To some people, dogs are just an animal; to others, dogs are a core part of their family – an extension of their life. Despite how they are perceived, it is undeniable that dogs offer unconditional love that is often unmatched.
They protect us, offer their companionship, and are endlessly forgiving. They are always ready to take on any adventure with us, no matter where or how tired they are. All-encompassing, they seem to be on a mission to want to make humans happy.
Considering their role in our lives and the love they offer our hearts, it can be very challenging to deal with the the death of a dog. Whether you have experienced the a pet loss or know someone going through a loss, it is important to understand how to get through it and offer the proper support.
This article aims to help you express sympathy to someone you know who recently lost their furry friend. It is a comprehensive guide that will provide tips and examples of ways to navigate the situation.
Who Is Affected By The Loss Of A Dog?
Since dogs touch the lives of everyone, including other animals, when they pass on, there is a lot of grief to go around. Despite the relationship one holds with a dog, be it the owner or dog walker, the loss can be equally poignant and difficult to move on from.
FAMILY MEMBERS - ADULTS & CHILDREN
The caretakers of a dog often spend a tremendous amount of time caring for, entertaining, and providing companionship to them. They build routines around the lives of their furry friend and become accustomed to having them as an extension of their family.
To some, the loss of a dog can be just as devastating as the loss of human life. This can be due to the unique bond caretakers form with their dogs, which is comparable to a human bond.
In saying that, the loss of a family pet is a genuine loss to one's life, and you should never downplay the emotional suffering.
Children can take the loss of their family dog especially hard, and it can be challenging to find the right way to help them through the process. If you’re in a situation where you don’t know how to support a child during this difficult time, here is an excellent resource that will guide you on creating memorial projects with them, designed to help them grieve.
OTHER PETS IN THE HOME
Although we have no way of knowing precisely what a dog is thinking or how it feels, we can be sure of one thing; they have emotions just like humans. We can interpret their emotions based on their behavior and demeanor.
When a dog experiences the loss of another dog, they are likely to show signs of grieving and emotional strain. A few signs to look for are
- Decreased appetite.
- Lack of interest in playing or engaging in activities they previously enjoyed.
- Sleeping for extended periods of time with a general lethargy demeanor around the home.
- Depression may appear to set in.
Recent studies indicate that our furry friends also experience grief over the loss of other dogs they lived with. A survey was completed on 426 Italian dog owners who had two or more dogs living in their home, and 86% of them reported that their surviving dog displayed signs of grief.
These signs included negative behavioral changes, similar to those we indicated above. It's important to remember that dogs are highly emotional, just like their human counterparts, and as such, they should constantly be monitored during times of loss.
FRIENDS WHO HAD PLAY DATES WITH THE DOG
We don't need to spend profuse amounts of time with a dog for a bond to be built and as such, seeing them on playdates or walks in the park is enough to grow deeply fond of them.
If you know someone was close with a dog who recently passed, they may also need support to get through the loss. It is important to remember that dogs have a unique way of touching the hearts of most people and animals, so it would be wrong to think the owners are the only ones who feel the loss of a dogs passing.
IF IT WAS A WORKING DOG
Working dogs are no different from family dogs with respect to the love and companionship they offer their caretakers. Even more, when someone is working alongside a dog as their colleague, not only do they form a family-like bond, they also form a professional companionship.
A working companionship can present in many forms, including;
- People who worked with the dog through the company or organization. This companionship can be depicted in many capacities, including a dog trainer, dog groomer, K-9 police officer, pet sitter, kennel manager, dog walker, even veterinarians who have regular visits from the dog.
- Community people who were in contact with the dog or affected by the dog's work.
Why Should You Express Your Sympathy When A Dog Dies?
The simple answer is you should express sympathy because a loss is a loss, despite if it is the loss of human or a pet life. The great misconception is that grief is bearable when a pet dies and is not comparable to human loss.
However, that is simply not the case. Keep in mind that dogs have been a part of the family unit for nearly 40,000 years, so we have evolved to love and accept them as one of our own.
IT CAN HELP SOMEONE FEEL LOVED & SUPPORTED
As mentioned above, dogs are an excellent resource for support and love, and they are naturally equipped with powerful health benefits and the ability to relieve stress. In nearly 40,000 years of living as domesticated animals, dogs have evolved to become exceptionally attuned to our emotional state and can understand how to respond the best way they know. Considering this, when someone loses something so dear to them, they will need a lot of support to help them move forward.
