

    Charlie was a dark chocolate lab/pit mix rescue we found in 1999 at MacArthur Park downtown Los Angeles, CA. He was a soul mate; we shared a wonderful life together. He has recently passed in May of 2014. He was having old age problems like all dogs do. Nevertheless, at times, his puppy energy came out. He had a growing tumor that the Doctor recommended we remove, so we did. Since the surgery, he started going downhill. I had scheduled the Vet to come to the house to evaluate his condition. I prepared myself that we might have to euthanize him during the visit. I spent the whole day with him; hugging, kissing, and feeding him all his favorite foods (pizza, cheese, pretzels, treats etc…). I had a dear friend that Charlie adored come hangout with us. Charlie was having so much fun and had so much energy that I started second-guessing myself – maybe he wasn’t as sick as I thought? All day I was having a hard time realizing this could be his last day.

    The doorbell rang and my heart just dropped. The Doctor entered to examine Charlie. He recommended we put Charlie on steroids for a few weeks to see how he would progress- while we were discussing what medications to administer; Charlie got up from his bed, made his rounds throughout the house, came back, and then Collapsed. He had a stroke. I held him in my arms while the Doctor started the process. I told him I loved him and he would always be my puppy. I was there when he took his last breath and felt his soul leave once his heart stopped beating.

    Charlie knew it would be too difficult for me to make the decision so he made it for me! I had taken care of him all his life and by me being there at his time of need made it easier for him to let go. I sometimes wonder if I didn’t agree to the surgery – if he would still be here? I will never know that answer but, I did what I thought was best for my buddy. Friends constantly say I should not blame myself.

    It’s been six week since his passing and I have had quite a few visits in dreams from my beloved Charlie.
    In one dream, I was awaked by Charlie as he was jumping on my bed wanting me to take him out as he always did early every morning. I woke up and for a moment felt like it was just another day having to get up to take him out- until I realized it was just a dream. Most recently, I had a dream that he was standing next to me looking strong and healthy, I was hugged, and kissing him- I could feel and smell him It felt so real. When I woke up, I finally felt at peace!

  37. Noelle Says:

    So glad I found this site on google.

    My beloved chow mix, Charlotte, passed on Sunday, July 13, 2014. She was 15 and was with us for over 14 years. My husband and I adopted her from the spca the year after we married. I remember thinking what the heck did we just do when we opened my car door to let her in and then he opened his she ran out the other side. Luckily, she ran to the quarantine kennel where she was the previous 30 days. A few days later we found out she had heartworm. Already having developed an attachment to her, we spent the money that we didn’t have to get her the treatments. They worked. She was heartworm free. Over the puppy years she chewed up countless items including carpet when she felt ill. What an absolutely wonderful adult dog she became. So loving, so sweet, funny and well behaved. When we moved out of our apartment and into our house when she was almost 9, her favorite spot was the chair in the bay window. She loved to sit, propped on the pillows and look out at her world. in 2011, when she was 12, she injured her back end on the stairs. She couldn’t walk or put any weight on her back legs. We had her on medication for a few weeks and then glucosamine and chondroitin and were able to take her off the prescription meds. She was back to running and jumping. As she aged, she became stiff and creaky with arthritis but still loved to sit in her chair. Over the past few months she would pant a bit more going up and down the stairs but she trudged on. 2 weeks ago was the last time she jumped in her chair. Last week we noticed some blood on the floor and her treats but thought it was from her gums since we’ve seen that in the past from a hard chewie. Sunday morning we woke up and there was quite a bit of blood on the carpet. All day I was wiping up little pools of blood and she had 2 pungent urine accidents, the last having drops of blood in it. We took her to the emergency vet and her blood work showed elevated levels in her liver and kidneys and she had absolutely no ability to clot. The 2 xrays showed multiple tumors in her chest and abdomen and burst alveoli which was causing her to bleed out. We made the decision…

    and now we’re left with a huge hole in our hearts. I’m absolutely devastated and heartbroken. I know for sure we did the right thing in helping her cross over peacefully but it still hurts like nothing I’ve ever felt before. I feel so empty… and a heaviness in my chest. I left work early Monday before I lost it, bawled walking inside since she wasn’t there to greet me. I sat in her chair, hugged her pillow and sobbed uncontrollably for over an hour until I was exhausted. I’ve cried everyday off and on all day and I feel like I’m on a roller coaster. The grief comes in waves and I’m letting myself feel it. I think I’m accepting it more each day. I don’t think I could get as low as I was Monday.

    I hear noises in the house and think it’s her… panting or her foot scratching the floor. I see her everywhere… her favorite chair, the spot on the floor in the kitchen where we would have to step over her, the upstairs hall as I get ready for work. It’s so lonely without her.

    We had her cremated (by herself) and she’ll be ready to come home in a couple weeks. I’m hoping just having her home and knowing where she is helps the healing.

  38. Robin Says:

    Thank you for this. My Mattie, a 13-14 year old shih tzu rescue, was put to rest on July 16th. She was going through heart and liver failure. I had her for 11 years. She was my baby and dearest friend. I knew saying good bye would be difficult, but I had no idea how difficult. My husband, who was one of the first men she liked, has been super supportive, so I feel lucky. And I know he is feeling the loss as well.

