Coping After The Loss Of A Pet

Kai and I, 1995

The pain, emptiness, and loneliness we can feel when we lose our dog might be confusing to those who do not own a dog. Dogs are not just our pets, but they are our unconditional companions that can bring us such laughter, motivation, and sometimes tears!

Unfortunately for most, there is not a quick way to get over the loss of a pet. The time it takes for you to grieve can be different from others. That is ok. First, recognize there are stages of grief you may encounter:

  1. Shock or denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Not everyone may encounter these stages, but those that do go through these stages may find solace that these are normal emotions.

How can we deal with all of these painful emotions? Here are some ideas to help you cope with the loss of a pet.

  • Talk to others about your loss, especially other pet owners. Share your stories. Laugh at your dog’s goofy personality quirks and how they personally made you laugh. Laughter can help the healing process!


  • Write about your dog. You do not need to share your words with others… or you could choose to put together a book for everyone to see. I would love to hear a special story about a dog you have lost with their photo. Please share with me!I’d like to share an experience with you about a time I had to put one of my dogs down: Kai, a 6-year-old golden retriever, pictured above. In early 2000, Kai was diagnosed with cancer. We did everything we could have possibly done to prolong his life. But the day came when I knew that his suffering was out-weighing the good days.The vet came to the house. The vet and my other two dogs surrounded Kai on his bed. The vet told me “this first shot is going to relax Kai.” “Okay” I said as tear ran down my cheeks, as I was holding his head and rubbing him. Then the vet said “this one is going to be the one that lets him rest in peace.” I nodded my head in acknowledgment, as nothing was coming out of my mouth at that time.

    The moment the second shot was given my other two dogs who had been looking down at Kai looked directly up from Kai and ran barking out the doggie door, all while looking up! I would have a hard time believing this story if I didn’t see it with my own eyes. It was clear to me that they were following Kai’s spirit/ soul/ ‘uhane (in Hawaiian) out of the house.


This story brings me peace and great curiosity out there to what happens to us and our animals when we die. When I tell this story to others, I have found many others have experiences about their past pet they cannot explain. There might be a book in my future about this.

  • Make a memorial for your dog, such as a shelf with their picture, paw print, and collar. I happen to have one of those shelves in my house, and it comforts me every time I glance at it.

  • Light a candle for your dog. You can have a space in your house where you light a candle next to your dog’s photo for all the days you need to do so.


  • Spread their ashes in their favorite spots to play, hike, swim, or walk.


  • Get another dog. I’ve had some clients get another dog before your older dog passes or when the time is right after the passing of their dog. These creatures bring so much joy. We can honor our past dogs by continuing to love and give good homes to other dogs. If you do have another dog, try to allow that dog to see the passing of your older or sick dog. This will help your other dog understand where their partner in crime went. Try to stick with a routine for the dog that is still with you.


  • Find peace with the Rainbow Bridge Poem:

Just this side of heaven is a place called The Rainbow Bridge

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.


All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

-Author unknown