Dog in photo frame

In grieving
for a pet

We picked Annie out when my daughter was about a year old. We knew she was the dog for us when we walked by her cage at our local animal shelter and Annie nuzzled her face against the gate, asking for love. We had never considered getting an older dog, but, once we witnessed the loving exchange between my daughter and Annie, we knew we had to take her home. We had Annie for about three years, and then had to make the choice to let her go.

Losing an animal can be really tough! Animals are like the best of friends who will sit, listen and bring great comfort and joy. Because of their endearing nature, losing them is like losing a family member. It hurts. And grief can seem insurmountable. But you really can start healing. We'll show you how to get through the grieving process.

Recognize your pet as a member of your family

Take time to grieve and don’t feel bad about it. Some people might think, “Oh, it’s just a dog or cat, not anyone important.” Pets provide lots of emotional support. Honor your pet’s life by giving yourself the space to grieve. If you need to take a day off of work or do something special for yourself, don’t hesitate.

Create a memory box

Gather pictures, videos or other memories and spend time decorating a box in memory of your pet. If you are crafty, you can also create a memory picture frame by taking your pet’s tags and a special picture and hanging it on your wall. For some, having your pet cremated and being able to spread the ashes is also as comforting as creating a memory box.

Start again

When you are ready, consider adopting another pet at your local animal shelter. There are so many animals waiting to be loved and taken care of in a good home. Getting a new pet doesn’t mean that you are replacing one — it just means you're sharing the love that was created with the pet you lost. Your new pet needs your love, too.

More on pet care

How to help your dog grieve
Common signs of cancer in pets
Pet safety in your car



Comments on "Healing after a pet's death"

John January 24, 2014 | 6:52 PM

I had to put two dogs to sleep within months. They were "sissies" (sisters) and Angel went first with a brain problem, followed closely thereafter by Cindy, who could no longer work her hind legs. I had such a hard time at the Vet's, about the total disrespect they showed for these animals, that I am afraid I just cannot bear the loss of another such dear friend. And thus, I think I am forced to live without that joy, because of the inevitable pain and loss at the end.

Patricia Czarnecki January 11, 2014 | 8:37 AM

I had to put Tucker (who I always referred to as my "giant" peke...he was too tall and to heavy to meet the AKCs standard) to sleep 2 days after Christmas in 2011. He was about 10 weeks shy of his 14th birthday. I got him after my Dad passed away. I wanted something breathing in the house besides me. I got him through my Aunts son and daughter-in-law who lived in Wisconsin. The first I layed eyes on him was at the Orlando Airport. My Aunts grandson flew down with him. I went to the airport with the cat harness my first peke wore at the same age. Surprise! He went every place I did and rode "shotgun" with me for all the time I had him. He was all I had. I have another dog now, a gift from a friend but I still miss Tucker and I still cry. The only thing I'm disapointed about my new dog, Snickers the velcro dog, a long-haired chihauhau is that he doesn't like the car. I miss having my dog riding shotgun with me.

Dawn October 22, 2013 | 12:38 PM

RIP my sweet Lexie. After being married one year, I met my husband at the door and said he could choose - a baby or a dog - but I needed one of them. We went the next day and picked the most beautiful boxer, our sweet Lexie. I was very cautious because I'd grown up scared of large dogs. How special was Lexie that she showed me how wonderful and loving a large dog can be. She was my first baby, as I had to learn to care for her before I was ready for the human baby that would come along years later. I work from home and have for 10 years so she was my constant, faithful companion. My executive assistant, I would say. She protected me, kept me company, relied on me for her most basic needs, and showered me with the most unashamed affection and love I've ever known. We went away for the weekend and boarded her at a facility we'd used before, successfully. But when we came home, she was visibly in pain. Three operations later, there was nothing else to do for her. Her stomach had twisted to the point it couldn't be repaired. I'll live with the guilt for leaving her for the rest of my life. Her special soul was irreplaceable. It hurts. It hurts so much. She never hurt anyone and was the most faithful soul I've ever known, human or canine. More than anything, I'm glad that she is the standard that our daughter will forever judge other dogs by. She showed us what spectacular love is, and she'll always be in my heart. Sweet, Sweet Lexie.

roberta October 22, 2013 | 11:17 AM

I have read these articles from people who have had a pet. I had a mini schnauzer for 12 years, she died in front of me from having cancer. She was our best friend. I think I cried more for her then a family member. There is nothing like having a dog, your best friend, and I will never forget her. She was the sweetest dog ever, and we miss her so much. Her name was Brie. Its been 12 years and I still look at her pictures and cry, but I know that they say that time heals, but YOU NEVER forget them. God bless you, Brie, and love you still.