    Understanding that the grief I am feeling is normal and expected is helpful. I am not crazy. Though I have had dogs all my life, Mattie was mine. I picked her and she picked me. Where ever I was, she was. With her passing, I am now in the bathroom alone. No longer do I have an audience when using the bathroom or showering. Very empty lonely feeling, the house is quiet. For a small dog, she had a huge presence. We have another younger dog, but our relationship is different. Mattie was my soul dog. I miss that face and those super soft paws.

  39. Laura Says:

    I had a 14 year old Samoyed I just put down on July 18th. I adopted her in August of 2002 when she was 1 year old. I was a single 20 year old girl living alone in MD. Since then, I have married, had 2 kids, and moved to Florida. My girl Kayla has seen me through thick and thin and been with me every step of the way. She was diagnosed with diabetes in 2009 right before the birth of my first son. That did not deter me one bit. She was the best dog, was awesome with my boys!

    It had been 5 days now and am continuing to have emotional outbursts and guess I fooled myself thinking I would at least not do it in front of the children. Luckily they are still to young to understand why mom is crying but the article does explain a lot of how I am feeling and what I am going through. I have managed to bottle most of my feelings up pretty well, except when I’m alone…I know that is not good but that is the type person I am. I just hope it gets easier with time.

    My vet came to my house to put Kayla down and I think being there and holding her as she took her last breath was a mistake. I am so glad I was there for her but that was my last vision of her and that is all that replays in my mind and that is what causes me to lose it….and am no good after that. :(

    I’m sorry, I just never expected this to be so hard!!!

  40. wendy Says:

    I just said good bye to the most wonderful pet ever, my baby boy Nicholas a 10 1/2 year old bichon. He was fine one day and then he was not. It all happened so suddenly. He was my best friend, confidant, walking buddy. The emotional pain is unbearable, the waves of tears and uncontrolable crying is almost too much to handle, i feel the grief is so intense it chokes me. I can not sleep. House feels so empty, quiet, somber without him. I love him so much it is hard to accept it. I love you Nicky! In my heart forever.

  41. Dee Swisher Yousef Says:

    I said until we meet again to my sweet angel girl Sofie on July 27th 2012. Sofie was a beautiful little Blenheim King Charles Cavalier. Her big soulful eyes watched my every move when we were together. If I thought she was asleep I would glance over and she would be looking at my soul with those eyes. We shared our meals ( she shared whatever mom had) and often I would cook her favorite chicken breast for her . She loved sweet potatoes and Busy Bones. I noticed a lump on one of her breasts in March 2014 and we went to see the vet. The news was devastating. Tests were completed and I was informed Sofie had a terminal cancer the tumor had spread to her lungs and heart. Our vet provided palliative care for pain and to ease her breathing. Sofie and I spent her last 2 months living with friends who several acres of fields, big trees and where I let Sofie run free. She chased squirrels , butterflies , we would lie together in the grass as she sniffed the breezes. When Sofie tired I would carry her in and lay her on her favorite blanket on my bed. Sofie was my constant companion for 10 years . I feel her presence everywhere, I hear her softly breathing at night and my heart aches when I realize she is no longer here with me. To say I loved her is an understatement because I adored my little girl. I kissed her little soft warm head as she lay on the cold steel of the vets exam table after he gave her the sedative. I told her to wait for me at the end of the Rainbow Bridge and not to be afraid because momma would soon be there beside her. I cry every time I think hear her now, I look for her next me and the aching emptiness is immeasurable.

  42. Dee Swisher Yousef Says:

    Sofie passed away July 27th 2014 not 2012.

  43. cathy Says:

    I am reaching out for support. I had to put my beloved canine soul mate Chester down on may 13 and I find myself in deep sorrow yet. I miss him terribly. I try to console myself that he was 15 and a Half years old and had a great life. I have lost other pets but this one has been particularly difficult. I know these events take time but this is so hard. I pray for comfort and am grateful for a safe forum to express my grief amongst those who truly understand. Bless all of you.

  44. william Says:

    I have read your blog 3 times now. My heart is still crushed. At first i thought it was splintered…now i know it is flattened. I have tried to change direction and say things will be different and how they are.
    There is a emptyness that is indescribable. Our life wasnt one of abundant joy but we shared each triumph and pitfall together. I keep torturing myself looking at pics online of rotty puppys looking for my buddys eyes but they are not there. Speaking of the things that were once is of no avail,only of the love we shared. I have had many losses in 11 years but the only comfort i had was to hold my friend and wet his neck with my tears. God fills my life with his blessings but my life on earth is one of emptyness…It has been since 29th of may and it is like yesterday…Please God give me the will to continue and send me a Love while holding on to buddy for eternity!

  45. Rosemarie Says:

    My little toy poodle was the love of my life and I loved him more than life itself. He was it, my entire family members wrapped up into one. Who else is there now. I had my cockatiel, whom my dog bonded with, as well as myself, but she died of a broken heart recently, too. My distant friends don’t understand, so they are out of my life. Lonely period.

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