Oct 072008

Your dog’s death may be one of the hardest things you ever face. These tips on what to do when your dog dies are from pet owners who lost their dogs; they share what helped them cope with the grief.

What to Do When Your Dog Dies

When Your Dog Dies

If you haven’t thought about how to remember your dog with love and joy, consider the “No Longer by My Side” Stepping Stone for inside or outside by Spoontiques (pictured). It’s a beautiful way to say good-bye, and yet never forget.

Here’s how one journalist handled the death of her dog: “When my precious schnoodle, Puccini, died, I channeled my grief into a project I’d been working on for 13 years-a series of children’s books called Adventures With PawPaw,” says Diana Scimone. “After Puccini died, I pushed the project into high gear.  About a year later, the first three titles in the series were published-and more are on the drawing board.”

If you want to believe that your dog is in a happier place, read Dog Heaven. Not everyone can publish a book about their pet’s death, but reading about how pet owners survived loss can help.

What to Do When Your Dog Dies

Surround yourself with people who understand pet loss “I’ve got four boxes of ashes on my book shelves – three dogs and one cat – for the pets I’ve had to say goodbye to over the last dozen years,” says Carol Hodes. “Each was an important member of my family [I have no children].  I am of the belief that you have to accept that the grief will be as profound, if not more so, than if you lost a human member of your family.  And you need to surround yourself with people who understand that.  Folks who don’t share your love of pets will not understand your sense of loss.  In most cases, I had to make the decision to euthanize the pet and I also find that to be both a uniquely challenging and, sometimes, uplifting aspect of the experience. You got to be there for the pet and give the ultimate gift of a peaceful and pain-free end.”

Cherish your other pet — whether they’re dogs or cats “I have been lucky that I’ve always had another pet at home to help me through the sadness – and they do feel the loss of their friend, too,” says Carol Hodes. “And I have gone on to get other pets to fill the void.  I don’t understand the perspective of some people who, when they lose a beloved pet, won’t take the risk of getting another pet to love because they might eventually have to cope with the death of their dog or cat.  Two years ago I lost my Pembroke Welsh corgi, Chip, to cancer.  I knew that by the spring I would have “puppy fever” and sure enough, I got a puppy at the end of March.  Scooter is a border terrier who is now a year old.”

Explore a different breed of dog “One thing I have done that may work for some people – I don’t replace one dog with another dog of the same breed,” says Carol. “There’s no way to replicate your last pet and why have the next one held up to comparison all the time?  It’s easier [for me] to enjoy the charms of an entirely different type of dog.” However, when your dog dies the last thing you may want is another pet. Read Can’t Live Without Your Dog? How to Survive Your Pet’s Death.

Remember stories about your dog, and make an album “We have to put our 14 year old dog to sleep two weeks ago.  Not sure how, but he broke his femur bone and he would have had to undergo major surgery to put pins in his leg, or if the break was caused by cancer they would have to amputate and hope the cancer didn’t spread.  Neither choice was good for a 14 year old. I had to explain to my children that “Floyd” wouldn’t be coming back from the hospital.  We had a funeral and memorialized our dog by telling her funny stories about him-how he liked to chase chickens, how he rescued (by barking to a neighbor) another dog that was drowning in our pool, and how he like to sleep in Mommy and Daddy’s bed with his head on the pillow.  We found several pictures of him and made a little album.  This helped us heal when our dog died”. – Roni Jenkins.

Embark on a new endeavor “I’ve owned Doberman Pinschers for almost 25 years and each time, the loss of each one was crushing,” says Sherry Stinson. “When I lost my oldest Dobe, Tyler, I was numb with grief. He was old, I knew that, and had lived beyond the average age a Dobie lives, but his passing was still devastating. To pull myself out of the all-consuming grief, I decided to start a pet greeting card company and name it TylerDog Cards. This helped me focus on the wonderful joy I had when Tyler was alive.”

Give yourself time to mourn when your dog dies “Many people advocate getting a new pet to replace the emptiness, while others say to wait,” says Sherry. “Personally, I think you have to give yourself a little time to grieve pet loss before jumping into a new puppy given they require so much attention. However, that’s just me.”

Let yourself grieve the way you need to “The most important thing when your dog dies is not to be afraid to cry, to grief, to miss your pets,” says Sherry. “Too often people let society deem what’s appropriate to grieve over and what’s not. Pets are an important part of people’s lives today and just as hard to lose as anything else, so it’s very important to just let yourself grieve.”

