Coping with the death of your dog

The death of your dog, either through accident, old age or illness feels like you’ve lost your best friend. You may very well have. Dealing with the death of a pet and grieving for your dog is needed for healing. Your dog was a part of your family. Often from the time they were puppies. Even if they were adults when they came into your life, the loss is painful.

Once your dog has passed, grieving is only natural. We all grieve in our own way. Some of us cry all the time while others walk around like a wounded bear growling, some choose to isolate themselves for a while. There are still several phases we experience regardless of who we are and go as follows:

1. Shock/denial 2. Anger 3. Bargaining 4. Depression 5. Acceptance.

All family members will go through these phases in one form or another and not necessarily in the order given. Give yourselves time. This includes the canine family members at home too. Allow the good days and the sad days. Join an online pet loss support group to help with the sad days. Crying is o.k.

The day I euthanized my dog was, by far, one of the worst days in my life. I thought my heart would break in two. I cried off & on for weeks. It took some time. I healed. It was hard some days. A month or so later I dreamt of my Roxanne and knew for certain she is in good hands and waiting for me on the flip side. I feel honored to have had her as a part of my life. Thank you for everything Roxy.

Children can be especially sensitive due to the loss of a pet. Allow it. Be honest. Please don’t tell them their dog was “put to sleep.” Children take things literally and “being put to sleep” could cause intense fear of sleeping. Children will also bring up the subject often. This is how they deal with their grief. Be patient. Be understanding. Let them know it’s o.k. to miss their canine companion and that it’s alright to cry or be angry or whatever they feel. Explain as plainly & gently as you can to your children what happened and why. If you need help, get it.

Please inform teachers, daycare providers and other adults in your child’s life of the loss. This helps to explain displaced anger or out of character depression. Know that time does heal the wounds and that it’ll be alright.

Understand also that the dogs still at home will grieve too. Even if they seemed to have barely gotten along with each other. Dogs feel the loss of their companion and will exhibit many of the same behaviors that humans do while grieving.

Here are a few tips for your grieving dog(s):

*Keep their routines as normal as possible. *Do your best not to reinforce their behavior changes. *Don’t make any dramatic changes. *Keep in mind, your grieving dog may lose their appetite for a while, so changing their food will do no good. *There may be some howling; it’s their way of grieving. *Try not to go overboard with extra attention to your grieving dog. This could lead to separation anxiety later. *If there’s more than 1 grieving dog at home, there will be a redistribution of power. Especially if it was the alpha male or female who has passed. Allow it. Your dogs will work out their new hierarchy. Now, working this out will be a bit noisy since it’s through scuffles, snarls, snaps and general sibling rivalry fights. *Don’t, under any circumstances, get a new dog to help with a grieving dog. Often the new dog will be rejected or tormented and then you have one grieving dog and one very anxious, scared, freaked out dog. Let some time pass. Allow the wounds to heal. *When the human is ready for a new dog, and be certain you have the energy to train a new dog, then the dogs at home are ready (this is generally about 4-6 months).

To aid your own healing process,

Memorialize your dog. There are many ways to do this. Make a collage of the photos taken over the years. Put it with the other family pictures. Create a scrap book of your canine family member. Involve everyone who knew them.

Have a stone made with your dog’s name on it. Put it in your yard. There is custom made memorial dog jewelry available, plaques and urns. There’s also two books titled: “I Still Miss You” and Just Gus” that may also help. These can be purchased at most bookstores or online. However you need to memorialize & grieve for your dog, do it. It’ll be o.k.

Losing a loved one is difficult and requires adjustment time for the entire household. Take the time you need, give others the time they need. Soon you’ll treasure your memories and laugh until you cry when you talk about your beloved dog and the goofy stuff they did in their lifetime.