Losing your dog is a traumatic and painful time and it has or will happen to all of us who are puppy parents. For those that know, losing a dog can be as painful as losing a blood relative for some. And with good reason; some people are more attached to their dog than they are with anyone or anything else. There is a special bond a dog has with a human that a human or other animal cannot replicate and that is why they have been “mankind’s best friend” for as long as history is written.
So how can you cope with losing your dog?
1. They Loved You…And Still Do
First, recognize that your dog loved you unconditionally, trusted you with all their heart, and would have done anything in the world for you. Now, think about that, and think about how your dog would not want you to be sad at their loss. In fact, they would get sad knowing that you are sad that they are gone! So, while it is very hard to not experience that sadness, just realize it is normal grievance we all go through, and that your dog ultimately wants you to be happy, even if they are no longer with us in this world.
2. Find Support
Next, seek the support of others, whether it be family, friends, co-workers, anyone that you may be able to express your feelings to. Sometimes though, even these people in our lives, while having our best interests at heart, cannot help here. And in this case it is good to seek out others, even if it be kindly reaching out to your vet and explaining the news (if they don’t already know), someone in your religious life, or even finding someone else who is in the same situation. There are sites you can even post anonymously and pour your heart out and discuss with others, such as Grieving.com's "Loss of a Pet" Forum.
3. Reduce “Reminders”
You should also gather up all their toys, beds, and other belongings and put them away somewhere out of sight so you are not thinking of them every time you see one of their objects. You don’t need to throw these things away, but instead collect them up and put them away somewhere that they will be “out of sight/out of mind”.
4. Set Aside Grievance Time
While you want to limit how much grieving and thinking you do about your lost best friend, it is healthy to still set aside time if you need each day to devote to grieving. Pick a half hour, and cry, lay in their bed, wrap yourself in their blanket, and let go. Anytime during the day that you start to feel sad, tell yourself that it’s okay because you have the special time to grieve later. Tell yourself it isn’t fair to your doggy to grieve while you are at work or preoccupied elsewhere, and that because you love them so much, you will save it for when you can devote 100% of your time to them. But always remember, at the end of that half hour, remember #1 above that your friend would NOT want to see you so sad and indeed would be sad themselves! So once 30 minutes are up, wipe those tears and go back to your day, because they could be watching!
We have spoken to many people that recently lost their best friend and of course they miss them more than anything. They are thinking about adopting a puppy to replace what they just lost but they feel guilty. And we totally understand, but it is important to move on. Dogs are pack animals, meaning they need to be around others. Even dogs “who don’t like other dogs”, if properly introduced, will eventually welcome and accept another member to the pack. So, if you are thinking about finding another member for your pack to replace the one you just lost, I can assure you that your previous friend would accept them into your pack. Don’t feel guilty! Remember your dog wants you to be happy and if that means welcoming a new member into your pack after you have grieved, then do it. Because they would want that.