Dog gone: Coping with grief after the death of a dog-child

Guest post by Michele Kraft

offbeatLokiIt’s been the best and worst year of my life, starting when I got married to the most wonderful person I know. Then my husband and I packed up our respective dogs and moved from Wisconsin to Maryland; I returned to school after a 14-year hiatus, which led to the realization that many of my classmates were young enough to be my children.

Having no children of my own, nor friends or siblings with children, I seemed to have forgotten I was aging. There was no physical reminder growing up before my eyes. I have dogs, not children. Puppies become adult dogs, but they never tell you that you “aren’t cool anymore,” or have friends with parents who look ancient until you find out you share the same birth year.

While riding all of these challenging but mostly happy waves off the coast of my midlife crisis, I got a cancer diagnosis, and had to quit the now beloved program with the now beloved kids at school, and then, while recovering from cancer treatment, my dog was diagnosed with cancer, too. He died.

Loki was as much like a son to me as a dog could be. He was smart, inquisitive, and expressive; legendary for his comedic behavior with our Wisconsin friends. A Great Dane/Labrador mutt, he was human-sized and happy; he taught me a lot about love and how to get it by putting it out there. The loss of his presence is almost a presence itself, a phantom hole everywhere our tiny family goes.

It feels like a betrayal to consider the next dog, though I know there will be a next dog; I would have 50 dogs if there were enough hours in the day — if I had enough energy to give to that many relationships.

Eager, but ashamed, I was hoping to find some kind of timeline for adoption amongst my virtual and actual friends — a permission of sorts which would remove some burden of decision-making. It’s so much easier when someone else tells me what I ought to be thinking — my reaction of agreement or disgust is at least a place to start.

It crossed my mind, a few weeks after Loki died, that I could march down to the SPCA and stroll back home with a new love. My former psychologist wasn’t going to find out and frantically call me to suggest a meeting, and Loki was not going to appear, as if I am Macbeth, and go all Banquo’s ghost on me.

I was not ready yet. But I went to the SPCA anyway, just to see what would happen, and felt worse, now bearing the burden of all the dogs I couldn’t bring myself to take on.

I was surprised to learn that many people get a new dog immediately after the death of their old dog, sometimes on the same day their pet dies. Others are quickly given a new puppy by friends or family members who cannot stand by and idly wait for their beloved to get through their grief and return to normal. I understand the sentiment on the surface, the desire for a rapid recovery, the return of love, a warm, wiggly source of reassurance that life doesn’t suck.

But as anyone who has dated someone who is recently single will tell you, the rebound is awful for the one being rebounded upon. The same must be true for pets, and worse, the new dog cannot possibly know how dear departed Spot used to manage his affairs, nor mount much defense of himself as he falls short of unnamed, monumental expectations. At least we humans choose to put ourselves into the perilous rebound; and better yet, we can leave when we’ve had enough of being seen through the haunted fun-house mirror of loss.

As Moira Anderson Allen, M.Ed. states in her article, How Soon Should You Get a New Pet?:

The time to obtain a new pet is when you have worked through your grief sufficiently to be confident that you can look forward to new relationships, rather than backward at your loss.

As much as part of me wanted to rise above it, my eyes were still trained on my rear-view mirror, or, as my Freudian typing skills insist, my tear-view mirror.

We need to grieve, and, according to Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D, the Founder and Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition, our culture, and, I would add, ourselves, would rather we skip it.

Mourning in our culture isn’t always easy. Normal thoughts and feelings connected to loss are typically seen as unnecessary and even shameful… I have learned that if we are to heal we cannot skirt the outside edges of our grief. Instead, we must journey all through it… Part of your self-identity comes from the relationships you have with other people. When someone with whom you have a relationship dies, your self-identity, or the way you see yourself, naturally changes.

Awareness of this change in my self-identity has settled in, and for me, the sorrow is not only about grieving the loss of my dog, but all of the losses of the past year: moving away from all that was familiar, my perception of my youth, my belief that I can beat any obstacle by just trying hard enough. Some battles cannot be won.

