Why Do We Shed Tears Over A Dog We’ve Never Met?

German Shepherd/Hound Mix dog

One of my favorite pictures of Shadow.

(Note to the Reader: Don’t worry. I promise this will end on a happy note.)

Bloggers share the sad stuff.

It’s a way of processing hard news. Of releasing tension.

But it’s also our responsibility. After all, we’re part of a community.

And as a part of that community, I respond to the sad stuff bloggers share about their dogs.

Crying Over Dogs

When a friend writes about her elderly dog having a bad night, I understand the dread that comes from wondering if this is just a rough patch or the start of a major decline.

I too have worried about a case of vomiting or a lame leg. Is it just one of those things that will clear up on its own? Or is it a major worry?

Like everyone who loves dogs, I feel the pain of other people worrying about their dogs. I’ve been through it before. And I know I’ll go through it again.

Now if I could only think of a way to actually help my friends care for their ailing pups.

Our Friend Brooks

Peggy, of Peggy’s Pet Place, shared on Facebook last night that their recently adopted dog, Brooks, has cancer in multiple sites.

My heart goes out to Peggy and her family on dealing with this tough news. And my thoughts continually return to Brooks.

He was even the subject of my 3 a.m. worryfest.

Why am I so affected by the illness of a dog I’ve never met?

  • Maybe it’s because Peggy shared Brook’s story from the day he joined the family through her relief that first dog, Kelly, might actually accept him.
  • Or perhaps it’s because Brooks is a Golden Retriever and my Honey is a Golden Retriever.
  • Or just maybe it’s because it was April when our vet told us that Shadow, who we had adopted only a few months earlier, had bone cancer in her jaw and that she only had a few months with us.

Wounds heal in time. But they always leave scars.

Finding the Blessing

Because I keep hearing bad news from my blogging friends, I went looking for the blessing of caring for a sick dog. And I found it.

Knowing that our friends are ill causes us to focus. We pay attention. And we rearrange our time to care for and make memories with our beloved animals.

One of my happiest memories of Shadow came when my husband brought her down to pick me up from work one night.

Shadow was a very solemn dog. She didn’t play.

It was almost like living with a nun—a pre-Vatican II nun in a heavy black habit.

But on this particular night, Shadow got a case of the zoomies. And we were lucky enough to record it.

It’s not a pretty video. And it’s not nicely edited. But it’s how I like to remember Shadow, the furry nose with a long black tail.

Make a memory with your dog today. I promise you’ll never regret it.

Your Turn: What are the memories that will always remain with you about your dog? Is it a look? A place you went together? Something surprising he did? 

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  1. Ellie Haith says:

    We may be closer to one ending than we know now. Our 13-yr. old mini poodle, Charley, had cancer surgery the day before Thanksgiving 2011. We did opt for chemo, which is no big deal for a dog save that poodles and other ‘hairy’ dogs loose hair just like humans. Luckily Charley only got scruffy-looking, not bald. And he’s still with us, though slower on our long morning walks. I decided NOT to have the proposed ultrasounds which would tell us if/when tumors began to appear: what I don’t know I can’t lie awake with at night, and I think Charley will tell us when things begin to go south. What will I remember? How he used to burrow down to my feet when I took him into bed after the alarm went off. How he used to leap joyfully into the lake chasing a tossed rock, ears flying, so very intent on his prey; luckily our son got a perfect picture of a classic leap, which I had enlarged and framed. How he and his ‘Aunt Mariah’, who had never had a playmate until we got Charley, would play tag every day, running back and forth from the living room to the den and dislodging the rugs en route – though neither of us ever complained, it was such a jolly thing to see. Yes, pawprints on the heart, and I cherish every day we still have him.

    • Thank you, Ellie, for sharing your Charley stories with us. I can so imagine those ears up like wing flaps as he leaps into the lake.

      Sounds like you’re making the most of every day you have together. Lucky Charley. Lucky Ellie. :)

  2. You are so right about the time healing but leaving scars. We all get affected by the stories of animals we have never known, because we have all been through it ourselves. These animals will always end up breaking our hearts but I can think of no better way to live, than having them for the time we do. Sorry to hear about Shadow. I couldn’t see the video as it came up with an error.

    • You are so right. Losing a dog makes you a member of a club we’d all rather not join. But it does give us tremendous empathy for everyone else going through the same loss.

      Sorry you couldn’t watch the video. :(

  3. This is a beautiful post and I am glad you expressed your feelings – they are much the same as mine. The animals on the internet become very special whether we know them personally or not. It is our community and we grow to love them. It isn’t fun, but it is important to know the sad events as well as the happy events.

