Dog Blog Survey: Grieving the Loss of Your Heart Dog (Canine Soul Mate)

Since Lilly’s death, I’ve taken some time to think about the future of the blog and my writing projects, in general. I’m currently doing the groundwork for several possible books — based on my life with Lilly, my heart dog, my canine soul mate. That’s where this survey comes into play. Please answer the questions below based on your experience, and I’d really appreciate it if you’d share the link with others so that I can collect enough data to make the results meaningful / viable.

Thanks so much!

dog blog champion of my heart dog grief survey graphic

The survey tool only allows me to leave it live for a week, so the deadline is Tuesday, April 1. (No, I promise, this isn’t a joke. I hate April Fool’s Day.)

Also, each question is its own little poll, so if you want, you can skip a question and let me know why in the comments.

 

The blog tool won’t let me create open-ended questions, so if you’d like to comment on these next questions, please do so as a comment to this blog post. Thanks!

What, if anything, made your grief better?

What, if anything, made your grief worse?

What else should we have asked?

 

 

123 thoughts on “Dog Blog Survey: Grieving the Loss of Your Heart Dog (Canine Soul Mate)

  1. Becky W
    March 29, 2014 at 11:46 am

    I haven’t had a house without dogs for 24 years so at least I keep going even if I lose a heart dog but it is so heart rending sometimes. I have had 3 heart dogs in that time and 1 before and still find myself looking for them when I round up the crew to go outside. My decision after I lost my 3rd was to adopt seniors from now on. It means less time with them but the opportunity to give them more then they may have gotten before. That at least makes me feel better about my losses. I know that any of these could become a heart dog but they will get so much more in their time left. I don’t know that time helps a lot but sharing my heart with others seems to. You are an amazing dog mom and you will find your own way out of this heart wrenching time with help from your friends.

    1. March 30, 2014 at 12:21 pm

      Thank you, Becky. I admire people like you who choose seniors and handle the more frequent losses. I’m not sure my heart could take it.

  2. March 29, 2014 at 7:05 am

    P.S. Roxanne, what made it easier was having him die at home. I cannot even imagine bundling him in a car and taking him to some sterile veterinarian’s office for his last minutes on earth – absolutely no way. We searched and found a vet that was willing to come to us, so he could die peacefully in his own bed, looking out at the birds as he always did, surrounded by his dog-siblings, his favorite things, and the people who loved him.
    Maggie recently posted..One Simple Thing: No-Brainer Organic Bread (even gluten free!) for Less Than a BuckMy Profile

  3. March 29, 2014 at 6:55 am

    My heart dog passed away at the mellow old age of 15 (he was a german shepherd!) about a month ago. We knew, of course, it could happen any time, but I was not at all prepared for the aftershocks. The loss of my friend and protector — the most intuitive and intelligent canine companion I’ve ever had — has affected my health (had to be hospitalized once already), my sleep, everything. Thanks, Roxanne, for doing this.
    Maggie recently posted..One Simple Thing: No-Brainer Organic Bread (even gluten free!) for Less Than a BuckMy Profile

    1. March 30, 2014 at 12:20 pm

      Maggie, I’m so sorry to hear about your recent loss and its affect on your health. I got super-super sick in February. I hadn’t been that sick with a cold in YEARS. I didn’t realize how much Lilly helped my health (even in her illness) until she was gone.

  4. Sam
    March 27, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    I’m still grieving – and some days I cry uncontrollably. Sam was a huge part of my life and had been through so much with me. Even more so, he was 100% mine – he loved Aaron, but he would always come back to me. Our other two dogs are more devoted to both of us. I realize there are things I’m struggling to do that was so easy with Sam – some blog posts, training, I haven’t made the pups a new collar since he passed… Making little memorials has helped – a video, drawings, etc – but I still feel I need to do that one thing for Sam that would keep him alive, somewhere, and I haven’t put my finger on it yet.
    Sam recently posted..Nearly Wordless Wednesday – There goes our productivity…My Profile

    1. March 27, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      I hope you find that ONE thing to help keep Sam alive. I have a few plans, but I understand that searching you’re feeling.

  5. Karen
    March 27, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Time is the only thing that really made it better. My family and I lost Cody our 7 year old lab a week before his 8th birthday. Out of my family I took it the heardest. In attempt to make me feel better my dad wanted to get another lab. In a little over a month we got Toby. I loved Toby right away, put it still hurt to think of Cody and in the beginning I went through a few days were I didn’t want Toby, I wanted Cody back. In some ways getting Toby, I thought was like a slap in Cody’s face. That it was like hey I got over you that quick. I felt so guilty. This happened in 2003. And there is still not a day that goes by that I don’t think of Cody.

    1. March 27, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      You know, Karen, another friend did get another dog soon after losing her Heart Dog, and she has admitted actually kind of hating the dog for a while because her grief / guilt was so severe. I worry about that transition for me if / when it happens.

  6. Elaine Wood
    March 26, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    After 11 years I recently lost my second heart dog Ben. Interestingly Ben was related to my first heart dog. And I think everything I LOVED about him I loved with my first dog Bree which I shared my life with 23 years ago. I never compared the two until now when I was thinking about the answers to your questions. But they looked alike, had the same great spirit and we’re true companions and friends.

    Two things have helped with the grieving process. First I had the opportunity to spend a week farm sitting for a friend about two weeks before Ben died. So I got to hang out with Ben all day and he was able to help with chores and moving sheep. He lived to work sheep and due to his failing heart hadn’t had a lot of opportunity to do so for the last year. He was so happy to get to come help and I was so happy to have my friend with me. The second thing that helped was everyone’s kind words and thoughts. I am lucky to be surrounded by so many friends who get it when it comes to the loss of a cherished pet. The posts that came flooding in on Facebook from so many people I knew from so many different areas of my life made me realize how BIG a part of my life Ben was. And reaffirmed what a truly special gift he was.