Ray Matyckas October 15, 2013 | 6:15 PM

I have rescued a few older Cockers that have had abused or neglected pasts. I do my best to treat them special everyday to make up for the time they lost. Older dogs tend to be more grateful that they are given a second chance for a better life. It always hurts when they pass it doesn't matter if I had them for a year or ten years. Yes I grieve but part of the process is to save another one that is in dire need to be loved. The love the other Cockers gave me, Makes me feel like I owe and need to pass it on to the Cocker I have presently (Joey) who like the others return this love tenfold. This is a debt that I pray will never get payed off. I miss Barley, Dillon and Job (Jobe)very much and they will always have a spot in my heart. But I know they are happy healthy and whole now Playing and waiting for me to become part of their Merry little pack. I am feeling a little on the emotional side right now. So I think I'll finish my post now....

ed October 02, 2013 | 6:15 PM

Read "A dog`s prayer" it has kept me from falling apart with the loss of many dogs. I`m an old man, and I know the hurt! Now, I`m gonna sit in my recliner, and my three year old "Peek" will jump up and claim her half,,,,next to me. God bless our pets, and all of us who treasure them.

Dani September 07, 2013 | 3:32 PM

After reading your comments I am balling my eyes out! I lost my best friend Harvey last year aged 15 he was a fox hound/jack russell cross he was the best everyone knew him and loved him he was more intelligent than most people :)he walked off lead and understood everything he was nicknamed the Dogfather by other dog walkers as he just seamed to be a natural leader and peace keeper in the packs, a year on and I still cry for him nearly every day but there is a comfort as here in the UK we have an advert called 'Every Home Needs a Harvey' it is him to a T, I will never forget him he was the best gift I ever had

MaDukes August 12, 2013 | 8:51 PM

I can totally relate! I have lost 6 dogs in my lifetime and I have loved each and every one of them but the last 3 were the hardest and I think that was because nature didn't make the decision but I had to make the decision to let them go. Charlie, the last one I had to say good-bye to, was like my best buddy! He was so intelligent and affectionate (he would give you a hug if you asked him) and he could not only understand single word commands but could follow "sentence" commands like "go upstairs and get (one of his favorite toys) and he would go upstairs and come downstairs with whichever one you told him to get! Now I will have the difficult decision to make as to when it's time to say good-bye to his sister (who is almost 14 and has cancer) and even though they were not born in the same litter, they were as close as siblings could be! They adored each other and always had to be together. This will be one of the hardest decisions I will ever hsve to make because as long as she is here then I feel that a part of Charlie is still here and when they're both gone then I will be totally devastated (I still haven't gotten over losing Charlie)!

Max August 12, 2013 | 3:45 AM

Last Tuesday I had to say goodbye to the greatest friend I could have ever asked for. Sondheim, a spaniel/beagle mix was fifteen-years of age. I moved into my condo the last of April/1998, and two nights later one of my friends brought him over. He was walking around her neighborhood. My place is especially empty because I never lived here without Sondheim. It is mind-blowing that a little 25lb life source could cause so vast a void. I realize that my connection with Sondheim isn't unique, but I am single, so he was really my life. Sondheim was never sick one day of his lie. He got a physical and required shots every June. He never bit anyone, never ran away, only had about three accidents in the house. In mid-June Sondheim stopped eating. For,a couple of days, I never thought twice about it, because he was such a finicky eater. After a week I got very worried. The vet took blood, did X-rays, but she said she couldn't find anything wrong with him. He kept losing mass, and he slowed down considerably, but he never cried or complained. I knew the end would be soon, and friends told me that Sondheim would let me know when it was time. Last Monday late in the afternoon, we both looked into each other's eyes. His eyes were so,sad, and had lost their trademark twinkle. He was telling me that the time had come to let him go. I made the appointment for Tuesday morning. At the vet, I kept squeezing him, kissing him, thanking him for coming into my life and for loving me. I kept telling him to go to sleep. Please go to sleep. I have lost three parents, my mother, step-mother and father, but letting Sondheim go was truly the single most devastating and sad moment of my life. I was incredibly blessed to have the honor and joy of being Sondheim's dad for one-quarter of my life. Fifteen years of pure joy and love . . . It is hard to accept that Sondheim is gone. The bag of memories will make my smile one day, I know, but right now I'm still crying . . .

