How to Live Without Your Dog

If you think you can’t live without your dog, you’re not alone. These tips for surviving your dog’s death are inspired by a question from a reader.

how to live without your dogGoodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet by Gary Kowalski is an excellent resource for coping with the death of a dog.

Here the comment that inspired this article on living without your dog: “I have no family, I’m divorced, no friends, am very depressed, and my dog is the only friend I know,” says Jeff on my article about putting your dog to sleep? “She needs to go to heaven but what about me after this is over? Who can be with me to do this, are there any organizations to help? I don’t think have the courage to do this alone and I fear for myself when it’s over.”

And here are a few practical tips for surviving your dog’s death…




Living Without Your Dog

“Time always brings eventual relief from the pain and your life will return to normal,” writes Gary Kurz in Cold Noses At The Pearly Gates (a book that offers many spiritual ways to survive pet loss). “There will be a time when you feel guilty for feeling better, but event hat will pass. Nothing will ever take away the sense of absence, but the disabling and relentless grief will subside and eventually disappear. I know it may not seem that way now, but…it has proven true every time.” Time helps. It may not be the best consolation, but it’s true.

For the first few weeks, avoid visible reminders of your dog

Though it helps some people to keep their dog’s collar and tags, it may be too sad for you. People mourn, recover, and remember in different ways. Here’s what pet bereavement counselor Wallace Sife writes in The Loss of a Pet: “Get rid of your pet’s toys and other things…they are mostly painful, and not good for you at this time. If you can’t throw them out yet, put them out of sight in a drawer or a box in a closet or basement. The real memory is in your heart.”

Seeing your pet’s collars, leashes, dishes, and beds in their usual places may make it harder to heal. Maybe one day you’ll donate them to friends or an animal shelter, or use them for a new pet. But for now, it may be best to put them out of sight.

If you feel bitter or angry at the vet, read How to Deal With Anger at the Veterinarian.

Find other creatures to care for

Do you live alone and feel like you have no friends, family, or neighbors to lean on? Think about getting another pet.

“My responses to each of my pet’s deaths differed in duration and intensity, depending on how quickly the end came, how much we suffered during their decline, and how many other pets I had,” says Sid Korpi, author of Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss. “The silence of the house when our dog Ludwig died was deafening because we had no other dogs at the time. It was tougher than when Mortimer left us, because we had our two Westie girls, Blanche and Keely. I didn’t love or miss Mortimer less intensely, but I was forced to pull myself out of my pain when the girls needed me. They reminded me life has to go on whether we’d like to wallow in the past or not. I’d feed them with tears rolling down my cheeks.”

If you get another dog, remember that they’ll never be the same as the one you lost. You’ll need to balance mourning the death of your dog with embracing a new, different dog.

Give yourself a sense of purpose – a reason to live

How to Live Without Your Dog

How to Live Without Your Dog

Maybe you don’t have other animals to take care of, and maybe you don’t want to take care of anyone else. That’s fine, but remember that being needed is something all humans need. “One of the basic human satisfactions is the feeling of being needed, and attending to an animal gives many people a daily sense of being useful,” writes Gary Kowalski in Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet. “It is important to know you make a difference, at least to one appreciative creature. For some people, losing a pet can mean losing a sense of purpose.”

Have you lost your sense of purpose? Find ways to make your life meaningful. Ask your friends and family what makes their lives worthwhile and interesting, and try something new every week.

Strive for a healthy, balanced life

Do you think your life is meaningless without your dog? If you have absolutely nothing else to live for except for your dog, then you may need to seek help. It’s not healthy to get all your life, love, and meaning from a your pet. I love my dog with all my heart, but I also love my work, my husband, and my writing.

If you feel like you can’t live without your dog, you’re not alone. One of my most popular articles is about surviving the pet death – it was so popular, I interviewed veterinarians, grief experts, counselors, and pet owners and wrote Letting Go of an Animal You Love: 75 Ways to Survive Pet Loss.

To be truly healthy and happy, you need to be balanced. And that means finding happiness in several different parts of your life, not just from your dog.




May you find ways to live without your dog, and may you find courage and strength to believe that your heart will heal. You may even heal enough to open your heart and soul to love another dog one day.

Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen on twitterLaurie Pawlik-Kienlen on pinterestLaurie Pawlik-Kienlen on linkedinLaurie Pawlik-Kienlen on googleLaurie Pawlik-Kienlen on facebook
Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen
Shalom! I can't give you advice, but please feel free to share your thoughts below. I'm a writer in Vancouver; my degrees are in Psychology, Education, and Social Work. I live with my husband, two dogs, and cat. We can't have children, and we trust in God's love, grace, and wisdom. Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." - Matthew 11:28.

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15 Responses

  1. Nora says:

    We got our dog, Lady, in May, 2001. My oldest son, chose her, or she chose him. We laughed, we played with her, we loved her so deeply. And we know she loved us. She was such a good girl. She was so protective that we felt safe. We adopted another dog, Kayla, when Lady was 6 years old. We had Kayla until August 2010 when she succumbed to cancer. Her death was hard on all of us, including Lady. We had her and she had us. We healed. It took a lot of getting used to but we did get used to our new normal. In 2011, I lost my mom in April, then my mother-in-law in December. I later lost my dad in July, 2013. Lady knew our pain and our hurt and she was right there with us. She would lay down at my feet the moment I felt sad. She began to show signs of aging, it got harder for her to get up. We would hear joints crack when she stood up. We knew the day would come when we’d have to say goodbye, but we didn’t want it to come. Six days ago she got a little dehydrated with the heat. She had plenty of water, but wouldn’t drink it. We basically forced her to drink water, by dripping water from melted ice cubes above her mouth, putting wet rags on her mouth. She got better. It only lasted a couple days. Yesterday, she wouldn’t drink water or eat. So I started the routine of dripping water from melting ice cubes above her mouth. We brought her in to the vet. We got the devastating news that she had late stage kidney disease and she was going to die from it, just a matter of when. We didn’t want her to suffer, we had seen her in pain the last few days and couldn’t stand it. We didn’t want her to die either. Our need and desire for her not to suffer won, we opted to put her to sleep. I stayed with her until a couple minutes after her last heartbeat, and just held her in my arms. I am so heartbroken. I know we’ll meet again.

  2. rachel says:

    Lost the love of my life Aug 25th at 5:33 am. I have been grieving terribly and I don’t see an end in sight. My dogs name is Goliath. Im grieving so badly I vomit. I feel I could have done more to save him and I will forever feel guilty for that. I miss him so badly. ive been asking God to show me that he is in heaven with him waiting for me. If I could jus know that for certain. Right now I feel that if our beloved pets aren’t in heaven, I don’t want to be there . Id rather just be so dead that I don’t even know im dead than to go to a heaven where my heart isn’t. He was my world and I never knew such a love as this…..except the love of Jesus of course. All I can see is his beautiful glowing eyes looking up to me with such love and trust. He had so much life in him yet when parvo took him. I am devastated and horribly depressed. Its the darkest place in the world to be. To want to be with and hold your pet and tellem again you love him, and not be able to. I feel ive failed him. Im so ashamed of myself . I should have tried harder to save him. I look up to heaven and ask God to let me know, somehow, some way, that I will see him again. I feel I cant live if I don’t know this and the bible is not specific on this topic. Isaiah 65 tells us the lion will lye next to the lamb and a child shall lead them….. God gave animals breath just like he gave us breath……..I don’t see any reason for animals not to be in heaven…..more reasons say they will be there, but unless God himself lets me know in a special way, I will forever wonder and I cant go on like this. It hurts too much. With God all things are possible and I will continue to seek him and an answer. He said ask and you will receive. Well, im asking. God please comfort me and reassure me my sweetheart is in your loving arms so I can have peace. Please.

  3. PATRICK says:

    I took my eyes off my little cheese man. And he ran into the street, where someone was walking their dog. He just wanted to say hi. And now he’s gone. the quilt and grief I feel
    I have no words for. My heart is broken. Please be aware of what can happen in a blink
    of an eye. Sad man on long Island.

  4. lezly says:

    Im absolutely devastated by the death of my mums dog which at the moment i feel i overdosed him on wormer. I took him to the vets and they said it was kidney failure i promised to look after him and now i feel ive let everyone down i really loved him i went into deniel about his illness and told him to get better and put him on my bed. I found him when i went to bed and he was dead i couldnt stop screaming i think im in shock just want him back

  5. Lisa says:

    Thank you Laurie. I’m actually thankful that my Mom was not here when Alexi died…it would have been very hard on her. While she was ill and at the hospital, he would sleep in her room. When she came home, he lay under her bed. Animals are so compassionate and can sense when something isn’t right. I was blessed to have him and now have to find ways to go on. Reading your blog helps. Bless you.

