Grieving Dog Loss

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Grieving Dog LossThis past week has been a difficult one for us as a family. Our daughter’s dog, Buddy, was a beloved family pet and we are now faced with grieving dog loss.

We have known for almost 8 months that this day would come.

Somehow, that knowledge doesn’t make it easier when it happens.

Buddy was a rescue dog and was an absolutely gorgeous Husky, Lab mix with an amazingly gentle soul.

It took Buddy a while to realize he was finally safe in his new home and bonded with the family and extended family.

Personally, I always referred to him as one of my grand puppies and I always had treats or toys for him whenever he would visit.

As we buried Buddy Wednesday evening, it struck me just how much of the family he really was.

Watching my grandchildren I noticed how differently we all grieve and how difficult it is for some kids.

That Special Bond

Dogs have a unique way of connecting with us on a very deep subconscious level.

Their unconditional love and the deep connection we develop with them can’t be matched by any other species and perhaps even some humans.

Grieving Dog Loss - special bonds

With a bond that deep it makes perfect sense that we would grieve their loss so deeply.

Another thing that makes losing a dog so difficult is we tend to form routines around the care of the dog.

For example, letting them out to do their business first thing in the morning, taking them for walks, playing outside with them, feeding them.

Pets, especially dogs, are very much a sounding board for our troubles. We talk to them and tell them everything when we are going through hard times, and they are always there with a nudge or a lick to help us feel better.

When you take the time to think of how much of your day was spent in either caring for them or playing with them you realize just how much of your time was devoted to them.

While Buddy didn’t live with us, his loss is certainly felt.

Every time we go to my daughter’s home we are reminded of his absence.

Buddy is no longer greeting us at the door, or leaning on me while I talk to the grandchildren. He would also lay on my feet whenever I sat somewhere.

He will be always missed.

Buddy’s story

As I mentioned earlier, Buddy was a rescue dog. We are unsure of the conditions in which he lived before he was rehomed with our daughter and her family.

The early yearsGrieving Dog Loss - puppy Buddy

He had a front paw that had been broken and never properly set and so it healed crooked. It didn’t seem to bother him though.

Through the years he bonded with not only the family he lived with but extended family as well. Our oldest son had a golden retriever, Charlie, who became best friends with Buddy.

During countless family bbq’s Buddy and Charlie could be seen happily playing and enjoying being together. Regular doggie playdates became a thing within our family.

Initially, you couldn’t make any sudden movements around Buddy or would cower and pee.

My daughter also said she had to learn to discipline her children without raising her voice or Buddy would get between her and the children.

He was very protective of the kids right from the start.

Middle YearsGrieving Dog Loss - smiling happy dog

Eventually, arthritis set into that front paw and started causing Buddy a LOT of pain.

He never whined or became aggressive with the pain. He just started not using that paw and it sort of just got dragged around. It looked really awkward because it was a front paw.

Upon the advice of their veterinarian, they had that front paw amputated at the shoulder.

At the time that seemed so devastating and we all felt so bad for Buddy.

Turns out that was the best thing that could have been done for him.

Almost as soon as he was out of surgery he was a happier dog as as you can see in the photo he has the biggest smile I have ever seen on a dog.

Everyone could see the difference and it didn’t slow him down at all. In fact, I think he got around better without that leg dragging.

The later years

Buddy was doing great. He adapted to life on three legs amazingly well. This was probably because he had given up using that leg long before it was removed.

One day last summer, our son-in-law noticed a lump on a hind leg. At his next wellness check at the vet the lump was mentioned.

The vet examined it and decided to do a biopsy.

We were all shocked and devastated by the news that Buddy had a rare and aggressive cancer.

I should mention you could visibly see this tumor grow from one vet appointment to the next which were only about a week apart.

Since he was already a three-legged dog the usual course of treatment (amputation) was not an option.

They were told this cancer was very aggressive and they should start to prepare for the end.Grieving Dog Loss - Buddy's last night with the kids he adored

By October the tumor had grown to 8 times the original size and several other tumors had been discovered throughout his body.

We were beginning to wonder if Buddy would make it through the winter.

Spring arrived and Buddy was now beginning to shake whenever he stood up and the vet advised the end was near.

Last Tuesday our son-in-law decided to take Buddy to the vet again when Buddy could not get up to go outside. In fact, Jeff had to carry him to the car, very unusual because Buddy loves car rides.

Turns out Buddy has a tumor on his heart that is almost the same size as his heart.

It was decided that Jeff would take Buddy home for one final night with the family.

They threw an old mattress on the floor and the kids cuddled with Buddy all evening. They all had cheeseburgers for supper including Buddy because they were his favorite.

The following day Buddy was euthanized with all his family present.

Stages of grief

Yes, we all had time to prepare for this moment but it certainly doesn’t make it any easier.

There is no right or wrong way to experience grief.

Everyone grieves differently and we will all have to go through the various stages, some faster than others.

