What To Say When A Family Dog Has Died
When a family dog dies 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 finds it difficult to say the right words. However, there are also people who just want to help but unfortunately don’t think before speaking.
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 will 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.
This post is about the positive things you can do when someone you know is grieving for a beloved pet. In addition, there are some things you shouldn’t say, even if you mean well.
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.
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.
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.
Here is a list of other things to do when a family dog has died.
Sadly when a dog passes 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.
7 There are some beautiful memorial candles available to buy, again these can be personalised.
8 Find a poem which has been written to help with loss and print out a copy.
9 There are many books which feature the berevement of a pet.
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.
Dog Bereavement Products
There are lots of books which can help when a family dog has died, like these ones from Amazon. Choose carefully though and don’t force it on your friend, let them read it when they feel able.
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.
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.
This is a cute dog themed notebook.
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.
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’
These are a few dog bereavement quotes (NOT written by myself) which can be added 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)
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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
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.
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 story can be read here.
This is my favourite dog poem.
It is a very uplifting poem, and extremely heartwarming. Again, the author is unknown. I hope it brings comfort and eases the sadness.
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.”
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.
Fly High Little Ones (Mickey, Alfie, Harvey)