  4. As you know we’re in constant worry about Lilly, going on 15 months now. The news about Brooks hit me hard as well … it came just an hour after learning another friend’s dog has an aggressive cancer in his spine. Hits like a ton of bricks.

  5. This is a lovely post. Sadly, your timing is perfect as Erin at Life by Pets just had to let go of her beautiful old foster boy, Howie. Reading the news reduced me to tears. Again. Unsurprisingly.

    We invite ourselves to share in the lives of these animals and of course we’re going to feel the pain of losing them. We also, as bloggers, hope to share the story of our pets in a way that connects with our readers. Based on the number of tears I have shed in the last year, as a group, we do a pretty bang up job of it.

  6. You are absolutely right, Pamela. When I think of Blitzen, the memory that most often comes back is him playing with Rod and me in the parking lot across from our condo. He loved running back and forth between us and just when he’d get close to me I’d tell him “go get Daddy” and when he’d get close to Rod, Rod would tell him “go get Mommy.” Blitz thought it was great fun and I remember him having a particularly good time that night. That was a Saturday and on Monday morning he was gone. He was just about to turn four – so make your memories now, because none of us knows how long we’ll have!

  7. I agree with everyone else. We all have our loving memories of those who have gone before us. I remember the day Maggie mastered the steps in our house we were having built in Colorado. She was so proud she went up and down several times. And every time I prepare broccoli, I think of Toby. He LOVED it.

    We make memories of your beloved animals with every post, and, yes, the tears do fall when one of these loved ones go over the bridge.

  8. Pamela, a kind post in honor of Brooks & Peggy on a difficult day. We’ve lost three of our doggie family in the last few years, so unfortunately, know only too well that sinking feeling. I LOVE your idea about making a memory with your dog – luckily we have LOTS of those!

  9. Sue at The Golden Life says:

    Oh, Pamela, what a bittersweet post this morning! I’m choking back tears as I write this comment. I had my poodle, Kissy, for all but the first 4 months of her 15-1/2 years. She was my baby. And for all those years, she was my soul mate in a way no human — including my husband — could ever be. When I finally had to let her go to the Rainbow Bridge, I cried for months. I still choke up sometimes. But Kissy and I had great times together at Bear Mountain State Park (not far from the military academy at West Point), and those memories will always be with me, as will she, in my heart. And, I cry for our community’s beloved dogs as well. And I cry for all those poor pups and kitties at the shelters.

  10. We agree bittersweet post today. We worry about Pippin all the time as she is now 15 plus and nearly blind and deaf. We try and take it a day at a time. Have a fabulous Friday.
    Best wishes Molly

  11. I am a member of the 3 am worry club too. I’m so sorry to hear about Brooks. Making memories and appreciating the time we have with them is all we can do, right? I also worry about my blog friends when I don’t see posts from them for long periods of time (Kristine, Jet).

    I love the video of Shadow, what a sweetie!

  12. When I read your post today it brought a few more tears to my eyes, but in a way that makes me grateful that I have blogging friends to share with. Thank you for being a part of Brooks’ “extended family” from the start. Brooks is my first golden, and now I know how special these dogs are. He captured my heart from the start. I’ve lost many dogs over the years, and it’s never easy, but this one is going to be especially rough. I don’t know how to get through the next days/weeks/months but I will. I’m just spending time being next to him. Your video made me smile.

  13. I think this post falls under the heading of “It’s better to have loved and lost…” I still remember Brandy and Sassy from years ago – when they became older and their long, slow decline. But there are lots of happy memories too. And now I have Zora, who is already 10 years old. I look at her and wonder how long before she begins to slow down? But right now she is healthy, and we will work on making some memories together!

  14. Pamela, this post is so spot on. I felt the same way when I learned about Brooks, and I find myself worrying over other dogs I’ve “met” through blogging as well. You said it all so well here, that I don’t have much to add.

    As for me, one memory of Bella that will always stick with me is how she greets every morning. She hops out of bed, stretches, and then proceeds to roll around on her back. It’s her morning routine, and I find it adorable every single time. Or when she dreams very loudly. Or when she curls up for a nap on top of my feet. There are so many other wonderful memories that we’ve made together, but I think that those are my current favorites. With Tavish, we’re just getting started on making memories, but there are already some special ones. I love the way he turns into a jumping bean when it’s time to go for a walk, and the way he greets everything with such enthusiasm.

  15. I have very sharp memories of certain days with each of my dogs but you’re right…I wish I had videos of them at their best..