Research has shown that dogs have the ability to correlate our tone of voice and certain words with how we are feeling. With this information, they learn how to respond accordingly, offering us the support we need in any particular situation.
Moreover, to the previous point, dogs are known to reduce stress, anxiety, depression and encourage acts of playfulness and exercise. According to studies, more than 90% of American dog owners acknowledge that their dog positively impacts their mental or physical health.
So when you're feeling down from a stressful day or significant life event, dogs are often an excellent remedy to calming your nerves and recalibrating your mental state to a more reasonable condition.
THE DOG MAY HAVE BEEN THE ONLY COMPANION
When a household consists only of the caretaker and their pet dog, it is understandably difficult when their furry friend passes. In this situation, the passing can translate to dealing with an empty and lifeless house, making grief much more challenging to manage.
Understandably, this can be devastating to anyone who lives alone and has no other household members to rely on. If your loved one lives alone and recently lost their dog, take the time to express your sympathy, so they have someone to lean on during a very lonely time in their life.
THEIR DOG MAY HAVE BEEN A SERVICE DOG
In many cases, people require service dogs to support and assist them in their life. This means when their dog passes; they are faced with grief from the loss of their companion and dealing with the loss of a life aid, further compounding the challenges of the situation.
Compassion dogs are trained to offer support in one specific area, and they go through behavioral training to ensure they provide the loving support their caretaker will also need. If you have a loved one who lost their support dog, this should not be treated differently from the loss of a pet dog.
In fact, your loved one may require additional support through their loss as they may require guidance on how to go about replacing their dog to ensure their needs are not neglected.
Support dogs work in a variety of capacities, including the following.
- Allergy Detection Dogs. They are trained to detect the smell of odors related to allergens, including peanuts, eggs, gluten, and so on. There are no restrictions on who they are paired with, but it is often with children since they may not have the ability to determine which foods they cannot eat.
- Diabetic Alert Dogs. These dogs are trained to alert other household members or set off an alarm if their caretaker requires immediate medical care. They learn this skill through intense training, which teaches them how to identify potentially-deadly blood sugar highs and lows accurately. They are often paired with elder caretakers who live alone with no one to support them with their medical needs.
- Autism Service Dogs. These dogs are trained to help their caretakers navigate social settings and life in general. They are often paired with children. The service dogs accompany them everywhere, including school and extracurricular activities. They act as a guide and help the child with confidence. They are also trained to ensure the children don't get lost or run away and have the ability to interpret potentially harmful situations. The loss of an autism service dog can be especially difficult for children as their dog plays a significant part in their young lives.
- Hearing Dogs. These dogs are trained to assist their human caretaker who is deaf or hard of hearing. When they hear or sense something, they will notify their caretaker by leading them toward the noise. This could be a walk signal at a crosswalk, a phone ringing, or a doorbell. These dogs are paired with people of all ages so long as they meet the special needs requirement.
- Guide Dogs. These are among the more popular service dogs and can be recognized as the dogs who wear a vest or special harness. They are paired with people who are blind or who have impaired vision. They are specially trained to help them safely navigate the world by acting as their eyes.
- Mobility Assistance Dogs. These dogs are trained to help their caretakers with reduced mobility due to neuromuscular disease or any other organic impairment. They are paired with people of all ages, most of whom rely on a wheelchair to be mobile. They help by retrieving objects and transferring them out of their wheelchair.
- Psychiatric Service Dogs. This type of service dog is trained to help people who suffer from psychiatric disorders or impairments such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc. Not only do they offer psychological and emotional comfort, but they are also trained to identify changes in mood and behavior and attend to their caretaker to help calm their episode or mood change. A loss of this type of service dog can be devastating to their caretaker since they offer emotional support that enables them to navigate the world rationally and with confidence.
As is displayed above, dogs serve in more capacities than merely a family pet. Their companionship can be the bridge someone requires to acquire a level of normalcy in their life. Remember to be patient and kind to a friend or family member who lost their service dog because they are likely going through a unique type of grief and stress due to their loss, thus needing extra support.