    The hard part of this grieving process is the huge whole in my life from his absence. Every time I come home and he is not there ( and I won’t say to greet me) because he never did greet me first. He ALWAYS had to find my cat Oliver first so he could herd him. He would not go outside until he found that cat first and then I had to make him leave the cat and go out to potty. Every single time for 11 years without fail. I still find myself wanting to call him to go out when I let the other dogs out. The other thing that has made this difficult is my other dog, who lived her whole life with Ben, is grieving. She is so clingy and almost fearful without her buddy. Makes me sad to see her so different. Although she is getting better with time.

    1. March 27, 2014 at 3:48 pm

      Oh, Elaine, thanks for playing along. I know your loss is SO fresh. I’m glad to hear you’re doing Ok. I’ll always remember Ben.

  7. JJ
    March 26, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    Isn’t every dog who owns us a heart dog?

    1. March 27, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      JJ – In my experience, no. I’ve loved / adored all the dogs in my life, but the relationship I had with Lilly was galaxies beyond that. For me, at least, there is a tremendous difference. If you’ve been lucky enough to have ALL Heart Dogs, then you are blessed beyond all measure.

  8. Lynn
    March 26, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    I lost my heart dog, Henry, over 30 years ago, and still feel a pang when I see a brave, scruffy little Yorkie. I didn’t get another dog until we moved to the country, 8 years later, because apart from Henry, I’ve always had big dogs, and don’t think they have much of a life in Manhattan. (I used to take Henry to work with me.)

    What made the grief better? Time. And believing that even though I was young and clueless and made mistakes, I did my best for him, and he spent most of his time with me, which was what he wanted.

    What made the grief worse? The feeling that a part of me was missing, physically gone. It was a constant reminder that kept me on the brink of tears for months. Plus what happened at the vet’s office when he was euthanized, which I can’t bear to think about, even after all these years. It was also rough being told that it wasn’t “normal” to be so abjectly heartbroken over a dog. My dearest friends understood, but some people seemed to think I should be over it in a couple of weeks.

    What else should you have asked? Perhaps if we think we can cultivate a heart-dog connection, or if it’s only a natural occurrence. I was drawn to my seriously damaged Tulip from the beginning, and I truly love her, but it’s been nearly four years, and I’m only recently seeing little signs that perhaps she’s learning to “love” me back. She’s certainly a heart dog candidate, but it has to go both ways to qualify, wouldn’t you say?

    1. March 27, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      That’s an interesting idea, Lynn — looking at the naturally occurring vs cultivated heart dog connection. Yes, I like to think it’s a 2-way connection.

  9. Dianne
    March 26, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    In 1995-1996, all three of our (old) dogs passed in a 12 month span. My mom passed the year before in 1994. From 1996-1999 we adopted 3 adult dogs, relatively close in age (ages are “best guess” b/c adopted as adults from shelters/rescues) who all passed within 17 months of each other, from July 2012-December 2013. One of those dogs was my heart dog. (Sobbing already as I am typing this.) My heart dog (Border Collie), was the 2nd of the three to pass, in Dec 2012 at age 17 (at least). Letting her go was the hardest thing I have ever done. One dog passed a few months earlier than her in July. The third dog, age ~16 when my Heart Dog passed, lived another year before we helped him transition in Dec 2013. I was devastated by the loss of my BC girl–crying all the time. Dare I say that I resented people who had young healthy pets? Sometimes I did. I felt her loss everywhere and everyday in every way. The three pups and I used to take numerous daily walks covering miles every day. Once my Heart Dog passed, the remaining dog was not able to walk (far) and I was reluctant to walk by myself b/c of neighbors inquiring about my (dead) Heart girl. I believed I would never get another dog, let alone another BC. The pain when they passed was too much to bear. However, about 9 months after my Heart Dog passed, thanks to much encouragement from my husband, I filled out an application with BC rescue. Our remaining dog at that time was ~17. We were approved and matched with my current love, an adult BC in Sept 2013. She has added so much to my life. I laugh and smile every day. She is an absolute joy. She softened the blow when our old boy passed. She is well on her way to being another Heart Dog–I’m starting to think my heart can only truly belong to a BC. Are all Border Collies such magical creatures? From childhood to almost senior age, I have lived with 11 dogs, a Cocker Spaniel, Fox Terriers (smooth and wire), shep/collie x, Springer Spaniel x, 2 GSD mixes, 2 Pit Bull mixes, and 2 Border Collies. I have loved all my pets dearly, but I believe my heart beats Border Collie. I still ache for my Heart Dog. I have whiskers saved, fav toys saved, portraits to memorialize her, jewelry with her photo, etc.–she is still a part of me. I still cry, but not as often or as long. Thanks to our newly adopted girl I am able to enjoy life again. I have followed your journey with Lilly, Roxanne, and I am so sorry for your loss. Everyone grieves differently, just know that others care and wish you the best, always.

    1. March 27, 2014 at 3:44 pm

      Thanks so much, Dianne. Indeed, border collies are something quite special to those of us who’ve loved them.

