Have you had to deal with the death of a pet? Maybe even several?
It never seems to get any easier, does it?
Although this blog is all about senior dogs and keeping them in good health, I feel that I need to include a post on death because eventually it’s going to happen.
Dealing with the death of a pet is just as hard as dealing with the death of a family member.
It never gets any easier no matter how many times you go through it. I know. I’ve been through it many times. I tend to adopt older dogs, so I don’t get as much time with them as I would a puppy. And I experience more loss that way.
There is no easy way to get through it. We all grieve in different ways. And we all go through the 5 stages of grief:
- Denial or numbness – “I can’t deal with this right now. I’ll get rid of all her toys and bowls and everything and deal with it later.”
- Bargaining – “What could I have done to prevent this?”
- Depression – “I don’t feel like doing anything today. I think I’ll just call in sick and sleep all day”
- Anger – “Why did God do this to me?! Why did He take her from me?!”
- Acceptance – “I’ll never forget her but I have to move on”
Some of us need to grieve alone, maybe even take time off from work. Some may need to be around other people.
For some, getting another dog helps because the unconditional love a dog has for us has a healing element to it. Having a new dog will distract us, give us responsibilities and a warm furry body to cry into when moments of loss come flooding in again.
There is also no time frame for grieving. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you “get over it. It’s just a dog.” We know better. Take as long as it takes.
Ideas to Help Get Through the Grieving Process
Go to those friends who understand the bond between our dogs and us. Talk about your loss on Facebook if you feel comfortable with it.
Let others give you empathy and share in your loss. Prayers and thoughts from others who understand can do a lot to help heal.
Perform a funeral or memorial service for your dog. Have family and friends over. Talk about the funny things your dog did, the tricks she learned, the intelligent things she did and the love she brought to your family.
Write a letter to your dog. Say everything you wish you could have told her. Write about your feelings of loss. I know, it sounds kind of corny, but sometimes writing it down really helps.
You could put up a dog memorial statue or personalized dog memorial stone in your yard or garden or at the grave site.
If you have your dog cremated, you might want to spread her ashes in an area she loved to run and play.
Or you might want to save the ashes in a cremation urn or a small amount in a canister on a key chain.
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There are several ways to help you get through the grieving process from the loss of your dog.
My First Major Loss and What It Taught Me
I remember the first time I lost a dog that was so devoted to me that I honestly believe she saved my life twice. But that’s another story.
My first German Shepherd – Venus – was a rescue at about the age of 2. Unfortunately, she developed bone cancer at the age of 7. It started out as just a limp. Then a bony lump started growing on her front leg. It got massive and it finally got to a point where I could tell she was suffering too much. I had to make the decision to have her euthanized. It was the hardest thing I had ever done in my twenty some years.
I remember crying for days. I didn’t think I could ever get past her death. I didn’t think I would ever stop crying. But then the pain gradually started to lessen. The tears didn’t come quite so often. Eventually it was a dull ache.
And I learned an important lessen from that grieving process. I worked through it. I got over it, past it. I survived and I still loved dogs and knew I couldn’t live without them.
I realized that as hard as the loss is, I will always get through it. And there is always another dog out there waiting to be rescued and loved by me.
The love I receive and give to every dog in my life is worth every tear in the end.
Why Do Dogs Have Such Short Lives?
Whether your dog dies from cancer, an accident, a disease or simply “old age”, its life is always too short. I don’t have a good answer as to why their lives are so short but I like to think it’s so we can experience the love of several dogs throughout our lifetimes.
One story that has circulated around the internet for many years tells of a veterinarian euthanizing an Irish Wolfhound that was dying of cancer. The family’s young boy seemed to be at peace with it.
When the adults were discussing why dogs had such short life spans, the little boy piped up saying “I know why”.
When they questioned him, he said, “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?”
The little boy continued, “Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”
If You Have to Euthanize, How Do You Decide When To Make the Decision?
Deciding when to put an end to your dog’s suffering is the toughest thing any pet owner has to face. Ideally, our pets would simply die suddenly and quietly in our arms or in their sleep. Then we wouldn’t have to make that decision.
But unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. We could wait for them to die on their own, but most of us can’t stand to watch our dogs hurting or starving themselves to death. We want to end the suffering for both the dog and ourselves. And yet we don’t want to let go. Ever.
In most cases your dog will let you know when it’s time to let go.
- He or she will stop eating
- maybe even stop drinking
- might not be able to stand up or
- could suddenly seem very confused, disoriented and off balance.
You should always have your vet check your dog over before making a final decision. There might be something that can be done to treat these symptoms, bringing your dog back around for a while longer.
Is Your Dog’s Quality of Life Affected?
I think the decision has a lot to do with the quality of life your dog will have in her final days. Does she seem happy? Eating okay? Then maybe it’s not time.
On the other hand does she seem depressed, confused, having no appetite, no energy, no spark where there used to be one? Then maybe it’s time.
I don’t mean if you notice these things at any age. I’m just talking about in the end after 13 or 14 years. If your dog is showing these signs at a younger age, there could definitely be something going on that a veterinarian could treat.
Of course it’s a personal decision everyone has to make for themselves. You know your dog better than anyone. Don’t listen to others who tell you to have your dog put down if you know it isn’t time. Go with your gut feeling. And accept the fact that it’s going to hurt more than you want or maybe even more than you think it possibly could.
And know that there’s the possibility that after it’s done, you may have feelings of guilt, like maybe it wasn’t time. Maybe there was something you could have done to keep her with you longer.
Try not to go there. The guilt will eat you up. That’s why it’s so important to know in your heart that it’s time to let go before you walk into that vet clinic. Know that you’ve done all you can.
And as much as it hurts, I think it’s best to go in yourself with your dog and not have someone else do it for you. One time I had someone else take one of my dogs in to be euthanized and I still regret not being there at the end.
Another thing I discovered was that I like for my dogs to see me as the last thing they see. I like to be looking in their eyes and they looking into mine while the doctor is injecting the euthanasia fluids.
That way I know they will see and feel all the love I have for them in the end. Writing this now brings tears to my eyes, even though it’s been a few years since I had one of my own dogs put down.
It’s a very difficult subject but one that everyone has to go through. If I can offer something to help you keep from feeling any guilt or regrets, that is my intention.
Then there’s the big question –
Do Dogs Go to Heaven According to the Bible?
No one can answer that question definitively. There are no verses in the Bible that say specifically that our pets will be in Heaven with us. I choose to believe I’ll see all my four-legged friends that have passed on come running to greet me when I get to heaven. That makes me smile.
God created animals to share this earth with us. I can’t believe Heaven would be without animals of all kinds.
In Isaiah 11:6 it is written “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.”
Isaiah 11:7-9, “The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea”
To me that sounds like how it will be in Heaven. There will be animals there. That’s my interpretation, anyway.
We just don’t know if they’ll be ones that we’ve known in our lifetime or new ones.
We know animals don’t have the same souls that we humans have – ones that can accept Jesus as our Savior and be forgiven of our sins.
But I honestly believe they have some kind of soul. Who are we to say those souls won’t be with us again some day? We just don’t know.
Faith is believing in the unknown. I have faith that I’ll see my beloved dogs of the past again one day in Heaven and we’ll all be home.
Do you have a special way you deal with the death of a pet? Please share it in the comments.