LOSING A PET IS A VERY STRESSFUL TIME
Many people have had their dog in their lives longer than some of their human relationships, so it should be no surprise when the loss causes a great deal of stress. Researchers have known for some time that the bond between dogs and humans is more robust than we anticipate.
A 1988 study conducted for the Journal of Mental Health Counseling concluded that 38% of subjects studied consider their dog closer to them than their closest human family member. Considering this, there is no doubt that losing a pet dog is very stressful for many people.
HONORING THE MEMORY OF A GOOD PET
The loss of any life should never go unnoticed. Honoring the death of a dog allows the caretakers to remember their pet as they were in waking life, which helps with closure and healing through the grieving process.
10 Tips For Expressing Sympathy For The Loss Of A Dog
There are numerous ways you can go about expressing sympathy for the loss of a dog. Most pet owners would be delighted and appreciative to know you have their beloved dog in your thoughts, and that alone is an act of kindness that they will appreciate. Below is a list of ideas to help you get started.
1. GIVE THEM TIME
It is always best to offer your condolences when someone is dealing with a painful loss, but do so at the most appropriate time. Also, you need to recognize that it is absolutely normal for your loved one to feel sad and overwhelmed with emotions; therefore, rushing them to feel better can only prolong the grief. Be sure that when you reach out to offer support, ask them if the timing is okay or if they would like to reschedule.
The best approach is to send a text message or make a quick phone call letting them know you are always available to chat when the time is right. It is always better to ask and confirm than to simply assume the time is right. When they reach out to you, you can move forward with your condolences.
Keep in mind that it is often the case that people try to move on from their loss quicker than their brain can process it. If you recognize this, express to them that it is okay to take their time with grieving.
When you finally get the time to talk with them and offer your condolences, remember to follow up to check on their progress. You can do this by sending them a follow-up text or calling them for a quick chat. This is an excellent way to show the extent of your sympathy and to show you care.
If you notice after some time that your friend is still struggling to accept the death of their dog, offering them resources can be impactful. If are looking for a resource to offer them, here is an excellent article that offers proven strategies to help with grieving the loss of a pet.
2. SEND A SYMPATHY NOTE OR CARD
Sending a sympathy card can seem like the least intrusive way to show your condolences, especially when you feel afraid of invading someone's space during a difficult time. You can send digital cards and notes if you prefer, saving you time and making it easy if your loved one lives a great distance from you.
How to Send a Sympathy Card of Note
- You always have the option to drop it off in person if you feel comfortable visiting your loved one during an emotional time.
- If they prefer not to have visitors, sending your card by mail is the most conventional and straightforward way to ensure they receive it.
- If you prefer to send an e-card for ease and simplicity, many options online offer this service. A widely trusted source is Hallmark, and they have a variety of options, including paid and complimentary services. The best part about their service is the cards come preloaded with messages, and the deal with mailing the card out.
Ideas for what type of message to write on the card or note.
"Losing a loyal and faithful friend isn't easy." "They will always be by your side, watching over you." "I can't imagine the loss that you feel."
"You were a fantastic pet mom/dad." "It was so obvious how much you cared for and loved (dog's name), and they clearly loved you back. You and (pet's name) are in my thoughts and prayers."
"You gave (pet's name) the best life. They were fortunate to have you as their parent. I'm here for you if and when you need anything or someone to talk to."
"It's hard to believe (pet's name) is gone, and I miss them dearly. They left a lasting imprint on many lives, including mine."
3. GIVE THEM A CALL & OFFER YOUR CONDOLENCES
You don't need to say a lot or make the phone call long. Simply call to check in to let your loved one know that you care. If you don't know what to say, try; "I am thinking of you" or "I care about you." If you want to add a little extra context, you can try mentioning something that is comforting to them, such as bringing up a memory of an event or special quality of their late dog.
Sometimes they need a little optimism to clear their mind of the grief, so consider reminiscing about funny qualities or behaviors you remember their dog having.
4. ASK THEM HOW YOU CAN HELP
Offer to help with basic needs or any arrangements they may need. It can make a world of difference to offer help with basic needs. If it fits your schedule, offer to take the kids to school. Suppose your loved one has other dogs in the home and is struggling to leave for daily walks; offer to walk the dogs. This will help alleviate the guilt they may have for unintentionally neglecting the exercise needs of their other pets.