Share your memories of your dog “My golden retriever Katie was a huge part of my life for 13.5 years,” says Regina. “We went through everything life tossed at us as a team, including my bout with cancer over six years ago. After she passed away, I hosted a memorial service with my friends. We sat in a circle and each guest told a happy story about Katie.  Before each person spoke, I lit a small candle.  After that I passed a balloon around and, as it reached each person, they had to express a wish for Katie in Eternity.  When we completed the circle, I released the balloon and said that it not only carried our wishes Heavenward to Katie, it would grant those same wishes to every pet who had ever been loved and lost by anyone in the group.” – Regina Leeds

when your dog dies

“What to Do When Your Dog Dies” image by Laurie

Visit a dog kennel “We had to put down our beloved dachshund, who was two weeks shy of his 17th birthday. I almost immediately went online searching for dachshund rescue sites to see what dogs were available. I had no intention of replacing Joplin immediately but just found comfort in doing this. I also read up on how to cope with pet loss. Naturally, it’s a very individual thing and people respond differently. The house was eerily quiet without him and 4 months later, my husband and I adopted a wonderful 2 yr. old rescue. We still have photos of Joplin around the house and I do sometimes feel guilty loving Charlie as much as I do, but it is possible, at least for me, to be able to love this dog as much as I had Joplin.” – Jane Cohen. For more support when your dog dies, read Can’t Live Without Your Dog? How to Survive Your Pet’s Death.

A final tip for before your dog dies:

Make a clear plan when all is well “We recently lost Shirley, our cocker spaniel/poodle of 17 years, about a month ago,” says Abby. “My family is still very sad. We have tried to keep it as lighthearted as possible by laughing about her strange habits or funny times when she was around. We did make one mistake the day she passed away. My dad found her body and panicked. To ensure my mother would not arrive home from work and panic also, my dad reacted quickly and buried the dog in the backyard. While preventing my mother from having to watch the burial was thoughtful, it was not what worked for the grieving process. We learned to have a clear plan in case something happens and everyone is not around to make the decision together.” – Abby Harris.

In Letting Go of an Animal You Love: 75 Ways to Survive Pet Loss I interviewed veterinarians, grief experts, and pet owners who survived their pet’s death in sometimes surprising ways. A book like this will help you grieve, show you you’re not alone, and give you ideas on how to memorialize your dog long after he or she has left our world.

If you have any thoughts about healing when your dog dies, please comment below. Feel free to share your story – because writing can help you cope with your dog’s death.

  409 Responses to “What to Do When Your Dog Dies”

  1. Thank you for being here, and sharing your memories of your dogs. It helps to memorialize our dogs in writing, even if it doesn’t bring them back. That’s why I like talking about the dogs and cats I’ve loved and lost, because it keeps them alive in some way for me.

    In sympathy for your loss,

  2. I lost my angel Jazzie on May 22, 2014, She had cushings and she was 9 years 9 months, she was a wonderful little min pin, she was the boss at my house and had a wonderful life, she was bitten by a snake when she was 1 year old and has lost hair on her back, but that didn’t stop her, she loved life and was the boss of the house, when she was 2 she had a puppy we named him Rooster, still have him he is grieving so bad without his mom. My Jazzie girl had gotten a disease when she was 8 that only happen to large dogs, her head sunk in and her mouth didn’t open her trips to the vet would solve that and we were told it may or may not come back she recovered well and a year later she began to get thirsty a lot vet trip proved she had diabities which was a part of the cushings disease and the worst cushings to have, she took 2 shots a day and we took her everywhere we went. she started getting sicker to where she could not jump on and off the couch we got her steps and she continued to get worse over the next couple months. she started laying around and would not stay in the bed, the night before she passed away she walked to floor and came for so many kisses I kinda new. I got up the next morning and she was kissing me a lot and she seemed to be feeling a little better, but I came home for lunch and she was breathing hard and trying to kiss me I picked her up and she died in my arms and that is the only piece I have loosing my little angel Jazzie, Tears are flowing hard now. I loved her so much and little Rooster is howling all day now and crying he misses her as much as we do. I just love him as much as I can and hope we both can get through this together, we buried her at her favorite place on top a beautiful hill she loved to climb and Rooster and I go see her and I try to talk to him about his mom tell him it will be ok, we are both beside ourself at our loss and it feels like a dream. it has been almost 3 weeks and we are still at a loss, Holding her while she passed, I feel that she waited on moma to come home so I could be with her when she left this world. Tears are really flowing now. I am so glad to find this site to be able to let others know the love and joy of our precious animals. Now I will try and help my little Rooster together hopefully we can move on and remember the love we both shared for our angel Jazzie, Jazzie moma and Rooster miss and love you. See you in heaven. and to all that have loved and lost an animal may God Bess you and your beloved pet.

