Grieving the loss of our
sweet dog/best friend
This has been a rough week. Our sweet 13 yr old dog Lucky took a turn for the worse. It all happened so quickly when my husband was traveling in Europe. It got to a point that he couldn’t get up on his own and I had to lift the 85 pounds of furry love on my own.
I blew my back out by the time Steve arrived home. He took over where I left off. It became apparent that we would have to put our sweet boy to sleep. Lucky had cancer and it had progressed very quickly. The last thing we wanted is to have our sweet boy suffer. Grieving the loss of a pet is never easy.
Lucky has been such an important part of our family since we adopted him from a shelter. Jake named him Lucky because we were lucky to have him and he was lucky to have us. It’s been that kind of mutual love and admiration for 13+ years of his life.
I’ll never forget when we brought Alex home from the hospital, Lucky took one sniff and decided it was his job to protect his new pack member. In fact, Luck would nestle next to the crib until Alex fell asleep every night for years. He would then saunter into Jake’s room where he watched over Jake until he was asleep…. then onto the master bedroom where he spent the rest of the night. Lucky was a family member who protected us, love us and made us happy every day. He had a job and he never let us down.
Yesterday, we sat and laid next to Lucky, rubbed his ears and protected him until he went to sleep and left us forever. As we grieve the loss, we are so thankful for the gifts Lucky dog has brought to our family and friends.
grieving the loss of a pet....fur baby
Some people have trouble admitting that they’re grieving a pet. Perhaps they are embarrassed as it may be compared to grieving for a human life lost. I am way too transparent and vulnerable to every be embarrassed about loving any kind of creature.
It stinks when outsiders comment that it’s only a pet or that they can get another dog or cat. “There’s a stigma in society about losing a companion animal. It’s more accepted to mourn the loss of a person than a pet,” says Diane Pomerance, author and grief-recovery specialist. She reminds us that they are in fact “mourning the loss of a family member.” Lucky for sure is part of our family and always will be.
Getting through this difficult period starts by giving yourself permission to grieve. “Designate time every day to do this,” says Claire Chew Gillenson, a life-transition coach and petloss educator. Veterinarian Julie Ann Luiz Adrian, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii published a study that concluded people follow the same trajectory of grief no matter who or what — human or animal — they are mourning. Almost 30 percent of pet owners reported prolonged grief lasting six months or longer, Adrian found, while 12 percent suffered severe grief that resulted in major life disruption. More than 5 percent suffered post-traumatic stress.
The kinship between dogs and humans
To understand the kinship of dogs and humans, we might look at the qualities that humans think their friends should have. Laura Argintar in ADVICE suggests they include: no judgment, genuineness, trustworthiness, acceptance, respect, forgiveness, support, dependability, thoughtfulness, being a good listener, sharing humor, love. How does this compare with some humans we know? Need I say more?
Dogs offer humans comfort and it’s proven that owning a dog makes us healthier. Not surprising. The companionship of a dog is not just man’s best friend but women’s best friend as well. It’s amazing how so many of my older son’s friends have reached out to us as soon as they learned about Lucky’s passing. Dogs like lucky really make an impact on others outside the family too.
If you are reading this and are considering getting a dog, do it! The pain and loss we are currently feeling is only because our dear dog made our lives so much better. In a past article, I outlined the best breeds for women and children. Please go to the pound first to look for a pet. Lucky is is proof of finding the ideal dog at a shelter.
Helping your child grieve the loss of a pet
Being honest about your pet’s death is a valuable life lesson and it helps to prepare your child and learn how to cope for the next time your child experiences a loss. Alex is old enough to understand this but the truth is, neither one of my kids have experience the death of a pet until yesterday. These life lessons are tough but necessary to learn. Our pets teach us so much about life and love.
There are many scientific reasons dogs are good for kids, and grieving the loss of a pet is one of them. In a past article 13 scientific reasons kids are better off owning a dog, states the important lessons pets offer kids growing up. It’s remarkable to note that children with strong bonds with their pets, also have strong bonds with family members and friends.
I realize everyone deals with death differently. I think it’s important to share your sorrow and heartache and if you have the opportunity, encourage them to cuddle their friend one last time to say goodbye. Help children understand the loss. A pet’s departure can be a great opportunity for kids to grasp what death and loss is all about. Pets are so important for kids as they can teach children so much about life. Loss and death is the most difficult.
6 Tips for Coping with the Loss of a Pet
1) Accept that what you are feeling is normal.
2) Allow yourself to grieve.
3) Reach out for help and comfort.
4) Create a ritual.
5) Memorialize your pet.
6) Give yourself a break.
Grieving pets - Signs your dog is grieving
Just like humans, different dogs respond to loss in different ways. Ranger, our two year old pup has been grieving the loss of his best bud Lucky. I did some research and found these common behaviors that dogs display when grieving.
It is recommended not to leave them in an area where they could escape; as some pets literally ‘search’ for their friend. If you have an inside/outside cat keep them in for a couple of days. Keep a close eye on your dog when they are let outside; even if they are normally good about staying in the unfenced yard.
- Clinginess: A grieving dog may want to be close to its owner. It might follow you around or lie down by your side more than normal. When left home alone, your dog may become stressed.
- Pacing Back and Forth: Your dog might walk around the home as if looking for his departed friend. Oftentimes, grieving dogs will repeatedly check places where their lost companion used to nap.
- Reduced Appetite: Your dog may refuse to eat, eat at a slower pace, or have a reduced appetite.
- Increased Vocalizations: Grieving dogs often whine when looking for their lost pals. Your dog may vocalize when sniffing areas where the other dog used to sleep.
- Sleeping More Than Normal: Affected dogs may curl up and sleep more frequently or for longer intervals than before. They may also choose different sleeping areas than they used to.
- Signs of Depression: On top of sleeping more, an affected dog may show other signs of depression. They might seem socially detached or less willing to play than normal.
Quotes about losing a pet
I found these quotes and sayings comforting so I wanted to share them with you.
- Nobody can fully understand the meaning of love unless he’s owned a dog.
A dog can show you more honest affection with a flick of his tail.
than a man can gather through a lifetime of handshakes. –By Gene Hill
- “Grief is so painfully real, regardless of its origin. The love of, and attachment to, an animal friend can equal that of human relationships. Likewise, the loss of an animal can be just as devastating.” – Rev. Joel L. Morgan.
- “Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives.” – John Galsworthy
- “Love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” – Kabil Gibran
- “I felt a grief that I had really not experienced before, even though I had lost relatives.” – John Grogan
- “Having a pet is a risk – you always have the grief ahead. But that’s the flip side of love.” – Tania
- “We should never underestimate the powerful draw of a bond with a being that loves us unconditionally, asking very little in return. Losing this comfort and source of joy can be incomprehensible.” – Linda Lipshutz
- “One day we will again see our animals in the eternity of Christ.” – Pope Paul VI
- “What we have once enjoyed we can never lose; all that we have loved deeply, becomes a part of us.” – Helen Keller
- “Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” – Vicki Harrison
- “Sometimes losing a pet is more painful than losing a human because in the case of the pet, you were not pretending to love it.” – Amy Sedaris
- “If there is a heaven, it’s certain our animals are to be there. Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them.” – Pam Brown
- “Don’t cry because it’s over, Smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss
- “It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them.” – John Grogan
The Rainbow Bridge Poem
“Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….”
— Author unknown
Please feel free to share your story of your beloved pet. It’s important to know we are here for each other. Remember, we are better together gals.