What To Say When A Family Dog Has Died


What To Say When A Family Dog Has Died

When a family dog has died it can be the most heartbreaking time for someone, both mentally and physically. It’s very similar grief to how you feel if you lose a family member or close friend. However, you have to carry on regardless, despite the pain. You can’t really take time off work or cancel plans when a family dog dies, even though it will be the last thing that you want to do.

Not everyone is a dog person and for them, it is hard to comprehend the way that the person is feeling. Some people know exactly how it feels but find it difficult to say the right words. However, there are also people who just want to help but unfortunately, don’t think before speaking.

This is a long post but it contains everything you will need to know if someone close to you is grieving for a beloved pet.

It contains what you can do to help when a dog has died.

What NOT to say.

Poems which may offer comfort

Gifts and gestures which might ease the sadness

My personal losses and how I coped at this sad time

And an uplifting poem all about our love for dogs.

When A Family Dog Has Died

It isn’t just difficult for the person who has lost their dog, but everyone around them.

Some people just want to be left alone, others want to talk endlessly about how they feel. Also, emotions can change very suddenly and bouts of weeping, ranting and deep sadness can come out of nowhere.

Things To Do When A Family Dog Has Died.

1 No words are necessary.

Simply “I’m sorry for your loss” is all you need to say. It doesn’t help when people try to empathise with recollections of how they lost their own pets, you can’t compare pain, it is immeasurable.

2 Listen.

If the grieving person wants to talk, just listen, it may make them feel better. Consequently, it doesn’t have to be a two-way discussion, you won’t be expected to come up with a solution, there are none. However, someone who sits quietly and genuinely listens is so comforting.

If the person doesn’t want to talk, give them time. On the other hand, it might be that he or she wants to talk continuously about their loss. If this happens don’t try to change the subject, this phase of grief will pass.

3 Use the name of the pet.

Even if you didn’t know the pet, refer to him by name, not ‘your dog’. Giving the pet a generic name somehow diminishes his relevance. To the person who is grieving, the pet was much more than just a dog.

4 Send a card or write a poem.

This doesn’t have to be a long, emotive message but it is very comforting to receive something tangible to acknowledge a dog’s death. However, make it clear that it can be put away until the person is ready to read it, but it shows that you care.

There are some examples of poems and quotes further down the page.

5 Recollect

After a few days, the unbearable grief will have reduced a little. It is then nice to recollect funny things that the dog did or maybe produce photographs of happy times. The bereaved person will desperately want his dog to be remembered, so show that his life gave joy. Dogs are only here for a relatively short time, therefore it is important to owners that their lives are remembered.

Gifts and Gestures to Offer Comfort When A Family Dog Has Died

Sadly when a dog dies there is no funeral or obituaries, so a small gesture to acknowledge the loss of a dog’s life is really appreciated.

1 Buy some flowers, a plant or a rose to plant in the garden.

2 If a child is missing a dog, a small cuddly toy will give comfort.

3 Get an engraving of the dog’s name on a small trinket, maybe a keyring or locket.

4 A portrait of the dog would be a very welcome gift.

5 A Christmas tree ornament with the dog’s name is a really special way to ensure that the dog is always remembered at special times.

6 If you have a photograph of the dog, put it into a lovely frame.


Dog Memorial Photo Frame From Amazon

7 There are some beautiful memorial candles available to buy, again these can be personalised.

8 Find a poem which is written to help with loss and print out a copy.

9 Buy a book which is specifically written to help with the loss of a pet. However, give your friend or family member the option to put it in a drawer to read when the time feels right.

10.Make a donation to an animal charity or sponsor a rescue dog.

The last one is probably the most important but least thought about. When a person is suffering from overpowering grief mundane chores are the last things that they want to do.

11  Do something practical to help. This can be taking the children to the park, making a pie or picking up the dry cleaning. It will be most appreciated.

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When you don’t know what to say or do a small gift is a really heartfelt gesture. I have a key ring that my daughter bought for me and it goes wherever I go. We also have a little plaque with a robin that I hang up in remembrance of Alfie at Christmas, so he is always with us.

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I found that writing things down helped me with my grief and this blog is dedicated to Alfie because he would want me to go on helping dogs.

Dog Loss Keyrings And Memorial Gifts From Amazon

I planted this beautiful rose bush when a foster dog called Harvey passed away. It flowers every year, at the end of May and is always in full bloom on the anniversary of his death. Here is Harvey’s story.

When A Family Dog Has Died

12 Things NOT to say when a family dog has died.

1 ‘He had a good life’.

2 ‘He isn’t suffering now’.

3 ‘You can get another dog’.

4 ‘Be strong’

5′ I know how you feel’

6 ‘He was just a dog’

7 ‘At least he had a long life’.

8 ‘It’s probably for the best.’

9 ‘You can go on that cruise now’

10 ‘You’ll soon feel better’

11 ‘They can’t live forever’

12 ‘You can get a puppy now’

 Well Known Dog Bereavement Quotes

 To Add To Cards Or Messages.

‘Some angels choose fur instead of wings’

‘Your friend cannot be replaced, but always remembered’

‘No one can truly understand why dogs are called
“man’s best friend” until they have experienced the loss of one.’

