We share an unconditional relationship with our dogs. So it stands to reason that we grieve deeply when they leave us.
Oftentimes, the words and wisdom of others bring comfort. Read on to see what others have said about this sad event.
They aren’t just dogs, they’re family
A nation-wide Survey I found regarding the relationships we have with our dogs says 98% of dog parents in the United States feel their dogs are part of their family. So much so that our dogs now share our beds, we take them to work with us, include them in our daily outings, and routinely take them to our family or friend gatherings.
We also worry about their safety and health. We consider them our companions, our best friends, and loyal secret holders. We’re also concerned about their social skills and whether they’re lonely when left behind. So we enroll them in doggy daycares to socialize with other tail-waggers and learn confidence.
While we keenly know how much we love our dogs, this scientific data cements our devotion to them and the vital part they play in our lives. So why wouldn’t the loss we feel when a dog dies be as real and as deep as the loss of any other family member?
A dog dying is felt deeply
Sometimes, losing a pet is the first time a person experiences death and dying in their close relationships.
The relationships we have with humans are loving, but can be interwoven with differences of opinion or frustration. That kind of controversy doesn’t complicate our relationships with our dogs, thus, when they die, it can feel just as devastating, if not more.
Our dogs can chew up the couch, and we forgive them. They can poop on the floor, and we clean it up with little more than a stern look and disappointed tone.
When they make a mistake, we see their sorrowful eyes or the triumphantly wagging tail, and our hearts melt.
Their unconditional love and joy in life makes forgiving them easy.
All this validates life with dogs and our great love for them, but does the time we spend with them matter in the grieving process or indicate how hard we may grieve when they pass?
Time has no meaning
In my experience, the length of time we’ve had our dogs doesn’t matter when it comes to grief. Here are two examples of how I know this:
Button came to me as a 15-year-old. He was an adorable, sweet chihuahua/Papillon with huge soft eyes and big ears. His parents were dear friends of mine who passed away unexpectedly in a car accident.
Button was in poor health and not expected to live much longer, but I spent the next 18 months making him as comfortable as possible and worrying about his every move, stumble, poop, and meal.
When he passed, it devastated me. It took me months to move forward without sadness. I still think of him often.
Button’s picture is proudly occupying space on my office wall. His story has been told in my social media posts, and I’ve written many articles covering his health issues while he was with me. I have hoped that our lessons keeping him healthy in his last months will help others like him.
A few weeks ago, Molly, my 13-year-old Golden Retriever/black Shepard, needed relief from her now debilitating arthritis pain.
The Veterinarian had diagnosed Molly with congenital hip dysplasia and arthritis when she was three years old..
Over the next 10 years, we tried low-inflammation diets, acupuncture, aqua therapy, and anything else I thought would help her.
The therapies worked to give her many more years than expected. However, she was struggling with the pain and no longer enjoying life. We made the tough decision to release her from her pain.
I’m still getting over the empty places she leaves in my house and my heart. Luckily, we have many pictures of her growing up and videos of her silly antics to treasure. She will live on, adored in our memories.
Two dogs, two very different timelines with the same feelings when they pass.
So for me, grief doesn’t recognize the length of time, just the depth of the love.
There’s comfort in words
As each of the many dogs I’ve shared my life with have passed, I find there is comfort in the words and wisdom of other pet parents who have experienced their own losses. I hope the words that have given me peacefulness will help you as well.
