What If You Can’t Stop Crying After Your Dog Dies?

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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?

Honey the golden retriever puppy takes a nap in the closet.

Insert cute puppy picture here so everyone doesn’t worry that I’m going to bog down in sadness.
Thanks Honey, for spreading puppy cheer.

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.

Shadow the mixed breed dog has a pretty smile.

You can see the tumor on the left side of Shadow’s jaw. But it didn’t stop her from enjoying life.

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.


  1. I lost my dog Jessie a couple of weeks ago. The first week I cried at the drop of a hat, but when I picked up her ashes and memorial box a few days ago, I felt a little better, like she was back home again.

    I miss her so much and don’t know that I will ever be able to get another dog, but I’m starting to look at the gladness that she was in my life, and not focusing so much on the sadness that she’s gone.

    • I’m so sorry, Karen, that you lost your precious Jessie. Everyone who has been through it understands exactly how you feel.

      So glad that having her ashes is providing some healing. And that more and more you’ll be able to remember all your happy times together.

  2. http://soncy%20marton says

    I llost my dog last august, and I know I made the right decision, he was a really happ
    and people oriented guy and I had him for 14 years, or maybe I should say, he had me
    for 14 years, he was my best friend. But its been 10 months and I miss him so much,
    but I never regretted letting him go, he gave me so much, it was the last gift I could
    give him with all his friends at the vet’s office and as he was leaving this world for
    another, he was still being fed his favorite liver bits….he will never be forgotten,
    he made an impact on my life……………love you babe.

    • It’s so hard but it sounds like you gave your pup some very good last moments. You’re right, sometimes that’s the best gift we can give.

  3. Guess I just found some vacation reading.

    • It’s a concise read. You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy your vacation days with Jack and Maggie.

  4. Well, Mom still cries eleven years later. I think it helps her the most to talk about Trine with us current pups, and we have photos of her around too. As with everything time heals so the sadness is still there but less often in the thoughts.

    • I’ve framed nice pictures of each of my pups like your mom did for Trine. I enjoy remembering them whenever I see their images.

      And yes, I still cry over past pups, including my first one from over 40 years ago.

  5. Grieving the loss of a beloved dog has been a constant years after the fact. Despite having another pet, he was never intended to ‘replace’ the ones that passed, he’s just occupying another part of my heart. Terrific post. Thanks for sharing a poignant review on a difficult topic. 🙂

    • Luckily each dog we love enlarges our heart so we never run out of room to love another. 🙂

  6. It’s a tough road to exit. Tomorrow will be a year to the day that Leo left me. It still hurts like hell and I am just as lost now as I was 364 days ago.

    • Unfortunately nothing will ever fill the hole in your heart left by Leo. But luckily your heart will grow and grow in love for Harley, Jax, and every other dog that enters your life.

  7. I grew up in the country with a lot of animals. My mom would take in every stray that happened by (or got dumped near us as word got out that my mom would keep them). While this menagerie is what turned me into an animal lover, it also gave me a ton of experience with pet death from an early age. Add to that my mom’s sister dying from brain cancer, and my mom from ALS before I was even a teenager. I would say I was well versed in death but losing Dylan was still the single most difficult death for me. Although it was more than time for him to go, it was very painful to send him on his way. What helped me the most was in the days following his death, I went through every photo I had of him (all pre-digital), picked out my favorites and made a single album out of them. (I surely did not take enough pictures of that sweet boy!) It was very cathartic to review his life like that. The other thing that helped HUGELY was getting Wilson within 6 weeks of losing Dylan. No one can sulk when there is a puppy around! Of course, I set myself up for more heartbreak down the road, but that pain is balanced by many years of joy.

    • And we can never predict how a particular death is going to affect us.

      The loss of a human family member is terrible but also filled with complex and conflicting feelings. Perhaps because our love for animals is pure and simple, our grief at their loss is so intense.

      Roxanne did talk about the importance of doing a project while grieving a heart dog. It sounds like your picture project for Dylan confirms how helpful it can be.

  8. Yes – I have lost heart pets: the cat who was with me from the time I was 17 until I was in my 30s, and the bunny who was with me in my 40s and early 50s. Now I have Zora – we are old ladies together, and I know that it will hurt greatly when it is her time to go. Much love to Roxanne, and thanks for sharing her experience with other pet-loving parents.

  9. When I brought Logan home from the shelter I thought it would be nice for our other dog, Pepper, to have a friend now that I was working full time. I never thought Logan would become my heart dog, I was inconsolable when he died. I started blogging to work through my grief. Jedi does a great job of filling the holes in my heart, but I still cry when I think of Logan. He was a great dog.

  10. I am really wanting to get that book it sounds like it’s helpful!

  11. As you know, Pamela, Kissy was my heart dog. She was my baby girl, my best friend, and my one confidant about EVERYTHING that happened in our life together. I still get choked-up at times (like right now); and I know Sam will never understand that part of me, but he pretty much ignores it now. It took knowing Callie had been born and would soon be a big part of our life for me to be able to stop crying at the drop of a pin (or anything else). It took another year after that for me to be able to take Kissy’s ashes – neatly stored in a little treasure chest – and put them where I could see them. And then to put together a digital album of my pictures together. I will always miss my baby girl until the day we meet again, but Callie, Shadow, and Ducky have helped ease the ache in my heart and fill the hole in my world. And I am forever grateful for their unconditional love.

