Sunday, February 17, 2008

A dog's death

The other day I was listening to the Today Show and Jill Rappaport was interviewing a woman who had lost her dog. This woman compared the loss of her dog as equal to the loss of a family member.

As much as I loved the two dogs I owned in my lifetime for 15 years each, there was no comparison for me when my daughter died. We may get attached to our pets, we mourn when we lose them, but to make that comparison for me is unthinkable. Granted, there are similarities that while this woman who was interviewed may say she has never gotten over it and even had to go for counseling that ASPCA provides (just as a bereaved parent might go to a certified grief counselor), I can not personally compare the love of my dog to the love of a human being.

Everyone has a right to his opinion on this topic. I’d be curious to know how others feel about this topic of grieving for a pet being the same and as devastating as grieving for a family member.

As a side note: what I would like to see the Today Show do besides covering a dog’s death, is to ask one of us, the bereaved parent, how we feel as grief-stricken parents, to have our hearts torn in two, to feel like we’ve lost part of ourselves…part of our future. I’d like to see the Today Show cover our yearly national conferences and help us reach out to these parents so we can tell them that they will eventually be okay, maybe not for a very long time, but eventually.

Nineteen percent of adults in the U.S. have experienced the death of a child, any age, any cause. That is a high statistic that even the Today Show should take note of. Until the 1980’s there was no information or groups to help parents who had lost a child. Thankfully, now there are many sources a grieving parent can turn to, but still many are unaware of their existence and don’t know where to turn. Just as pet owners now have the ASPCA, we, too, have Compassionate Friends, Bereaved Parents USA, Alive Alone and many specific organizations related to the type of death experienced.

I can only speak for myself when I say, “Grieve for your pet or whomever you want in any way you want, but please don’t compare the death of a dog to the death of a human being.”


  1. No, the death of a beloved pet makes no comparison to the death of your child. Our children began life within the confines of our own bodies. They were nourished with our nourishment. They were encased in the waters of our wombs until they were ready to breathe on their own. Then the beauty of knowing our child truly filled our hearts with the purest love experienced outside of heaven I suppose.

    I saw that interview with Jill Rappaport and was struck by her ignorance. Then I always step back and think, "I wish I did not understand this pain!"

    The Today Show should interview some parents from Compassionate Friends. That is a terrific idea. Once Oprah had a special on "Getting the Clutter from Your Life" with several experts helping some families. One family was bereaved. As I recall it had been a few years maybe even 3-5 but the "expert" thought it was time to use the room for something else and talked about the unhealthiness of the ritual the family had of saying goodnight to the dead child. I remember thinking..."You just don't get it." Was it healthy? Not for me to judge.

    Phone The Today Show, Sandy! Make the suggestion.

  2. Well said. I love my pets (one of them is Jesse's cat named "Slashdot") and while it would be horrid to lose her because of her connection to him, I could never fathom comparing a pet to a child. Most people just don't think before they speak.
    Thank you for this blog. I appreciate reading it!

  3. wow. i came to the internet tonight because i can't get over the death of my dog. i was looking for someone else so i wouldn't feel so alone.

    i told my husband (who is just as upset as i am) that it feels almost shameful to still be so deeply grieving five years later. and that, if he had been my child- instead of 'just my dog'- i know my feelings would be much more accepted by society. and by myself.

    funny i should end up here, huh? i've never lost a child. i've lost family, friends, other pets. none have compared to this. i know i didn't give birth to him. but please try to understand that sometimes, if you are very, very lucky, you meet the most amazing creature, and you connect with them, like no one you have ever met in your life- human or animal. it's like God has given you this unicorn to look after and love.

    our dog was the center of our lives. and i know that seems incredibly odd to some people. i'm not asking you to live your life that way. just please try to see it from my side, as best you can.

    i'm sorry if this offends anyone. that is certainly not my intention. i'm just looking for answers, like everyone else.

  4. I just lost my wonderful cat Baxter. I found this webpage looking for grief counseling. I actually find it desturbing that anyone could think a pet is not the same as a child to someone that loves it. Baxter was with me for 10 wonderful years. He was by my side most of the days and slept at the foot of my bed every night. He never did a bad thing in his life and he never hurt me the way my children somehow manage to do. Baxter was murdered with Paraquat, a poison used in this Country all the time. I am having a very hard time dealing with the grief ant the knowlege that a human did this. I do not think I could feel any worse if it were my child.