  10. March 26, 2014 at 11:25 am

    I have had several. Angel was our first as a wedding gift. She looked exactly like suki when she was older. At 11 i had to put her down because of cancer. Prince bubba was 10 with cushing disease and diabetic. We have always had 1-3 at a time i do rescue and special needs. Jr had diabetes for about a year he was about 7. After the may tornadoes in moore we left him and dashound at sitter and kept big dog with us. Jr past in his sleep and the hardest thing is we werent there. Now fizzy had thyroid and sharkey has cancer. It helps to read rainbow bridge but on different days i still miss different ones. Like us i know that day will come we have to leave here but life is fuller with the four legged companion. The joy they add out weighs the pain when they leave. Thanks

    1. March 27, 2014 at 3:43 pm

      Right now, I’m kind of stuck in the pain part, but you’re right to remind ME and others that there is much joy too.

  11. March 26, 2014 at 8:57 am

    My grief was eased some when we got our new puppy…I was so lost without the dog we lost and the puppy gave us so much love…

    1. March 27, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      Agreed, Kristine. In 2000, we had several deaths in our family (people and pets), and that’s when we brought our (now kind of old boy) Ginko home. We needed happy, and puppies definitely do that.

  12. March 26, 2014 at 8:47 am

    Thanks for the poll. The one question that it didn’t ask was if there were other dogs in the household–I said I haven’t gotten another dog, but I already had a second one, who is going to be my second place heart dog. Maybe first, when it’s all over, but I don’t think so, as my bond with Frisbee was so strong. I haven’t gotten a second one yet because Luna takes a lot of time with her illnesses and physical problems.

    What made my grief better? Having Luna already–being one constant. Time. But it goes in waves… hard to explain. I have done all the grieving exercises, support groups, and so on. But the ache is still there. Not all the time, luckily.

    1. March 27, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      Thanks, Hilary. I too am lucky to have one remaining dog in the house (though his health isn’t great). That helps so much. I worry how desperate I might feel if we lose him soon too.

  13. March 26, 2014 at 8:33 am

    A topic near and dear to my heart and one that I am writing a book about, too. In any case, I am so glad you asked these questions. I wrote about this, and my blog posts sums me up: http://fidoseofreality.com/anatomy-of-a-grieving-dog-mom/
    Carol Bryant recently posted..Why Some Dog Beds are BallisticMy Profile

    1. March 27, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      Thanks, Carol. I’ll take a look.

  14. March 26, 2014 at 7:03 am

    Such an interesting poll. I’m glad you’re taking it on.

    I wish I had thought about it a few days before answering. Because I finally decided that my true heart dog was my childhood dog who was my rock of stability in a chaotic and dangerous household.

    Even today, more than 40 years later, I still sob at the loss of this dog. But I didn’t lose him to death. Instead, he bit someone and went to be a guard dog as a compromise with the bite victim who wanted him put down.

    I might add a question for people who aren’t sure what a heart dog is or if they’ve ever had one. Some people don’t get the concept but the poll assumes it’s a given that most people have a heart dog in their lives.
    Pamela recently posted..Happy 4th Blogiversary!My Profile

    1. March 26, 2014 at 8:02 am

      Thanks, Pamela, for your example and the thoughts on additional questions. I did tailor the poll with that assumption, you’re right.

  15. Ishe
    March 26, 2014 at 5:56 am

    There’s something about the dog one has while your children are growing up. The pup that comes into the family when the youngest child is around 5 or 6 and who grows with them. The one that keeps a watchful eye on them and lends a presence when the going gets tough at school or with friends (or even with family). That noble creature who is so accustomed to being of use to us that being helped in her old age seems to embarrass this kind of nobility. The extra strips of carpet across the hard floors so she can feel her way out into the backyard in her blindness, and the elevated feeding bowl so she can bend down only to her level of comfort on arthritic legs. Even at that time she taught my adult children lessons of compassion. This is the heart dog that leads the family into maturity, every one of us.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 8:01 am

      I agree, Ishe. The dogs of childhood hold a special place, whether you know of them as Heart Dogs then or not.

  16. Susan
    March 26, 2014 at 5:07 am

    Time
    Those who said, “it’s only a …” Also regret for thing not done.
    Also had a heart cat; it’s about more than dogs.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 8:01 am

      Thanks, Susan. If this process goes well, we may do a Heart Cat version too.

  17. Sally
    March 26, 2014 at 4:01 am

    We lost Belle at 16 months during the operation to sterilise her. A week later we got a puppy, 8 weeks old, male. We had to fill the yawning emptiness…
    Sam has not in any way replaced Belle but he has helped so much to help us get over her loss, even though we will never be over it 100%, she was that special. It is so sad that such a loving being lives such a short life. Dogs have so much to give and teach. I could go on but writing about Belle brings that bloddy lump back to my throat. We’re like petrified of losing Sam now but cannot live without dogs or cats!

    1. March 26, 2014 at 8:00 am

      Oh, Sally, that’s just SO young to lose your Belle. I cannot imagine.

  18. March 26, 2014 at 12:58 am

    What made it better? Our rabbi prepared a Kaddish to say for my sweet little man. It’s not typical in Judaism to say a Kaddish for a pet, but when I took him in to be put to sleep after a two month battle with cancer, being able to hold him when he took his last breath and then say a Kaddish for his soul made it easier. I still miss him to this day and it’s been almost 4 years. 3 months after he passed I found out we were expecting, I know it’s weird but we’d been trying unsuccessfully for 8 years and suddenly I was pregnant with a due date the same day as his date of death. July 26th. I still feel like he put in a good word for me. As I type this I am crying, I still miss him so much. What made it worse? People’s inconsiderate comments. Plain and simple, without knowing it people make the most insensitive comments about the loss of a pet.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 7:59 am

      Alisha, I’m so glad to hear that your Rabbi helped you in your grief.