My dog, my big furry friend, was in many respects an avatar, an embodiment of everything I loved best about myself from a time when I was the happiest I had ever been. Moving onward in my life, even for its intended and still expected happy outcome, also means the loss of all that once was, including, it seems, my Loki.

And yet. A new dog! A new life to invest in, a new dialog to open, oh yes, a new vicarious living partner. Loki was abandoned and starved before I got him, frightened to death, cringing at every quick move or raised voice. We worked on his self-confidence, and he bloomed before my eyes, a transformation arc I traced right along with him, through divorce and new friends, new marriage, returning to school, through it all, having a happy life. What will New Dog’s story be, I wonder as I pore over the photos on, what kind of adventure am I choosing? What kind of crazy fun are we going to find together?

When I am ready to meet New Dog, and I begrudgingly admit I will know when I’m ready, I will find him. He will come with his own particular bag of problems, because all pets do. Loki taught me his lessons by example and by needing my guidance. New Dog will provide a fresh emotional blueprint for me to understand and grow with. He will lead to me learning more about myself, the same person Loki loved, the same person who will be a New Person, too, shaped along with the New Dog, with everything we will live and learn together.

Comments on Dog gone: Coping with grief after the death of a dog-child

  1. I lost my best doggie friend about 6 weeks ago. I am still mourning pretty hard for her loss, but I am also exactly 2 weeks into a relationship with a new puppy. I am struggling ( in fact I just told a friend this not 5 minutes ago ) with whether or not I adopted this new guy too soon. But when I see how happy and active my husband’s dog is with the new addition, or how I feel my body just relax when he is curled up against my feet – I know I made the right decision. I’m not replacing my good old girl, but I am a person who is better with a dog in my life, and I’m excited for this new relationship and addition to my family.

    • My dearly beloved Ebony passed away on Saturday 27th Sep at 11:45 pm….I miss her so much, she has been my best and truest friend and loving companion for the past 14 years. When she was a puppy, and the children and I were happy, she was a bundle of playful energy and her lover of tennis ball fetching became apparent. When I went through my deep dark depression, hit rock bottom, lost temporary custody of the children, and gambled away all my self respect till I wanted to die, you steadfastly stuck by me, always giving freely of your love, and asking for nothing but to be loved in return….and played with….and let outside… gave me a reason to get out of bed. We nearly lost you when your were but 2 1/2 your fought hard for your life, and blessed us with nearly 12 more years of having you in my life and the life of my children. You were my partner in life, as I failed to build relationship with many human counterparts, but found your presence every day a course for happiness, you brought sunshine into every day and solace whenever I was lonely or down. And through it all, you had the most wonderful temperment, never asking for more than some fresh food and water, a walk or two, lots of playing with tennis balls, and lots of snuggling together on the sofa, the floor, or on my bed, where you slept most nights. I cannot imagine life without you by my side, you have been here through all the worst and all the best and everything in between, now, when I am grieving the most, you cannot be here to provide me with solace, for my grief is for you. I love you so much. Mumma

  2. Oh this is so timely. My beloved cat is dying and I’m struggling especially because I know our other uber social cat will be terribly lonely but any time I think of getting another cat I bawl my eyes out even more. On one hand it feels like a betrayal…on the other hand there are so many cats out there who need love and a family and I don’t want to close my heart against them.

  3. What a beautiful piece! I am sorry for your loss.

    I think the reason that some pet owners can get a new pet right away is because they never stop loving their old pet. For them, getting a new pet isn’t in conflict with their love for their old pet. It is like having 2 pets at once- you don’t love either of them less because the other exists.

    Everyone is different and grieves differently. In my experience, pet owners have a lot of love to give. You know what is right for you, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about getting a new pet!

  4. When my cat passed away earlier this year, I was a mess. There was no diagnosis of any kind. She was old, and just did not have strength left. Considering Tiger was 17, and I’d had her almost as long as I’d been in school (Elementary through college graduation) I had tried to prepare myself, but its not something you can do. I had always assumed that once she died, I’d wait until I finished grieving before getting another cat. Because of my boyfriend’s allergies, “will you want another cat?” was a particularly difficult question, since I’d assumed I’d never had a cat again. He’s the one who got me Wendell. Getting the new cat was one of the things that helped me accept Tiger’s death. We have other pets in the house, including a cat, but Tiger had always been “my cat.” Now Wendell, with his friskiness and desire to attack bare feet, fills that hole. The fact I can’t write this response with dry eyes is proof that a new pet does not fix all your problems, but it is much harder to be sad when you watch your pet play with his toys.

