And soon as the child grows older the parents will hear, “Daddy or Mommy, can we get a dog…….please please PLEASE?”  Now caring for a child takes a huge amount of effort, done right, and adding a dog to the mix is often put off for several more years.  But the day soon comes when the family decides that a dog will enhance the family and will make a good companion for their kids and will teach the kids some responsibility. 

   Enter Rover, Ruff or whatever name is given to “Man’s Best Friend.”  Hopefully the dog is purchased from a reputable breeder or at the very least obtained from a rescue group or even from the local animal shelter.  The latter places get many dogs from families that either made the wrong decision in selection of breeds or just weren’t prepared to care for the ongoing needs of a living breathing animal. But in any case the kid(s) swear they’ll feed it, walk it, play with it, bath it, and provide whatever this new family member needs.  “Yea Right!!!!”  But they do spend time with the dog and they develop a bond that defies description.  The years spent together are worth more than all the toys that Toy R Us could ever deliver.

   Soon the kids are off with their human friends, at little league, dance classes, gymnastics or a myriad of things that occupy modern youth’s free time.  The family pet is left out of the mix in all too many instances.  As the kids grow older and enter their latter teenage years the family dog is entering the twilight of its life.

   I’m of the belief that a dog, no matter what age it’s obtained, will enhance the life of the owner and the family.  Some of the best memories I have of my youth contain events I spent with my Boxer Toni.  My dad got Toni for me when I was 6 years old and about a year after the family Cocker Spaniel DeeDee got hit by an oil truck and died. Toni followed me when I was riding my bicycle and she sat by the curb watching as I played stickball in the street with my friends.  Once in a while she’d chase the ball, and when she got to it first, to the consternation of my friends and me, she’d run  away with it ending the game for the moment.  She thought this was good sport keeping the ball from us and as I look back at these events, it was. Some days, when I was attending high school, she’d follow me to the bus stop and to my amazement when I got off the bus at the end of the school day; Toni was still sitting by the bus stop waiting for me.  Do you suppose she sat there all day waiting or did she return knowing what time I’d be returning?  To this day it’s still a mystery to me.  She’d greet me with a stubby tail wagging back and forth just waiting for me to give her a pat on the head as we walked the short distance home.  Tears still come to my eyes when I recall the day when Toni, then 12 years old, had a stroke and I, now 18 years old, took her to the vet.  Upon examining her he shook his head in an ominous manner and said it would be best if I had him put her to sleep.  

   “This is my friend!  How can I do that? Isn’t there anything you can do for her,” I pleaded.  His answer, “she will suffer and it would be cruel and selfish for me to put her through that.”  I held her close to me and cried.  Her sad eyes looked up at me and somehow she knew that the end was near.  With all her effort she licked my face and relaxed her body.  The vet let me spend some additional time saying goodbye to her.  Words were difficult to find and more difficult to say as my body, now wracked with grief, shook and tears blurred my vision.  I could only hold onto her for a short a time while the vet injected her and ended her suffering. 

   Years passed and after I married, Judy and I got a toy poodle (Monique), and then an Afghan (Keesh).  These dogs also enhanced our lives and gave us many years of pleasure.  But like all life, there is a day of birth and a day of death.  Now I was a lot older than the last day I spent with Toni but it was no easier to part with these dogs than it was parting with Toni.  

   Several more years past before we got another dog; our kids were busy with their day to day lives and I didn’t recognize how empty our lives were without a dog.  The fateful day came when I met a woman with two Yorkies in her handbag.  Obtaining the breeder's info and adopting Gabby, started our life with Yorkies.

   Gabby was our first Yorkie and in writing this her passing is all too fresh in my mind. She passed from us on September 25th 2004.  Kelsey, her sibling, one litter and 8 months later, died on May 28th 2005, almost 8 months to the day after Gabby died.  They both succumbed from the same kidney disorder.  If you think a more mature man, like me now 62 years old, would be able to accept the passing of my dog in a rational manner, you’re mistaken.  Gabby and Kelsey's renal failure and their passing came when they were only 10 years old.  After spending a terrible night with Gabby, giving her subcutaneous fluids, and holding her, I brought her to the vet the first thing in the morning.  Again I heard the news I dreaded.  Our whole family, my daughter Jennifer (28 years old), my son Adam ( 31 years old)  my wife Judy (?? years old), and me gathered at the vet’s office to say our goodbyes to our beloved little Yorkie.  We were allowed all the time we needed but I wished for more years rather than minutes but that was not to be.  We, all of us including the vet and the workers at the vet clinic, cried as Gabby passed from this world to eternity.  Kelsey died in my arms at home.  She took her last breath as I rubbed her belly and tried to comfort her. She died with dignity and in a place that was familiar to her.  I hope and pray that she wasn't in pain as she drew her last breath.
   Many refrain from owning pets and others ask if it’s worth going through this grief just to own a pet.  My answer is always the same….. a unambiguous YES.  The years my family and I spent with Gabby and Kelsey, and now with Kimmi, our new little girls Kcee and Katey can not be expressed with only words.  I like to believe I enhance their lives but I know they enhance our lives more.

