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One day my dogs will die

Wow, that headline is a biggie! This is not something I like to think about very often but occasionally when I see a new grey whisker on Cress’s nose I momentarily think about what life will be like when he and Eddie are not here and how I will deal with their passing. I flash back to when my Labradors died when I was 20 and how painful it was for the whole family. Particularly when Grove (our male Lab) was finally euthanised in our backyard. It was so hard to physically let go of him, we all wanted time to sit with his body and give him his last pats before he was taken to the Vet to be cremated. God, it still makes me well up…

Anyone following my Facebook page of late will have seen I have had a few updates about people capturing images, creating products and telling stories about the passing of their dogs. I often find reading these articles an exercise in love and pain, like watching a sad animal movie. I guess this blog post is an expression of my thoughts around those ideas. It’s a post I wanted to write as I know all of you suffer from those same bittersweet thoughts; that at some point in the future your best friend, constant companion and confidant will die, leaving only your memories and photos to reminisce over your time together.

Sarah Beth Joy SessionsA Joy Session by Sarah Beth Photography

I am often asked as a dog-blogger and long-time pet owner how I have dealt with my much loved companions dying. By others who are going through the same grief and also those who are not sure they want a pet as they know they will have to grieve at some point. My answer is always the same: the time you spend together and the pure joy they bring into your life is always worth the heartache. It is hard to keep this in perspective during their final moments and the days after they die, but it is definitely the position I hold in my heart. It never stops hurting but at the same time the wonderful memories grow and blossom, squeezing out those last days of exhaustion and bloodshot eyes.

My main advice today is to prepare. Give some thought to what you want to do when your pet dies. Do you want them to come home and be buried in your yard? Do you want them to be cremated and their ashes spread on your rose garden? If it involves euthanasia do you want the vet to come to your house or do you want to be at the vet hospital? If the vet asks about an autopsy do you want that to happen? Do you want to have a special ceremony with some close friends and family or do you want to grieve by yourself?

In my life I have lost two dogs and six cats. Each death was different and all of them hard. But the hardest was my little cat Helmette. She wasn’t young, in fact she was 13 — a good age for a little kitten I had raised from just 2 days old. What made her death so hard was that she went in for what we thought was a straight-forward operation and she never woke up. The vet had to call me at work and as I sat in my big open plan office I was expecting the ‘all went okay you can pick her up at 6pm’ call. Instead I was told Helmette had not made it and she would not be coming home that night. In those moments afterwards I had no plan for her. I was asked several questions about autopsies and the consignment of her body. While the vet was very understanding of me quietly sobbing into the phone, trying not to alert my colleagues to my grief, I have often thought since that I should have answered those questions differently. I should have stood straight up from my desk, gone to the vet and seen her for that final pat.

But I didn’t.

I was unsure of what I wanted and what my options were and I was in shock. This experience has made me conscious of what I want to happen when Eddie, Cress, Izzy and Torty die. I now know that whatever happens I want to give them that final hug and pat, tell them I love them and (depending on where we are living) bring them home to be buried or have them cremated. I want to know where their final remains are so I can visit them if I need to.

Sarah Beth Joy SessionsA Joy Session by Sarah Beth Photography

While I know this post seems very morbid I guess I just want you to think about how you want to celebrate and remember your pet when the time comes, as it can pass all too quickly without you truly thinking about what you want and how your amazing, loyal and loving companion should be remembered.

In the meantime, enjoy your furry loved ones and give them a great big hug every day.

For more resources on dealing with the loss of a pet see:

Grove, Lilly, Flemington, Squealer, Tiggy, Snoopy, Monty and Helmette — I love and miss you!


9 thoughts on "One day my dogs will die"

  1. This is such an important thing to think about, thank-you.

    One thing I was told when my last whippet, Jessie, died is that there is no set time limit to grieving for our companion animals.

    I think we often feel like we need to move on quickly, even by the next day, because “it’s just an animal”. But love is love and grief is grief, it can’t be faked or forced.

    It’s hard enough when a member of the family dies, so feeling embarrassed or guilty about grieving, or limiting the time you need to grieve prevents you from fully honouring the love you felt for each other… Because they love us so much too, don’t they?

    1. Thanks Lise for the comment and you are so right about no set time limit to grieve. And it definitely in my opinion can take a long time as a pet is your companion everyday, part of your life in every way xx

  2. Just lost my beautiful girl Leisel who i adored. she was 14 and very ill but you would never know, she was so happy and bouncy, and she crashed suddenly and was dying in my arms as we rushed to the hospital.

    Her little sister Harriet 9, is ok, she doesn’t seem too upset but I’m devastated. I hate not having her, I hate the quiet and I miss her desperately.

    Leisel’s big sister died four years ago and that was horrendous too, but it helped having Leisel and she was so loving to me.

    Leisel was the one who bossed us around, nagged me to take them out, to get her a treat, for her dinner etc. She’d make Harriet get up and play with her. She’d nag me to come to bed, even though my desk was about a foot away from the bed where they’d both be.

    I loved her so much, she was so special. I feel incredibly alone, so awful. I don’t really know how to get through this. She was my girl, she was so beautiful.

    1. Louise, it is so hard in those early days and Leisel sounds like an amazing dog. Each day will be a little bit better as you will remember the great times and not be so overwhelmed with the emptiness. Give Harriet lots of hugs and look after yourself over the coming weeks xx

  3. Such an important topic Lisa. As a vet I have had to share many people’s grief and last moments with their precious furry family members. There are many different ways of coping but the important thing to remember I think is that as Lisa said, they aren’t ‘just a pet’ and it is completely normal to feel profound grief and loss. It’s also important to remember that there are resources available if you feel you aren’t coping with your loss x

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Dog Mum Kerry Martin is the editor and photographer at Puppy Tales.

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