Your dog gives you so much during her life – unconditional love, companionship, laughter and understanding. So when it’s time to say goodbye, the loss can be extremely distressing.
Although the loss of a dog is usually less significant than the loss of an immediate family member (such as a parent, spouse, or child), it often has more effect on you than human losses outside your family. More than half of those who lose a dog are so profoundly affected by it that it impacts their work and relationships.
Grief is normal
Grieving is not only normal, it is necessary. It’s important to allow yourself to grieve deeply and fully. Grieving is not a sign of weakness or an indication that something is wrong with you; it’s a sign of the depth of your love. It wouldn’t be human not to grieve. At the same time, you might ask, is there a way to lessen the grief? Is there a way to soften the loss?
The natural response in the face of declining health or impending death is to mourn. As Viktor Frankyl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, however, we have a choice in how we respond to the situation. That’s not to say we shouldn’t grieve, but the sadness of imminent loss can be balanced with the happiness of what still remains.
Make the present all it can be by celebrating the joys of life and love you share in the time you have left with your dog.
Create precious & lasting memories
- Include your dog in every daily routine you can, as well as in any special events and celebrations.
- Do something together every day that you both enjoy.
- Indulge your dog with the best food and special treats you can afford.
- Have pictures and videos taken of your dog in favourite places, and of you and your dog playing, cuddling, and simply being together.
- Brush and stroke your dog for at least five minutes every day.
- Gaze into her eyes to send and receive feelings of love.
- Grasp your dog’s face in two hands and give her a kiss on the nose.
- Tell your dog how much she means to you and how grateful you are for her companionship.
- Ponder the spiritual meaning of the bond you share with her.
- Be happy, not sad, when around your dog, but appreciate the quiet moments, too.
Cherish each day. Celebrate togetherness while you have the chance. It won’t stop the grief, but it is the best route through it. Loss is loss; it will come in due time. But you can soften it with the gift of time. Choose that gift. And go make memories.
Dr. Debbie Stoewen is the Care & Empathy Officer (CEO) of Pet Plus Us, an innovative pet insurance company in Canada. She provides pet loss and bereavement counselling, as well as guidance on serious pet-related issues, for pet owners across the country.