  5. I wish the March 6th comment hadn't been Anonymous, I could have written that myself, except that our loss is pretty fresh. I would love to correspond with that loving soul.
    I do have a question though. What is it about people that they want to make their pain more than someone elses?
    My question for those of you out there that think that my loss is less than yours because my child had fur... Since it seems that your loss is more, because your children began life in your bodies, does that mean the loss of an adopted child is less too?
    Look, everyone hurts when they lose something they love. Some people don't like children, some can't have them, that doesn't negate their pain, that doesn't make their pain any less than anyone elses pain. Your own personal hell is just that, your own personal hell. The only thing that is different is that in losing a pet, while things are changing, you have to deal with people who think, well it's only an animal. You know babies are animals too, just like adults, just like dogs and cats.
    I would never think of telling someone who lost their child, fur kid or not, that they just need to get over it, that they need to be real, your pain is yours, uniquely yours and it should be respected.
    For the record, even the Pope said that animals have souls and should be considered mans equal. My little girl, my unicorn, she was a adoreable, compassionate, loving little monster, and I miss her. I loved her more than I have ever loved anyone else and I loved her to an extent that I didn't believe possible. I am grieving her loss, just as others grieve their losses of ones they loved, and we all deserve compassion, we don't need to compete.

  6. Yeah, sure. I don't see my dog as my 'child'. I see her as my older sister. The only one in my life who defended me against my pedophile rapist of an uncle when I was a kid. She barked at him when my family wouldn't so much as raise their voice to him. She chased him out of our yard when my family would welcome him in with open arms. When I lost all faith in humanity, it's the kindness of other pet-lovers who I met through HER who enabled me to not be afraid of people anymore and to eventually build loving friendships and relationships.

    You tell me that species and blood-ties validate your grief more than it will mine when I lose my girl.

  7. I came across this site last night and was so upset that I decided to come back to comment. For a site that purports to be about surviving grief, and healing, you're doing a bang up job with this post.
    Please do a little research about pet loss, which it's clear you haven't done, you might be flabbergasted to find out that many professionals actually acknowledge that the loss of a pet can be more difficult than that of a relative or friend.
    Yes folks, losing a mere animal is worse than losing a human, which as pointed out earlier, is an animal.
    Not everyone is lucky enough to experience a deep bond with a pet, just like some people don't bond well with their kids or even other humans in general. But for those that do, the lucky ones who manage to encounter a special soul, losing their pet is very likely the worst loss that they experience.
    This world while full of beauty, is difficult to navigate and no matter who you have found to help you in your journey, be it a significant other, a child, a pet, those relationships mean something. To lose a beloved pet (and I have to tell you, pet is such a lowly word for what I mean) who has stood by you when all others have failed you, is devastating.
    Sandy you may feel that by OWNING dogs in the past that you can relate to people losing their pets, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Sadly if you OWNED pets then you never have enjoyed the type of bond that a few here in your comments have. I never owned any pet, I shared my life with my dog, my best friend and my soul mate. Losing her was far worse than what I experienced at the loss of my father and friends that have passed. *GASP* Yes I have lost other people close to me and none of that grief even begins to compare to what I am going through now. Oh and thanks to the insensitive who think she was a lowly animal I get the added benefit of being mocked or told my grief is less significant.
    Stop for a moment and consider that there are those out there that can't have kids, or who choose not to, and then consider that they form a bond that you can't begin to comprehend, to another creature. They form their life around this creature, they share their life with this creature and then this creature dies. Then toss in ridicule for their grief from friends, associates, random people and blogs on the internet. Imagine the damage YOU are inflicting on these people who are so very despondent.
    I personally cannot understand wanting a child, I don't enjoy them and I do my level best to stay away from them at all times. I dislike children. Now that I've said that, understand, that I don't think your loss is insignificant. If you tell me it's the worst loss that you have experienced I believe you. I don't understand it because I don't feel the same way, but that doesn't stop me from feeling compassion for your loss and it doesn't make me go to a public blog and declare that you really don't understand what real grief is. No matter what I feel or think, I validate your grief and console you, it is the caring and compassionate thing to do.
    Sandy, your very own post, your very own misunderstanding makes me so much more happy that I have chosen to share myself with non-humans. My dog never judged me in the fashion that humans do, she loved me and accepted me faults and all. I have never found that acceptance with a human and I am certainly not finding it here.
    I have little confidence that you will take any of this to heart, apparently you feel if people haven't lost a human child that was nurtured in their womb, they don't have a clue and that is so very sad to me.