  6. Laurie says:

    Dear Lisa,

    My thoughts and prayers are with you, during this sad and lonely time. When my grandma died, I thought I would die too. I didn’t have my dogs when she died, but now that I know what it’s like to take care of dogs…I think I’d feel like I couldn’t live without them. Dogs are so much more than man’s best friend or faithful companions! They’re part of us, and why they die we lose a part of ourselves.

    My prayer is that you get through this period of grief as quickly as possible. May your heart heal, and may you find support in places that surprise you! I pray you find people, books, online sources of support, or other things that comfort and help you as you process your grief. I also pray you find comfort in God, that you find peace, joy, and serenity in His presence.

    I especially pray that you find ways to fill the void in your life. May you find love different forms, such as other pets, loving partners, a fulfilling job, or meaningful volunteer work. May your life be filled with beauty and joy – starting now, with the loss of your dog and mom.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  7. Lisa says:

    I recently lost my beloved companion, my dog of 16 years. He got me through the death of my Mom 6 months ago. It was always the 3 of us and now they’re both gone. I’m beyond devastated; he was the joy of my life and now I’m alone. I guess time will heal, but it doesn’t feel like it at the moment.

  8. Laurie says:

    Dear Sham,

    I’m so sorry about your dog, and for the pain you are in. It’s awful to see your dog suffer.

    Have you read my article about knowing when it’s time to put your dog to sleep? In that article, a veterinarian said that if your dog is suffering, then it’s time to let him go. It’s heartbreaking, but you can’t keep letting your dog suffer.

    Please read the article — the link is at the very beginning of this article about living without your dog.

    If I had a 3 year old daughter, I would tell her that our poor beloved dog is sick, and went to be in doggy heaven. I wouldn’t say anything about euthanasia unless she asks. I’d keep it simple and straightforward: our dog is really sick, and we have to take him to the doctor. He might not come home because he’s so sick – it’s time for him to pass on from this world into the next. If you’re a spiritual family, you can talk about how your faith will help you heal, and about how you’ll see your dog in heaven after you pass on.

    Death isn’t bad. It’s scary because it’s a mystery — but what if it’s a thousand times better than life?? We don’t know what death brings, and I think it’s a mistake to assume it brings “bad” stuff that we should fear.

    I hope this helps, and wish you all the best as you decide what to do about your dog. You WILL survive the loss of your beloved pet, but it will take time to heal.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  9. Sham says:

    Hi, I have a 4 year old toy poodle whom I love dearly. He sustained a slipped disc which compressed on his spinal cord. He did not have an accident, he just woke up one day like that. He was a very active boy and this injury has caused him to be paralyses from waist down, and incontinent. It’s been 1 year since and he hasn’t recovered. Recently he started developing sores due to the friction and urine when he moves in his enclosure. And they seem to be getting worse. He gets snappy as well and I can’t teach him how to use a wheelie because of that. No one wants to groom him as he barks n snaps. I am having a hard time deciding what to do. He is suffering in this body he was given, and has no control of it. I can’t bear to see him suffer anymore. But I have a hard time coping with deciding to end his suffering. I have been crying non stop for days, I have stopped playing with my 3 year old daughter as well because of this. Also how do I explain to her what I’m gonna do to him?

    Sadly;
    Sham

  10. Laurie says:

    Dear Maureen,

    I’m glad we connected on Facebook. I want to post my response to you here, so other people who feel like they can’t live without their dogs know they’re not alone.

    It’s a horrible feeling, like you betrayed your dog by not doing enough to save his life. My heart goes out to you. I want you to remember that you did the best you could — you did not deliberately put your dog’s life jeopardy! It was an accident. If you had known it would turn out this way, you would have done things differently!

    I wish I could make you feel better, but I just want you to know that you didn’t cause your dog’s death. It was meant to happen for some reason, and I know your dog would want you to remember him with love, joy, and peace.

    Losing a dog is one of the most heart wrenching things to happen to us. A friend told me that losing her dog was worse than losing her parents. I think this is because our dogs rely on us for everything, and are so committed to us! Undying love, eternally. I’ve lost dogs and cats, and it helps me to think that they’re happier now than they were on earth. I have to believe there is a Heaven for our lost dogs and cats, and that their souls will be reunited with ours after we die.

