Saying goodbye to a #dearolddog. Again. #dogswelove #petloss #petgrief #grief #dogs #pets

Saying goodbye to a dear old dog. Again.

Just when I thought 2020 couldn’t get any worse, it did. On top of the other crappy things that have happened this year, 2020 is now also the year we said goodbye to another dear old dog.

We had hoped to have one more Christmas with our Sophie. One more photo by the tree. One more carefully chosen stuffed animal to give that she didn’t need or even want. But it wasn’t meant to be.

Sure, we probably could’ve waited until January, ’til after the holidays, but that would have been thinking more about our needs, our wants not hers.

It’s often said you will know when it’s time. This makes it seem as if some flash of wisdom comes to you, as if there’s some finite line that separates tolerable suffering from intolerable. Illness and death aren’t that tidy. Not even for the animals we love.

Complete clarity didn’t come for me. I wonder if it comes for others in similar situations. I have a feeling that more often than not, you just do the best you can.

And so, recently Dear Hubby and I made the heart-wrenching decision to euthanize our sweet Sophie. We decided to let her go.

Witnessing a beloved pet transition between life and death is brutal. At the same time, it’s a privilege. Witnessing and helping another breathing being’s final transition always is.

Being there at the end for Sophie was excruciatingly painful, but at the same time, something quite special, beautiful even. I’m grateful Dear Hubby and I could provide that final act of love. Just as we did for another dear old dog not that long ago.

My family was lucky to have Sophie in our lives for nearly 15 years. Of course, this still wasn’t long enough, but she was the oldest dog we’ve ever had.

A lot happens in one’s life in 15 years. Good things. Bad things. Important things. Mundane things. And everything in-between.

As I’ve written before, I like to think of my life in dog chunks, a timeline of dog lives intertwined with mine. Each dog that has come into my life has been so much more than a companion, though they all certainly have been that. Each one has taught me things I needed to learn during those relatively brief passages of time we spent together. Each one served as an anchor. A constant. A guide. A teacher. A secret keeper.

Sophie was #2 in my trio of Eye Witnesses and Secret Keepers, a witness to the turmoil that unfolded the very day I first heard the words, you have ‘a’ cancer. Oh yeah, she witnessed a lot that day. And many other days as well.

Thank you, for keeping all my secrets, Sophie. Such a good girl.

In hindsight, one of the most important jobs Sophie had was helping me transition to the other side of adulthood, the side without living parents.

I treasure the memories of Sophie accompanying me on visits to see my mother when she was dying from metastatic breast cancer. (And all the visits prior, too, of course.) Eight years later, once again, Sophie was there while we sat by my dad’s bedside while he was in hospice care.

Pet therapy at such times and in such places is truly priceless for everyone involved.

After each of their deaths, Sophie took on the role of grief witness too. There was much to witness.

I have TONS of happy memories, too, of course. Like the gazillion walks we took together, hardly missing a day. The napping contortions. The snuggles. The road trips. The Christmases. The “tree climbing”. (Sophie, not me.) The laps around the yard. (Again, Sophie not me.) The tail wiggles. (Too stumpy to actually wag). The family dog get-togethers. (My family is bit dog obsessed.) And countless others.

Saying goodbye to a #dearolddog. #petloss #petgrief #grief #dogs #dogslife
Christmas 2019

Now, I grieve for you, Sophie. I am not afraid, embarrassed or ashamed to speak of it. By doing so, perhaps I can help someone else who might be grieving for a much-loved pet as well.

Pet grief is real grief too. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Sure, sometimes I feel guilty about grieving so much for a dog, especially this year, considering all the suffering and death happening around the world due to the pandemic, cancer and so many other things.

But grieve deeply I do.

If you grieve deeply for a pet, too, or if you ever have, it’s okay. No need to feel guilty or embarrassed about it. It’s even okay to admit that you’ve grieved more deeply for a beloved pet than for a person in your life who died.

This doesn’t mean you or I value animal life over human life. It simply means the bond shared with our beloved pets was deep and meaningful. Yes, sometimes these bonds are deeper and more meaningful than the ones we have with certain humans we know, be they family members or not.

Yes, the loss is real. The grief is real. The gaping hole in your life and in your heart is real.

So, ditch the guilt here too. I intend to.

Goodbye, Sophie. No more arthritis pain, sweet girl. No more dementia. No more confusion. No more anxiety. No more circling. No more getting stuck in corners or behind doors. No more pills. No more restless nights. No more struggling to keep going when you really didn’t feel up to it anymore.

Rest easy now, beautiful girl. Your work here is done. 🐾🐾

You were (and always will be) dearly loved, and you’ll be in our hearts and in our memories forever.

When I think about it like that, I’m not really saying goodbye at all.

Photo below via Best Son-in-law Ever, Christmas 2018.

Saying goodbye to a dear old dog. Again. #grief #loss #petloss #doglife #dogs #petswelove #pets

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22 thoughts to “Saying goodbye to a dear old dog. Again.”

  1. A beautiful obituary for your best girl. Too many in my long life, some delayed because I just couldn’t make that difficult decision. Guilt over needless suffering, always grief for the loss, my latest my Katie Sue. She was a devoted guardian, best travel buddy, brave when she became age disabled. It has been three years and I still miss her. So sorry for the loss of your beloved pet.