  3. I lost my Sunny and it hurts so bad. Sunny was a beautiful, smart, loving, beagle. We had him for 13 years. He had the most beautiful face and wiggle when we came through the front door. The last few years, he could no longer hear so well and didn’t know when we got home so he could come meet us. He had pain in his joints sometimes and could not walk well, but this came and went. The vet said he was bleeding internally and was very anemic so we had to put him down. It’s only been 2 weeks, but I feel like from time to time I see him coming down the hall or I hear him walking around the house.

  4. Thank you Laurie, I appreciate your comments. My situation’s ironic as I’m a health professional who deals with trauma and other painful issues. Just can’t deal with my own in this instance! Never known grief like it. Your site’s wonderful. Thanks. God bless, Ann.

  5. Dear Stuart,

    My heart is with you, and I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers as you grieve the loss of these two precious members of your family.

    In sympathy,

  6. we had two rescued westies Susie and Maggie.susie passed two years due to illness.
    little Maggie as she was affectionately known was left to ease the pain of our loss.
    now Maggie has died after a short illness from a brain tumor.
    the house like our lives feels so empty.
    I cant stop crying and the pain is so bad,i would do anything to have them both back.
    the happy years we had with them went too fast,and you think its never going to end.
    they say time heals ,but the loss is almost too much especially sat in our empy house thinking of all the happy times we shared.
    I really want to believe that ill see them again one day.

  7. Dear Ann,

    Thank you for being here, and for sharing how you’re doing. I’m sorry it’s not going well, that you’re having trouble moving on. The grief of losing a dog you love is heartbreaking, isn’t it?

    I think you’re wise to seek help. If you’re “stuck” in the loss, pain, and heartache, you might need to figure out what the root of the grief is. Sometimes the loss of a dog can trigger other, deeper, unresolved emotional issues or experiences that need to be worked through.

    Perhaps in the long run, this is a good thing. Whatever is holding you back or keeping you stuck needs to be processed and walked through. That’s where true healing is.

    Maybe this is the final gift that your beloved Mol will give you. Maybe this is a blessing in disguise, because it will free you.

    Stay in touch. I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.


  8. Finally decided to seek help as I just cannot stop the persistent pain of missing my beautiful dog Mol, even though it’s been seventeen months, and we have another beautiful dog in our family now. Love our new boy, but O how I hurt for the loss of my girl. To be honest, I think the photos make it worse. I’ve had to take them down. blessings, Ann

  9. His name was Flip. He was a black miniture schnauzer. He was 14.5 years old when he suddenly passed. We went to the breeder to get a female. She was holding this male back wanting to keep him but her husband would not let her. She had been through 500 pups butt this one was different. A man was coming from another state to pick him up the next morning. The lady decided we should be the ones to have her Flip. We were in love with him immediately. We have both had many animals ,dogs included and have loved them all . Flip had the best life ,he lived in a house with a doggie door and fenced in backyard. He went on unleashed walks almost daily. He was givin the best health care available. They are all special in their own way ,but he was different. The vets wife said if i could have any dog it would be him. There has never been so much love and personality in a dog. He would sit down to kittens face to face and look at and lick them for hours. he loved everything and loved life. He had pain in his stomach area starting around 5 pm then seemed to have a seizure at 430 am , we took him to the vet . he was said to be anemic. We did not have necropsy performed but i beieve from research it was AIHA or Hemangiosarcoma. He is survid by a brother and sister and 2 parents. We are all grieving with every part of our heart and soul .Flip passed on 5-1-13 ,the pain is unimaginable. I have read other post here and although i hurt for us all ,it is good to know other people care so much for their animals. I am not an overly relgious person, but i do believe there is a God and he loves all of his creation equally and all of us will live together forever. God gave them to us to teach us compassion,mercy,loyalty and unconditional love . Gods message is all about love. He would not let the most loving being ,a dog not go to heaven. He would not give us so much love in one of his children then not let us be together again. I will love you and mourn you all the days of my life Flip.

  10. We got a new dog two days ago. He is lovely, and so sweet. He was a dog in need, and is about 7 yrs old. He settled instantly into our home and is the happiest little fellow. Best wishes to everyone, Ann.