  5. When my dog was diagnosed with cancer on a Friday, and passed away the following Wednesday I was completely destroyed. He was my best friend and helped me through some terribly tough times including the worst break up ever and the death of my grandmother. I in turn helped save him from his first owners as well as from sickness (not cancer) that we were able to beat.

    Even though I still had his sister in the house, the house was EMPTY without him. So much was missing. His sister felt it too.

    I got another dog about a month and a half later. A new adult, who was 60 lbs smaller than the dog I lost, but whenever my father was asked how big new dog was he replied, “He’s just big enough to fill the hole in her heart.”

    New dogs don’t “replace” old dogs, they just love us and give us a new soul to travel with and look after. I can’t imagine my life without dogs, and even though losing them can be crushing I would never trade it for a life without them around.

    Michele, I loved Loki too. He was a great dog-son to you. I also love you and am so glad that you are feeling all of your feelings and are still able to make room in your home and heart for another dog. XOXOXOX

  6. Oh man, I know them feels.

    My beloved dog (the family dog) died two years ago, about a month after I was married. I was away on a week vacation when it happened. My mom took my husband and I out for dinner and told us what happened. I’m sure I was a sight, sitting in the lounge of a restaurant bawling my eyes out. We got him when I was in grade 5, and he lived for 16 years. He was an amazing dog, and we had him privately cremated, and scattered his ashes in his favourite places (our backyard, the lake he liked to walk around or skate on in the winter, the forrest where my dad would take him for long runs). The vet even made paw prints for us before he was cremated.

    A while after he died, I asked my mom and dad if they would ever consider getting another dog. They said they didn’t know. I honestly don’t think they ever will, or if they do, it won’t be for a number of years. But I think it has to do with proper grieving time, and where their lives are at right now. Can they take on a brand new dog right now? No. Are they done grieving? That’s up for debate. I was just showing my family my wedding album the other day, and I had a full page dedicated to our dog in there (I’m so happy the photographer got some shots of the dog), and my mom started crying.

    I think pet relationships and lifespans are definitely like human ones. Some people are able to rebound or recover more quickly than others. And some people just cannot recover in the same way…or at least in the same timeframe.

  7. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend. My husband & I had one of our two cats die this year & it’s been rough. The poor kitty left behind has had a tough time adjusting, & that made us think twice about getting another cat while he’s still around. It’s still a debate – does he want company or would it be too much to handle at his age (13) & are we just doing it for us? Such a hard thing.

    We still think about our cat who’s gone, a lot. Little things will remind us. Grieving takes a long time. You say your dog was your avatar – I often said that cat was our familiar. She was just *there* when we needed her & she knew what was going on in our heads. Our still-living cat is more like our baby, he needs us for cuddles & attention. Such different temperaments, beloved in their own ways.

    • I’m going through the same thing right now. One of my two kitties had to be put to sleep 2 months ago. I can tell her sister misses her but I worry about her adjusting to a new cat at this point (14 years old). My husband really wants another kitty, he feels our home is incomplete without two furries around. I go back and forth almost daily. Honestly part of me is a little scared to get a new kitty to love because man it hurts so bad when you have to face your pet’s mortality.

    • Trystan, I’m right there with you and your familiar! Had I been writing for a pagan audience I would have chosen that word too. I think avatar is a decent word to get the idea of “familiar” across without alienating people who may react with fear when they come across non-abrahamic religious beliefs.
      *all about the love* 🙂
      You may also consider, as a rescue group I contacted said, that your still-living pet responds to where you guys are- your happiness- will it be enhanced? And of course being open to what the universe has up its sleeve.
      We certainly saw our still-living dog, Shorty, change after Loki’s death. She seemed to become more attached to us, less aloof. Since we adopted the new guy, she’s changed again, and is actually playing with him. She was much too serious to play with Loki, who was a major clown, so we are quite surprised with her!
      Good luck and so sorry for your loss too!