   Grief when we lose a member of our family is hard to bear but grief turns to fond memories of the years we spent together.  Even the times, when we first got our puppies and they peed in every nook and cranny now are fondly remembered.  The cold nose sniffing and the warm tongue licking our faces and hands are but a few of the memories of a departed dog that make us smile but can also bring tears to our eyes.  The bark and low growl when a strange noise broke the night silence, is a remembrance of how our dog(s) yearned to warn and protect us. So many other pleasurable things that we recall of our departed dogs only serves to bring us renewed assurance that we made the right decision in adopting our dogs.

   So as I wrap us this dissertation on pet loss grief, it occurs to me that the whatever grief we experience pales in comparison to all the gratification  we’ve received from the privilege of sharing our lives with our dogs.


Respectfully submitted:  Stephen Glass  

The grief in losing your dog…

   Life is a continuing series of events that, for the most part, are pleasurable. We go through early childhood into our teenage years without much thought of death to ourselves or to loved ones.  Occasionally a tragedy touches us from an accident or disease but for the most part we are oblivious to the feelings of loss that accompanies the death of someone or something close to us.

   As we reach adult status and we start a family of our own, the thought of our own children becomes paramount to us and when our kids are born we look towards the happy events and plateaus of development that will follow.

   The first sounds of a child are music to our ears.  When the baby turns over in the crib for the first time we look on in wonderment how this little creature is developing.  Crawling soon follows and the day when those first steps are taken, we ask ourselves can the first day of school be far away?  A proud mother and father beam on the first day their child uses the potty seat, signaling the child’s ability to understand the need for self control.

To everyone that got this far reading what's above and have lost their pet, I would hope you consider and find it in your heart to bring another dog into your home.  

Most of you are not aware of it, but in August 2007 I had multiple heart attacks.  The first was while on was on the recovery table recuperating from kidney stone surgery.  The second was two days later while unconscious.  I was then transferred to Tufts NE Medical Center in Boston where I lay unconscious for two weeks.  I was transferred out of the Cardiac ICU and within 3 days I suffered another heart attack.  I woke up after they placed electrodes on my chest and shocked my heart and me back to life.  I was hospitalized for a total of 3 months and am now on a heart transplant list.

Now why go into all this:  

During my stay in the hospital the doctors allowed my wife to bring each of my three Yorkies in to visit me.  I really have no way to describe the feeling when my Kimmi got on the bed and, with tail wagging, came to me and licked my face.  It was like a burst of life surging into my body.  I had the same feeling when each of my other Yorkie girls were allowed to visit me (they all couldn’t come at the same time).

There is a relationship that develops between humans and dogs that there is no explaining.  They look to us and we look to them for love, companionship and a feeling of well being. It would be a shame for anyone to forgo this in the future after losing a pet.

I have no doubt that the dog you lost would welcome another canine companion if he/she were still with you and now more than ever since he/she has passed. 

Yes, I know how hard it is when we lose a pet for both my previous Yorkies died of renal failure.  During the months that I administered fluids to them it broke my heart to know that there was no real cure and soon they’d be leaving me.

I’ve often wondered why a dog’s life is so short compared to us and I’ve come to the conclusion is that it gives us the opportunity to experience the joy of a new pet over and over again.  It also has a way of teaching us how precious life is and to value each and every day of we’re allowed to be here on earth.  

As I wait for a new heart my wife and kids love and encourage me to be patient and my dogs are at my side giving me comfort and the will to go on. 

Dance like no one is watching, 
       Sing like no one is listening, 
              and Live each day like it is your last



Her eyes met mine as she walked down the corridor peering apprehensively into the kennels. I felt her need instantly and knew I had to help her.

I wagged my tail, not too exuberantly, so she wouldn’t be afraid. As she stopped at my kennel I blocked her view from a little accident I had in the back of my cage. I didn’t want her to know that I hadn’t been walked today. Sometimes the overworked shelter keepers get too busy and I didn’t want her to think poorly of them.

As she read my kennel card I hoped that she wouldn’t feel sad about my past. I only have the future to look forward to and want to make a difference in someone’s life.
She got down on her knees and made little kissy sounds at me. I shoved my shoulder and side of my head up against the bars to comfort her. Gentle fingertips caressed my neck; she was desperate for companionship. A tear fell down her cheek and I raised my paw to assure her that all would be well.

Soon my kennel door opened and her smile was so bright that I instantly jumped into her arms.

I would promise to keep her safe.
I would promise to always be by her side.
I would promise to do everything I could to see that radiant smile and sparkle in her eyes.

I was so fortunate that she came down my corridor. So many more are out there who haven’t walked the corridors. So many more to be saved. At least I could save one.

I rescued a human today.

Written by Janine Allen CPDT, Rescue Me Dog's professional dog trainer. Janine's passion is working with people and their dogs. She provides demonstrations for those who have adopted shelter dogs, lends email support to adopted dog owners that need information beyond our Training Support Pages, and aids shelter staff and volunteers in understanding dog behavior to increase their adoptability. Copyright 2009 Rescue Me Dog;

Pet Loss Grief
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