Our regular contributor, pet expert Karen Boyce provides us with this very useful guide to coping with pet loss.
You might have read recently that the well-known comedian and actress Miranda Hart was taking a break from work after the death of her beloved dog, Peggy. In a very poignant message, Miranda talked about how the pain “mirrors the unique joy” she shared with her dog. Many of her fans have shared her journey with Peggy through the book Peggy and Me.
I, of course, have had many dogs over the years and losing each one is painful. There have been some losses I have felt much more keenly than others, however. My pride and joy was a German Shepherd called Monica, who died of bladder cancer at only eight years old. Even now, I can feel that loss very keenly.
Indeed, the physical and mental effects of grief are the same, no matter who is lost. If you love your dog, you will feel grief in a similar way to that you feel when you lose a special human friend.
A Reason For Living
This loss will be particularly acute if your dog is your main companion. Some people, very often the elderly, may miss out on having people to converse with daily. Consequently, their dog becomes the focus of their attention. It can be their reason to get up and get out and about. For some, particularly those with mental health issues, the canine companion can be their reason for living. And perhaps more so in the current climate. A recent survey discovered that approximately 60% of dog owners questioned said that, during the pandemic, their dogs were helping with their mental well-being and reducing their stress levels.
This grief can feel so much worse if there was a tragic side to the loss or if you think it happened all too soon. Owners often have difficulty coming to terms with fatal accidents or deadly illnesses to dogs they have only recently acquired.
Not “Just A Dog”!
So, what do we do when we have had to say goodbye to our precious dog?
Firstly, don’t let anyone tell you that it was “just a dog”! As mentioned above, your grief is real. Some people who have not owned a dog or even dog owners that have never made that special connection just won’t understand. There’s no need to fight your corner; simply avoid such people for a time until you are better able to cope. Remember, there is nothing wrong with you feeling the way you do.
Secondly, do take some time off if you think it’s necessary. Give yourself time away from work or stop what you would typically be doing, maybe for a few days. It would be advisable to tell the world why you have dropped out of view, however. Yes, it’s a very personal thing. Nevertheless, if people know, they can immediately be sympathetic without you having to retell the experience over and over again.
Thirdly, try to celebrate your dog’s life. Creating a Facebook collage of pictures of happy times and places or a scrapbook filled with photos and little bits of memorabilia will make you smile again. Maybe take one of the loveliest photographs and have it printed professionally or even painted and displayed in the home. Planting a tree, a rose bush or bulbs can be a unique way to commemorate the dog.
You can read about five other helpful ways to cope with losing a pet by clicking here.
Help Is Available
Finally, if you feel that the anguish is too much, some organisations and experts exist solely to help people with pet grief.
The Blue Cross, the pet rescue charity, has a pet bereavement support service. They have a helpline you can call any day from 8.30am to 8.30pm. Find them here: bluecross.org.uk/pet-bereavement-and-pet-loss.
There are also several trained therapists across the country, whether face-to-face or remotely. I can recommend:
You can also contact a Facebook group called The Comfort Couch. This support group is for owners, dog walkers, groomers, trainers, vets, veterinary nurses or anyone who has experienced the loss of a dog.
Finally, we interviewed pet psychic Jackie Weaver back in November 2019. She talked about coping with the loss of a pet and has indeed written a book on the subject. Click here to read the story. You can go to her website by clicking on this link. There is a section on Pet Grief in the menu at the top of the homepage.
Another very useful article dealing with pet bereavement is available here.
We hope you enjoyed reading our article “Coping With Pet Loss”. If you’d like to read more of our articles about looking after your dog, click here.