  8. Here’s a silly suggestion: Name New Dog Thor.

    Ok ok, give me a minute to explain. After my cat died, we felt we needed to acknowledge his presence even if we had decided to adopt a new little fur ball. We chose a name that was part of the same mythological pantheon as a way to tell him he had a brother before he became part of this family. This way, our little boy has an identity of his own, but still carries the loving memories of his former brother. Since Loki was part of the Norse mythology, maybe a name like Thor (Loki’s brother) or Fenris (Loki’s son) would be great for New Dog? 🙂

    • Ha! No need to explain! Loki was named after Loki – the half giant trickster! He was lab and great dane, and such a kidder. I love the idea of keeping it in the family. Incedently, my original last name was Feneis, so the Fenris idea would have been awesome, but alas, too late. We have since adopted a new guy, a Catahoula Leopard dog (a breed I’d never heard of, he was advertised on Pet Finder as a Lab Great Dane mix, which is what got me interested in him) he’s got “cracked” eyes (blue and brown) and a wild, beautiful coat, so we came up with Ziggy, as in Ziggy Stardust “Screwed up eyes and screwed down hairdoo, like some cat from Japan”. Great idea though, dang!

      • My coworker adopted a Catahoula mix! Be careful, they can jump into and sort of climb trees! This mix is about 80 lbs full grown. They weren’t expecting him to get that large, but you never know with rescue puppies, right? Overall beautiful and exuberant dog.

        I’m glad you were in the right place to get a dog, and I love the name!

  9. Having now suffered the loss of 4 fur babies in my adult life I can relate. I have treated each death individually. Just as each dog was. There is no grief outline for us. Each one is different. I have waited several months to get a new dog and as little as 2 weeks. ( because I had a depressed dog sibling who definitely needed a doggy companion). I think you do know when its time. And I truly feel our pets find us. I am now on my 6th and 7th dog in the last 25 years and I truly have loved them all. But just like people. No two have been the same.

  10. Our dog (Ella) was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago. We went through them telling us “we can fix this!” to “we’re sorry, there’s nothing we can do” and then back to “we can fix this.” We literally did everything we could because we couldn’t bear the thought of losing her. We did radiation, medicine, weekly four-hour trips to the hospital, etc. Her tumor has shrunk from cataloupe size to small apple size and now we’re maintaining it there since it has not (and probably will not) spread thanks to the kind of cancer it is.

    Our fur kids are our everything and I’m so sorry anyone ever has to go through this kind of loss. I like what justanothersciencenerd said, “getting a new pet isn’t in conflict with their love for their old pet. It is like having 2 pets at once- you don’t love either of them less because the other exists.”

  11. My condolences on the loss of Loki.

    I got my cat Tallulah under not that different circumstances. I found out on a Saturday that my father had terminal cancer and then I came home from work Tuesday and my cat of 13 years, who had been through a LOT with me, was suddenly, desperately, ill. Off to the 24 hour vet clinic for a horrendous night (i won’t get into that), but she passed away that night. I was hysterical. They told me it was probably cancer (she had been to the vet a week before because she seemed lethargic, but they didn’t find anything). That happening three days after my father’s news just sent me over the edge. I am SURE the vet clinic thought i was crazy. One of my best friends was there though and totally got it.

    Now i was faced with a decision about whether or not to get a new cat now or later. My gut was saying “you can’t do that, it won’t be the same.” And I sort of believe animals find you when you need them. But in this very specific case, i knew that when we went to visit my dad 2 hours away, which we would clearly be doing a lot (every weekend, really), I thought about how much it helped to have my brother’s dog there. A big happy, furry presence, gave everyone something to focus on and talk about, when you are sort of desperate for a different focus. It helped. A lot.

    I thought, maybe, i would get a kitten at the animal shelter in my hometown, it would give the family a fun project and i knew i’d be getting another cat eventually, so, why not now? (Normally i would adopt an adult cat, but i knew that a kitten would be much easier to take back and forth in a car and wouldn’t be upset about it, because there were no habits to break yet).