  19. March 26, 2014 at 12:41 am

    I loss my Newfy of 12 years, but I already had two other pit bulls I adopted. Tanker my big boy 1 1/2 year and Baby Star 8 months. If it were n’t for them i would have died. Then I adopted Georgia another pit bull. My life is good now, but think of my big Sentavo often, How I miss him.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 7:59 am

      Yes, Rena, we refer to our elderly dog as our lifeboat / life preserver. We’re so thankful that he is hanging in there. I’m glad things are going OK for you now.

  20. Katy Scofield
    March 25, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    What made my grief better? Sympathetic family who also realized how special this dog was. I never felt even my closest friends “got it”. Blasting loud music. What made the grief worse? Everyday things/items that he would have been there for. He used to do yard work with me, and I cried while mowing the lawn for months – still haven’t gotten the grove back. Questions I wished you’d asked: Why did I get another dog so fast? I decided that if I could live through loosing Ben, I could live through the loss of any dog, so now I adopt senior/medically needy dogs. The first dog I got right after Ben died came to me before I was really “ready” but she needed me. She died after I’d had her 8 months. I now have a 14 year old and an 11 year old with seizures. I was pretty sure no one else would adopt them from the shelters they were in. The best way I came to describe my loss was “Ben and I were of the same heart and the same brain. So now I am a broken-hearted half-wit.” Thanks for your work, this was good for me.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 7:49 am

      Oh, Katy. Your decision to take on elderly / needy cases is admirable. I don’t think I could face loss after loss like that.

  21. Naomi
    March 25, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    We lost our 12yr old rot mix late Jan, put down our 18yr old chi mix in April and 11yr old germ shep mix died in my husbands arms in May. It was hard, all from old age and illness. Two were all of a sudden, broke our hearts. After 6mths we spotted a pup that we adopted, but still feel the loss from our other pet kids. Our new pup helps the ache and void but the grief still lingers. We have not forgotten or replaced but having a puppy makes life amusing.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 7:48 am

      Ooph, Naomi. That’s just TOO MUCH loss all at once. I’m glad the puppy is amusing you, though.

  22. Denise
    March 25, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    Losing my heart dog, Brynne, was one of the hardest episodes of my life. The grief sent me into a downward spiral that nearly ended in suicide. I know not all people are so heavily affected by a death, but she died from a horrible accident that I blame myself for. How do you forgive yourself for killing your best friend?
    It isn’t easy.
    I eventually needed medical intervention and the care of a mental health counselor. What helped me through most was the support of my family who, thankfully, did not belittle my feelings over the loss of a pet, but understood and stayed by me.
    The other thing that got me through was her collar that still is on my bedside table. It’s what have of her and it’s comforting. We buried her under a willow in the pasture so I can see where she is.
    What made my grief worse? Any mention of her for a long time. I kept most of my grief under my hat, so that may have made it worse. People often think you’re crazy to grieve a pet like you would a human. I’m not sure all people are capable of making deep connections with animals.
    Love is a funny thing. It can hurt so deeply no matter where it is bestowed. I don’t regret loving Brynne, but I will probably not find the courage to love another dog.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 7:47 am

      Denise, thanks so much for sharing your despair over the loss. I wondered if anyone would mention suicide. I also appreciate your honesty about potentially NOT having another dog in your life. I suspect you speak for others who may not speak up in this public forum.

  23. evelyn
    March 25, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    My dog was over 15 years old and for a large dog, that is a good life expectancy. He started having health problems the last 3 years, so I think I started grieving in the last year or so before he died, as the medications seem to multiply and the vet visits became a monthly, sometimes weekly, occurrence. I cried more knowing that our time together was ending than I did when the day finally came.
    I was comforted by the knowledge that there was truly nothing more that could be done and that the most important thing for his suffering to end. It was a nasty winter day, and the vet was closed due to the weather, but it “today was the day .” He could not walk or hold his bladder, he just lay on the floor breathing heavily and moaning. The vet made a housecall, and we said goodbye to our buddy in front of the fireplace where he had spent many an evening at my feet. The local pet crematorium came to pick him up and he looked very peaceful.
    I made a slideshow and a blurb book, remembering all the different experiences. It turned into something of an obituary-tribute but longer! I’ve kept a few mementos of him–his tag, my favorite bandana that he wore after a trip to the groomer, a picture that my friend’s 6-year-old drew of him, the red rose and sympathy card that the vet sent…I’ll probably get a few photographs framed, or a portrait made, eventually.
    We did adopt another rescue dog not long after he passed. We wanted to give another abandoned dog the nice home that our buddy had enjoyed, and we knew our other, much younger dog was lonely without her buddy and needed a companion.
    As much as I love my two dogs, my late buddy boy will always be my heart dog.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 7:46 am

      Evelyn, I’m glad you could get the help you needed on that day.

  24. Patti
    March 25, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    A few things helped to make my grief better. The first thing I did was put together a FB photo album of Belle’s life starting from the day we brought her home and also scrapbook of her wonderful 15 years with photos, cards, her paw print & lock of fur. The next best thing was attending a Pet Loss Support Group and sharing Belle’s story. I was also asked to write & share our story which was published in the book Moments Like This. Belle was a therapy dog for about 5 years and by having our story published I still feel like she is doing her work and hopefully helping others.

    What made my grief worse was having Belle’s companion Heidi (5 years younger) go thru depression of missing her (they were together for 10 years) and also having her own medical problems. It’s hard not trying to compare the situations even when the circumstances are different when you are grieving. You constantly go to that dark place of thinking the worst.

