Mourning the loss

Just the other day I was talking to a couple of big time dog lovers.  I could have stood there talking for the whole day probably.  At one point the topic turned to loss and dealing with the loss.  We mulled it around for quite a while; each taking time to share their loss stories.  The statement that we ended the topic of discussion on was that we need dogs in our lives.  No matter how difficult, sad, traumatic and devastated we are from a loss; we must do it again.  I have talked to many people who can never do it again; once they have suffered the loss of a life long canine companion they just can't do it.

I am often asked "when is the right time," by people who have recently suffered a loss.  There is never a right time; each and every person must deal with the loss in their own and very personal way.  One of the woman that I was talking to said that a particular dog of hers took her ten years to get over.  But then she shared her story with us about how she acquired the next.  She actually added a dog to her life on the very day that she lost her old girl but grieved for a full ten years after. It was a strange, sad and wonderful situation but it all worked out the way that it was meant to.  As she told me her story I thought that it was the most perfect way to explain to people "when the best time is."

As humans we tend to feel guilt for a great number of things.   The addition of a new dog after a loss is one of those things.  Many people ask me "am I disrespecting my dog if I get another right away?"  My answer to that is no.  Your dog is gone, yes; but that love you shared was so great that you cannot bear to not have a dog in your life.  That is a wonderful thing.  You cannot bring your dog back by waiting a certain amount of time.  Your dog is gone, perhaps one of the loves of your life.  By bringing another canine into your life you will be sharing that past love; all the things that you learned over the years with the next one.

I am not saying that you should go and get a new dog the day after you lose one; not at all.  I am saying that you should never feel as though you are doing wrong somehow by the first by adding another to your life.  When the time is right and you feel the need for a dog in your life, then do it.   The dog that you lost filled so much of your life and your heart that it may need some filling up in short order.  By adding another dog to your life, you in no way dishonor the last.  That grieving can continue well into the weeks and months that follow; with or without a new dog present.

Loss is a very sad thing but a fact of living with dogs.  Is there a right or wrong time to add another?  No.  It is never too early or too late to add a dog to your life.  The only question is how long you can live without the pitter patter of four paws on your heart.  


  1. Everything you said is so true. I personally have to have a dog in my life (usually I have numerous ones). It is not that I did not love my ones that have passed, but that love continues on into the lives of others that I have rescued. I have people who ask me how I can take the heartache knowing they might not be with me for question is how can I take it not offering love and life to another. You are an inspiration and I hope others take heed of what you have written

  2. that is SO true! I don't know how we ever lived without a dog for so long and now I can't imagine life without our baby. James will be 8 in February and he is such a good girlfriend said that he should be an ambassador for all that poodles are.......I dread the day that I have to let him go and run free at the Rainbow Bridge.. :'-(

  3. Oh my - we've addressed this very thing this year, and you are so very correct. I tell people as you said, "there is no *right* time". We lost our beloved Charley, a beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback who landed in our home as though an alien on a late frigid, rainy night so many winters ago. She was the heart and soul of our home, coming at a time to assist me at a time I was told I would soon lose the use of my legs permanently. A Rhodesian is a magnificently strong dog, and she could handle dragging me out of harms way. A concrete thinker, she was easy to train, but not a brain-trust, and she never needed to be. My brain was still in tact. Thankfully, I regained use of my legs, and have been relatively well over the years. My health becomes dicey at times, as I have lupus. When we lost Charley in May of this year, the question was, of course, "when?" We totally didn't want to start a puppy too soon, and being a behaviorist, and considering the lupus, I wanted a puppy that I could socialize early on and develop into an assistance dog for me. Having had Spoos for much of my life, and coming from what is unfortunately the stinkiest breed in the world:(, I wanted a Spoo again...ultimately. But not so soon. But...then there's the issue of potty training a puppy in the Northwest in the winter. Been there, done that, and OMG, it's just awful. I didn't want to wait until NEXT year...then, all of a sudden, Costello appears right in front of us. It was really TOO soon, Costello was actually born two weeks before we lost Charley! What we have learned is that Charley most certainly played a role in bringing us Costello - there are things he does - unique things - that tell us Charley is watching over all of us, as she always did. My husband was cuddling with Costello last night and said, "Charley would have adored you buddy." Oh yes, she would have, and I'm sure she does. We still miss Charley's brilliant smile, that she'd stuff in your face when you most needed it. Without any doubt, Costello is here to help us grieve Charley's loss, and Charley's here to help Costello take care us us too.


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