    I ended up getting my now beloved Tallulah. And my brother and sister in law who came with me to find a kitten, were appalled that i wasn’t choosing her litter mate and brother who they fell in love with, and they adopted him. They were only 5 weeks old and had been hand weened because their mother, a barn cat, died when they were only 2 days old. I don’t think either of them know they are actually cats. 🙂

    Those kittens were a god send. Despite all the tragedy and sadness, having them run around (they were about the size of hamsters, you could hold them both) gave everyone a reason to smile. Six years later I can’t imagine not having her, but when I got her i obviously found her adorable and fun but it took a while before she was ‘my cat’, vs ‘the kitten i got to replace Sasha.’ And all these years later, typing this out makes my eyes well up. The old love doesn’t go away.

    If you do decide to get a new dog right away, don’t force it, enjoy them, get to know them, the love comes.

  12. My sweet cat Cleo passed away on the 7th of this month, just one day after her 5th birthday. She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure on a Thursday night and died the following Sunday in the wee hours of the morning. She was so young, and I had no idea anything was wrong. She had a congenital cardiomyopathy that was completely asymptomatic until it caused her heart to fail. Her death was horrifying – she was sleeping by my side and woke me up with what I can only describe as screaming. She was convulsing and died from cardiac arrest within 30 seconds. It still haunts me. She was my best friend… the last five years of my life have been turbulent to say the least, and she was my only constant. She was also dearly loved by my SO who was so crushed by her death. She was an amazing cat.

    A few weeks before she died, I had found a kitten in the bushes outside of my apartment. He was very tiny, scrawny, and flea ridden. I fixed him up and kept him, intending for him to be Cleo’s companion. We named him Nile, since Cleopatra is known as the Queen of the Nile. Initially after her death I felt guilty about having him. I had a hard time being affectionate because all I wanted was my Cleo. But in reality, I think he helped me cope much better than I would have without him. Having a creature to take care of who loves me helps so much. And as an above commenter stated, it’s nice that his name is connected to hers. I am actually in the process of adopting a second kitten as a companion for him, as he is a very social and needy cat. They will never fill the hole that Cleo left, but they will fill their own special places in my heart.

    I had a memorial necklace made for Cleo, with a small glass orb encasing some hair of hers. It hangs from the rear view mirror of my car so I can see it every day. I miss her dearly.

    • Oh, I forgot to add a quote that really hit the nail on the head for me in regards to getting a new pet.

      “Another cat? Perhaps. For love there is also a season; its seeds must be resown. But a family cat is not replaceable like a wornout coat or a set of tires. Each new kitten becomes [her] own cat, and none is repeated. I am four cats old, measuring out my life in friends that have succeeded but not replaced one another.”
      -Irving Townsend

    • Where did you get your memorial necklace? I kept some of my kitty’s hair and love the idea of having it in the car with me so I can see it.

        • Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m totally going to do this. I’ve been trying to think of ways to keep a part of my cat with me. I bought some sculpey clay and I’m going to take impressions of her footprints and mount them in a picture frame.

          • I had a Pandora-compatible charm made out of some of my cat’s ashes and a magnolia petal from the tree over my deck- his favorite place to escape to.

            Here’s the memorial bead-maker on etsy:

            We did get a kitten within two weeks after Fred passed. It wasn’t an easy choice, and we looked at more than a dozen cats at a rescue event before we met our Luna.

            I kept holding different cats and saying, “I am sure I can love any cat, but he’s just not Fred.” Of course, no cat would be Fred, but we are a family of five (Me, Husband, Dog, Two Cats).

            For the past six years, a dozen little paws came running to greet me. They all got along so well, and we delight in having “all three” as in, “Come downstairs! I’m on the couch with all three!” Not having a trio just felt horribly empty.

            Finally, we left the rescue adopt-a-thon in tears, but we stopped on the way home at my favorite shelter where I’ve done some volunteer work and know the director very well. As soon as she saw us, the director said, “How are Bella, Fred and Ollie?” And I had to choke out that Fred was gone.

            She offered her condolences and then said, ” You know, I have a talkative little kitten with a big personality who was fostered with dogs… want to meet her?” And of course we did. And she’s our girl.

