Losing a pet is one of the hardest things you’ll probably ever have to go through. Only pet owners know the true pain of losing their best friend, and it can be extremely hard to focus on anything else in your life.
I know, because I lost my dog Sammie two and a half years ago. He was old, sick, and passed away in his sleep. I still remember the day I found him. I’d gotten up, poured myself a cup of coffee, and headed over to Sam to give him his morning cuddle – that was basically my daily routine. I knew something wasn’t right the moment I walked over. Usually he’d get up or at least look up from his bed, wagging his tail. The little guy was always happy to see me.
When I approached him, I noticed he was still. Silent. No inhaling or exhaling motions coming from his belly. I called out his name, “Sammie,” “Sammie, darling, wake up.” And then again, only in a louder tone of voice: “SAMMIE!!”
Since I lived alone, there was nobody I could ask or talk to. It was always just me and my best bud Sam. Then it finally clicked, he was gone. And never coming back.
Two and a half years later, his memory remains strong in my heart. I still miss the way he looks, smells, and feels. I miss the way he always greeted me at the door when I came home. I miss the way he always looked super cozy in his bed – even when I had to go out in the cold. I miss the way everything felt good with him. I still think about him, but I’ve learned to accept that he has passed on now – over the rainbow and into the land of eternal cuddles, juicy bones, and LOVE.
Have you recently lost your furry friend? To help all those lost and heartbroken owners out there, I’ve written this article to share my own personal advice below on how to cope if you can’t stop thinking about your dead dog, and what you can do to stop the patterns. I sincerely hope this will help in your healing, and I’m extremely sorry for your loss.
Let Yourself Grieve
It’s really tough to say goodbye to a pet. After all, he was part of your family for such a long time. Accept that mourning is normal, healthy, and takes time. Embrace it – it’s the only way you’ll truly heal.
Some people avoid grieving because they don’t want to accept the reality. I know how hard it is to accept that your best friend isn’t coming back. I don’t know how many times I cried every time I made coffee and saw his empty bed. That bed was always going to be empty. Nothing I could do would change that. But being able to cry about it meant the reality had sunk in, and I was paying attention to it, responding to it. I wasn’t shutting out my feelings. That felt good.
The problem with not grieving is that it chases you. Maybe not now or tomorrow, but someday that grief will pop up and you’ll have to deal with what has happened. It’s better to handle it now and give yourself the closure you deserve so you can properly heal.
There is no set time frame for grieving. Some may grieve for days, others for weeks, and some for months. Let yourself grieve, and trust me, you will begin to feel better.
Cry, scream, talk with someone – do whatever feels good. Express your grief!
Let Go Of Your Dog’s Things
You don’t have to get rid of everything. You could keep one of his favorite toys or something small as a little keepsake. But avoid keeping it all, and having everything on display. For instance, his bed. Maybe you keep it in the hall, lounge, or your bedroom. Either way, find another space for it that’s not within view so you aren’t constantly reminded of your loss.
I left Sammie’s bed exactly how it was for two weeks. Every day after work, I’d go and cuddle up to it, breathing in his scent and missing him madly. But every day that passed, I noticed the scent disappearing and it broke my heart. But it was also when I realized this habit of mine was doing me zero favors. I wasn’t moving on. And I wasn’t letting myself. So I donated his bed to the dog shelter. It felt good doing something nice. Not seeing the bed there every day felt hard for the first few days, but eventually I broke the habit and started moving on.
Just let me point out: you don’t need to get rid of everything associated with your pooch. Do what feels right to you. However, if you can’t stop thinking about your dead dog and you’re desperate for some relief, you can definitely benefit from removing trigger points – like his bed at the end of your bed or his dinner bowl in the kitchen.
Volunteer at a Dog Shelter
You’ll need to be careful with this one, as it can be both effective and highly ineffective. It depends on what state you’re in. If your dog passed away only last week, being around other dogs may leave you in a worser state. But not all people feel this way. For some people, helping needy animals can be an extremely rewarding and healing experience.
It’s best to take things one step at a time. If you feel okay around other dogs, embrace the opportunity. Besides enjoying the companionship, helping other dogs means you’re doing something good and that’s something to be proud of. On the other hand, if the idea of spending time with other dogs feels like salt on a wound, avoid this situation as it may exacerbate your pain.