If you are unsure of what else to help with, below are a few options.
- Offer to help with decisions about burial or cremation of their pet.
- Offer to help plan a small memorial service for their pet.
- Offer to be there to listen whenever they need.
5. REMEMBER THEIR PET WITH A PERSONALIZED KEEPSAKE
Everyone loves gifts and one of the most thoughtful times to give one is during a time of high stress and vulnerability. Gifts act as an excellent temporary remedy for grief relief. Receiving a great gift can make someone's life a little easier, especially if it provides comfort and happy memories of their late pet dog.
There are many options when it comes to a personalized keepsake, and it really comes down to what you think would be best for your loved one. The best part of receiving a personalized pet cremation jewelry is that it is a way of allowing a deceased dog to live on forever in the form of a tangible ornament or souvenir.
Below is a list of thoughtful ideas to get you started.
- Pawprint jewelry.
- Pet cremation jewelry or keepsake jewelry that can hold a lock of the dog's fur.
- Photo engraved pet pendant- A favorite photo of the dog or dog and owner etched into the front with a special text engraving on the back.
- Memorial portrait of dog - painting or sketch.
If gifting your loved one pet memorial jewelry is something you are interested in doing, here is a list of diverse options to get you started. In addition, here is an excellent resource that will guide you on how to choose pet memorial jewelry and the meaning behind them.
6. DONATE TO AN ANIMAL SHELTER OR PET ORGANIZATION
Donating to a shelter or non-profit is becoming an increasingly popular option to express your condolences. Also, some families may request donations to a charity or foundation in the deceased's name, especially if there was an organization unique to the deceased.
You can donate to a local animal shelter or their preferred veterinary office. Just make sure to ask which option they would prefer before you move forward with this option.
7. MAKE THEM SOME FOOD
When we lose something or someone we love, we tend to go into a state of shock and even temporary emotional or mental paralysis. It can feel impossible to get done with the simplest tasks, including taking the time to prepare food and eating regularly. Grief has a way of overtaking our abilities and making an already tricky situation unbearable.
Since everyone deals with grief differently, it is best to know which approach to take when extending your sympathy. However, dropping off prepared comfort food is almost always an excellent option, no matter who it is going to. It saves time from having to cook and buy food, and it will also go to use and serve its purpose, unlike some other gifts.
For anyone who lives far from their loved one, you can have food delivered via a catering company, Uber Eats, or Skip The Dishes. Furthermore, if you prefer not to have prepared food dropped off, you can always order a gift basket of packaged items such as cheese, crackers, and chocolate. The options are endless, and this is a real winner that will not let you down.
8. VALIDATE THEIR FEELINGS
As mentioned above, dogs have been incorporated into the family unit for thousands of years, yet, society still downplays the gravity of what it feels like to lose one. Some of the more common responses to losing our furry friend are;
"It was only a dog; don't worry, you can always get a new one."
"Don't be so sensitive; it was only a dog."
While it is true you can replace a dog with a new puppy or rescue, that is not the point. A loss is a loss, and the pain does not alleviate simply because it is an animal. It is important to remember that dogs offer unconditional love and companionship and are often part of families for nearly two decades. That is a lifetime.
Therefore, when your loved one is mourning a loss, be compassionate by validating their feelings. Allow them to reminisce and take the time they need to feel better. Their heart is broken and needs time to heal as their new normal sinks in.
Moreover, it is essential that people properly process their grief; otherwise, it will become dormant and never be resolved. Therefore, if someone is told they are being hypersensitive and should move on, they might just ignore their feelings and forcefully go about their life as usual.
With that said, you always want to be mindful of someone's grief and let them know that how they are feeling is valid and has merit. Never gaslight someone into doubting the validity of their feelings.
9. TAKE THEM OUT ON A DATE OR FOR A WALK
Sometimes the best remedy is to get outside and socialize with the people we love the most. When your loved one is ready, set up a day where you can take them out on a date. While this won't entirely remedy their grief, it is an excellent way to release endorphins, helping them feel better.