            Fred was only 11. He had sudden renal failure complicated by a heart condition- the treatment for one would worsen the other. We did everything we could for him, not wanting to cause cardiac arrest by pumping him full of fluids that his kidneys needed, and eventually we had to let him go.

            We brought him home for one more night and loved him up. We cried and tried to figure out if it was “time.” (In hindsight, it absolutely was, but in the moment, it was hard to tell.) We had so much more love to give him. It wasn’t enough time. It NEVER would have been enough time, even if he’d been once of those miracle cats who live until their 20s. Since we couldn’t lavish all the love we still had for Fred on him, we decided to find Luna and give that love to her in honor of his memory.

            Three months later, everyone is all acclimated and friendly and once again, we have a bi-species trio who are as thick as thieves. When you add a new animal to a house, there’s always a period of time where SOMEONE will pee inappropriately on SOMETHING to tell you how they feel about The Change.

            Here’s a slideshow I made for Fred, because he was such a good boy:

            NSFW: It’s sappy and may make you cry. And while writing about Fred right now is making me weepy, my little Lu is a complete and utter joy.

  13. I love dogs! Always have, always will.
    I lost my beloved dog Babur three years ago. He had been by my side through the most formative years of my life. He has seen boyfriends come and go (and stay, in the case of the last one 🙂 ), has travelled and moved around with me, and has even changed continents (from Germany to Canada) with me. I still miss him terribly. At some point the pain gets less, but that void he left will never cease to be there. It’s better to love and hurt, than to never love in the first place…
    In my case, I needed a new dog in my life very soon. That empty spot by my side just didn’t feel right. Two weeks after Babur’s death, I started looking; four weeks after his death, Max moved in, and I never regretted it. He was joined by our female Nova last year.
    I deliberately picked a dog that was not the same as my old guy, one that was physically and mentally his own personality, one that made it easier to not constantly compare. The point of New Dog is not to fill the gap Old Dog leaves, but to be a loveable companion in his own right.

    My parents took a very different path from me. After our family dog’s death, they struggled with the right timepoint to get a new dog, and in the end they never did. First it hurt too much, then they got so used to life without a dog (travelling, no extra commitment, no dirt in the house) that they never got a new one. Now they’re both in their mid 60s and aren’t sure whether they can handle another dog…

    Everyone is different. You’ll know when it feels right., and at that point you will give a dog in need a wonderful home.

    • Your comment shows great understanding of differing needs, and it is very much appreciated. I also just watched the wonderful video A made for Fred the cat. I had never heard the song before. You write of your understanding of your parent’s decision not to get another pet. The last pet in our very limited family of two, died two months ago. She was the only dog. 16 years. A’s video confirmed two things for me – no three: There has been too much loss most of my life, without sufficient balance. The depth of my sadness is too deep. I could not go through caring for a pet, beloved or otherwise, through sickness, and then deal with another pet death. At this point in my life, I have had dear cats, and this unsought dog, for 40 years. Some people have pets until the owners die. I don’t know what my life is without them. I want to know what it’s like, although so far, I have been ill with the loss of beloved S. The second confirmation from watching the video is that these animals deserve the best care and attention. I am no longer physically able to give them what they deserve. (I also don’t want to fall because I trip over one of them). Lastly, the expense of caring for ill pets is tremendous. There are not those resources. This is a different chapter in life – no – it is more a completely different book. But ultimately, any pet deserves more than I could give it now. And I’ll say, too, that the idea of never having to clean another litter box is quite comforting. The dear, and even not so dear, but part of the family, pets were part of a time that has passed and should be honored.

  14. I was so distressed when I lost my first pet that I determined I would never again have only one pet. The hole was too big. After that, I got involved in humane work as a volunteer. Those experiences enabled me to look forward to immediately saving another potential companion & friend. If the shelter experience is too sad, go to a rescue that will show you one animal at a time that you know is in foster care and is not going to die. I’ve never forgotten the one that isn’t here, but I’ve quickly come to love the one that is.