    Belle suffered from pancreatitis the last 9 months of her life, lost half of her body weight but she was a trooper to the end. It’s about 3-1/2 years and I still have those moments that just catch me totally of guard, the tears start to flow and the heartache hits but then I remember how blessed we were to have Belle in our lives for almost 15 years. The hole in my heart from her loss will never go away, I just try to fill it with all the good memories of the love she shared.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 7:45 am

      Thanks, Patti, for sharing Belle’s story. I’m so happy you got it published. We’re also watching our elderly dog grieve Lilly’s loss. It’s hard to see him miss her so much.

  25. March 25, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    My 77 year old Father drove me and my dog(buster) to the vets the day we had to have him euthanized. You see, he had a hatch back and my Buster, a 15 year old yellow lab could no longer walk. For 2 weeks I kept him as comfortable as possible, covering his dog bed with puppy pads, cleaning him up after work every night and every morning, he was still eating and drinking normally, he was suffering from a condition,(rapid eye movement, inability to walk, like motion sickness) that a vet told me he would probably recover from. Twice daily I would try to get him up to walk, I used a nylon log carrier under his chest and belly to lift him up and try to get him to walk about. All to no avail. Finally I knew the time had come, made the awful appointment and my father and I took him up to the vets. The doctor and his staff could not have been nicer, making Buster comfortable, and showing incredible understanding to me. After it was over and my Buster was returned to the universe, my father and I drove home in silence. My father was very fond of Buster as well. When we were about half way back to my home the most astonishing thing occurred. A completely white (albino) white tailed deer almost ran in front of our car ! It was only about 15 minutes since we had left the vets! I had never seen one (except in photos). It was a doe, without any color whatsoever. Snow white from head to hoof. When I got home I consulted the internet as to what seeing the white deer could mean. White animals are sacred to most native American tribes, and the white deer signifies “profound personal change.” Although I still felt the loss keenly, I felt my best friend had sent me a powerful message, “Thank You”. I still miss him but I believe he was grateful for his release. I know we will someday be together again.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 7:44 am

      That a great story, Patrick. Thanks for sharing and for taking the survey.

  26. Jen
    March 25, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    I lost my heart dog in 2005, and though I had three other dogs(one lost just a month later) it was 4 years before we welcomed another. When Caleb died, I sent out photo cards with dates and ‘Sadly missed’. It eliminated the awkward questions about his health, and let friends know without having to speak about it. I like to think a peaceful passing, aided if needed, as a gift for the animal in exchange for all the joy their life brought. Life will never be the same, embrace it, appreciate the pain. In time it WILL ease, but you will have immersed yourself in memories and eventually only the joyful ones will remain.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 7:43 am

      Thanks, Jen. I still have neighbors stop me on the road on my walks and ask where Lilly is. It’s tough to keep telling folks that she is gone.

  27. Jenn
    March 25, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    What if anything made it worse? The fact I lost everything including my ability to care and house my Oscar for what would be her last 2 yrs on earth. That she suffered for almost 24 hours before her heart finally gave out. I was in the process of moving back to my hometown to be with her and she died 4 months before I made it home.

    What was the best thing?? She lived out her last few years with my sister who spoiled and loved her, so she was still with family who she knew since she was a puppy. This made having to surrender her due to circumstances and finances a little easier.

    Other possible questions to consider: what was/ is the worst part of the grieving process and are you on your own (single, live alone) or do you have other family members in your home. it makes a huge difference on the effect of the loss and the grieving process.

    My sister got another dog about 1 1/2 yrs after. actually a friend of Oscar’s, who was about the same age as my dog who use to come and play with Oscar named Kelly. Kelly lived with my sister before old age and cancer got to be too much. I like to think that Oscar was waiting for her and wondering what took her so long. And they just sit companionably beside each other on a grassy hill looking over the expanse and just glad to be reunited.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 7:42 am

      That’s a really good point, Jenn, about living alone. Thanks for that perspective.

  28. Rebecca
    March 25, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    What made my grief better? Knowing we had shared a happy life. Know we. Else rated life even when age and illness became factors. We found new activities that were easier at the time. My heart dogs never had a bad time during their lives.

    What made my grief worse?
    Missing them. Just missing them.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 8:14 am

      Agreed, Rebecca. The missing … the constant missing? Whew! Takes a girl’s breath away.

  29. March 25, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    What, if anything, made your grief better?
    -nothing did besides time and my husband, the most amazing dog trainer on the planet, comforting me… Which he still does to this day. He recently acquired a puppy for our family. I was dead set on not having another dog ever again. But my grief and apprehension to love another dog was unfair to my kids. So now we have a dog. And I’m pretty darn sure he’s my Maverick reincarnated. If he’s not, he’s teaching me how to love and trust a canine again…. So he is in our family now for a reason. It also comforts me knowing my kids and husband are getting the enjoyment that a dog brings.

    What, if anything, made your grief worse?
    -my own guilt. I still carry this almost 3 years later… I feel like if my male Maverick didn’t pass away, neither would’ve my female Sienna. She died of a broken heart 3 months after we had to put Mav down due to an unsuccessful fight with prostate disease. I couldn’t look at either one of their pictures until recently without turning into a crying mess.

    What else should we have asked?
    -if you have more than one soul mate dog, or if it’s the same soul returning to you.

    Roxanne; I’m sorry for the loss of your dog. I hope you are able to find comfort and peace.

    All the best,
    M

    1. March 26, 2014 at 8:15 am

      Thanks so much, Momo. That’s a really good question >>> -if you have more than one soul mate dog, or if it’s the same soul returning to you. <<<

  30. March 25, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    What, if anything, made your grief better?
    The thought that I know she had a good life.