You don't need to do something extravagant. Something as simple as grabbing a coffee and walking in the park can make a big difference in how they feel. If they agree on a date, ask them if they have anything, in particular, they would prefer. If not, you can decide on something peaceful and straightforward without too much noise.
Remember, however; you might want to consider avoiding places known to be busy with dogs, such as dog parks or public parks popular with dog owners.
10. PLANT A FLOWER OR PET IN MEMORY OF THEIR BELOVED DOG
This is a special way to memorialize a deceased dog as the plant or flower will grow to be a living memorial, representing life after death. It will be a physical representation of your loved one’s dog. Moreover, it gives them a spot outdoors to visit when they are feeling overwhelmed.
Below are a few ideas if you are unsure how to pick a spot.
- In or beside the dog's favorite park. If the park is on private property, find a nearby location open to the public but ensure it is in a secluded spot.
- In a trail that the dog frequented and loved. You can plant it off the main route to keep it private and safe from being destroyed by a passerby or other animals.
- Near a riverway close to where the dog enjoyed swimming.
- Ask your loved one if they are okay with you planting one in their yard. This is an excellent way to keep them close to their dog, and it makes it easier to visit whenever they want.
Expressing Sympathy For Loss Of Dog Frequently Asked Questions
How do I comfort a friend who has lost her childhood dog?
The best way to comfort a friend in this situation is to be there for them. Let them know you’re available by reaching out and expressing your condolences. You can express your sympathy by offering them a gift or extending your offer to help with anything they need.
What do I say to someone who has lost their dog?
The first thing you will want to do is express your condolences for their loss. Be kind with your words, and when talking to them, incorporate the name of their deceased dog to acknowledge their existence. Treat it as you would the loss of human life by letting them know you are there for them if they need anything. This approach will let them know that you take their loss seriously.
Is it silly to have a memorial service for a dog who has died?
No. It is not silly. In fact, the loss of a dog is the equivalent of losing a family member so having a memorial service makes complete sense. It is also an excellent way to provide closure for the family and a beautiful way to celebrate the dog's life.
What type of sympathy gift should I get my friend whose dog just died?
There are many options you can choose from when determining a sympathy gift. This can include a pet personalized memorial keepsake, a sympathy card, flowers, food, or simply offering your time to talk.
How do I comfort another dog who has lost a dog companion to death?
The most important thing to do following the death of their dog is to offer your love and attention. You may need to be hyper-attentive to their needs to ensure they are not experiencing crippling grief that may lead to health issues.
Often, dogs refuse to eat and exercise, which can become a serious concern if not dealt with quickly. In the event they do not display signs of progress, contact your veterinarian and have them perform a checkup, as this can become disastrous.
Do children grieve more than adults over the loss of a pet dog?
There is no age limit on how much one will grieve over the loss of their dog. If someone creates a loving bond with a dog, they will suffer and feel a deep sense of loss despite their age. With that said, children may need to be explained where their dog has gone and why it will not return.
Should I surprise my friend with a new dog/puppy?
No, this is typically not the most practical and helpful way to extend your support. When we are grieving the loss of a dog, the grief does not simply go away by replacing our deceased dog with a new one. Doing this can worsen the situation, as your friend may feel guilty for entertaining a new dog in their home shortly after their loss.
Moreover, the new dog may not receive the caretaking support it requires. Leave this decision up to your friend. If and when they are willing to bring home a new furry friend, they will do it in their own time and when they feel ready.
How should I help someone who has lost a service dog?
Losing a service dog can be even more difficult because it means losing a companion who was also their medical support. The best way to approach this is to offer your sympathy and condolences as you would anyone else.
Additionally, if your friend lives alone and is waiting for a new service dog, you could provide extra help until they are set with a new service dog. Some people rely on service dogs for day-to-day activities, and the loss of one means their life will be put on hold.
Showing Them You Care
The most important and meaningful thing you can do is be there for your loved one. Don't feel overwhelmed and paralyzed with how to approach the situation. Most times, the best approach is to make it known that you're available to help them during their grief. Listen to their needs to get a better idea of how to approach the situation.
Most people will be thrilled with any expression of sympathy, so keep this in mind. Lastly, remember that grieving the loss of a dog can be as difficult as grieving the loss of a human, so be open-minded and accepting of their feelings.
April 11, 2022 by Jeri K. Augustus