  15. I got my dogs about 2 or 3 months after the death of my last dog (just about the second I finished a cross country move and got a new place.) At that point I was still very sad, but past the “devastated” part. The knowledge that there were homeless dogs out there waiting for me trumped my desire to go into it totally baggage-free. Still, the adjustment period was hard- it was hard on them having a new home (especially with one having a neuter surgery and the other being one of the most neurotic dogs I’ve ever met) and it was hard on me realizing that, no, they are NOT my old dog, and will not take his place, because nothing will.

    Still, the new relationships went a long way towards easing the pain, and I wouldn’t change a thing. If I hadn’t gotten these dogs when I did, I wouldn’t have them at all (and probably no one would, since they were in a kill shelter.) I think as long as you’re in a place where you can develop new love for a new creature (rather than just transferring the old love in an attempt to deny your grief) then essentially, you’re ready 🙂

    (And yes, I got TWO at once, because I’m insane. They were the only two dogs in the shelter and though I’d come for one (the super easy, non-neurotic one) I was afraid of what would happen if I left the other behind. She is hands down the weirdest, funniest dog I’ve ever met, and though she drives me bonkers, I wouldn’t trade her for anything.)

  16. I would give anything to have one more good day with my dog I lost in January. We had an 8 month battle to find out what was wrong with her. She first got an incorrect diagnosis that turned out to be lymphoma. We got that news a week before christmas. A month later we let her go, I couldnt bear to see her suffer anymore. Something about these little dogs just grabs ahold of you. I took her to work with me everyday so the loss was especially hard since I didnt have my little shadow beside me 24/7.
    Honestly the loss of a pet is worse in some ways than a person. It’s been more than 6 months since we put her to sleep and I still have moments where I lose it. She was only 2 years old, it’s just not fair no matter the age. I want them to live forever.
    We now have a new puppy, we got her 3 1/2 months after Pixie passed. For me 3 months was the time I needed to be able to accept a new life into our house. The anticipation of a new puppy did help me to overcome my grief.

    Everyone who has ever lost a pet or is facing the decision to euthanize know your not alone.It’s the hardest thing. I take comfort that one day I will see my Pixie again.

    • our amazing dog tess developed dementia late 2013 which was hard but we were coping with it,in feb 2014 she got so sick she had a tumour in her spleen and she had to have a splenectomy to save her life.She was doing ok then her test results said her cancer was aggressive and would return,it did and on july 10th we had to make the heartbreaking decision to have her put to sleep,it was the hardest thing iv ever had to do and there have been more tears than you can count since that day but my daughter just said shes going to look at a new litter of puppies to choose our next little angel! we will never ever love our darling Tessie any less but our new baby will help to fill the huge gap she left.

  17. I have nothing of worth to contribute to the discussion upthread, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who read this and found himself in tears by the end.

    I’m so sorry for your loss and I, clearly, empathize with you feels. All I can say is, you’re doing the right thing by you. You will expand your family again when you’re ready and no sooner. That is the best thing you can do for anyone coming into your sphere, when you have the control.

  18. My cat Zeus died on June 2nd of acute liver failure. Just over 2 weeks later the SPCA was having a sale and my husband took me to look around. I came home with a new cat. Loki was very different and yet so similar. I cried because I felt like I was betraying my love of Zeus. Then I was reminded that Zeus would want me to be happy. He gave me so much joy and his parting while sudden and sad, opened up the right timeline for me to find Loki.

    I still miss him every single day. I cry every night. But that doesn’t change that I’m loving Loki even more day after day. Finding another fuzzy child to love won’t replace what you had, but it could fill that void. Only you can know when you are ready to do that.

  19. Its so odd that this article appeared today, I was informed on satuday evening that my cat that had been with me for nearly 13 years had to be put down. I left her with my dad a little under two years ago when my husband and I moved from Wisconsin to Texas and she was a nervous little thing and I had to do right by her and left her in my childhood home that she had grown in. I felt lonely for a long time and this year for my birthday my Husband bought me a kitten and he has filled my heart with love and first he felt like betrayal and sometimes Id call my dad to hear my Noel Anne meow in the background but after awhile I accepted that it was ok to love him too. Having Nikolai has helped tremendously as I go through the grieving process of losing Noel, and Im glad we have him in our home to help me heal the loss of my first fur baby. She got me through some horrible events in my life and loved me when I was hurting. Take your time in the next choice of fur baby and you’ll know when the time is right.