It doesn’t need to be a dog shelter. Try any animal shelter, or any form of charity. It’s an excellent way to keep your mind busy – and off your deceased dog. Plus, you’re changing lives with your actions, and that in itself is INCREDIBLE!
Focus on the Things that Make You Happy
Losing a pet can make life seem dull. One of my favorite pastimes was curling up on the sofa with Sammie by my side and reading a good book. When he passed away, that activity no longer seemed enjoyable to me. It just made me miss him even more.
However, I had to accept that I loved reading and I didn’t want to stop reading for good. So I continued. Sure, it was hard the first few times, but it was nice to lose myself in a good story and forget about the pain and anguish of the past couple of weeks.
When bad things happen, it’s important to do the things that make you happy. Don’t just pour yourself into your work with the intention of ignoring the obvious. Let yourself be happy and enjoy the things you love. It’s a stepping stone to healing, and one that I highly recommend.
Take Up New Hobbies
I had a daily am and pm walking routine with Sammie. First thing after drinking my morning coffee and cuddling up with Sam as I scrolled my inbox, I took him for walkies. In the evening, I took him again for a longer walk, before making dinner and taking a shower.
Suddenly those two hours felt like huge empty gaps in my life – and my heart. What would I do with the free time? It felt lonely. One of my friends suggested filling the time with new hobbies and interests. “What would you like to learn?” “Is there something you’d love to try but never have the time for?” she would ask. I gave it some thought and realized how nice it would be to pursue my interest in music. I always wanted to play a musical instrument. This would be my chance to learn.
I also needed to keep my exercise regimen up. Since I wasn’t going for those long walks anymore, I still needed something to keep me in shape. And going on solo walks just wasn’t my thing. I enrolled in a yoga class. Besides learning a new mode of exercise and challenging myself physically, I met lots of new, friendly people who really helped take my mind off Sammie.
If you can’t stop thinking about your dead dog, I urge you to take up a hobby or two. Fill those gaps in your life, and give yourself permission to love life again. Your mind will be too busy learning to think about anything else.
Spend More Time with Family and Friends
To be honest, nothing can prepare you for the day you lose Fido. He’s a member of the family, you loved and cared for him for years, and he was always there to put a smile on your face even on the bad days. When he’s no longer there, life can feel empty. That’s normal. The best thing you can do is surround yourself with friends and loved ones. They can support you through this hard time and help you heal.
When I lost Sammie, I lived alone, and that made the whole situation worse. Spending time with my friends, mom and dad, and brother, really soothed my pain. I was surrounded by people who loved me and cared for me. People who would make this whole nightmare better. If there’s one thing good to come out of Sammie’s death it was that I strengthened my family ties, and that’s something that’s only improved through the two years.
Not spoken to your sister for a few weeks? Can’t remember the last time you had lunch with your parents? Wish things didn’t end the way they did between you and your bestie? Make the effort to reconnect, and you will be rewarded. Trust me.
Go On a Trip
A change of scenery may be just what you need. I know you’re probably not feeling in the mood for a vacation, but it doesn’t need to be a vacation. Call it whatever you want, this is a chance for you to unwind, see something different, and give yourself some distance from your loss. You can decide what kind of trip you want it to be. Maybe just a road trip to see your friends and family? You could have a night away in the nearest city. Or you could treat yourself to an overseas holiday where you can explore the sights while soaking up the sun.
Some say people who travel after a loss are trying to escape reality. You can see it that way, but I see it that loss is an incredibly stressful event, and sometimes you need to give yourself some relief from that stress. It’s not going to completely dissolve your pain, but it will give you some distance and allow you to focus on yourself for a little while. Plus, it keeps you busy, which can be helpful when you’re trying to stop thinking about your deceased dog.
If you’re struggling to cope with the death of your dog, the best thing you can do is talk about it. Find a professional who will talk to you at length, and enable you to find ways to heal and move forward with your life. Alternatively, find a support group or call a hotline.
Whatever you do, don’t hide your feelings. Don’t shut down and close yourself off to the world. It’s important to express your feelings, get it out there, and actively seek closure. Not doing that will only lengthen the grieving process.
Ask your local veterinarian if you’re not sure who you can talk to. My vet was very helpful at helping me grieve and recommending people to talk to. I highly recommend it!
At the end of the day, we all need support sometimes. You just need to let yourself have it. That doesn’t mean forgetting about your beloved dog (I certainly haven’t), but it does mean letting go of the loss and moving forward so you can enjoy the happy and fulfilled life you deserve.