Shock

Whether you experience the loss of a pet or a human loved one you will find yourself reeling afterward. It does seem all too surreal and you may even think it is all just a terrible dream. It takes time for it all to sink in.

For our 13-year-old granddaughter, this happened very quickly.

In fact, they were all still in the room at the vets, moments after Buddy passed and she sat there looking at Buddy, suddenly she just stated what we were all feeling, “I can’t believe he is just right there, dead.”

At that moment, Kaileigh started experiencing shock, the first stage of grief.

Don’t rush yourself through this stage. You need time to process the loss.

Anger

Anger was felt by everyone. We were angry that Buddy had to suffer so much in life.

His early life before any of us knew him was full of abuse.

Then he had the pain of that injured leg that ultimately led to amputation.

And then cancer, why did such a good dog have to suffer so much?

Allow yourself the freedom to feel the anger.

You could be angry at God for letting this happen.

Sometimes you could be angry at the pet for leaving you or the vet for not saving them.

It is all part of the process and is normal to go through.

DenialGrieving Dog Loss - Buddy

This may come in the form of thinking you are perfectly fine with this loss. You may think you are not grieving or not feeling sad.

Our oldest granddaughter(16-years-old) was supposed to start her first job later that day.

We all told her if she didn’t want to go that it was fine we would all understand and support her. There would be other jobs.

She insisted she was fine and could go to work.

She did get through her shift but collapsed in her father’s arms when he picked her up sobbing uncontrollably.

Guilt

You may feel angry at yourself over the loss of your pet and they may feel like guilt.

My daughter was overcome with guilt because of the fact that Buddy was euthanized. Even though she knew he was suffering and this was the kindest most loving thing she could do for him at this point she is questioning their decision. Was it the right thing to do? Was it too soon?

Depression

Kaileigh (13-year-old) got quite depressed and didn’t want to go to school the rest of the week but her mother insisted she needed to go.

She had a really hard time and was either crying or on the verge of tears constantly.

Kaitlyn (16-year-old) was also depressed. She stopped eating for a few days.

As a family, we have been looking out for each other and Kaileigh has now stopped crying and Kailtyn is eating again

Acceptance

Eventually, we will come out the other side of grief and accept that our pet is gone.

We can now fondly remember them without breaking down and take comfort in all the wonderful times we had together.

It takes time to come out the other side of grief and it can’t be rushed.

Each of us must pass through all the stages.

As odd as it may sound, Alex the youngest (6-years-old) was the one who reached this stage the quickest. In fact, Alex was comforting everyone else.

He was wanting to plan Buddy’s funeral so we could all honor him.

Alex was busy hugging everyone and telling them Buddy doesn’t hurt anymore and he can run with four legs now.

Does grieving affect diabetes?

We were concerned about how Alex’s little body would react to the grieving process.

After all, it seems like everything from exercise and sleep to the changing seasons affects his type 1 diabetes in some way so these concerns were real.

Grief is a form of stress and stress does affect diabetes.

If like his older sister Alex had refused to eat, his blood sugars would have dropped dangerously.

Because grief is a form of stress his blood sugars could also rise abnormally.

The best thing you can do for any diabetes who is going through grief is to frequently monitor their blood sugar level.

Be sure to make any corrections when needed.

So how did Alex do?

Well, he was running a little high so we ended up giving him a bolus shot of insulin.

How we grieved

We had a little funeral for Buddy and it was quite planned out. Things would be occurring for several days after the initial burial.

Burial

My husband, as the patriarch of our family, was called into service to dig the grave with his tractor.

Alex was of course supervising every step.

Once Kaitlyn was home from work we had a little service. We all shared a favorite memory of Buddy.

Some of Buddy’s favorite things were placed in the grave with him, his bone, a favored toy, and a note from Kaileigh.

Then we all placed a handful of dirt in the grave, then my husband completed the burial with the tractor.

There were plenty of stories, hugs, and tears.

Stone

A plan was made to head out on the weekend to find a large stone to serve as Buddy’s gravestone,

Kaileigh is quite a budding artist and wants to paint the rock for Buddy.

It will then be sprayed with a protective coating and placed at the grave.

Shadowbox

My daughter will create a shadow box that will contain a few of Buddy’s things.Grieving Dog Loss - Alex and Buddy

In it, we will place his collar, paw print from the vet, and favorite pictures.

Once the shadowbox is assembled it will be displayed in their living room.

Final thoughts

After our experiences of the past week, I now understand the grieving dog loss is no different than grieving any loss.

We must all pass through all the stages of grieving before we can begin to enjoy life again.

I hope that sharing our very personal and still raw grief can somehow help you through your own if you are ever faced with the loss of a beloved pet.

There are actually stages of grief that are normal to pass through including:

  • shock
  • anger
  • denial
  • guilt depression
  • acceptance

We must pass through all of these stages to come out the other side.Grieving Dog Loss - favourite memories

While grief is a natural process it is still a form of stress and can affect diabetics in varying degrees.