    It’s important to let yourself mourn and grieve your loss. You loved your dog with all your heart, and a huge part of your life is now missing. Mourn and cry and wail — that’s what I did. Eventually, you will feel better, and you’ll remember D. with joy.

    I’ll keep you in my prayers.

  11. Maureen says:

    I lost my beautiful dog tues night, I made the terrible mistake , my husband and I didnt know, he had been crying at night for long time, so we started giving him Ibuprofen, my RX from and ear infection, then he started getting really sick, I dint relate it to that, I think I killed my own boy, I am in so much pain, dont think I can go on, cant eat, get out of bed, nothing….what do I do…I don’t know how to live without my dog..

  12. Laurie says:

    Dear Sham,

    I’m so sorry about your dog, and for the pain you are in. It’s awful to see your dog suffer.

    Have you read my article about knowing when it’s time to put your dog to sleep? In that article, a veterinarian said that if your dog is suffering, then it’s time to let him go. It’s heartbreaking, but you can’t keep letting your dog suffer.

    Please read the article — the link is at the very beginning of this article about living without your dog.

    If I had a 3 year old daughter, I would tell her that our poor beloved dog is sick, and went to be in doggy heaven. I wouldn’t say anything about euthanasia unless she asks. I’d keep it simple and straightforward: our dog is really sick, and we have to take him to the doctor. He might not come home because he’s so sick – it’s time for him to pass on from this world into the next. If you’re a spiritual family, you can talk about how your faith will help you heal, and about how you’ll see your dog in heaven after you pass on.

    Death isn’t bad. It’s scary because it’s a mystery — but what if it’s a thousand times better than life?? We don’t know what death brings, and I think it’s a mistake to assume it brings “bad” stuff that we should fear.

    I hope this helps, and wish you all the best as you decide what to do about your dog. You WILL survive the loss of your beloved pet, but it will take time to heal.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  13. Sham says:

    Hi, I have a 4 year old toy poodle whom I love dearly. He sustained a slipped disc which compressed on his spinal cord. He did not have an accident, he just woke up one day like that. He was a very active boy and this injury has caused him to be paralyses from waist down, and incontinent. It’s been 1 year since and he hasn’t recovered. Recently he started developing sores due to the friction and urine when he moves in his enclosure. And they seem to be getting worse. He gets snappy as well and I can’t teach him how to use a wheelie because of that. No one wants to groom him as he barks n snaps. I am having a hard time deciding what to do. He is suffering in this body he was given, and has no control of it. I can’t bear to see him suffer anymore. But I have a hard time coping with deciding to end his suffering. I have been crying non stop for days, I have stopped playing with my 3 year old daughter as well because of this. Also how do I explain to her what I’m gonna do to him?

    Sadly;
    Sham

  14. Laurie says:

    Dear Maureen,

    I’m glad we connected on Facebook. I want to post my response to you here, so other people who feel like they can’t live without their dogs know they’re not alone.

    It’s a horrible feeling, like you betrayed your dog by not doing enough to save his life. My heart goes out to you. I want you to remember that you did the best you could — you did not deliberately put your dog’s life jeopardy! It was an accident. If you had known it would turn out this way, you would have done things differently!

    I wish I could make you feel better, but I just want you to know that you didn’t cause your dog’s death. It was meant to happen for some reason, and I know your dog would want you to remember him with love, joy, and peace.

    Losing a dog is one of the most heart wrenching things to happen to us. A friend told me that losing her dog was worse than losing her parents. I think this is because our dogs rely on us for everything, and are so committed to us! Undying love, eternally. I’ve lost dogs and cats, and it helps me to think that they’re happier now than they were on earth. I have to believe there is a Heaven for our lost dogs and cats, and that their souls will be reunited with ours after we die.

    It’s important to let yourself mourn and grieve your loss. You loved your dog with all your heart, and a huge part of your life is now missing. Mourn and cry and wail — that’s what I did. Eventually, you will feel better, and you’ll remember D. with joy.

    I’ll keep you in my prayers.

  15. Maureen says:

    I lost my beautiful beiley tues night, I mad the terrible mistake , my husband and I didnt know, he had been crying at night for long time, so we started giving him Ibuprofen, my RX from and ear infection, then he started getting really sick, I dint relate it to that, I think I killed my own boy, I am in so much pain, dont think I can go on, cant eat, get out of bed, nothing….what do I do…
    Maureen 954-589-0606

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