    What, if anything, made your grief worse?
    I was the the that couldn’t afford to feed her and take my 13 year old dog to the vet. So I had to take her the human society, in hopes that someone else could. They put her down.

    What else should we have asked?
    how old was your dog, sex, and name.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 8:16 am

      I’m so sorry, Nicole, for the financial worries you faced. Thanks for your question ideas. I deliberately avoided asking the age thing because for so many people it’s considered a kind of insult … like if the dog was older, then the grief isn’t as bad.

  31. Maija
    March 25, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    What made it better?
    Only time has lessened the pain. It’s been 9 years and I’m still not able to talk about her or look at pictures though. I cry.
    Having the cat that was with us all through it has helped. He went into a depression when we lost our girl. I’ve never seen anything like it. Knowing he missed her as much as I drew me even closer to him.

    Worse?
    Trying to tell someone about how I miss her; what our relationship was like; how she tried to comfort me when she was dying.
    There is nothing worse than someone saying: She was just a dog; get another one!
    I no longer use the word “pet”. She wasn’t my pet… she was my best friend; my soul mate. The word now offends me.

    It was 3 years before I brought another dog into my home. I had to give it away. I’ve tried bringing other dogs home with me. I’ve had to find homes for them all. I feel like no dog will ever fill the hole she left behind. I feel like I’ll never be able to really love another one. How sad. Thank God I have my cat still.

    I’m sorry I cannot be of much help.
    Wish I could hug you.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 8:17 am

      Maija, you were a lot of help. Thank you. Your experience with not yet being able to bond with a another dog is an important perspective. I’m so glad too that you still have your feline friend.

  32. Deb Hazel
    March 25, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    What made it better: Before I brought her to the vet to end her life, I stopped on the way at her favorite field and we “walked” a little, she “swam” in her favorite waterhole assisted by me, and I picked up a rock where we rested. We arrived at the vet’s office wet, tired, and happy. I keep that rock, her collar, a stuffed Springer Spaniel toy, a tuft of her ear fur, and sympathy cards from friends, along with little stories I wrote about our adventures together. I think of her every day and these objects and reminders help me feel her spirit still with me.
    What made it worse: Family/friends who didn’t understand my loss. I don’t blame them for not understanding, it just made it harder for me. She was my best friend.
    Thanks for the opportunity to say this out loud.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 8:18 am

      Oh, Deb. I love the story of your last day.

  33. Nichole
    March 25, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    I have so many things to say on this topic. Growing up, I had two dogs, a German Shepherd mix and a Shetland sheepdog. We got the GSD mutt when I was in second grade, and he was my dog. He was that dog children have in movies, he went everywhere with me, I taught him tricks, he sat in my lap on car rides, we played hide and seek, he knew when I was coming home from school. Everything. When I was in 8th grade (so he was ~6 years old) my mom passed away and I had to go live with my dad–and couldn’t take my dog with me. He went to live with a friend on property, so he got to live a wonderful dog life, and in some ways it made losing him easier. He would be about 18 years old today, so I doubt he is still alive, but I lost touch with the person that took him, and because of that did not have to witness him aging and passing. That, in a way, is easier, but I still miss him and think about him often. He was by no means a perfect dog, but he was my dog.

    For about 7 years, I’ve been working with dogs. In college I started socializing dogs in a research facility, then volunteering the SPCA walking dogs. I met many dogs I fell in love with at the SPCA, but two I believe could have been THAT dog for me again. Both with GSDs, and one was incredibly responsive to me when we went on walks and would look at me to ask permission to chase deer, but would stick close to my side when we walked through the woods. He was a delight. I looked forward to him every day that I went. He was adopted very suddenly over my weekend and I cried. His name was Charlie. The second dog, Quinn, was found roaming the streets and had a very hard time trusting people. When I met her she wouldn’t let me pet her or show her any kind of physical affection. I worked with her for a few months. Then, the last day I would be volunteering before leaving the town for my winter break, I realized I wouldn’t see her again because there was talk of transferring her to a breed specific rescue group. I had already taken her out on her walk that day (a romp in the snow so exuberant that I lost my wallet) and I ran back to her run and gave her the biggest hug I could. Then I realized that she was LETTING ME hug her. A dog that once hadn’t let me put hands on her was letting me bear hug her. I cried and cried on my way home that evening. I was unable to adopt Charlie and Quinn because I was in college and not only would my apartment allow no pets, I knew I didn’t have the time or stability to commit to owning a dog. Quinn is still the background picture on my phone, 3 phones after I took her picture.

    I train dogs now, and meet dogs on a daily basis. I love getting to meet people and their dogs because sometimes I know that this is their heart dog, as you call it. They understand each other and communicate, they flow together. I see others that sometimes are healing with a new dog after losing their heart dog and I see them loving the dog but at the same time missing their old dog and feeling frustrated and confused all at once. I see other people with dogs they are absolutely not suited for, and that breaks my heart, too, because no one wants someone else to say “You aren’t for each other” and I would never want a dog to be without a home just because it didn’t get chosen my the perfect match.

    I think that because of how much I work with dogs, I will be extra careful when I decide to get a dog next. I know it’s not always possible to know which dog will be that dog, but I’ve thought that I will probably get an adult dog over a puppy, so I can have a better gauge of personality. If I get a puppy, I will do a lot of breed research to make sure I’m getting something like the disposition I want.