  11. I have been told my grief is “over the top” in that it’s been one year and 3 weeks since I lost my dog and I still miss her so very much.. Everyone asks why I haven’t got another dog yet, and it’s hard to put into words, but I guess the closest I can get to an answer is to say that if your best human mate died would you go buy a replacement? It’s not that I don’t love them, I do, it’s just that I miss my darling so much my heart is broken and I suspect will always be so. I absolutely love animals but I haven’t been able to mend the agonising rip in my heart that happened the day she died. I’m just glad life’s short and even though I enjoy the privilege of being alive I am still glad it isn’t forever because I don’t think I’ll ever get over losing my girl. How beautiful and precious are these animals who lodge in our hearts… I am so grateful I had the years with Mol that I had.

  12. Thank you for sharing your stories. It is very hard to hear that others have lost their dogs, but it is good to know that we are not alone in mourning.

    I am in Peru right now, and I was worried to see dogs being abused. I have seen lots of dogs, and only 1 or 2 that are in really bad shape. The rest are not taken care of the way I take care of Georgie, but they are fed and not scared at all of people. They trust people, which warms my heart.

    I love my dog so much, and will miss her more than anything when I have to say goodbye. But I will open my heart and home to a dog who is neglected and needs someone to love him or her.

    Thank you again for sharing your experience, my heart goes out to you.


  13. Today Miss Anya, my black lab had to be put to sleep. She had been battling against ulcerative colitis since November, had lost almost 20lbs and was just ready to move on. She never showed fear, she was always wagging her tail when I came to see her in hospital no matter what. For 10 years she was my best friend and most loyal companion. I think it will be some time before I can get another puppy but I know that my life isn’t whole without a dog. I actually don’t know if I am coping, it just doesn’t seem real to me. Thank you for your website, it’s helpful to just know that other people care about their dogs as much as I do.

  14. I lost my Scully Girl tonight at the age of 13. She was a beautiful tri-colored Australian Shepherd. Scully was supposed
    to die last September after being diagnosed with cancer. She beat the odds and made it through Christmas. I bought all
    kinds of fancy vitamins and dog food to keep her going. In fact,
    today I received word that I had qualified for a credit line to have further vet treatments, possible chemo. Scully collapsed on the kitchen floor tonight and couldn’t get up. She went completely lame. I struggled with taking her to the emergency vet. I thought maybe I could wait until Friday for her regular appointment with her vet. She also had an appointment to start chemo treatment this next Tuesday. But, none of this was meant to be. Scully looked at me with those big brown eyes that could bore a whole through my soul and said, “Mom, I think it’s time.” I zm so heartbroken that she is gone. Scully was my dearest friend; she was always ready for a game of ball and loved her walks around the neighborhood. I will miss her pretty face and sweet disposition. I have another dog named Fox. Scully used to wrestle him to the ground and show him she was the boss. Fox will get all of my attention now, but Scully will forever be in my heart.

  15. A whole year has passed since I lost my beautiful darling girl. It’s been a very sad year for me and I will never be able to express how much I miss her… Rest easy my sweet girl. You’ll be in my heart till the day I die and I will love you for ever. Thank you for everything you gave.. my lovely girl, my perfect friend.

  16. CAPE TOWN – South Africa
    Hi readers, we have had the Honour of giving a little mixed Jack Russell cross Maltese a wonderful life and in return she gave us all the loyalty, unconditional love and joy that any animal lover could wish for. Her name was Robynn alias Mischie and we would like to send her a message as we’re grieving and miss her terribly.
    My darling little girlie daddy misses you so much and look forward to the day that we will meet on the Rainbow Bridge. I know you are fine now and can run around without any pain in your legs and you don’t need anymore of that yeach medicine. The house is a bit empty without you and we’re now starting to remember all the fun little places you used lay and sleep in and how you followed me EVERYWHERE I used to go. I miss you when I go out in the car ’cause I know how you used to sit on my lap and enjoy the wind on your face and bark at the other dogs and animals you saw.
    Thank you for the most wonderful 16 years you were with us… we love you and we know you still love us too. Farewell for now and have a swim for us too in the streams where you are. Your furry friend Roxy also misses you and I know she sends her love too.

    Robynn overcame Lymphoma at the age of 9 yrs and lived a great life only to take a bad turn last year with her hips but was lovely treated by our Vet & personal friend Pieter. On Sunday she took a turn for the worst and on Monday we sadly had to say our good byes which was one of life’s hardest decisions being a animal lover.

    RIP my dearest little Girlie, we love you Stax!

  17. Thank you for telling us how you coped when your dogs died. It’s an ongoing process – we will never forget or stop mourning our loss.

  18. I had a puppy we named Dons. He was given to us by my aunt and Dons was very sweet. Every time someone from my family would come home, he would happily run to the door and welcome us. When we are together, he would always be with my side, especially when I am doing chores in the house, he would follow me everywhere. Whenever he feels like sleeping, he would find a spot nearest to where I was staying for that time. What I liked most about him is when I was busy doing something, he would try to do this cute cry he always does just for me to notice him and touch him. He was the sweetest.

