When your dog dies: How to prepare for and mourn your pet’s death
The time you can spend with your dog is limited – and yet when it comes to saying goodbye after all those years together, it can be incredibly difficult for those who had a close bond with their pet. Grieving dog lovers have explained what helped them, and this dog guide gives some tips to be prepared for the loss.
When her dog died, parish worker Christine Mick placed an article about her pet in the newsletter of her Catholic congregation.
“In doing so, I also was trying to make the topic of ‘mourning for a pet’ somewhat public,” she said.
Her church, and many others, hold special mourning services for people who have lost a pet. For many, the death of a pet is no less painful than when a person passes away.
Why is this the case? Naturalist and author Elli H. Radinger has an explanation: “It’s because a part of our family, a part of our life, has died. It’s that simple.”
In her book titled Farewell to a Beloved Dog, Radinger writes about mourning for her own labrador, Shira.
Radinger knows one thing: Preparation helps. This does not mean starting to think about death when the pet is still a puppy,”but it helps when one is aware about the end and so one experiences life with the animal all the more intensively,” she said.
Here are three things to think about when mourning the death of your four-legged friend.
How to prepare for your dogs’ death
Financially and in terms of organization you should be prepared for the death of your dog.
“You should set aside enough money for eventually having to pay for expensive special nutrition, physiotherapy, and medications, and when at the veterinarian to be able to make a decision, independent of the cost, about whether a treatment should be carried out or not,” Radinger advised.
Then there is the question as to whether the pup can be buried in the owner’s backyard or in a pet cemetery – or be cremated by an animal mortician. These may incur additional costs to get ready for.
The most important thing, however, is to spend a lot of time with the dog at the end. Taking care of yourself should also not be neglected.
“One must try to be stable, both in health and spirit, in order to help the dog and be able to get through everything,” the author said.
Your dogs’ death: Recognize the right moment to let go
Those who know their dog well and can read its mind will also recognize the right moment when to let it go, said psychologist and dog trainer Alexandra Wischall-Wagner.
“If you’re a well-rehearsed team then you know it, and the dogs show us as well when they can go on no longer,” she said. Clear signals are when the dog no longer greets the owner, or stops eating.
Radinger filmed her labrador Shira when she was doing poorly. This was also meant to make it clear to the pet owner that life for Shira had become too painful. The film served months later to help Radiger counter her own nagging self-doubt.
Radinger advises talking openly with a veterinarian about the right time to let go and asking the right questions: Is my dog in great pain? How high is its quality of life? Can it still lead a “normal” dog’s life?
Such questions must be asked and in the end, a decision reached.
How to mourn your dog’s death
The farewell should be undertaken together and in quiet.
“We owe it to our dogs to make the final hours as nice as possible, that we don’t hand them over to the veterinarian but are there for the final breath,” Wischall-Wagner said. “At best, in a trusted surrounding.”
Depending on their age, children can also be part of this – if they want to.
Time heals all wounds is something important to remember, and that Elli Radinger experienced after many weeks of mourning, anger, and despair. She advises people to take all the time they need in this phase. “You only know inside yourself when you are ready to experience life anew,” she explained.
Of course, you’ll never forget the dog you loved. But at some point even the toughest pain and the worst mourning will be overcome.
“And then it is worthwhile to take a leap and a new beginning and simply trust in love and life itself.”
You and your dog will always be connected, and have enjoyed the precious impact you made in each other’s lives.
Cover photo: 123RF/cpreiser000