Coping with the loss of a dog

Throughout my life I have had many pets and I loved every single one of them. Life with them was a joy and a precious gift. But, I have also had to say goodbye. Unfortunately, this is the reality we all must bear when we deeply love a person or animal. Coping with the loss of a dog has been part of this reality several times in my life.

A Story of Cissy

Smiling reddish brown dog laying down with front paws crossed

Cissy

I will always vividly remember the day we lost Cissy. She was a lively mix of Terrier and probably a Golden Lab. It was the day before Thanksgiving 2015. She had held on for several weeks but could no longer eat or have any enjoyment. We called a veterinarian who had come to our house many times. She is very gentle and kind and has helped our animals pass and us to cope with the sad event.

Cissy was in her favorite bed and so ill she was unable to move. The doctor bent over her and first shaved a spot on her front leg. She then took out a hypodermic needle which contained a sedative and administered it into the shaven part of her arm. Then she took out the needle which contained an overdose of the barbiturate. Both my wife and I were crying profusely and talking sweetly and gently to our beloved Cissy. The doctor administered the fatal dose. I think the hypodermic needle was not even completely empty when Cissy stopped breathing.

I asked, “Is she gone.” The doctor took out her stethoscope and listened to Cissy’s chest. “Yes, she’s gone.” I then completely lost it and ran from the family room where all this had taken place to our upstairs bedroom. There I repeatedly called out Cissy’s name while loudly and uncontrollably sobbing.

My heart was shattered and that pain is still in me after nearly three years.

You’re never over it

People might ask you after you’ve lost a pet if you’re over it. You are never over it.

If you’re reading this, a similar scenario has likely played out in your life. Perhaps you are dealing with the loss of your pet right now. You also might be asking how to cope with the loss of your dog.

I’ve had a lot of experience in this department and so here are some things I have done to help ease the pain while honoring my pet’s memory. I hope these ideas help you learn how to cope with the loss of your dog. Some of these may seem a bit strange and eccentric so feel free to ignore them if they don’t fit.

Take a piece of her

Every time one of our pets has died, we have taken a clipping of hair, whisker or feather immediately afterwards. We then place this in a nice little box. This way, we have an actual physical piece of our beloved pet that we will always cherish.

Waiting period

Some of you may find this strange but here goes. Before we take our pet in for cremation we keep her in a cool dry place where she won’t be disturbed for three days. We do this to give the soul a chance to leave the body completely (yes, animals have souls).

Cremation

In the early days, we would sometimes bury our pets. We still have a small cemetery in our yard. Now, we always cremate and have a particular cremation service that we always use.

Urn/Boxsmall metallic urn with paw print on top

This is one of the major reasons we prefer cremation. Their remains can be placed in an urn or box that you can keep in your house. It will always remind you of your beloved pet. We always have it inscribed. The one for Cissy says “Cissy, 2002 – 2015, Our Wonderful Dog.” It will cost a bit to cremate and for the inscribed urn/box. You will likely spend $300 or more. However, it is well worth it many times over.

Memorial

At some point during this process I think it is nice to have a memorial where you honor your friend. Talking about your life with your dog and all the great times you had together can be very healing. This can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish.

Post Memorial

It will take a few days to get your pet’s remains back from the cremation service. Then you can display the urn/box in any way you wish. We have a special place for this. Afterwards it is comforting to continue talking about your feelings and memories.

Support groups

Do you know that there are pet loss support groups? Here in Seattle, we have at least a couple and maybe there is one in your area. Just type in “Pet loss support group” and your city. We also have many pet loss counselors here and you may likewise have them in your area. Perhaps you will feel more comfortable going this route.

Your car

Again. this may not be for everyone. In my car I have pictures and even a little altar in memory of some of my pets. One area, has a photo of my cat who recently passed and he is surrounded by dried roses. In another area is a photo of Cissy. Since you might spend a lot of time in your car, it’s nice to have something like this to remind you.

Non animal people

Not everyone is an animal lover and may find that going through so much trouble for your pet is silly or trivial. But you and I know better, don’t we? Losing your dog or any pet can be emotionally devastating. I know there have been many occasions where I went into a deep state of grieving and even depression. Everyone is different. However, time heals the wounds although it will never take away the fond memories.

I am not a religious person. But, I do believe there is a possibility that my beloved pets and I will reunite. After all, if there is a heaven for people than there is certainly one for dogs and every other animal.

I am happy to say that we still have pets who are alive and well!

I only wanted you

They say memories are golden
well maybe that is true.
I never wanted memories,
I only wanted you.

A million times I needed you,
a million times I cried.
If love alone could have saved you
you never would have died.

In life I loved you dearly,
In death I love you still.
In my heart you hold a place
no one could ever fill.

If tears could build a stairway
and heartache make a lane,
I’d walk the path to heaven
and bring you back again.

Our family chain is broken,
and nothing seems the same.
But as God calls us one by one,
the chain will link again.

Conclusion

Coping with the loss of a dog is very difficult. If you have lost a pet who you loved, I’m sure you can relate to what I’ve said. If you’re currently grieving, please know that there are people who completely understand your pain.

We love comments so please leave yours. Be sure to tell us about your experience with losing your dog or any pet.

 

6 comments on “Coping with the loss of a dog

  1. Jacqueline

    Christopher,
    I only had one dog a long time ago and had to give her away. Since then I have been a cat person. Recently lost my two litter mates, one at 13 and the other at 18. Yes, they are such a joyful part of the family and their loss is so profound. I could not be in the room when they were put down. My vet sent momentos in the mail to me and it was most appreciated. Your coping strategies are undoubtedly very helpful for many people. My fiancé lost his dog to cancer at 5 and he still talks about her years later. People who love animals are the best!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Mitchell

      Hi Jacqueline:

      I am so sorry for you and your fiance’s loss.

      Losing a beloved pet is devastating and that pain is always with us..

      You are right – people who love animals are the best!

      Reply
  2. Justin4487

    I’ve recently lost my female bullmastiff I am coping with it in my own way, however, I don’t know how to get her mate my male bullmastiff to cope with it.

    he’s been acting depressed refusing to eat and drink at times and I have no clue what to do to cheer him up before I lose him too.

    Is there any way to help him or do I just have to sit and watch him suffer?

    Reply
    1. Christopher Mitchell

      Hi Justin:

      Thanks for your comments.

      When a dog is grieving, it may help to increase his playtime in order to raise serotonin levels in the brain.

      Also, you can keep his mind off the grief by engaging him in his favorite activity. You could also hide toys and treats to keep him busy. Does he have any favorite people beside you? Seeing them can also help. 

      Reply
  3. Bucky

    I just lossed Lyla my sweet yellow lab , she was only 4.5 and she died due to Blue Buffalo whole grain adult food. She went into shock five minutes after eating it. She was my baby and my best friend I am lost without her . This post helped a lot. Thank you.

    Reply

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