    But one day he got sick, I thought it was just a mild one. So i just did home remedies and let him sleep with his favorite blanket. I thought that I would observe him first and when it gets worse, I would bring him to the vet.

    That dawn, I had a trip scheduled downtown, but just a roundtrip. He was looking at me when I left, his eyes were ill. So I just hugged him before I left. During the trip, I was so uneasy, every minute I prayed that he would get better and when I return that night, we would visit the vet. When I finished my business downtown, I bought a toy and then I rode the fastest bus liner in town to get home as soon as possible so I could see my sick dog and take care of him and take him to the vet. But on the way, I received a call from my mother, it was the most painful and unbearable news I ever heard. My mother said that Dons was already dead.

    I didn’t know what to do. I cried on the bus. I had so many thoughts running in my mind: “I wish i didn’t make that trip”, “I wish I had taken him to the vet right away”, “I wish he had waited a little longer because I was already on my way”, and the most painful thought I had, “I wish I was at least there by his side when he was in pain and is starting to leave this world.” When I arrived home, the pain I felt just got worse. I even wanted to have this supernatural power just to bring him back to life.

    Now, I’m trying to move on. But it’s so hard. There is no more Dons that would welcome me when I arrive home. Every time I see all his favorite spots in my house, my chest feels so heavy and I just want to cry. It’s really hard for me especially now that I have a very important life-turning exam coming. I could not review anymore. I just want him back. I would give anything just to have him back. But that will never happen.

    My aunt gave me another dog that looked like him (since this new dog was his sibling). But I still felt empty. He was not Dons. He can never replace him. No one understands the way I feel because my friends are not dog-lovers. My parents easily moved on. I am the only one stuck missing him.

  19. I rescued a baby girl shepherd mix last month. She was set to be euthanized at the shelter at 7am Friday, Oct. 19th because the shelter is too crowded and she had an “upper respiratory infection.” I had never rescued a dog before…but there was something about her picture. Her sad eyes…like she had lost hope. I had to help her. So I volunteered to foster, and teamed up with a local rescue group. We got her out with hours to spare.
    She was beautiful, and from the very beginning, was the sweetest little girl ever. Her tail wagged everytime I would peek my head into the room to check on her the first night. She was amazing with my 2 year old and 10 month old. She wanted love from anyone who would give it. It was only a few days after she arrived that we found out she had tested positive for distemper. There had been an outbreak at the shelter a few weeks prior, and the rescue group had her tested just in case. Everyone was shocked. We put her on medication to protect her from other infections until the disease ran its course. I knew there was a small chance she would beat it, but she was doing so well I really thought we could do it.
    Well, this past Thursday night, exactly 4 weeks after I had decided to take a chance on her…as I was giving her a nebulizer treatment to help her breathing, I saw a twitch in her foot. Throughout the day, she had been losing coordination in her back legs, like she would try to walk one way, and her backside would go another. She also couldn’t find me when I called her. She could hear me, but wouldn’t know what direction to go. Her breathing was labored. Her nose was crusting. It was awful. I ended up deciding to take her to the vet first thing yesterday. She didn’t want to leave the house. I practically had to drag her out of the front door. The vet confirmed what I already knew. She had full blown pneumonia, and the distemper had entered her brain. We could try to block the distemper from causing more damage, but it would weaken her immune system, and she wouldnt be able to fight the pneumonia. If we didn’t use the steroids to try to block the distemper, they predicted she would be in full blown seizures by the weekend.
    So I had to make the call. We sat together, waiting for the vet to come back in, and she just laid her head on my shoulder. At one point, she raised her head up enough to lick my cheek..she had never done that before. I almost feel like she was saying “its okay…I’m going to be okay.” I stayed with her until the very end…. and it breaks my heart every time I think of her.
    I hope that she went out knowing that she was loved. That there are people here who cared about her and are grieving for her. I hope that the month I gave her of chasing squirrels, sunbathing on the patio, sneaking snacks from the baby, and snuggling with me on the couch was enough for her. I wanted to save her so badly…and watching her die was the worst day I’ve ever had. I know that it had to happen, and that making her fight would have been cruel. I couldn’t make her suffer. It doesn’t lessen the guilt. All I can hope is that she was happy…and be glad that she didn’t die in a shelter as just another number. I don’t know, I can’t stop crying for her. I just want her back…but I know she’s not in pain anymore…. If it makes any sense at all…I just hope that this place is her heaven.

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