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Every morning I check which search phrases brought people to Something Wagging.
Some are hilarious. But one that comes up a lot makes me feel helpless.
It’s “my dog died and I can’t stop crying.”
Doesn’t that just break your heart?
Help For Grieving Your Dog
Losing a dog you love makes you a member of a club no one ever asked to join.
What it means is that when you hear someone else’s sad story you remember your own. It’s why I avoid movies where the dog dies in the end. And why I make sure I’m alone before I read someone’s story of caring for their ailing dog.
It’s also why I was not looking forward to reading Roxanne Hawn’s Heart Dog: Surviving the Loss of Your Canine Soul Mate (affiliate). I knew I would blubber my way through it.
But I was wrong.
Instead of feeling overwhelmed with sadness, I found hope and healing and understanding.
Not that I never cried (I’ll tell you what got me later). But Heart Dog, despite its subject, is an uplifting book. And there are two main reasons for that.
Positive News In A Book About Grieving
Anyone who has ever felt misunderstand while grieving their dog will appreciate Heart Dog.
Roxanne’s explanation of the unique bond with a Heart Dog will reassure anyone who wonders if they’re crazy for having an even harder time getting over the death of one dog compared to others they’ve loved.
And even if you don’t understand the notion of a Heart Dog or feel you’ve bonded with all your animals the same, you’ll appreciate the deep understanding of someone who has been through intense grief.
You’ll find yourself saying as you read, “Oh, maybe I’m not so weird after all. That’s exactly what happened to me.”
Roxanne describes her ongoing grieving process for her Heart Dog, Lilly, in a way that makes you feel like a dear friend has taken you by the hand and said, “I know how you feel. We’ll get through this together.”
In fact, it was one of those “Yep, I’ve been here” moments that made me lose it while reading.
Roxanne wrote about how Lilly’s illness triggered copious nose bleeds. After Lilly’s death, Roxanne left the lost drops of blood on the kitchen floor until they wore off after being walked over.
It sounds so weird that I’ve had trouble admitting I did something similar.
My last dog, Shadow, had osteosarcoma in her jaw. As the tumor grew, she was unable to eat or do anything without her teeth scraping the mass and making it bleed.
When Shadow scratched or shook her head, fine blood droplets would spray on the walls.
And yes, long after Shadow passed, even after we brought Honey home as a puppy, I couldn’t bring myself to scrub those droplets off the wall.
Reading Heart Dog brought it all back.
But it also made me think I wasn’t so crazy after all. Or if I was, at least I wasn’t crazy alone.
Step By Step Through Grief
The second reason I found Heart Dog uplifting is that it is like a map to help you find your way through grief.
Heart Dog is not vague or filled with platitudes.
It has step by step advice on practical things you can do to help you survive when you don’t believe your heart can take any more pain.
I really liked the idea of lighting a candle to focus your attention on your dog. It’s helpful to use rituals to contain grief so it doesn’t overwhelm us forever.
In fact, that’s what I think is the greatest strength of Heart Dog. It helps us create rituals so we can make sense of something senseless.
And it raises practical issues and suggests ways to deal with them. Like deciding when to clean up after your dog and what to leave around. And how to address the fact that family members might not grieve in the same way or in the same time.
Finally, Something That Helps
If I had one criticism of Heart Dog, it’s that the title is so specific that people who would benefit from its wisdom in grieving other animals (including human ones) might never read it.
Luckily I’m a dog blogger so I meet plenty of people who will find Heart Dog helpful.
I’m hoping that the next time someone types “My dog died and I can’t stop crying” into a search engine, they’ll end up here. They’ll meet Roxanne Hawn and Lilly Hawn and find the understanding and help they’re hoping to find from google.
Meet Roxanne and her dogs Ginko and Clover at her blog, Champion of My Heart.
Your Turn: Have you lost a Heart Dog? Was there anything that helped you grieve that you could share here?
Disclaimers: I bought Heart Dog myself and was not asked to write this review or paid. I just loved it that much and think many others will find it useful. The affiliate links in this post will take you to Amazon where you can buy the book. If you buy something there, I will earn a small commission but your item will not cost you more. I bought my own copy for my Nook at Barnes and Noble.