How to Live Without Your Dog

If you think you can’t live without your dog, you’re not alone. These tips for surviving your dog’s death are inspired by a question from a reader…

Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet by Gary Kowalski is an excellent resource for coping with the death of a dog.

Here the comment that inspired this article on living without your dog: “I have no family, I’m divorced, no friends, am very depressed, and my dog is the only friend I know,” says Jeff on my article about putting your dog to sleep? “She needs to go to heaven but what about me after this is over? Who can be with me to do this, are there any organizations to help? I don’t think have the courage to do this alone and I fear for myself when it’s over.”

And here are a few practical tips for surviving your pet’s death…

Living Without Your Dog

“Time always brings eventual relief from the pain and your life will return to normal,” writes Gary Kurz in Cold Noses At The Pearly Gates (a book that offers many spiritual ways to survive pet loss). “There will be a time when you feel guilty for feeling better, but event hat will pass. Nothing will ever take away the sense of absence, but the disabling and relentless grief will subside and eventually disappear. I know it may not seem that way now, but…it has proven true every time.” Time helps. It may not be the best consolation, but it’s true.

For the first few weeks, avoid visible reminders of your pet. Though it helps some people to keep their dog’s collar and tags, it may be too sad for you. People mourn, recover, and remember in different ways. Here’s what pet bereavement counselor Wallace Sife writes in The Loss of a Pet: “Get rid of your pet’s toys and other things…they are mostly painful, and not good for you at this time. If you can’t throw them out yet, put them out of sight in a drawer or a box in a closet or basement. The real memory is in your heart.”

Seeing your pet’s collars, leashes, dishes, and beds in their usual places may make it harder to heal. Maybe one day you’ll donate them to friends or an animal shelter, or use them for a new pet. But for now, it may be best to put them out of sight.

If you feel bitter or angry at the vet, read How to Deal With Anger at the Veterinarian.

Find other creatures to care for. Do you live alone and feel like you have no friends, family, or neighbors to lean on? Think about getting another pet.

“My responses to each of my pet’s deaths differed in duration and intensity, depending on how quickly the end came, how much we suffered during their decline, and how many other pets I had,” says Sid Korpi, author of Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss. “The silence of the house when our dog Ludwig died was deafening because we had no other dogs at the time. It was tougher than when Mortimer left us, because we had our two Westie girls, Blanche and Keely. I didn’t love or miss Mortimer less intensely, but I was forced to pull myself out of my pain when the girls needed me. They reminded me life has to go on whether we’d like to wallow in the past or not. I’d feed them with tears rolling down my cheeks.”

If you get another dog, remember that they’ll never be the same as the one you lost. You’ll need to balance mourning the death of your dog with embracing a new, different dog.

when-my-dog-died

“How to Live Without Your Dog” image by PublicDomainPictures via Pixabay

Give yourself a sense of purpose – a reason to live. Maybe you don’t have other animals to take care of, and maybe you don’t want to take care of anyone else. That’s fine, but remember that being needed is something all humans need. “One of the basic human satisfactions is the feeling of being needed, and attending to an animal gives many people a daily sense of being useful,” writes Gary Kowalski in Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet. “It is important to know you make a difference, at least to one appreciative creature. For some people, losing a pet can mean losing a sense of purpose.”

Have you lost your sense of purpose? Find ways to make your life meaningful. Ask your friends and family what makes their lives worthwhile and interesting, and try something new every week.

Strive for a healthy, balanced life. Do you think your life is meaningless without your dog? If you have absolutely nothing else to live for except for your dog, then you may need to seek help. It’s not healthy to get all your life, love, and meaning from a your pet. I love my dog with all my heart, but I also love my work, my husband, and my writing.

To be truly healthy and happy, you need to be balanced. And that means finding happiness in several different parts of your life, not just from your dog.

If you feel like you can’t live without your dog, you’re not alone. One of my most popular articles is about surviving the pet death – it was so popular, I interviewed veterinarians, grief experts, counselors, and pet owners and wrote Letting Go of an Animal You Love: 75 Ways to Survive Pet Loss.

