Sit Stay Obey – Training the humane way

Dealing with the Death of Dogs

My relationship with a client usually begins with a picture of a precious pup or a rescue who is giving them a run for their money. Now that I have been training for quite some time, I am getting more and more gut-wrenching calls and pictures of those who have passed.

I don’t have as easy of solutions for hurting hearts, but because I lost both of my dogs over the last couple of years, I thought I would share what has helped me, in hopes of helping you at least a little bit.

My dog, Daisy, had an aneurysm. She passed instantly. While that was horrible, having to make the decision when to let go of a dog may be the hardest. Nobody wants to decide the day for their dog to die.

One thing my vet said that helped me was this: “When they no longer enjoy 2 out of 3 of their favorite things, then they are suffering too much.”

And the dogs, they just know. Their eyes usually tell you when the quality of their life is just too low. It’s a pleading look like, “Please. I need relief. Please let me go.” Anyone that’s seen “that look” knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Somehow dogs even know when it’s time for others to pass. A friend told me her dog started barking frantically at a pet bird. She walked over to the cage to see what was wrong, and within seconds the bird fell from the branch and died.

We continue to learn of how they can detect anxiety, blood pressure changes, seizures, even cancer.

Most of my blogs talk about how dogs have taught me best how to live, especially the one titled, “Cancer, Corona, and Canines.”

But for those of you who still have that hollow hole-in-your-heart feeling from the loss of a dog, I stand with you.

There are just some feelings in life we can’t process intellectually, no matter how hard we try. Grief is a about a broken heart, not a broken head. Allowing yourself to feel the emotions, actually helps them to pass.

I’m not sure anyone knows who the wise man is that said the following, but I wish I could give him the credit, because I think he knows best, and will help the most with your grief/loss:

“I wish I could say you get used to those you love dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to ‘not matter.’ I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had with them. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.

As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.

The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”

In his book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Viktor Frankl says, “Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for. For there to be meaning in life at all, there must be a meaning in suffering. Without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete.”

It is the constant, unchanging, pure and genuine love of a dog that makes their absence almost unbearable.

The thought of going through this pain ever again can be daunting.

I will never try to replace the special spots that each of my dogs have in my heart. They each have their sacred space. But I will get another dog. Someday. I hope you all do too because there are so many dogs who need good homes and deserve the living daylights loved out of them!!

I have a business coach that helps those of us who go into the service professions. He understands our big, raw and vulnerable hearts. We are always ready to rescue each other from the really dark places where life sometimes takes us all. To the outside world our passion-over-profit mentality can seem foolish, but he always reminds us that money doesn’t change your life. It accelerates what you already do.

Life is about loving and serving others.

Realizing that you and the ones you love are going to die actually helps you to live.

It is your relationship with people and pets that make your life rich.

Be intentional. Be present. This isn’t rehearsal. This is your life.

Live each day remembering that you and the ones you love will have a day that will be the last. And when that last day comes, go ahead and grieve. Just make sure grief is a season and not a lifetime, and go out and love another again. Someone, somewhere is waiting for you.

I dedicate this blog to all the rescuers (Beth Ann of Rescue Wagon– pictured in this blog, Angie Pierce, Denise Ruppe, Curtiss Lanham, Elizabeth Witte, Kristin Jordan, Frances White, Angie Thompson, MaryBeth McNamara, Tammy Livingston, Julia Stanzer, Arnold Alvarado, Tanya Thompson, Val Laing, and all the others who dedicate their life to serving others), to Keith Okano (my business coach with Closing Strong), and to my canine companions: Walker, Sparky and Daisy who were a constant source of love and joy for my family through the good and the bad times.

3 thoughts on “Dealing with the Death of Dogs”

  1. Mary Beth McNamara

    Very beautifully written, Sheila! I’m tremendously blessed to have you in my life! God bless you, sweet friend!

  2. Lauren Baker-Magalhaes

    ❤️❤️❤️ Love this. Thanks for reminding us of what is really important.❤️❤️❤️

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