Our lives with dogs
“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” Roger Caras
“To call him a dog hardly seems to do him justice. Though, because he had four legs, a tail, and barked, I admit he was, to all outward appearances. But to those who knew him well, he was a perfect gentleman.” Hermione Gingold
“Dogs die. But dogs live, too. Right up until they die, they live. They live brave, beautiful lives. They protect their families. And love us. And make our lives a little brighter. And they don’t waste time being afraid of tomorrow.” Dan Gemeinhart
“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.” Gene Hill
“The world would be a better place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.” M.K. Clinton
“Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is, without a doubt, the best deal man has ever made.” Roger Caras
Losing a dog
“Don’t let anyone tell you she was just a dog. She was a wonderful part of your life that you had to let go. You just don’t get over that.” author unknown
“If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went.” Will Rogers
“People leave imprints on our lives, shaping who we become in much the same way that a symbol is pressed into the page of a book to tell you who it comes from. Dogs, however, leave paw prints on our lives and our souls, which are as unique as fingerprints in every way.” Ashly Lorenzana
“Dogs’ lives are short, too short, but you know that going in. You know the pain is coming, you’re going to lose a dog, and there’s going to be great anguish, so you live fully in the moment with her, never fail to share her joy or delight in her innocence, because you can’t support the illusion that a dog can be your lifelong companion. There’s such beauty in the hard honesty of that, in accepting and giving love while always aware that it comes with an unbearable price.” Dean Kootnz
“The one best place to bury a dog is in the heart of its master.” Ben Hur Lampman
“I loved you your whole life. I’ll miss you for the rest of mine.” author unknown
“The loss is immeasurable, but so is the love left behind.” author unknown
“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
“Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”
The celebration of a dog’s life
“A good dog never dies. He always stays. He walks beside you on crisp autumn days when frost is on the fields and winter’s drawing near. His head is within our hand in his old way.”
Mary Carolyn Davies
“If you have a dog, you will most likely outlive it; to get a dog is to open yourself to profound joy and, prospectively, to equally profound sadness.”
“You’ve lost a dog but gained a guardian angel.” author unknown
“When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” Khalil Gibran.
“The dog is the most faithful of animals and would be much esteemed were it not so common. Our Lord God has made His greatest gifts the commonest.” Martin Luther
Moving ahead with treasured memories
For all the pain and emptiness we feel over the loss of our dogs, there is comfort in knowing we loved them deeply and they returned it to us many times over.
I still look for Molly when I get up in the middle of the night, making sure not to step on her as I round the bed.
When I bring my dogs inside, I chuckle thinking of Molly looking at me, waiting for the “treat” word, before she stood up and came inside. She was always the last dog to come in, as if it was her job to make sure everyone got a treat for coming inside.
She’s not there anymore, but all the treasured memories are.
The words and wisdom from others help me. They give me inspiration in my dark moments of missing her and they validate her important place in my life.
As I move forward with fond memories, thankful for the many years Molly spent with me. I’m hoping the words here today will help bring you comfort as well.
The other day I found the following story. I love it and hope you do as well. The author is unknown, but truly understands our relationships with our pooches.
A Man and his Dog
A man and his dog were walking along a road.
The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead.
He remembered dying and that his dog had been dead for years.
He wondered where the road was leading them.
After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road.
It looked like fine marble.
At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight.
When he was standing before it, he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother-of-pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold.
He and the dog walked toward the gate and as they got closer, they saw a man at a desk to one side.
When they were close enough,he called out, “Excuse me, where are we?”
“This is heaven, sir,” the man answered.
“Wow! Would you happen to have some water?” the traveler asked.
“Of course, sir. Come right in, I’ll have some ice water sent right up.”
The man gestured and the gate began to open.
“Can my friend,” gesturing toward the dog, “come in too?” the traveler asked.
“I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t accept pets.”
The man thought for a moment, and then, turning back towards the road, continued the way they had been going.
After another long walk, and at the top of another long hill, they came to a dirt road which led through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed.
There was no fence. As they approached the gate, he saw a man inside, leaning against a tree and reading a book.
“Excuse me!” he called to the reader. “Do you have any water?”
“Yeah, sure, there’s a pump over there”. The man pointed to a place that couldn’t be seen from outside the gate. “Come on in.”
“How about my friend here?”. The traveler said, gesturing to the dog.
“There should be a bowl by the pump.” said the man.
They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old-fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it.
The traveler filled the bowl and took a long drink, then gave some to the dog.
When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by the tree waiting for them.
“What do you call this place?” the traveler asked.
“This is heaven,” was the answer.”
“Well, that’s confusing,” the traveler said. “The man down the road said that was heaven, too.”
“Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and the pearly gates? Nope, that’s hell.”
“Doesn’t it make you mad for them to use your name like that?”
“Nope, I can see how you might think so, but we’re just happy that they screen out the folks who’ll leave their best friends behind.” – Unknown
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