    I do live with a dog right now, but she’s not mine and she’s not my heart dog. I do love her, but it’s not quite the same.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 8:20 am

      Thanks, Nichole, for sharing your thoughts on this complicated topic. It’s good that you knew in college what you could and could not handle / provide. We love our dog trainer like a sister. She will likely play an important role if / when we are ready to adopt again.

  34. Becky
    March 25, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    I lost Kozmo after 16 wonderful years. I think knowing he had lived a full life was helpful in the grieving process. Also knowing that he was in pain at the end and I didn’t want him to suffer. The entire family was with him when he passed and I felt happy for him knowing he was out of pain. I will never have another dog like him, partially because he knew me before husband and kids came along. Rescuing another dog ( actually 3) Hs helped tremendously. Watching my son Kai form a very strong heart bond with one of our dogs(Stanley) has been a beautiful experience. Thank you.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 7:41 am

      Becky, I know other people who have mentioned the idea of their kids developing Heart Dog relationships. I’m glad your son has had that opportunity.

  35. JoniB
    March 25, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    On the replacing the dog question – we already had another dog. After Gracie passes I may not get another one. It’s too hard to say goodbye. And I have cats.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 7:40 am

      I’m glad your house isn’t empty, Joni. I’m sure that would be tough to lose a one and only pet.

  36. Maci
    March 25, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    My sweet boy came to me during the lowest point in my life. I wasn’t looking for a dog at the time, but it happened and our relationship was indescribable. When I lost him i literally felt like the breath had been taken from my body. I’ve had other dogs in the past, but Rex was my heart. He was a chocolate lab and to this day if I see a chocolate lab I cry crocodile tears. I will forever miss him, time does heal… But I still have my days of missing him terribly. It’s been a year and a half this week.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 7:40 am

      I’m glad to hear you’re hanging in there, Maci. I’m so sorry that it’s still so hard.

  37. Sue Draney
    March 25, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    Mine was poisoned so we waited a while before getting a rescue in case there was any left around. It was the hardest time.
    What made it better was connecting with her through Amanda De Warren pet psychic. She was magnificent only wanted to know the name and species and all done over the phone.
    What makes it worse in reading any reference to the rainbow bridge or other stories of losses. I cry like it just happened. Gone through dozens of tissues just doing this survey.
    Hope my answers help you. I do feel your pain but they say better to have loved even though it hurts.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 7:39 am

      Thanks for doing the survey, despite your tears, Sue. I’m so sorry to hear about the poisoning. Awful.

  38. Brenda Johnson
    March 25, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    What, if anything, made your grief better?

    I had always said that I wouldn’t get another dog when my dog, Bear passed, but within two weeks I went to the shelter to look for another dog. I missed my Bear so much and thought about him all the time. I didn’t want to replace him, so I looked for a dog very different than Bear. Finding my new pooch Lola has helped with my grief for Bear. Sometimes the grief still hits me out of the blue, but it gets better. And I really love Lola but it’s not the same as with my pooch Bear.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 7:38 am

      I wonder about that, Brenda … about the ability to bond with another dog. Thanks for your input.

  39. Molly Current
    March 25, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Oh, and one other thing that helped me—feeling like I’d really done the best by him that I could at the end. I gave him the best possible end, under the circumstances—it was a harrowing couple of weeks at the end, not much sleep, heartrending to see him in that condition and terrified of what was coming, but I was a good Mom, as difficult as it was, and for some reason that helped.

  40. Molly Current
    March 25, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    What made my grief better was getting a puppy, believe it or not. But I still had searing pangs for a long time afterwards when I would see something or remember something that brought Charlie alive again, just for a moment. Honestly, I couldn’t stand the empty house, the aimless walks, the gigantic void in my life. Getting a puppy was very healing—it brought me back to Charlie’s puppy hood, helped me remember things about him I had forgotten, and helped wipe out of my mind the excruciating images of his last few weeks. I still miss him, and think about him all the time, but I have a peaceful feeling about it now.

    What made it worse was scattering his ashes, two years after his death, in his favorite places in Seattle, where he spent his happiest years. I cried like a baby all over again.

    1. March 26, 2014 at 7:37 am

      I’m glad you’re feeling at peace now, Molly.

  41. Nancy B,
    March 25, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    What, if anything, made your grief better? Time was the biggest healer. Spending quality time with my other dogs was also healing.

    What, if anything, made your grief worse? Attending dog agility events where my heart-dog and I used to compete.

    What else should we have asked? If you have other dogs at the time of death, you aren’t necessarily “looking” to add another dog. The phrasing of the question “how soon did you get another dog” assumes that the owner is backfilling the position. Reasons for adding another dog can vary… In my case, I had three other adult dogs and a 9-month old pup already. I didn’t get another dog for several years but it had nothing to do with the passage of time of the heart-dog. Make sense?

    1. March 25, 2014 at 4:44 pm

      It does make sense. Thanks, Nancy. My loss is so FRESH that it’s hard to see beyond my own experience.

  42. Taffie Fort
    March 25, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    I lost my dog on the 13th of March and although I miss him terribly – I am currently looking for another dog. Taz was my heart and I know that I cannot replace him. But, we do have another dog and she needs a buddy to play with and I need the distraction.

    1. March 25, 2014 at 4:45 pm

      I’m so very sorry to hear the news about Taz.

  43. Margaret Duclos
    March 25, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    I just picked the last option on #6 & 7 because none of the options applied to me (have not acquired another dog yet, and have never lost another dog). I supposed I could have just skipped those questions though (duh ;))

    1. March 25, 2014 at 4:45 pm

      Thanks, Margaret, for pointing out those answer issues. I added some options so that others won’t face the same dilemmas.

