Grieving Our Losses

The inevitable outcome of loving our canine companions.


This has been a rough year for me and many of my dog-loving friends; I’ve lost track of how many people I know who have lost one of their beloved canine companions. And every time I see another loss announced in my social media feed, it brings my loss back with a sharp pang. If you’ve lost a dog that you love as much as life itself, you know that pain.

Many of my friends’ dogs, like my darling Otto, were elderly. And while we all know that the death of an old dog is inevitable, and we may have even told our friends that we’re prepared for it, when death comes, our loss isn’t any less painful or easier to accept.

It’s far more shocking when a loss comes out of the blue. Cancer, especially that devil hemangiosarcoma, took several of my friends’ dogs. Often, they seemed as right as rain one day and had a dire prognosis the next.

At least we can talk to our friends and family about our grief – I think it helps. I know our other animal family members grieve, too, though I’m often at a loss as to what we can do for them. My 8-year-old dog Woody was a tiny puppy when he first met Otto; until June, he never knew life without his idol and leader. He’s been visibly depressed, uncharacteristically quiet, for months now. He walks with me to water the oak tree we planted on Otto’s grave; does he understand why Otto is buried there? We thought it would be comforting to have Otto buried on our property, but I have to admit that the very real possibility that Woody knows Otto is underground there haunts me.

They say that the pain of losing someone we loved is the price of all the joy they brought us. Heck, I’ve repeated this to my friends when they’ve suffered a loss; I know it’s as true as the fact that the sun will rise again tomorrow, or that I will love – and lose – another dog or three before I die. The more it hurts is directly proportional to the depth of the bonds we shared, the number of the experiences we had together, and the profundity of the things we learned together. What an honor! What a loss! Hang in there, friends; the love itself never dies.

Sending love and light to Otto, Raven, Lucca, Piper, Abbi, Prince, Sierra, Trixie, Lili, Gordon, Kaiser, Cinder, BlueBell, Buster, Grayson, Cheeru, and all those I can’t remember through my tears – so many good dogs! – and to the people who loved them – who still love them, even if we can’t still see them.


  1. Also to Bacardi, who could hear my car from a mile away, Sam, the coolest dog, Trina, the supermodel, Jack the genius who would do whatever I asked him to do, Maggie, the sheriff, Rex, the protector, Libby, the fighter, Kate, my bed hog who owned all the toys, Roadie, the escape artist. And to all the other dogs I have loved or admired during my 71 years. I often wonder why dogs don’t live longer, but this list tells the story. Each dog has brought their own special things to our lives and marked our souls. We have given freely to them for their unconditional, non judgmental love, which we really don’t deserve. They leave us broken, but better for having them in our lives.

  2. You can’t nor should forget. My cockapoo Jessie dies of liver issues and the end while reasonably short was unbearable. He was a young 14. We were playmates, friends and protectors of each other. Fiercely loyal as well. I so loved and miss my buddy. So now I have Gus! He is now 2 and the funnest pup. We walk a lot and he loves attention. When I walk him the “others” we meet know Gus but no so much me. Funny how that happened. But the “others” dogs know me because I have treats in my pocket. Im 83 and this little boy (16 pound Multi-poo) keeps me only toes and laughing a lot at the both of us. He is not Jessie but God knows I love he as much!

  3. Yes each one gets us through times…and/or we help them grow. Cinder, then Frankie who got me through those first days, months post divorce, when they were my family. Cinder who also got me thru the first brother’s passing. Others…Gus who taught me the importance of rescue dog safety and who after his loss got me into rescue work. Arianna who loved being tucked in sweatshirts, Fifi, a foster who I (former ortho RN) nursed through surgeries on both knees, friend Larson, who helped me house sit for his hoomans, and Finbar who came as a foster from a mill and never left, who knew nothing about cement, grass or walking….who had a big backslide, but came through to be able leap/run for joy on the way to car rides. Sadly that darned oral melanoma got him and took him in 2.5 months last July, followed first by Larson in August and Fifi in Sept. Hard season…..

  4. And to Jake, my Joy Boy. He taught me the gift of enjoying the moment. He made up games so that i would stop whatever seemed important in people world to play with him and bring some laughs and joy into my life.

  5. Hello! I have had many dogs in my life, all of which have touched my heart deeply. They also lived very long lives which gave me the privilege of having them a very long time. So nothing shook me more that when my 7 year old healthy GSD got Hemangiomasarsarcoma. In six weeks he went from healthy to gone. It was the worst loss. No time to even say goodbye.

  6. I can relate to your loss and the decision you had to make. There was such a strong bond with my past dog I have been unable to get another. Had her for 16 years. My ‘Soul Dog’. Try to look at old puppy photos which bring smiles again to remember happier times.

