The sad and often terrifying thing about bringing a dog into our home is that, in our lifetime, we will eventually lose them. A dog’s lifespan is never long enough and although they will be with us for the rest of their life, that’s not the rest of theirs.
Many people, after their dog dies, suffer trauma — and it can lead to a fear of getting a new dog due to the guilt about the old one passing. What if they feel like we’re replacing them? There are a lot of feelings to work through, but you should never feel guilty about giving your old dog the best life possible.
Take Time to Reflect on Your Old Dog
Although you should by no means feel guilty for the desire to bring a new puppy into the home, make sure you take the time to grieve and reflect on your old dog. This doesn’t have to be sad! You gave your dog an amazing life and they passed away in a home where they were very much loved and taken care of. That’s something to be proud of, since many dogs sadly don’t have that chance.
Think of the good memories and make sure you talk to someone about it. Don’t bottle up the feelings or repress them, as this can simply make the guilt get worse.
It’s also important to know your feelings are valid. There are many people in life who don’t understand the bond people can have with a dog and will say insensitive things like, “it’s just a dog.” That’s happened to all of us, and it has a way of making your grief seem irrational. Don’t let it. A dog is a member of the family and is often with us for well over a decade. The people saying these things have likely never owned one.
Find Ways to Cope
While you’re grieving, it’s important you get a chance to process everything. Talking to people can really help, but finding support groups online of people who have gone through the same thing can be even better. You’ll meet people who have endured the same grief and perhaps have already gotten another dog and can share some insight.
If you’re really struggling, don’t rule out therapy. Therapy is a valid tool for any trauma you have to process.
Remember, This Is Common
You need to remember that you’re not alone. It’s extremely common to feel guilty about getting a new dog, and many people worry that their old dog will be sad or upset wherever they’ve ended up.
However, that’s unlikely! Humans often assume that dogs feel the same emotions as them, but dog emotional development stops far before they reach that level of complexity. If your dog can see you getting a new pup, they don’t resent you — they don’t have it in them! It’s more likely they’d be happy to see your joy if anything.
Consider the New Dog
To prevent more feelings of guilt, it’s also important to consider what you want in a new dog.
For example, it might be good to get a dog that’s different from your old one. If you buy a puppy that’s the same breed, color, and gender, it might end up feeling like you’ve replaced your old dog (even though that’s not the case).
Consider the options and do what’s best for you!
You should also make sure the dog suits your lifestyle now. For example, if you got a high-energy dog when you were younger and you aren’t as active now, it might be better to pick another breed than the one you had.
You might also be surprised by the signs that the new dog was sent by your old one. People have had dogs end up with a birthday that falls on the day their old one passed, leading them to believe that their new puppy was sent from their old one. Ultimately this will depend on your belief system if you take these signs to heart, but it’s certainly a big coincidence!
In terms of how long you should wait before getting your new dog, that’s an entirely personal choice. Some people want to fill the void in their home as soon as possible and invite a new dog in immediately.
It’s recommended to take at least a little time to process the loss but really, it’s a very personal choice. Bring in a new dog whenever you feel ready and comfortable — there’s no right answer.
Buy New Supplies
The other thing you should do to ease your feelings of guilt is to make sure you purchase new things for your new puppy. You’re likely to increase the feelings of guilt if you re-use bowls, collars, etc., even if you’re saving money.
If you want to do a good deed, donate the old items to a dog parent in need so you know that your old dog is helping others even after they’ve passed. For the new dog, consider buying completely different items and switching up the colors and things you choose. That way, you’re not leaving reminders of your old dog all around the house where you can catch sight of them and feel that guilt rising up again.
Really Focus On Your New Dog!
Lastly, you should really focus on your new dog and give them the time and energy they need.
It’s okay to grieve well into the future and whenever you need a moment to yourself to simply remember your old friend, take it. However, the best way to push these feelings of guilt aside and invest in your new dog is to really give them everything they need.
Don’t sit inside wallowing in your feelings — get out there, take walks, get some fresh air, and really invest in your new pup.
Remember, their personality will likely be very different from your old friend, as all dogs are different. You’re not replacing your dog — you’re simply inviting a new one into your life, while keeping fond memories of a friend you had by your side for all those years.