  44. Barbara Sundholm
    March 25, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    there should be a question as to if the household included other pets, what kind,etc. We haven’t been “dogless” for more than 30 years – there’s always been an overlap of multiple pets for pretty far back.

    As for us, we had 3 dogs at the time we lost the dog this survey applies to. The grief would have been crippling had it not been for the remaining two. Knowing she was out of pain was something of a comfort, but thinking she may have suffered more than we realized made it all the more difficult. we fought so hard to help her, and dared to think she might survive her cancer.

    With her being a female, and the other two males, seeing her pink collars, leashes, sweaters, etc. hurt a lot, and still does. She loved fancy things, so I still tear up in the stores when I see things I know would have pleased her.

    1. March 25, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      Thanks, Barbara. That’s a good point. I don’t think I can add that option to an existing question, and I fear I’d mess things up if I added a new question now.

  45. Jane Steinlen
    March 25, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    What, if anything, made your grief better? The passage of time.

    What, if anything, made your grief worse? Every other loss that followed made me relive the days leading up to and following his loss. Twenty years later, I remain tormented by regret over actions that I wish I had/had not taken.

    What else should we have asked? Maybe something about whether or not we kept to the same routines/activities with our new dogs, and do we think we “held back” a little of ourselves with the next dog to avoid going through that pain again.

    1. March 25, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      Good additions, Jane. Thank you. Tom and I have talked about that. He said he deliberately tried NOT to get too attached to Lilly, after we lost Penelope, but it didn’t work. He adored her from the beginning. All of us did.

      1. Jane Steinlen
        March 25, 2014 at 3:55 pm

        I have one like that now Roxanne. It took her about 45 seconds to melt down my ice into a puddle of water. Looking forward to whatever comes next for you.

        1. March 25, 2014 at 4:46 pm

          Thanks. We’ll see. I’m still in bad, bad shape — with so much ahead before I can even think about it.

  46. March 25, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    I lost my dad and my heart dog (she’s the only heart dog I’ve lost so far) within a month of one another. In some ways–and I hate to admit this–the loss of Roxie was harder because she was a part of my every day, but I hadn’t lived with my dad for about 20 years, and he was a two-hour drive away. I loved him dearly, but Roxie was my baby–yes, a canine one, but I chose not to have human children in part because I was worried about how she’d deal with a baby. I didn’t want to put her through that. I know not many people would understand that. Her loss (a natural one, due to aging) hit hard, and nearly four years later, I still cry as I write this.

    However, adopting two other dogs (and later a third) took the edge off the grief. By focusing my efforts on training them and bonding with them and getting my fearful one to be a “real dog,” I feel good.
    Cathy recently posted..The Way Each Day EndsMy Profile

    1. March 25, 2014 at 3:44 pm

      Thanks, Cathy. I’m so sorry to hear of your compounded losses. I lost my mom in June 2013 and Lilly, my heart dog, in December 2013 … so I totally understand.

  47. Dee
    March 25, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    You asked how soon I got another dog after losing my heart dog. As a rescue person, I have for many years always had more than one dog in my care at the same time. Only once in my adult life have I lost a dog and had to come home to a house without another canine to help ease the pain. So the real answer to that question was not one month or six months but no gap at all. We all grieve differently. I cried into the fur of my remaining children who sorrowed almost as much as I.

    1. March 25, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      Good point, Dee. Thank you. Yes, we’ve always had 2 dogs for the same reason — never having an empty house. Our old boy (our remaining dog) isn’t doing great, though, so there is a chance we’ll lose him before we’re ready do adopt a dog again. So, I may be facing an empty house. Hope not.

  48. March 25, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    What, if anything, made your grief better?
    - knowing that while we hurt, SHE DOES NOT
    - having her legacy to keep alive
    - animal communicator
    - trying to focus on all the good memories
    - knowing we’ve given her our all (no regrets)

    What, if anything, made your grief worse?
    - we didn’t have any but I know that regrets make grief thousand times worse
    - being asked why she wasn’t with me when I’ve met people
    - people asking about it in general
    Jana Rade recently posted..Who’s Training Whom? Stick And TreatMy Profile

    1. March 25, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      Thanks, Jana. As you know, I actually do have some regrets … so the grief is really slaying me.

      1. March 26, 2014 at 12:38 pm

        Yes, a regret will get a person any time :-( (((hugs)))

        We did, of course, have our doubts and we do regret not being able to have tried the hyperbaric chamber … but looking at the whole picture, it seems things needed to happen the way they did.
        Jana Rade recently posted..Incontinence? Cookie’s Mysterious LeaksMy Profile

  49. jackie groom
    March 25, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Nothing but time passing made the grief lessen.

    Everything made the grief worse for the first few months. Every meal time, every play time with the other dogs, every empty space that he used to fill.

    1. March 25, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      Thanks, Jackie. I’m definitely in the stage where it’s getting worst not better, yet.

  50. Kari Hollman
    March 25, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    What, if anything, made your grief better?
    Knowing it was her time and she is no longer in pain. She knew that I loved her to the moon and back. Sharing stories about her with friends and relatives. Her iron will and sweet disposition…

    What, if anything, made your grief worse?
    Seeing her collar, leash, sweater, food bowls after she was gone. Being home alone was a killer for me. Quiet, empty house. Empty arms with no Mattie snuggles. Knowing there would never be another Mattie and her inner light was gone, put out by me… :( How can an animal be such an individual and be said to not have a soul? I don’t get that.

    1. March 25, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      Thanks, Kari, for sharing your experience. An empty house would be very, very tough.