3 comments On How to Live Without Your Dog

  • As I am responding to the article which I just currently read, Is sad because not only living without a pooch is depressing, imagine living without your mother too. When the labradoodle came into my life, I had no idea how much impact that this lovable little darling would be until I started caring for her while her mom was unable to care due to the fact that she worked full time as a business lawyer. Until my own mom became seriously ll, I immediately fell in love with that spunky little doodle with a huge personality. She took to loving me as I completely abandoned my French horn lessons and I was a part time help to Teddy while my mom, suffering from cancer, was occasionally helping out after going through her treatment. All went well until my mom seriously relapsed to cancer and ended up being hospitalized, I then, was unable to care for Teddy since until then, Teddy actually lived at her mother’s house. But the entire time, she was alone and then, eventually adopted by a family who were able to provide the labradoodle with the love and care she needed. Not only did I lose Teddy, I lost my mom to cancer, eventually. And to make matters worse, I feel guilty because Teddy didn’t belong to me and I was taken advantage by a family friend who got her previously for her own two children who then, lost interest in caring for her.. So this story serves as a warning because Teddy was not only a loving, friend, she was a family member and losing a furry family member just because her mom couldn’t care for her and I couldn’t care for her either because of my mother’s illness, it was just unfortunately bound to happen . Unfortunately, even though Teddy is still alive and living with her new family, a huge part of me just died. Its like losing Smokey, another family member many years ago to cardiac arrest. He was a royal standard poodle with a huge heart of gold. And Teddy, as she has captured my heart in forms of selfies I took with her while snuggling in our own little world, I still have these loving memories of her when she became part of my life as well of that of my mother’s. This is all I can say for now.

    • I completely relate. I’m so sorry for the painful loss of your mother, as I lost mine 5 years ago on Valentine’s Day. She will always be my everything and I can’t get over the pain to this day, and perhaps I should seek help after 5 years. My mother also passed after a long and futile battle with cancer, and despite what some say i.e. time lessens the pain, it’s a lie and is insulting to the one’s tormented by the loss, as I am. Sometimes, others just need to keep their mouth shut, along with their opinions of “when the pain should lessen.”
      Ironically enough, my first dog, the one I grew up with, is named Teddy. She also left this world due to cancer, and it hurt like heck. I currently have two sweet, loving furry daughters named Ivy and Maggie. They are two and four years old, and I love them very much; all the more because at the time my mother got the horrible diagnosis, my father got severely ill too, and my “joke” of a long term relationship was failing. I was in my early thirties at the start of this hell, and by the time I sadly lost Mama, ran away from my ex,then my father suddenly died just over a year after my mother; I was in my late thirties, alone. A few months before my mom left, she and I were discussing getting a little dog, me going back to work, and other plans, as if she were going to miraculously recover, but I think we both knew. Anyway, about a year after mom’s passing, I felt ready for a companion, and that’s when I saw Ivy in an online ad for a dog rescue organization not far from town. See, she was a gift from my mother, and aunt, in heaven. My aunt Mary happened to love animals, especially dogs, with all her life. She worked at a no-kill shelter, and fed all the neighborhood dogs and cats; had two little ones of her own. Six months before my mother died, aunt Mary also died of cancer. So after seeing the online ad, with the sweetest two photos of this little puppy, I called the woman who ran the rescue; she happened to be an Oncology nurse by profession, which was no coincidence either. I asked about Ivy and to my disappointment, she said “I’m so sorry, but she’s promised to another lady, but I have other puppies you can look at.” It devastated me, as I’d fallen in love with that baby in that pic. After the call I acted like a lunatic, crying and yelling into the air, in an empty house, but the yelling was directed toward my mother and especially my aunt. I cried “Aunt Mary, you DO something, you loved those animals so much! I need that dog!” Through all the grief I’d been going through, I just couldn’t take anymore. Well, the very next day, at around noon, I got a phone call from the woman that ran the rescue. She said, “You know this is strange, but I just heard from the woman that Ivy was promised to, and she changed her mind. So the dog is yours if you want her!” This was NO coincidence. This was what I call divine intervention by my aunt and mother. Now Ivy is four and her life is passing by quickly, as all dog’s lives do. The thought of one day losing her, having to make that last trip to the vet, is so painful that I cry with a heavy heart over just the vision. So I do empathize with you, for what you’ve been through and are going through. As far as I’m concerned, time has NOTHING to do with the passage of pain; sometimes the loss, due to the depth and scope of the relationship, is just too much to bear. Grieve as long as needed and let it out however you need, without hurting others or yourself of course. The guilt is an unfortunate side effect of deep grief; there’s no real logic to it, as I’ve found out. Let it pass. Take care and blessing to you!

  • Bob-bob;
    You thought me how to love again. Showed me what true loyalty was.
    You are truly an angel in my heart.
    It will never be the same without you.
    Thank you for all your precious kisses and attention seeking and soft coat always willing to cuddle no matter how hard of a time it was.
    I never thought I would lose you so fast.
    Please know that I love you forever; and you will always be in my heart.
    You are a part of my heart little guy.
    Life will never be the same without you cron.

    Love. Forever.

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