I never realized how many dogs would touch my heart until I became a pet photographer. I only meet each dog for one hour out of one day usually, but they become extremely special to me for a lifetime. Which is why it doesn't get any easier when I learn they have passed away. Springer, a lovely Doxie that I photographed a few months back unexpectedly crossed over to the rainbow bridge recently. Of course I am an animal lover to the greatest extreme and when I read this type of news, I always cry. Knowing the pain of losing a pet, I can deeply empathize with the owner. While it's extremely painful to learn of a pet's passing, I am comforted by the fact that I was able to provide lasting memories that can be cherished forever. And that is priceless. Rest in peace, sweet Springer. We will all meet again someday.. that I am sure of. "You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us" ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
Springer with sister Hailey.
More treats please!!
The sweet family.
Coping with the Death of Your Pet
When a person you love dies, it's natural to feel sorrow, express grief, and expect friends and family to provide understanding and comfort. Unfortunately, the same doesn't always hold true if the one who died was your companion animal. Many consider grieving inappropriate for someone who has lost "just a pet."
Nothing could be further from the truth. People love their pets and consider them members of their family. Caregivers celebrate their pets' birthdays, confide in their animals, and carry pictures of them in their wallets. So when your beloved pet dies, it's not unusual to feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your sorrow. Animals provide companionship, acceptance, emotional support, and unconditional love during the time they share with you. If you understand and accept this bond between humans and animals, you've already taken the first step toward coping with pet loss: knowing that it is okay to grieve when your pet dies.
Understanding how you grieve and finding ways to cope with your loss can bring you closer to the day when memories bring smiles instead of tears.
What Is the Grief Process?
The grief process is as individual as the person, lasting days for one person or years for another. The process typically begins with denial, which offers protection until individuals can realize their loss. Some caregivers may try bargaining with a higher power, themselves, or even their pet to restore life. Some feel anger, which may be directed at anyone involved with the pet, including family, friends, and veterinarians. Caregivers may also feel guilt about what they did or did not do, and may feel that it is inappropriate to be so upset. After these feelings subside, caregivers may experience true sadness or grief. They may become withdrawn or depressed. Acceptance occurs when they accept the reality of their loss and remember their animal companion with decreasing sadness. Remember, not everyone follows these classic stages of grief—some may skip or repeat a stage, or experience the stages in a different order.
How Can I Cope with My Grief?
While grief is a personal experience, you need not face loss alone. Many forms of support are available, including pet bereavement counseling services, pet-loss support hotlines, local or online Internet bereavement groups, books, videos, and magazine articles. Here are a few suggestions to help you cope:
- Acknowledge your grief and give yourself permission to express it.
- Don't hesitate to reach out to others who can lend a sympathetic ear.
- Write about your feelings, either in a journal or a poem.
- Call your local humane society to see whether it offers a pet loss support group or can refer you to one. You may also want to ask your veterinarian or local animal shelter about available pet loss hotlines.
- Explore the Internet for pet loss support groups and coping information.
- Prepare a memorial for your pet.
Will My Other Pets Grieve?
Surviving pets may whimper, refuse to eat or drink, and suffer lethargy, especially if they had a close bond with the deceased pet. Even if they were not the best of friends, the changing circumstances and your emotional state may distress them. Give surviving pets lots of TLC ("tender loving care") and try to maintain a normal routine. It's good for them and for you.
Should I get another pet?
Rushing into this decision isn't fair to you or your new pet. Each animal has his own unique personality and a new animal cannot replace the one you lost. You'll know when the time is right to adopt a new pet after giving yourself time to grieve, carefully considering the responsibilities of pet ownership, and paying close attention to your feelings. When you are ready, remember that your local animal shelter is a great place to find your next special friend.