  7. I hope this helps everyone is some small way:
    “We who choose to surround ourselves
    with lives even more temporary than our
    own, live within a fragile circle;
    easily and often breached.
    Unable to accept its awful gaps,
    we would still live no other way.
    We cherish memory as the only
    certain immortality, never fully
    understanding the necessary plan.”
    ― Irving Townsend

  8. Oh Nancy. I don’t think anyone could have conveyed and expressed the pain and angst any better. My eyes are filled with tears as I write this short note because my mom is downstairs, in hospice, and stable but I need to take her some lunch…not to worry, we usually eat late…This has been a horrible year…we lost my dad at 105 in February and the work on my shoulders now to keep everything and everyone going…just wow. In addition to discovering we had an unlicensed funeral director… a matter yet to be resolved. My little love got older like we all do and arthritis became apparent. SO many vet issues: our regular vet is 40 some minutes away on the other side of town. Rec. by our former vet who left the state to teach at a vet school and the old practice he was a part of succumbed to Banfield…So we have this new practice, knowing that god forbid something were to happen we were taking a chance with the distance, we just hoped and prayed it would never happen. Then in 2020, I nearly died and so going any distance especially with my little one has me on edge…what would happen to her if something happened to me during our trip to or from? Even one of our retired and loved vets says SHE can’t find a practice she feels good about. I called our vet of record and learned not only had the current vet been in a serious accident with a long recuperation anticipated, but that as my little one hadn’t been seen in over a year they could not prescribe any meds. They suggested a practice called Lap of Love which is mobile hospice care and beyond that. The visit was extremely expensive. About $600. But we were desperate and so the vet who was very nice came and now we have a prescription for Carprofen and tylenol added. And someone who has physically seen her. We also discovered our area has a place devoted to rehab care…that vet was able to do xrays but she does not practice beyond rehab and so while she believed seeing signs of arthritis and some spine issues, that accupuncture or hydrotherapy may be beneficial she also believed my little one has a skin infection (which I do not), and because she saw a drop of mucous in the area of her vulva was suspicious she might have a UTI. So we used an OTC human urine test to get a sense of a UTI or not, and it was not clear but she was put on a course of antibiotic which would help in either case. However, we still needed a general vet and so got an appt with a mobile vet. She was someone who never should have gotten a license. She wanted nothing to do with us considering that I questioned to gain a better understanding of what was proposed and felt I was not trusting her. I told trust is earned and developed over time. She was done with us. SHE could tell we were not going to be able to have a relationship. I said you’ve been here 10 minutes and you don’t even KNOW ME! She communicated with her eyes to her asst who claimed they had been here 20 minutes. SHe was not going to charge for the visit although I was more than willing I said to compensate them for their time and effort. Oh, and yes I forgot the most important part: this witch of a vet wanted to do a skin scraping as she called it, to determine if this so called infection was bacterial (in which case the antibiotic she was already on should be helping clear up) or yeast related. My first question was to ask if it would hurt and she said/claimed “no,” She proceeded to take a tiny but obvious razor blade out and put it to the top of my little ones bare spot on a paw at which point my little screamed out in obvious pain and I put an end to it. Vet justified it as short term pain for long term benefit. I don’t and did not find that acceptable. Both of us were horrified if not traumatized and that’s when the vet decided we could not work together and packed it in. Clearly NOBODY was going to question her arrogant behind. I am not a door slammer, but I sure did when they left. Instead of subjecting my love to pain, if the current antibiotic didn’t resolve what they believe, we could have tried another without causing trauma. But the catch is that the rehab vet is taking the position that until the potential infection(s) are cleared up/treated, she can’t/won’t let her in the water tank with HER employee…And also I think what set this so called vet off was that she was claiming my love’s skin in spots was “red and inflamed” Look, I’m a retired social worker, and I know what red and inflamed looks like. I’ve been a dog mom for decades. Her skin was pale pink to white. NOT red. To think that two adults are sitting there arguing this fact still amazes me. I explained the bare spots on her legs were from a couple years back when she was biting a bit when we encountered fleas for the first time in decades. The fur has not quite come back. Anyhow we are recovering and loving one another.

  9. Nancy: So sorry to hear about Otto’s passing. I loved seeing his picture and hearing about your time with him. I lost my sixteen year old cat last November. Eight days later I lost my beloved Ava, my Lab Golden Husky mix therapy dog. I am still struggling with remembering the great times we spent together for almost fifteen years. Hemangio sarcoma took her is one day.

  10. Remembering Ramses, my perfect gentleman who never drank from the toilet, humped or sniffed a crotch and who would warm my spot on the bed until I came and then get up and move without being asked, Candy, his best friend and my parent’s dog, who was gentle, loving and generous and never complained, Goliath, who wasn’t very bright and never did get all of the love and attention he should have had, Caesar, my forever dog whose only vice was to drink out of the toilet, who at 12 was taken too fast and for whom I will alway feel guilt and my childhood dogs, Mitzi the paranoid neurotic and her Mother Cuppy, the first dog I remember, who I grew up with and who gave me my first but not last taste of grief when I was in college. Lastly, Penny, who we lost as a puppy and Mittens, the dog I was too young to remember whose life was cut short by my Dad being careless.