  16. Shadow was such a cutie. And I agree, having those memories is so important. I will always be glad that I did not follow the advice of the first vet who diagnosed my old girl Tashi to euthanize her that day; she had 3 more months of days in the sun and even hikes with us. Would be nice to have a video so I could hear her growl again—tough I think her grumpy noises are firmly ingrained in my head.

  17. Loved the video – Shadow having so much fun with Mom and Dad. I’ve lost several dogs this year, each his/her heartache for me. But a friend, who was just ready to put down her Rottweiler, instead had his leg amputated (he has complications, so it wasn’t an easy decision). Rock still has bone cancer in a front leg, but he is doing wonderful, giving all of them joy for as long as God leaves him here. Here’s to Rock and Brooks.

    I remind people, when they don’t want to adopt a senior dog because they won’t be around long enough, that we never know; the young and old succumb, living on in our souls and memories.

  18. I love the video of Shadow doing the zoomies. My crew has gotten older and the zoomies are much less frequent. I should make a video because zoomies always make me smile.

    My lab, Torri, was a serious dog. The one memory that always comes to mind happened one afternoon when I had left the house to run an errand. After getting to the car, I went back in to get my sun glasses and could hear one of the dogs out in the kitchen eating the cat food. I headed out there to catch the offender. As I did, Torri came running around the fridge, stopped dead when she saw me and went pfffftt and spit out all the cat food she had in her mouth and went running past me. The look on her face and seeing her spit out the food when she realized she was caught still makes me laugh.

    I’ll keep Brooks in my thoughts.

    Definitely need to make more memories. Thanks for the reminder.

  19. Brilliant post. I think you’ve put into words what most of us feel much of the time. And it’s not just the worry and heartache… through our blogs we come to know so many dogs (people, too, of course). So many times throughout the day, something will happen and I think of so & so’s dog… and smile.
    Great reminder to make memories… I have a great deal of regret that I never was one to grab a camera… many of my friends at the bridge have few photos…other than those in my mind.

  20. Another great post! You have a way of writing that really hits home. I have worried myself sick over countless dogs. I do shed tears for dogs I’ve never met. But at the same time, I can celebrate the successes of dogs I’ve never met as though they were my own. For example, watching Shadow’s video, I was so excited for Shadow, and for you, because I know how amazing that moment would have been.

  21. Reading about people who are losing someone close to them is so very hard. It is sad and I never know what to say. My heart goes out to you for Shadow and to Peggy for Brooks. The video is adorable! It’s a great way to preserve the memory. I recently watched a video with my beloved dog Sephi who passed away just over a year ago. It was a joy to watch.

  22. Reading some of these comments made me tear up. BJ Pup, yes, I still call him PUP), is 13 and he is slowing down. I worry that he’s getting older and wonder how long we will have together. Then I stop myself and enjoy the moment rather than dwell on the future. Ny the way, your post applies to cats as well. I’ve lost a few and it’s just as tough.

    • To me, all dogs are puppies–no matter how old they get. :)

      I don’t often write about cats because I have so little experience with them. But it’s never easy to lose a friend. I’ve had to comfort my sister through the loss of several guinea pigs as well.

      Friendship is not limited to one species, is it?

  23. I always shed tears, and I’m extremely grateful for the videos I have have Beau.

  24. It’s the best (and the worst part) of being a part of this amazing community. You all invite us in, share your lives and your pets and they inevitably make us love them. It warms the heart and makes us feel like extended family and when one of us hurts, we all do.

    I love that one day (hopefully an incredibly long time from now. Is 50 years or so asking too much??) I love that I will have this incredible diary of all the things my dogs did. It’s not just a blog, it’s the best scrapbook.

  25. I am a travel blogger, but I also have a dog and through following some dog travel blogs, I’ve entered the community of dogs and their people whether they (the dogs and the people) travel or not. I look forward to reading about their activities, their ups and downs and their advice. Some of the most popular posts on my supposedly travel blog and Facebook page are about our dog, Dino, and my readers chime in with stories about their dogs. Dogs are a tie that binds. No doubt about it.

  26. I still cry over past pups some days and of course I worry about those pups I’ve never met because you just fall in virtual love with them all and know that feeling I guess but then you have to be positive about all those moments of greatness and love they gifted you with :)

  27. The video put a smile on typists face!!

  28. I’m horrible when it comes to other dogs. I still cry when I think about our sweet puppy, Riley. I tear up when I think of our friend’s dog Bro passing on. And I cry when I think of homeless or abused dogs. Dogs who are given up by their owner.

    This is why I avoid sites that feature abused animals or too many sad stories. Thank you for ending this one on a sweet note and you’re wonderful for honoring Peggy this way.