If you love a dog, someday you will lose a dog.
Everyone grieves differently. But I’ve noticed a pattern in my own grief. And watching friends on Facebook, I suspect I’m not the only one who grieves the way I do.
10 Stages of Grieving a Dog
Luckily, I’ve never lost a young dog in an accident or unexpected illness. But when saying goodbye to a single, older dog, these are the stages of dog grief I experience:
Step 1: Intense pain and sorrow.
I can’t stop crying. My heart aches.
Step 2: Loneliness.
The house feels empty. My husband and I say to each other, “It’s so quiet without her.”
Step 3: Escape.
Unable to stand the quiet house and scattered toys that serve as a reminder of the one we’ve lost, we go away. Even the dreaded shopping mall is better than the emptiness of a home without clicking toenails or jingling dog tags.
Step 4: The Big Realization.
Out of the house, we see that it’s dinner time and automatically get ready to go home. After all, we need to prepare food, medicine, or take a walk.
Oh, wait a minute, there’s no one waiting for us. We can stay out as long as we like.
Step 5: Repeat steps 1 and 2.
Yeah, there’s nothing happy about step #4. At first.
Step 6: Relief.
Eventually, the realization that we don’t have to be anywhere at a particular time spawns relief. It’s tinged with intense sorrow. But it’s still relief.
Step 7: Making plans.
We start thinking about bringing a new dog into our lives. But first…
Step 8: A vacation.
Or a trip to visit family. Or home repairs. Or a complicated hobby that is too hard to do with an ailing dog around the house.
Yes, we’re still sad. But finally we can do something we’ve put off while caring for an ailing, senior dog. And we have to get it out of the way. Because soon we’ll start…
Step 9: Getting ready for the next dog.
Old toys get cleaned up, given away, or thrown out. I bookmark the website for local shelters, rescues, and Petfinder. And we start visiting dogs.
Who will be the next dog we love?
Step 10: Telling the new dog about the old one.
It completes the circle to tell the new dog about the one who left her scent around the house and warmed up our hearts.
Step 11: Hoping that we won’t have to deal with the first ten steps for many years to come.
Your Turn: Have you noticed a pattern to the way you grieve your dogs? Or is every time different?