  8. My 21 year old daughter died 6 months ago. A month after her death, I was working with someone that I had never met and we were on break together. She said she was so grateful to be working because it helped keep her mind off of her dog that she had to have put to sleep the week before. I could have just nodded my head. She knew nothing of my situation, but I just couldn't let it go. I said, "I know what you mean. My daughter died a month ago." She immmediately told me how sorry she was and while I thought I would have taken a small bit of pleasure of making her feel bad, I didn't. It made me feel worse. While I still think there is no greater pain than burying a child, I have no right to invalidate the pain she was feeling by trying to one up her.

  9. I came here after googling "surviving the loss of a dog" and didn't realize what this blog was about.

    Bella was like a child to me. I can't have children. I had her for 11 years. She was loyal, loving and protective.

    This blog has only made me feel worse.

  10. Clearly Sandy Fox does gain something from invalidating others pain. It's a shame that she felt it necessary to say that what one feels when they lose a pet, is insignificant in light of her loss. We all feel pain and experience grief in our own way. Not being able to have children, my dogs are my children and losing them will be the most horrific thing I have to endure. Even my inability to have a child pales when I compare it to the mere thought of losing one of my dogs. I came here hoping to find wisdom to help my friend who lost her poodle, I leave here angry and disgusted. My dear friend shared her life, every day with her companion, for 21 years but that means nothing to some.

  11. I lost my beloved Sidney,10 year old Tibetian Terrier last week,i am beside myself with grief.I got Sid at a time when i had a lot of problems.He was plagued with health problems throughout his short life,and died in my arms of heart failure at the vets.
    How can you say it bears no comparison to the death of a child?
    He gave me love,respect and changed my whole outlook to life!
    He was gentle,loyal and funny!
    We went everywhere together here and abroad.
    I do not need to give birth to create the special bond we had.
    It will take a very long time to recover from my grief,I MISS HIM!!

  12. I have read many of the comments on this blog regarding the issue of pets and feel that those comments should perhaps be confined to a website connected with Compassionate Friends. For anyone who is familiar with Sandy Fox's writing, she recently published an article in TAPS magazine-Tragedy Assistance for Survivors offering support SPECIFICALLY FOR PARENTS WHO HAVE LOST A CHILD. I think it is unfair to hijack this website to discuss deceased pets when the intention of the website was to give voice to those of us who have lost children. I also wrote an article in TAPS Magazine in the Fall of 2010 regarding the loss of my only child to the war in Afghanistan in February of 2007. The article was entitled "Photo Journaling-Remembering Adam's Story". My son was a crew chief on a chinook helicopter with the 160th Special Operations Regiment. While serving our country on his second rotation, my son and four other crew members and two special forces soldiers died in a helicopter crash due to a combination of bad weather and engine failure while transporting special forces troops. There were originally 22 people on board but because of the bravery of the crew in their attempts to land, 14 soldiers survived including one crew member. The purpose of the article I wrote was to encourage parents when they are emotionally ready, to pull out photographs of their beloved children and recreate their story through scrapbooking or photo journaling. In my case, by creating several scrapbooks I found that it helped to work through a great deal of my pain and grief by not only rediscovering who my son was, but I was also able to recreate his life as a legacy to my five year old grandson. Through photos, poems that our son had written and memories that I have created in a story format, I was able to memorialize and honor our son in ways that will keep his memory alive for our entire family. Thank you Sandy for creating this website! Signed-A Gold Star Mother

  13. The loss of a loved one is heart breaking. It doesn't matter if your loved one was a loving pet or a child because if you truly loved them, the end result of that loss will be the same...SORROW & DESPAIR.

    My seven year old, Simon, died last year and I'm completely heartbroken. I think about him every heart aches because I will never see him again. I feel inconsolable.

  14. I am sorry for the loss of your child. I think you are very wrong. I lost my little girl, Sophie. She was a 9 yr old shihtzu. It has torn me apart. I still don't know if i'll survive. I don't think you should even make a comparison. The most wonderful and important thing in my life has gone away. I am in hell. You cannot tell me you have suffered more than me because your child was human. Again i'm sorry for your loss but you will in no way belittle the loss of my little girl. I would pick her over a human child any day. She is more important than anything, and better than any human child could ever be. Why even make such a comparison? If the most special and joyous person in your life is gone, you suffer horribly. I want to die. I can't believe people even try to say there situation is worse.