‘Don’t cry because it ended, smile because it happened’ (Dr. Seuss)

‘A pet may not be our whole life, but they make our lives whole’ (Roger Caras)

The Rainbow Bridge Poem

This is a poem that was sent to me by a friend who runs a dog rescue.

The dog rescue community often refer to a deceased dog waiting for you  ‘over the bridge’. Sometimes they will simply say ‘run free’ which is also in reference to The Rainbow Bridge poem. I found this extremely comforting personally when my dog passed away. Sadly, the writer is unknown.

The Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.

There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm
and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health
and vigour; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again,
just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and
looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers.
Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs
carrying him faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your
special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again.

The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head,
and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your
life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together

– Unknown

Goodbye, For Now

This is a poem that I wrote myself just a few hours after my beloved dog Alfie died very suddenly. Alfie helped me out when I fostered rescue dogs. He would always make the homeless dogs welcome and share all his possessions. He had a little soulmate called Holly who is still alive and well. When I suffered from insomnia and depression he was always by my side.

Alfie Dog Has Died

The poem is unedited and written completely from the heart, just a few hours after we lost Alfie.

I hope it brings a little comfort.

Alfie’s Poem

your toys, your bed
‘Such a softy’ was often said
And when they left
for pastures new
You picked me up
and helped me through
Your little soul mate
looks so sad
She ll always miss
the love you had
Your partner in crime
looks at the door
the one where you met him
with an open paw
That tiny puppy
you taught to play
she’d nibble your ears
then run away
The one who was sick
hurt and betrayed
You taught him to trust you
and great friends were made
Then there’s the pal
who visits each year
On hot sunny days
and with Christmas cheer
with a wag of your tail
and your welcoming face
the fun you’d have!
the birds you’d chase
When the days were dark
with sadness and pain
You gave me a reason
to get up again.
And now
too soon
its come to an end
And your work is needed
in heaven my friend.
They needed an angel to stand at the gate
to welcome the others
who’d wait and wait
for their family to join them
so alone and so sad
But you’ll comfort their sorrow
and soothe pain
that they had
Now the house is so quiet
the cushions are neat
There’s no sneezy kisses
or pattering of feet
The summer-house
won’t be the same
without my boy
hiding again
And the cold lonely nights
when I cannot sleep
We drank warm milk
and to bed, we’d creep
So for now
we bid you goodbye
My angel in heaven
a new star in the sky.
Kate Hanford

Alfie’s story can be read here.


I would like to leave this article on an uplifting note,

Here is my favourite dog poem, some beautiful words about our love of dogs…

When God had made the earth and sky,
The flowers and the trees.
He then made all the animals,
The fish, the birds and bees.
And when at last He’d finished,
Not one was quite the same.
He said, “I’ll walk this world of mine,
And give each one a name.”
And so He traveled far and wide
And everywhere He went,
A little creature followed Him
Until its strength was spent.
When all were named upon the earth
And in the sky and sea,
The little creature said, “Dear Lord,
There’s not one left for me.”
Kindly the Father said to him,
“I’ve left you to the end.
I’ve turned my own name back to front
And called you dog, my friend.”

Author Unknown

Additional Reading

Gifts For Grieving Dog Owners

Thank you for reading. I hope there will be something in this article which helps to bring a little comfort and peace in a time of extreme sadness. If you are struggling with the grief of losing a pet, please leave a comment below and I promise to get back to you….you are never alone and it might help to share  your story.

*This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links

21 thoughts on “What To Say When A Family Dog Has Died”

  1. A lot of my rescues needed medication. Smokey had epilepsy, and among other things I had to put him to sleep because of pancreatic cancer. He was a real fighter who is he could not be comfortable anymore so he would sleep with his feet up in the air, the most comfortable way for him to get sleep.
    CC had glaucoma and cancer. Ended up losing a eye. Eventually the cancer was so bad I had take her to the vet to cross over the rainbow bridge.
    Darby was a difficult dog when he came to me but he came a long way. He wondered what happened to him and his younger days. He had a stroke so I had to take him in.
    Got up one morning and Winnie (Winifred) couldn’t move, she tried to urinate and couldn’t do that. The vet said it was her time to go.
    That’s only a few of my dachshunds. Each time you lose when it gets harder encourage you up more.
    I thought the ones they gave me the most griefwould be the easiest to let go of when they were gone. I will sure on that one. a new Young vet started at the clinic that day. And I said I don’t want to go back to her she made me cry. And then I told the other And then I told the other vets that she put Darby to sleep and that’s why I cried. 14 have gone now, 1 it’s on special food with kidney disease. When is picky with his food with a immune disease, one is 7 with back problems.
    These are all rescue dachshunds but I wouldn’t have it any other way, I do it all over again.