It can either raise blood sugar levels as it did with our grandson Alex or it can cause a blood sugar drop which can be dangerous.

If you are diabetic and going through grief be sure to check your blood sugar levels frequently.

Have you ever lost a  pet?

How did you manage your grief?

Do you know any diabetics who went through grief?

How did they manage their blood sugars?

Leave your answers in the comment section below.


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4 thoughts on “Grieving Dog Loss”

  1. Deb,

    I’m so sorry for your family for the loss of Buddy. It is true, we get attached to our dogs as if they’re family, simply because they are. Each dog is unique in their personality, and for those that find that dogs are simply a thing to own, should be ashamed. My dogs are very close to me, so much so, that I already know that I will dread the day that they are no longer with me.

    My dog Annie, who I had put down last year, was pretty hard. She was older, lived her life, and it was time when she was no longer eating or drinking over the course of several days. I too, struggled with the decision that it needed to be done. She simply didn’t have the strength to do anything anymore, and when I was left carrying her outside to do her business because she was so weak and skinny, I told everyone that it was time.

    I did give her a few days before I decided this. But alas, she still didn’t eat, even some of her favorite foods. I ended up driving her to my son, who was at work that day to say his goodbye’s. Annie had been with me since she was a puppy that I rescued from the pound, and she came into my son’s life when he was 13 years old. My husband had 4 children when we got back together after 17 years. But he bonded with Annie very quickly and became attached.

    My younger daughter’s were very upset, my 11 year old crying the most. Asking me why I was doing this to her. But I told her that she was suffering. She would either pass while she was still okay, or she would pass in the house in pain and starving. I’ve had a dog pass in my home before and it’s not as simple as them just falling asleep. It was a very painful process to watch and I would never want that on any dog or human either.

    Dogs own our hearts swiftly and completely. They love unconditionally, even when in terrible homes. Buddy knew he was loved and cared for in yours, and he was happy, finally. Your grandson is correct, he’s running on all four legs now. In doggie heaven.

    I know it’s too soon for this, and I hope you don’t think this is crass, but sometimes, getting a new dog down the way helps with the grieving. When Annie was close to passing, we got Atlas and it helped the kids through the grief.

    Not everyone is ready for another pet quickly, but I wanted the kids to have another dog they could hold onto when they were feeling their loneliest. Anyway, it did help them through it. It also helped my husband who I was surprised even grieved. He wasn’t always the biggest fan of Annie, but she was a very stubborn dog that only seemed to listen to me with commands. It only took me YEARS to train her. I love her, but I swear she was a rock when it came to training. That, or she was very, very stubborn.

    In time, it will get easier though. However, there will be moments when you swear you hear him. I still hear Annie walking in my room sometimes. But I think she’s still here with me. After all, she was by my side for 14 years.

    Thanks for sharing this story with the world. Again, I’m sorry you all lost Buddy too quickly. I always hate when dogs are sick and their lives are shortened. But at least he has other playmates now and lots of dog toys, and all the fields he could possibly want.

    Katrina

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for taking the time to comment Katrina.

      Your Annie sounds like a wonderful dog. Your surprise at your husband’s mourning her made me think of my husband.

      When our kids were small we had a cat named Missy. He wasn’t really fond of cats was always commenting about her fur on everything or she sat in his spot. Anyways through the years one of us would occasionally catch him petting her.

      We had that cat for 18 years and in the last few years after most of the kids had moved out, she grew attached to my husband and would ask him for attention every morning before he went to work. She passed several years ago naturally at home and it was as though she went to sleep which I was so thankful for.

      I don’t know if our daughter and her family will get another dog, they are all still saying no it is too hard.

      Thanks again for dropping by and commenting.

      Reply
  2. Hey Deborah
    Losing your dog is one of the most painful and depressing thing to go through, as dogs are more like family to people who own them and not just pets. I’m so sorry for your loss and I accept my condolences. I can only imagine the pain you and your family went through. I have lost a pet before and it was hard for me and it took me time to get over it. I too one day at a time and I definitely went through all the stages you mentioned but the hardest stage for me was the denial stage, I really kept denying he was gone. Most people at home didn’t understand what I was going through because they weren’t close to my dog so they could not help so had to through it alone. Glad you guys are doing better. Thank you for sharing this article, hopefully more people in a similar situation come across it and it helps them heal.

    Reply
    • Thanks for dropping by Femi and taking the time to leave a comment. I am sorry to hear you also experienced a dog loss. Yes pets are more thanjust pets, they are family and their loss is felt just as deeply as the loss of any family member. One day at a time is the only way to get through it. We are all doing well thanks, and yes Buddy is missed every day. Grief is a very personal experience and while we all must pass through all the phases there is no timeline for how long this process may take. We are all different and experience the phases of grief in our own way. I do hope you have found peace in your heart over your own loss. Thanks again and do take care.

      Reply

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