Don’t Be A Jerk When Someone’s Pet Dies

Tragedy brings out the best in many people. But there’s always one or two people who just know how to be jerks.

Especially when someone’s pet dies.

Honey the golden retriever on a boat.

Honey says, “Don’t be a jerk.”

Many Ways To Be A Jerk

Did you know I’m a guinea pig aunt?

My sister has had several adorable guinea pigs over the years. Each one has his or her own personality, favorite treats, and ways of behaving.

It’s easy to see why my sister loves these little characters so much. But apparently not everyone does.

Olive the guinea pig eating hay.

My guinea pig “niece,” Olive. She’s the one who doesn’t hide every time I walk by.

My sister told me once that after one of her guinea pigs died no one seemed to understand why she was so sad. After all, it was only a guinea pig.

One of our college friends was the lone acquaintance who sympathized with her loss.

Two guinea pigs.

And then there’s Swee’ Pea who has decided I’m very scary.

But setting up a hierarchy of grief—grieve more for people than for dogs; for dogs than for cats; for cats more than small mammals; for small mammals more than reptiles…you know people like that—isn’t the only way to be a jerk when someone’s pet dies.

An Excuse To Rant

The internet gives us an easy way to share. It also gives us an easy way to rant.

A very kind friend of mine posted on social media that a friend of hers had a dog who died unexpectedly. She knew that most of us wouldn’t know her friend. But she also knew that anyone who has ever lost a pet they’ve loved would understand the intense shock and grief.

She was right.

There was an outpouring of sympathy for this stranger coping with loss.

And then there was a jerk.

You see, the dog died from a vaccine reaction. And Ms. Jerk decided this was the perfect opportunity to for her to rant about her suspicion of vaccinations.

I have no problem with an honest debate on nearly any topic. But there’s a time and a place.

And when someone is grieving their best friend, that is not the time.

Anyone who can’t see that is a jerk in my book.

Learning Not To Be A Jerk

Did you ever notice how people have strong reactions to tendencies they struggle with?

Ex-smokers become rabid haters of nicotine. And doesn’t everyone wait for the news story that a hateful, homophobe has gotten caught soliciting sex in a rest stop restroom?

Well, I’ve had my own jerky tendencies.

When people are suffering, I have a strong tendency to try to give them advice. And they don’t need it.

When people are in pain, they don’t need me to solve their problems. They need someone to say, “I’m sorry you’re feeling bad. It stinks, doesn’t it?”

That’s why I feel compelled to urge people not to be jerks. Especially when someone’s pet dies.

Honey the golden retriever with bear.

This is how I deal with jerks.

How Not To Be A Jerk When Someone’s Pet Dies

It’s hard to know what to say when someone is grieving. But here are a few suggestions:

  • I’m so sorry.
  • Is there anything I can do for you?
  • I’m here if you want to talk about it.

You probably know many more kinds things to say when someone’s pet dies. And you certainly know to avoid:

  • It probably happened because you…
  • You just have to get over it.
  • Why are you so upset? It’s only an animal.

You see, I know you’re not jerks.

I read your thoughtful and kind comments here and on social media. Some of you I’ve gotten to know personally. And I feel very lucky that my little blog doesn’t attract jerks.

But you probably read jerky stuff all over the internet. And now you have a post you can bookmark and share when it seems appropriate.

And tell the jerk that you’d never say such a thing. But there’s this blogger you know who thinks he or she’s a jerk.

Your Turn: What’s the best way to deal with a jerk who comes along when someone’s pet dies?

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  1. I have a jerk “radar” – so I will avoid telling something like that to people I know will be unsympathetic. The jerks that do pop out of the woodwork though, I just ignore. It’s also why I stopped using FB. I dunno, for personal stuff, the last place I want to put it is on social media. But I realize for other people it may be cathartic to throw it out there for everyone.

    Also, as a former smoker – once I quit, I used to LOVE sitting next to people that reeked of cigarette smoke. No, really. Sometimes I would be driving behind someone that lit up and I would purposely stay behind them, no matter how slow they drove, just so I could smell the smoke. It took me about 10 years to finally not need to do that. I know the struggles with smoking and I sympathize. Is that weird?