  11. Thank you for such a wonderful article about your experiences with pets. It reminds us that the short lives of our pets are most precious to our hearts and we have all experienced the wonder of their love for us and learned to hold their short lives in our hearts. Perhaps it’s God’s way of helping us learn to cope with the losses we must all encounter throughout life.

    Winnie is the last (so far) of a long line of fur babies in my life. At the age of 80 I’m not sure I’ll seek another as I worry that there would be no one I could rely on to care for one I might have to leave behind.

    Most of my furry friends have been foundling or rescues. I have fond memories of my childhood resident cat Hubbah, Hubbah that walked with a hitch after a broken leg had not healed correctly. Hubbah lived to be 26 years old. Brownie was unfortunately short lived as she simply went to corner one day and left us. I think she may have already been old when she joined the family when I was about 8. I remember most my Bandit, a small, fluffy grey brindled fellow I think was a mix between a German shepherd and a Shiba Inu. Bandit, who went to doggie Heaven in 1988, looked a lot like my Shiba Inu Kiera, a Katrina survivor (2005) who lived t be almost 21 years old. Kiera and Bandit could have been twins with their bushy, curly tails in the air. People always asked if they were German Shepherd puppies. Moshi, a red, emaciated, Shiba Inu runt was rescued from a Nebraska Kennell shortly after Kiera came to live with us. We had taken a road trip East from Colorado and stopped at the Kennel to visit more Shiba Inus. This poor bedraggled, tiny, red female was being pushed around by the bigger Kennel dogs. When I commented on her the owner said, “She’s a 7 year old runt, not a breeder. Why don’t you take her home?” We did!

    There have been so many pets in my life even before Bandit. There was Buffy the orange Tabby cat, who came to us the same time Bandit arrived. The two were inseparable and had no idea they were different species as they slept together, played together and protected each other. While walking Bandit one day we were accosted by a big black dog. Buffy came charging out of nowhere and stared that black dog down until he turned around and left.

    Cricket, a miniature Sheltie, was totally my hubby’s fur baby. He pined for months after losing his master. My brother came to stay with us after my husband passed. He commented one day, “That dog doesn’t like me, he just lays there and stares at me with an evil eye.” I told him I thought it might be because he was sitting in the “Master’s” chair. Cricket stopped staring at Phil after he moved to the couch.

    Winnie has been through a lot and has shined in her survivor mode several times over since I’ve known her. She may have a few more tales to tell about earlier ventures but they are her secret to keep since she’s at least 12 years old and has only been at my side for the past 5.

    I met Winnie during Covid while caring for her owner, 88 year old Virginia. When Virginia left for her home in Heaven Winnie needed a new home. She had been adopted by Virginia’s family as a companion dog after being found in the jaws of a Rottweiler who damaged one eye and her lower jaw causing Winnie to lose all her teeth. Hence her little tongue is always hanging out over her little mouth, which really is kind of cute. Virginia’s family couldn’t keep Winnie and she was slated for the pound, so, of course, she came home with Kiera and me to live in Kansas. Now it’s just Winnie and I here in the middle of the Bread Basket.

    Our first winter in Kansas was turning into a disaster when my heating system died in October.We had to navigate back to Colorado to survive. Fortunately my friend Deanna came to our rescue. Winnie and Kiera spent their winter months with Deanna’s two Chihuahuas, Suzy and Bella, 2 more rescue’s,

    In October of 2022 Winnie suddenly developed a cataract and went blind in that eye within weeks. The cataract that developed in her other eye in November left her totally blind by Thanksgiving. I was so unhinged at this sudden development. Winnie was so lost and scared and at my age I was not prepared for a blind dog. Cataract surgery was beyond my means but I did a GoFundMe appeal and raised the funds to fix Winnie’s eyes in January 2023. What a blessing for both of us!

    Here it is, once again January and we have received some very sad news. Winnie is suffering from renal failure. Her vet has given us little hope that she will survive this and I am devastated. I cried for days. I fall apart every time I think of losing her. My research leaves me with little more than easing her through the coming weeks with some specific care but no real answers. Like the sudden onset of cataracts, this issue also happened so fast that it was too late to help her although I don’t intend to just give up on her. There are some who say she may be helped, although not cured, with herbals, diet and at home IV’s. Winnie is down from 3 lbs. to 2.1 lbs. in just 3 months. Fifteen ounces may not sound like much but it’s a third of her weight, and that’s substantial. She is still eating and is not in distress but she doesn’t play like she used to and sleeps a lot more, under the covers with me at night.

    My thoughts are consumed with the knowledge that “ALL dogs go to Heaven” and our fur babies will all be there waiting for us when we arrive.