    1. You have done such a fantastic job with all your dogs. I know from experience how difficult rescue dachshunds can be. Mine would test the patience of a saint but I don’t regret a single minute. The grief when they leave us is unbearable but somehow we find the strength to help another one,

  2. When I send my comments spell check changes some words and adds a few more so I’m sorry if I how things turn out and I don’t know how to fix it. I hope you can excuse some of those sentences I have an extra words in it and he instead of I
    Thank you

    1. I understand everything you say John, don’t worry. Its all about the content, and I love to hear about your wonderful dogs. x

    1. Thank you so much. Sadly it’s all from experience…but they are still worth it. Have a lovely Sunday x

  3. Thank you so much for this article. A dear friend of mine just lost his dog of 10 years to a sudden brain disease. He had to put his loyal companion down yesterday. He’s taking it very hard. I sent him the Rainbow Bridge story in hopes that it brings him comfort. Thanks again. I believe these comforting tips will help him get through this difficult time.

    1. I really hope it helps him Adrianna. I lost a young dog suddenly too and it is truly devastating. I just hope that he was allowed to be there with him because of the social distancing at the vets. Such hard times xx

  4. I found ur blog through Pinterest, and I am so glad I did! A friend just lost her beloved dachshund. I will search no further for what to say. It’s all here! I sent her the Rainbow Bridge poem, but I wanted to do more. I’m ordering an ornament she can hang to remind her of Fancy! Thank you so much!

    1. Thank you Susan, I really hope it helps your friend. I have a rescue dachshund and would be lost without him, they are a very special breed. Sending kind wishes to you both xx

  5. Just lost a 12 year old miniature Poodle rescue – Ollie – after 7 years of 24/7 companionship.
    It is my 4th time to say Good-bye to a fur baby. Remember every one of them with tears.
    Have to get out” The Rainbow Bridge” to remind myself how lucky for the experiences.

    1. So sorry for your loss. We had to say goodbye to my 17 year old chi cross recently too. It never gets easier does it? Sweet dreams Ollie xx

  6. On Oct 10th we had to say goodbye to our little kid after almost 15 years of love and joy. We’re totally devastated. This is our first one. She was suffering on her last 2 weeks and we know we owed her a soft, smooth an painless transition. But it hearts deeply.
    Good dreams my little angel.

    1. Bless her and you for giving her a wonderful 15 years. You didn’t let her suffer and if she could she would thank you for caring so much.

  7. One of the worst things is not even your closest ones understand your pain. So we’re alone on this.

    1. You’re not alone, every other dog lover knows how much pain you are feeling. It’s such a huge loss and I totally understand how you feel. Sending a big hug xx

  8. I just lost one of my 2 dogs on 6/16/21. She was only 6. She was perfectly fine according to the regular very checkups and passed all of them with a clean bill of health. The vet even referred to her as an “athlete” for how active and healthy she was. Then she passed away in her sleep right next to me. I woke up and she was gone. All signs point to sudden heart failure. No heart murmur was ever heard by the vets and she was on an EKG just 4 weeks earlier for a minor teeth cleaning that required sedation. She helped me more than I did for her. Through my divorce, she was there. I stayed with both dogs as the ex wanted to split them apart, and I didn’t have favorites and loved them both. Even my former mother-in-law signed the dog in question over to me because she knew she was better off here. Through the quarantine isolation my 2 dogs were who made it bearable for me. The one I lost was the more emotional and comforting one. Giving constant kisses and cuddles. They have honestly been my emotional anchors through the worst times of my life which have been the last couple years. I feel so lost and heartbroken without her. Even my other dog is different, he’s sadder, he doesn’t eat the same. When I came back from dropping her body at the vet, he came running into my car to the backseat to the last place his sister was laid (he’s never done this) so he knows. I’m glad I found this as what NOT to say is what many have been telling me. Not many truly understand. Especially with the recent years my dogs have been through it all with me and as I said they’ve helped me so much. The suddenness of it all is what has broken me and my remaining dog. I find it hard to be in my home at times as everything is different. No longer do I set aside water bottles so she can play with them (she loved them, him not so much and would mainly play with them to take them away from her and get chased). No more during thunderstorms will she be going to the bathtub to hide from the thunder, or cuddle up next to me and under the covers for comfort. Almost all aspects of everyday life are different and remind me of her and the sudden loss. I’ve had trouble sleeping as now my body wakes me up atleast once a night and when I do I find myself morbidly checking on him to make sure he’s still breathing as I’m paranoid about losing him in his sleep as well now. When I go to work I’ve been leaving him with my parents so he’s not alone and then the days I work remotely I try to give him a lot of attention. I don’t know why I’m writing all this, it’s been hard to express the details and intricacies of my pain through all of this as many either don’t understand or they try but you can tell that after “all these weeks” they don’t comprehend the full level of my sadness. I’m sorry for writing this long entry, I’m just a man who is lost as his family of 3 now has a void as it’s just 2 of us now.

    1. I’m so sorry for my late reply and send my deepest sympathy because I can tell how much pain you are in. I also lost a dog suddenly when he appeared to be healthy so I understand your devastation. Only true dog lovers know how painful it is to lose a companion who was always there, never judged and gave unconditional love. I hope that putting your feelings down in this message helped in a small way. You are not alone, many people feel exactly the same after losing a pet but try to hide their grief. Times have been so hard in the last two years and our dogs gave us a sense of normality and security so no wonder losing your dog has broken your heart. Take care of yourself. Lou

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