  20. In the last few years I have lost the cats I grew up with, and my dad a few months ago. While you don’t address this aspect of a pet’s death in your post, I just want to give you all the support I was given when my father died, and that I wished I’d had when my cats died. There’s a cultural norm that says that the loss of a nonhuman family member is somehow minor, or not comparable to the death of human family, because they were “just a pet”. As a recent inductee to the group of people who’ve lost human family, I want to say that losing a loved one is losing a loved one, regardless of species. I’m glad you are taking the time to grieve, though I’d agree with others that grief and a new family member aren’t always mutually exclusive. My thoughts are with you in this difficult time.

  21. Sorry for your loss 🙁

    This article is so timely for me since we just made the difficult decision last Saturday to put our 11 year old kitty to sleep. She was in kidney failure and wasn’t responding to treatment. It was incredibly difficult since she was diagnosed the Saturday before and gone in a week.

    She was abandoned at a vet that I worked for and I picked her and instantly fell in love. She was so loving, cuddly, and had the loudest purr of any cat I’ve ever met. It was the kind of purr that made you feel loved because you could tell that she was happy. I have two other cats and neither is a loud purrer and I find myself picking them up and holding them to my ear so it’s as loud as possible.

    I’m very sad and crying as I write this but I know that it will get better. It was the right thing to do for her as hard as it is for us. Someday maybe we will get another cat but it won’t ever replace her.

    • I commented upthread, but I too had an 11-year-old cat with sudden renal failure. He went downhill in just six days. Oh, how I have been there. Take gentle care.

  22. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    I dread the day either of my beloved dogs passes away. We always had dogs growing up, they’ve passed away, and so I’ve grieved dogs before- but I feel it will be different when I am grieving as a “mom” to the dog instead of a “sister.”

    The fear of this grief is part of the reason we are a two dog (or sometimes two of our own plus a foster) household… even though I am primarily the dog person in our house, my husband began pushing for a second dog of our own (we had fostered already) after a (survived, happily) health crisis with our older dog when he realized that (a) said beloved dog could have died, and (b) he’d really rather avoid dealing with a dog-less me. Not that he is unwilling to comfort me- just that he knows sometimes dogs are better at that, probably including the remaining dog when one passes away.

    It probably should never be an only reason to get a second dog, but for a household otherwise able/prepared to care for multiple dogs, with a resident dog who gets along with other dogs and no major financial/lease/whatever obstacles… it was certainly a factor/tipping point in deciding to adopt the second.

  23. Thank you for posting this– I cried the whole way through. I very suddenly lost my doggie about seven weeks ago, a beautiful doxie named Precious that was my best friend from the time I was ten, for twelve years. She was the smartest, lovey-est dog I’ve ever known. I think about her every day, and as much as I crave having someone to love and cuddle again I can’t think about getting a puppy without feeling anxious and sad. (I thought about adopting an older doxie instead, a way of giving a lonely older dog a loving home, but the idea of going through this again in a few short years left me paralysed.) I’m so sorry for your loss.

  24. When my dog Sammi died, we got a new dog pretty quickly. But no for us, for our other dog. He was really depressed after he realized she wasn’t coming back, and he would just lay around all day, which was definitely not healthy. So we got another female dog as a companion for him, and he perked up pretty fast

  25. This article is so timely for me. My husband and I lost our very loveable, very old ferret (also named Loki!) last week. We were both a mess, and are still recovering. His cage-sister Lizzie misses him too- we almost lost her due to not wanting to eat or drink (they lived together for 7 years and she just didn’t know how to be without him). Then we had to open up to the idea of rehoming her so that she could have a new friend, as we are expecting our baby boy any day and can’t devote the energy and money necessary to a new pet right now. Thankfully in the end she made a turn around with some TLC and adjusting where her cage is in the house so she is more central to our day-to-day.
    I guess my point is that losing a bleoved pet is one of the hardest things in this world.

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