    • If you’re a smoker who likes smelling cigarette smoke, you must have an awful lot of willpower.

      But I have my weird smoking thing too.

      You see, I’m so sensitive to smoke that I can get a headache following behind a smoker in a car. And yet, I really hate the way smokers are treated as second class citizens even though I never ever want to be around smoke myself.

      It just seems unfair to allow companies to make billions of dollars producing products that are highly addictive and then penalize the customers more than the makers.

      So you might be one kind of weird. I’m another. :)

  2. My usual reaction is to just ignore them…at least I try. It can happen when your dog is sick too. I remember a colleague asking me if I was going to put Tino down when he developed glaucoma and lost his sight. I was like…”he’s blind, not terminally ill (you fool)!” I didn’t say that last part.

    • Every once in a while, I want a “like” button here. This is one of those times. I can’t believe how many people think a blind dog won’t be able to cope.

    • Sorry you had to put up with that stupid comment. Luckily Tino didn’t. And wouldn’t have given two wags if he had.

  3. Most of the time I just ignore it. But there are times when they piss me off so much that I have to say something. Sometimes if I’m feeling nice, I will IM them and tell them to knock that shit off.

    There was this one guy I went to school with who debated EVERYTHING I posted (which is one of the reasons I rarely post anything political) and I ignored it and ignored it and then one day I’d had enough. And under his post I wrote something along the lines of “If you feel you need to keep bashing the shit I post, put it on your own page.” He countered with, “Jodi, it is on my page.” We aren’t FB friends anymore and I learned a real good lesson.

    Sometimes (like in this instance) I will remove the post.

    • I will ignore some things. But if we ignore every ignorant act, how will people learn?

      And I’m also hesitant to unfriend someone. I’ve read that people become more extreme in their views when they spend time around people who agree with them. I think it’s good for me and good for them to interact.

      That said, I finally unfriended my first person the other day. Sometimes your sanity isn’t worth the higher good.

      • And I’m totally on board with that. If that comment opens up a dialog where people can share thoughts and ideas and have a civil, respectful exchange, I’m all for it. But sometimes I’ve found that people are unwilling or unable to even consider someone else’s point of view.

        Personally on the whole vaccine thing, I think there’s a middle ground, but both sides are so adamant about defending their points of view, that they don’t actually consider there could be a great solution staring us all right in the face. 😀

  4. I think the jerks are the reason why there are now mute settings on social media sites, and I am quick to use them. As for the blog, I’m too much of a smartass to take it lying down. I usually dish it right back.

    But on another person’s blog it’s awkward, because I don’t want to step on that blogger’s toes. I don’t know WHAT to say when there’s a jerk there. How SHOULD I handle it?

    • I’ve heard several bloggers mention that they were very thankful when their other readers responded to an obnoxious comment. So use your judgement. And maybe you want to use more tact on someone else’s site.

      In fact, Sue Kottwitz says so in a comment further down.

      So I think most people would be happy to have you stand up against BS so they don’t have to. Especially since it’s less personal for you.

  5. Slap them.

  6. Oh goodness it’s hard to believe someone would bring up the whole vaccine debate at that friggin time. But perhaps people don’t realize how insensitive they’re being, I’d like to believe that at least.

    It’s always appropriate in times of grief to say I’m sorry & I’m here for you if you need anything. Couldn’t agree with you more on this.

  7. One of my readers lost her guinea pig recently and she sent me a message on FB and we talked about it. I could feel her pain and loss through those messages. The most disappointing part was that I was the only one to commiserate with her loss; in FB groups, others had dismissed her loss, because it was just a guinea pig.

    I know nothing of guinea pigs and doubt that I will ever have one, but pain is pain.

    And to your mention of the vaccination; someone I know lost her dog to cancer and someone told her that if she’d fed raw, that wouldn’t have happened. Wow. I was stunned that someone cold be so insensitive – but I shouldn’t have been shocked. FB is full of asshats.