    1. Nancy, you described the process as brutal and I couldn’t agree more. We had to put down our dog in September and then I received the news of my cancer.

      Let the tears flow…profusely as needed. I’m sorry for the pain you are enduring. I’m shedding tears with you now as mine is still fresh as well. I’m also sending hugs.

  2. Nancy, I am so sorry for your loss of Sophie. I have unfortunately been in that position several times myself (not to suggest that it is not a unique experience to each person and special pet). It never gets any easier, and the answers to the questions one must ask oneself in making this hardest and most finite of decisions never become more available. To this day I often get teary-eyed when thinking about the times I have had to give that okay to the veterinarian. And the thoughts of holding them until the very end. But it is some comfort to know that they had their humans with them at the end, surrounded by love, which I am unalterably convinced is what dogs care about most — the love for their people. I wish I had something to offer to make the experience less painful, but all I can add is that I am positive you gave Sophie a wonderful love-filled life.

    1. Jeffrey, Thank you so much for your kind words. I know you understand this particular heartache. And yes, that moment when you give the final okay to the vet, truly gut wrenching. I was able to hold Sophie in my arms and stroke her through it all. Excruciating, but so glad I did that. It was even harder because she could no longer hear, so I wanted her to feel my presence. Literally. Knowing she felt that right up to the end is comforting.

  3. Sophie was such a good girl and she was there through so much. I remember how she wore the bark off of the tree she would “spring” on and how she made trails through the yard, and it was a big yard! She had quite the personality and a little more independence than the retrieving dogs we’ve had in the family! When I got Remy, some of his actions reminded me of Sophie like how they both tend to follow their nose.

    1. Lindsay, She was a good girl indeed, and yes, she was here through a lot of turmoil. And good times, too, of course. There is nothing like the devotion of a golden, but I respected Sophie for having that independence too. She had other interests besides her humans! Some of Remy’s actions remind me of her too. Definitely nose dogs! So glad Remy and Ace were part of Sophie’s life. And Scout and Beamer too. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Oh Nancy, I’m so so so sorry for the loss of your furry caregiver. 15 years is a long time to have with a dear friend and while I’m happy you had that time, I’m so sorry for the painful ending. Holding space for you. ❤️❤️

    1. Abigail, Thanks so much. 15 years is a long time, but of course, it’s never long enough. I appreciate you taking time to comment and also how you refer to our special pets as furry caregivers. They truly are caregivers too. Give your kitty a friendly pat or ear scratch for me. x

  5. Nancy, our pets are part of our families and their loss is so very real. Our dear old dog is 13 and he has some of the same issues your Sophie had. He’s doing okay for now. No more big hikes for him, but he’s mostly happy still and having fun close to home. But I know the time will come and it will be so hard. Thank you so much for sharing about your dear Sophie. xo

    1. Lisa, They are part of our families indeed, and they manage to weave themselves deeply into our lives and hearts. So glad your dear old dog is doing okay. I love senior dogs. Do enjoy him, hopefully for a long time yet. Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing about your dog, Lisa. xo

  6. Aww, I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. Sophie sounds like she was a true hero in your life. There are just no words to describe how painful it can be to lose a beloved pet. Your beautiful and poignant essay brings back so many memories of my own dear pets and having to make that difficult decision to let them go.
    I was so happy to hear that you stayed with Sophie til the end. Experts say that dogs experience the world through their sense of smell. In fact, scent cells are renewed every 30 to 60 days and the sense of smell is the only cranial nerve — nerves that emerge from the brain and control bodily functions including eye movement, hearing, taste, and vision — that can regenerate. Even if Sophie had lost her other faculties I know she would have smelled you and been comforted to have your scent close to her and your arms around her. Hugs to you Nancy and thank you for writing such a touching tribute to your girl.

    1. Lennox, You’re right. No words. Our vet assured us that Sophie had likely adapted quite well to not hearing and was well aware of our presence, which I know she was. It was more me wishing she could hear me too. Thank you for the reminder about dogs’ amazing sense of smell. Thank you for reading and taking time to comment too. Your kind words are much appreciated.

  7. Dogs do stay in our hearts forever. I lost my childhood dog while in college. It was a long time ago, but she’s still there and always will be. I’m so sorry you are going through this. Hugs.

  8. Dear Nancy,
    I am so sorry about this tragic loss. Fifteen years is a long time, yet as you say, never long enough. There’s never a good time to face the death of a beloved pet, but the Christmas holiday season seems especially sad, and especially this strange year. Thanks for the reminder that we shouldn’t compare our grief to the grief that other families are experiencing.

    It all hurts.

    Sending you warmest thoughts and hugs,
    C.
    xoxo

    1. Carolyn, Thank you so much for your kind words. And yes, it all hurts, but knowing others understand really does help. Hope you had a lovely Christmas, though I’m sure it was very different. Ours sure was. My best to you in 2021. xo

  9. I’m sorry for the loss of your companion. I have yet to lose a pet but I can only imagine how hard it is. Thank you for sharing your story and letting others know grieving your pet is okay. I believe it’s needed.

    much love
    Karen

    1. Wildrose Healer – Karen, Thank you for your kind words. Grieving for pets is indeed okay and yes, necessary. Thank you for stopping by and taking time to comment too.

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