Jan July 31, 2013 | 10:12 AM

I lost my dog,Jackson to IMHA this last May, he was only 5. Actually, he didn't die from the disease, he died from the treatment-massive amounts of steroids for a long period of time (we actually wound up having him euthanized). I live in NC and learned that the best place to bring your pet with any severe disease is not just a vet. Bring your pet to a University Vet hospital (I brought Jackson to NC State vet hospital). They have the BEST facilities, specialists, and are on the cutting edge of vet medicine-and not necessarily more expensive. I brought him there after he was in a local vet hospital. He may be alive today had I brought him there first (unfortunately, I wasn't aware of it). He was THE BEST dog I could imagine ever having. He could have been a therapy dog. He was very friendly, but barked when people approached the house. We walked him off the leash. He especially loved children. He would sing to a live harmonica, was very mellow, loved the cat, was a perfect gentleman. He was very smart, and earned several tricks very quickly. He seemed to understand us. He had a calming affect on our household, as he was pretty mellow. He was about 70 lbs. He was a mix of Australian Shepherd, Chow, Lab.I grew up with dogs and he was the first I owned as an adult. I will never forget him. RIP Jackson...

Michael May 31, 2013 | 8:05 AM

Dear jim I also lost my boy Hope in May. I found him in some brush aside a road in S C when I was looking for my dogs who had run away two days earlier. I thought he was my dog and rushed him to the vets and soon discovered he was not fixed and not mine . The vet asked if wanted her to treat him and I said I would have spent anything to save my dog but he is not mine and my wife has a inoperable brain aneurysm and I quit my job to be with her insted of traveling on the road. The vet said someone had to pay . I replied I thought you took a oath to help animals and she repied SOMEONE HAS TO PAY. I paid Hopes bill took him home and he loved his family and brother and sister for 14 years. Jim please dont hurt yourself over your pets death I know it hurts but other aninals need love also and want you take care of them.If you need a friend to talk to here is my email Tamichael1@aol I will be your buddy if you need a friend.Sorry for your loss Jim Michael

Angie pirkl May 13, 2013 | 1:22 AM

I just lost my nine month old pup to parvo. He died in March. He only had stage one parvo but the vet was very insensitive to our situation. He said that we either pay 2,500 to heal him or we put him to sleep. Not knowing that stage one parvo is curable with home remedies, I was pressured to put him to sleep. It was the most horrible experience I've ever had to go thru. If id've known about the home remedies before hand, I could've brought him home and he'd still be here today. Now I have to live with this for the rest of my life, I've cried every day since that happened, I don't know if I'll be able to cope. I feel like I have failed at my job as a caregiver. It was my job to protect him and I failed misserably. How can I move on?

Mayer May 02, 2013 | 12:59 PM

My best friend, a Maine Coon mix died suddenly April 23, 2013. I did everything I could to save him but was let down by my veternarian who does not return or respond to emergency calls after 6:00 p.m. I failed my pet by not knowing my vets' selfish policies regarding emergencies and I'd only had the little angel for 5 months. You would think the staff would have returned calls or pointed me in the right of another compassionate vet, that did not happen here in Douglasville, Ga. I've never had a pet before nor watched one die in front of me and it will haunt me for the rest of my life.

carman April 28, 2013 | 8:13 AM

i raised my sapphire from a new baby , feeding her my self ,i had her 17 wonderful years i lost her to cancer 6 monthes ago , ill grieve for her forever!!!

Andie April 19, 2013 | 7:03 PM

Jim-It doesn't sound crazy. My heart goes out to you and I am so sorry for your loss.

JIM March 06, 2013 | 1:56 PM

I gave my Mom a new kitten for christmas but she died a month later---I had Chipper for 17 years after she died and 6 months ago he go over the fence and died in a neighbors shed--I tried to kill myself I was so upset--I had a girl cat two years or so younger than Chipper to keep him company when I was no home---They used to groom each other--I also gave her some pills so she and I could both be with Chipper--I know this sounds crazy but I have no living relatives and I loved that cat more than anything---I'm still not over him but am trying.

Mandy February 16, 2013 | 6:23 PM

For myself it was important to take my time getting through the grieving before I even thought about getting a new pet. Just a tid bit that helped me.

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