    • It warms my heart to know that your reader knew you’d be a caring friend when she was feeling low. Good for you.

      People who know pain can be the most comforting.

      And wow! Maybe that person who made the raw food comment was autistic or something. I guess I have to turn my empathy in all directions. Because otherwise, my head will just explode.

  8. I think I know exactly which friend and which jerk you’re talking about. Sad, really, that some people do things like that. But, I’m a jerk – make that jacka$$ – sometimes too. Not about tragic losses, but about other things. Thank you for reminding me to curb my own tendencies. GREAT POST!

  9. Oh no, I saw that original post and some of the subsequent comments but missed that he had died. The worst part was that some of the commenters hadn’t even read the post completely, because they didn’t even know it was someone else’s dog.
    Sometimes I think I should work harder to grow my Facebook page. But then I see stuff like that, and I’m glad it’s kind of quiet and doesn’t get a lot of attention. I do not want that kind of attention. It’s hard not to let the trolls push your buttons but I think it is best to just delete things like that and try your best to forget about it. Sometimes that’s easier said than done though.

  10. Like Bluebberry’s human, I know pretty easily who to talk to and who to avoid. It doesn’t even have to be sad stuff, just any dog talk. I’ve enthusiastically talked to strangers about agility and I can see “that” look pass over their faces. Oops! Wrong person! Now I keep dog conversations to people I know have dogs and love having dogs.

  11. Right after Jeffie died, I had a friend (who has dogs of her own) tell me that given all my husband and I are dealing with right now (he has cancer) that it was for the best and one less thing to worry about. WTF Um, no. Just no. I told her it couldn’t possibly be for the best and I’d counted on Jeffie to get me through these tough times. Nothing more said.
    There have been times in the past on my blog that I’ve had a jerky comment. Other folks commenting have responded for me. I loved that. (In case you haven’t guessed, I’m not a fan of controversy)

    • You have a lot of respect in the internet community, Sue. So I’m not at all surprised that your readers would respond to jerky comments for you.

      And I’m so sorry your friend said something so thoughtless. She was lucky you gave her such a kind response.

  12. People can be so cold so often! Amazing! I don’t know what we would do if someone was a jerk about it. Probably just turn and leave.

  13. It’s out in the real world too…when Brut was sick, a so-called friend as if we had ever heard of euthanastia (sp?) when Brut was having a bad day. She thought we were needlessly making him suffer and not following the suggestion of the ER doctor we saw who gave diagnosis and left us with 2 options of surgery and putting Brut down. Instead we followed our own vet’s advice and gave Brut another month and a half to live with us.

    I did tell this person I was bothered by their comment, she said she was sorry. I thought all was OK.

    When we did put him down, this so-called friend said she was sorry for us, but more importantly she was glad Brut was suffering anymore, through a text. I never heard from her again. Which is just as well, obviously, but I was angry and hurt and thought she was a real person. She was one of those that didn’t care about me, she just used me to get close to my dogs. It still bothers me to this day.

  14. I guess I have been fortunate enough to not experience any jerks firsthand. Well at least these types of jerks anyway.

    I know I am also guilty of the pet sympathy hierarchy, but I would never be a jerk about it to someone. I do realize that just because I have never loved a guinea pig that someone elselse doesn’t.

  15. Yeah, people can definitely be jerks. Especially when it’s “just a small animal”. It sucks. When my chinchilla died it was awful and no one understood what I was going through. I think the best way to handle jerks is to private message them and ask them to stop. I’ve had to do that before for several people. Confrontation sucks but it’s worth it.

  16. This is so true. People are jerks. I’m a jerk, but I try not to be that insensitive. It makes me uncomfortable, physically, when I see people offering up statements and opinions instead of condolences.

  17. It’s tough. When Leo died, I watched many people struggle with what to say. Especially those w/o a pet in their lives. Because of the blog, many people knew just how special Leo was to me,(vs. just being a neighbor person with a dog) and they just couldn’t find the words. I think it’s best just to give someone a hug, tell them you are available if they need something, but for God’s sake don’t ask if their gonna get another one #yikes