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How to deal with the loss of a beloved pet.

Animals play such an important role in our lives and are more than 'just a pet', they are beloved family members. Pets help keep us active, give us a sense of purpose, provide emotional support and give us unconditional love. Many pet owners celebrate pets birthdays, let them sleep in the bed and have way too many photos of their pet doing something cute on their phone, ready to whip out and show anyone who asks.


Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when it is a beloved family member who brings, companionship, fun and happiness. Here's how to look after yourself and your family members when the time comes to say goodbye.


When a person dies, feelings of grief and sorrow are widely acknowledged and understood, with family members and friends there to offer help and support. Unfortunately when a pet dies, this same help and support isn't always offered as some people don't understand the intense love and bond shared between owner and pet. " its just a dog".


It is completely natural to feel overwhelmed by feelings of grief, sadness, loneliness and sometimes even anger and guilt. You should never feel ashamed or guilty about grieving for an animal.


Everyone responds to grief differently and can be influenced by age, personality, age of pet and circumstance of their death. The role the animal played can also have an effect, if it was a service animal or working dog then not only lost pet, but also lost coworker and emotional support. If you live alone and the pet is your only companion then the loss will be even greater. If your pet required expensive vet treatment that would help prolong your animals life that you could not afford to give them, then you may feel a profound sense of guilt.


Here's some tips on healthy ways to cope with grief to help bring the day closer where the memories create smiles instead of tears. And when the time is right to open your heart again to another animal.

Suggestions on how to cope with grief:
  • Don't let anyone tell you how you feel. Don't listen to negatives such as 'you need to move on, get over it, it was just a dog, you can get another one'. Its OK to be angry, to be sad, to cry or not cry, to laugh, to find moments of joy and to let go when your ready.
  • Take time to grieve and don't try to hide or ignore sadness. Expressing grief can help reduce the time needed to heal, rather than bottle it all up and withhold feelings.
  • Reach out to a sympathetic ear, a person who also adored your pet, or to others who have also lost a pet and can understand the loss you are feeling. Please reach out to us and let us know, we love your pets almost as much as you do. 
  • Hold a ceremony or funeral. Rituals can help and be very healing.
  • Create a legacy! Write about your pet, create a memorial or plant a tree in their honor or create an album or scrapbook.
  • Look after yourself. Spend face to face time with people who care about you. Try and get regular sleep, exercise and eat well.
  • If you have other pets try to keep their regular routine. They also experience loss and can become distressed with your sorrow. Give them lots of TLC and maintain routine, it will help you both.
  • Don't rush in to getting another pet. No one can replace your lost pet and its not fair on you or the new dog. Only you can decide when your heart is ready.

Seniors grieving loss of pet

Senior people may find the loss of a pet harder than younger adults. Generally their social networks are smaller and may not have close family comfort or the routine of work for a distraction. Many elderly people live alone and their pet is their sole companion which gives them a sense of purpose and self worth. For seniors grief of an animal also comes with profound loneliness.

  • Seniors need to stay connected with friends and family. Don't spend everyday alone. Make sure you get face to face contact.
  • Boost vitality with exercise. Keep up activity levels after pet, still go for those walks. Talk to your doctor and try group activities such as swimming or gold. This will also help you connect to others.
  • Try to find new meaning and joy in life. Pet previously occupied time and boosted morale and optimism. Look at taking a class, volunteering, pick up a neglected hobby, help friends, rescue groups or local shelters.
  • Get another pet when ready.

Children grieving loss of pet

The loss of a pet can sometimes be a child's first experience with death. Many kids love their pets deeply and some might not even know a time when the pet wasn't around, so losing a pet for a child can be traumatic. Pretending the animal 'ran away' or went to sleep can be confusing, frightening and lets the child believe that they might return. They may feel betrayed when they learn the truth so its better to be honest.

  • Let your child see your grief. Children should feel proud that they have compassion.
  • Reassure them they weren't responsible for the death. Talk about their feelings.
  • Involve children in the dying process. If you are putting your dog down, explain why it is necessary and allow them to say goodbye.
  • If possible give child opportunity to create a memento, e.g. cast of paw or photo album.
  • Give them the option for a memorial service.
  • Don't rush out to get a replacement.

    Some of our Harry and Sam family who have crossed the rainbow bridge.