“Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.” These words by Mark Twain perfectly sum up the value our beloved dogs bestow upon our lives. Whether you adopted an elderly dog, purchased a puppy, or nursed a rescue dog back to health, the bonds formed between humans and their dogs are unlike any other. It is for this very reason that dog loss inflicts such tremendous agony on the owner. According to 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey reported by the Insurance Information Institute, more than 60 million U.S. households keep dogs as pets. Dog are truly man’s best friend!
Losing a dog evokes feelings not much different from those experienced when losing a human loved one. The grief process remains the same, and the hurt and sense of loss is often as deep. It is important to express your grief — to actively mourn. Without mourning there can’t be closure, and without closure you will not be able to move forward with your life.
Dog Loss: How to Mourn
Although everyone is believed to experience grief and to mourn differently, there are certain stages that will present themselves most of the time. During your time of mourning, you might want to consider the following to help ease your pain:
Acknowledge the Finality of the Death
This is never easy to do, but in time you need to accept the total reality of your loss. Be kind to yourself while you come to terms with the loss. It is not going to happen overnight, and that is okay; you will find closure in your own time.
Embrace the Pain and Hold on to the Memories
As painful as it may be to face your emotions head-on, it is terribly important. Take the time to work through your feelings. In the end, memories are what we have left, and that can be a wonderful and healing balm. Embrace the memories, both pleasant and sad, by looking at photographs or even writing a tribute to your deceased dog.
Adjust Your Self-Identity
A large part of your self-identity may come from being a pet owner, especially if you were caring for a disabled pet. After the death of your dog, others may still think of you in relation to your dog. Embrace this notion; it is a great tribute to your pet.
Accept Support from Others
The love and support of those around you will make your grieving process easier. Talking about your beloved dog with other pet owners who have experienced the same loss can go a long way in helping you deal with your loss.
Give Yourself Time to Heal
Coming to terms with the loss of a pet takes time. It could take days, weeks, or months — all of which is perfectly acceptable. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and don’t blame yourself for your dog’s death. Treasure the fond memories, and give yourself credit for giving your canine friend all the love and care you could while s/he was still alive.
A Tribute to Pets Who Have Passed
Walkin’ Pets by HandicappedPets.com created this video, with love, as a tribute to pets who have crossed the rainbow bridge. To all pet owners who have lost their beloved pets, our hearts go out to you.
(The musical excerpt in this video is part of a song called “Lullaby” by Molly Ferrill.)
Thank you. I made the decision to say goodbye to my 17.5year old blind, deaf stroke affected and arthritic beautiful dog Hugo 5 weeks ago. I feel very guilty for ending his life even though I know the time was as right as I could judge it. Trying to recognise that I did the right thing out of love is difficult to accept but I’m gradually coming to terms with this and your article has helped me nudge a little further along the way.
I’m so sorry for your loss! You obviously gave Hugo a great life, since he lived so long and was so loved. There’s never going to be a perfect time to make that decision, so we can all only do our best, which you did. Healing thoughts to you from everyone here at Walkin’ Pets.