  12. Oh, that’s such a sad search phrase. Heartbreaking. Yes, I hope those folks that search on that will find their way to Roxanne’s book. When I lost my heart dog, Abby, I had a lot of friends from an online osteosarcoma support group who “got it” and helped me not feel so crazy. I remember someone posting an article about why it’s reasonable/okay/understandable to grieve your dog harder than someone (a good friend, a relative) who you loved, but who didn’t live with you. I felt like that about losing my dad versus my dog. Which I still think sounds odd to put into writing – but I was with my dog almost non-stop, whereas my dad was old and ill and he lived far away so I didn’t get to see him very often. The death of Abby left a huge hole in my heart – and in my house. There were all these empty spots where she used to be. The reminders were constant.

    One other thing that helped me deal with losing her is that, like Taryn, I went through all my photos of her and put together a special scrapbook of my favorites. It’s funny, because when we lost our beagle, writing about it helped. (I started writing a novel about a woman who lost her dog. Writing about “her” and her loss helped me deal with mine.) But I couldn’t write for 8 months after Abby died.

    I guess the moral of that is, you have to find what works for you – and it might not even be the same thing that worked before.

  13. Thank you so much Pamela for the information about the book. I’ll send it along to my sister. I know she’ll really appreciate your kind thoughts and finding out about this book.

  14. I had a small piece of BD fluff, which I found a while ago while cleaning out my consevatory. I have never thrown it out. Each time I see it, and it gets swept up on my dustpan I pick it off and put it back.

  15. The folks at APLB.org (Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement) are wonderful. There are online chat rooms for people that are grieving the loss of their pet. They helped me put my life back together after my dog died. I seriously wondered if that would be possible. The chat rooms are free, but memberships are encouraged (by me, at the very least) – they do a really good job:-)

    • Thanks for the suggestion, Ruthie. APLB sounds like a wonderful organization and I’ll check them out.

      Back in Ithaca, I also knew a therapist who specialized in pet bereavement. She used to host monthly open meetings where people could get support from other people who understand what they’re going through IRL.

  16. I’m sitting here bawling just reading the comments.

  17. I wouldn’t vacuum. It probably sounds disgusting, but I really could not bring myself to vacuum up all of the Bella hair that was embedded in the carpet. It was a while before I could even entertain the idea without crying.

    Her bowl is still out on the floor. Half is a water bowl, so I just tell myself I’m leaving it there so Tavish can have options of where to get a drink in the kitchen.

    (I eventually did vacuum… after quite some time. Lucky for me, Bella hair is pretty stubborn, and I still find some over a year later.)

  18. I have yet to lose a pet that I’ve had for more than a year. My Roxie is my first dog that I bought when I was 14. She’s 10 years old now and still ridiculously healthy. I didn’t even consider her to be a senior until someone called her a senior a few months ago.

    Anyway, I’ve never experienced the death of a pet before. I sympathize with those who who have lost pets because I imagine it’s so, so hard, but I can’t imagine what it’s like. Well, I couldn’t imagine it until I read these comments. I already feel sadness and emptiness when she’s at the vet for hours (which isn’t often). I can’t imagine when it’s forever…

  19. http://Maria says

    Hello everyone- I had to put my dog to sleep due to cancer 7/29/15.He was only six years old, i miss him so much.I cry everyday/night since it happened.Before he got sick, i bought a yorkie so that he has someone to play with not knowing on what about to occur.Now i feel bad because i dont like himanymore

    • I’m so sorry for your loss. Your heart must be aching.

      It has been such a short time since your pup died. I hope that with time you will begin to heal just a little (although you’ll always miss your dog) and come to enjoy the yorkie who is now sharing your life.

      My heart goes out to you.

      • http://Maria says

        Pamela-Thank you so much. Do you think in time i will learn to love my other dog? Off course i do not want him to feel abandoned if that even makes sense.I do try my hardest everyday to play with him but all i remember is my other dog.Do you have any suggestions for someone like me?

        • When I lost my dog Christie, I turned to her sister Agatha for comfort. But they were litter mates and I had been bonding with both of them for 14 years. It sounds like your yorkie is a relatively new addition to your home and you didn’t have a lot of time to bond with him before your first dog died.

          You might not feel much like doing new things, but perhaps you’d find it worthwhile to find a new and different activity with your remaining pup. Take him to a dog-friendly restaurant you’ve never been to. Go for a special walk. Or take a class together on nose work, agility or obedience.

          I know it’s really hard to force yourself to do things when you’re feeling so bad. But doing something new and simple together will give you a break from your sad feelings and help you get to know your pup for who he is. And maybe he will help you feel better as you develop a very different bond with this new dog.

          And of course, be kind to yourself and try not to feel too bad that you haven’t bonded to this new pup. He’ll never be the same as your other dog. But in time, you may find a very special new friend.

          And when you’re ready for a laugh about yorkie antics, check out https://www.youtube.com/user/DextersRuffLife. Dexter has something to make almost anyone laugh.

          • http://Maria says

            Pamela- Thanks for all the encouraging advise,i will try to do some of the things you mentioned.I will also watch the you tube video because i can definitely use some laughter.Since my little Trouble died everything has stop!!