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How To Cope With Losing A Dog

It’s a subject that unfortunately happens all too quickly for dog lovers.

I have written over 100 articles on this site now and I must confess that this is probably the article I have been dreading writing for an awfully long time.

I really didn’t want to write it.

It’s been very difficult to write and although it has been 12 years since my beautiful boy passed away, I think about him all the time.

I know people may well think that is strange as I have adopted other wonderful dogs since he died, but he was our first dog. Our first Greyhound and he holds a very, very special place in my heart.

I think one of the reasons that I have found writing this article, this story, for such a long time as it can be sometimes quite difficult to see the keyboard as my eyes keep filling up with tears as I type.

If you have ever owned a dog and had to see them pass away then I dedicate this to you.

I want to share my story and also the way I have tried to deal with my grief the best way I and my wife could and hopefully in some small way, it may help you too.

The cruel trick that life has played on us all is that the wonderful dogs we take into our lives, our hearts are only with us for a relatively short time.

I never really thought about it when I first adopted my Greyhound, Albert.

We had moved out of the town to the countryside in 1999 and had decided that it was time to get a dog so we could enjoy all of the wonderful countryside walks that were around our home.

I had always wanted to get a dog when I was a child but it had always been met with a firm “no” by my parents and to be fair, it would have been very difficult to look after a dog as well as I wanted to.

So fast forward 14 years after I had left school and now, here I was with an opportunity to actually get a real dog to come and live with us in our home.
It was really an exciting time.

We had moved to a small village in rural Dorset and they had a monthly or was it weekly?….. I can never remember, but it was a really excellent free paper/magazine, called The Blackmore Vale.

In the adverts section to do with animals, they had the following small classified lineage ad that just jumped out at me:

Gentle Retired Greyhounds
Need Loving Homes
Call: xxxxxxxxxx For Further Details.

And that was it!
I was hooked…..completely!

And so it began, our journey into getting our first dog.

We had a home visit by the Greyhound rescue agents to see if our home was suitable and thankfully. it was.

A few days later we received a phone call saying that there was a dog available if we wanted him….”YES!..Of course…” I replied and so it was off to Wales to pick him up.

Bringing a dog into your life when you have always wanted one, but never actually owned one, is of course very treacherous waters to be in.

My enthusiasm was infectious to my wife who also really wanted this new addition to our home, but in retrospect, we hadn’t really known what we were letting ourselves into.

By making that commitment and getting a dog, and in our case, a rescue dog, we were surely in for a very steep learning curve.

I have mentioned in past articles about learning to speak dog and in reality that’s what we had to do with our first dog,.

He was called Albert and for me, it was love at first sight

Not because he looked fantastic. He really didn’t.

He had been picked up at 4 years of age roaming the streets of South Wales by the dog warden.

Underfed, full of sores, and had signs of abuse, initially they were going to destroy him.

As he was a Greyhound, they got in touch with thee fantastic souls at Greyhound Rescue who raced to Albert’s rescue and saved his life that day. They nursed him back to an acceptable level of health that he could be rehomed and that was where his life changed forever.

I drove a 375-mile round trip that day to pick him up.

When I first got introduced to him, he was so nervous he wouldn’t even look at me.

This bag of bones and skin looked so scared of what was happening that he just shivered with fear.

Getting him into a totally inadequate car on the back seat and then driving home was a challenge.

When we were finally home, I was so relieved to of managed it on my own.
The absolute first time I had owned a dog and a 4-hour car journey to boot…l in one go!

When my wife, Sue, came home from work, she walked in to see me and Albert sat together on the couch, she looked at him and burst out crying.
“What’s wrong?” I asked and she replied, ” oh, I am just so pleased to see him..and I am also so sad for what he has been through to get here….”

It’s moments like these in your life that you realize that you are with the right person and that you absolutely know that for certain that this new guy, this Greyhound our Albert was in the right place finally, with the right people that were going to make his life as brilliant as it always should have been.

We were novices.but were prepared to learn.

That is in essence what this entire website is about really, learning.

Sharing information, tips, help and it’s from years of study and trying to understand what it means to have a dog in your life.

As the years went by his trust in us and our love for him grew.

You try not to think of a time when he wouldn’t be around and we even got another Greyhound as a friend for him as well after a couple of years.

Polly was our second Greyhound and sadly, she passed away a year before Albert.

That was a hard time for us all both my wife and I were absolutely distraught when Polly was put to sleep in our lounge by the vet as I held her and Albert stood there silently watching everything.

As she was wrapped in a blanket and taken out of our home, Albert walked gently behind the vet as he wanted to know where she was going.

As humans, we understand love and how it works.
Its anyone’s guess if dogs have the same emotions running through them, but why not?

I certainly believe they do and so do countless other dog owners.

When Polly as spayed she returned from the vets quite poorly because of the anesthesia.

We put her upstairs in our bedroom and hand-fed her for a few days as she was too unwell to be on her own. Albert went up the takes and led by her side to keep her company, to keep her warm, and to let her know he was there for her.

That made my wife cry again.

He loved her. He loved being around her and even when she made him give up his seat or place in front of the fire by literally just standing near him until he got fed up, he still loved her.

Secretly, I think he liked this little black Greyhound girl bossing him around.

They never argued over food and used to eat side by side with no issues at all.

I think the 5 years they spent together in our home were hopefully and probably the happiest of their lives.

I know they made us happy and I am pretty sure they knew that too…..we sure told them it enough!

1 year after Polly died, so did Albert. It was 2008 and a dreadful, dreadful year.
Sue had lost her Dad that same year.

You get these years when you own a dog.

Really dreadful years and they take a lot from you in terms of emotion and you have to dig deep within yourself to try to find a way to deal with your sadness, your grief.

When you have a dog in your life they are really unlike any other kind of pet because a dog really wants to be with you and they show that every single day.

The loyalty of a dog is truly an incredible thing and unless people have had a dog, non-dog owners never really understand that.

Trying To Come To Terms With It All

In the last few months of Alberts life, he had started to show signs that he wasn’t too well. Obviously, we took him to the vet who said that he was showing signs of old age and didn’t seem to be in any pain.

He advised that maybe he would benefit from shorter walks and more rest and that is what we chose for him.

He was 14 years of age by now and that is quite old for a Greyhound so we always felt blessed that we had him for so long.

Caring For An Older Dog

9 wonderful years to be exact.

In that time he had run off 3 times to the next village, some neighbor’s homes, and once he jumped into the boot of a neighbors car as they were unpacking groceries!

He never wanted to leave us, he was just seeing if we wanted him back I think….all of his escapades were always half-hearted like that.

He had traveled with us on our holidays and had moved up the country with us when we lived there for a few years and always adapted really well, but now, toward the end of 2008, it had all caught up with him.

The last night he was alive he was very poorly and was struggling to lie down because of pain. I knew that his time was almost up and I had told my wife that I think in the morning we should call the vet to come and help him pass on.

Oh my God…the tears we both cried that night….

I scooped Albert up in my arms and laid him on my bed and got in next to him. Normally, this would of been met with a growl by the boy and he would have decided to hop off, disgruntled that I had cramped his style!

But not tonight. Not on his last night.

I laid with him and held him all night until the morning.

My wife and I sat with him and then we made the call knowing that within the next hour our beloved boy would be gone from our lives forever.

The vet arrived and she was wonderful. She explained to us that it was time for us to say goodbye to him and she could tell that we had looked after him so well.

She offered her words to try to soften the bombshell of us about to lose him and then I held my boy in my arms as she applied the injection to put him to sleep, to stop his pain and suffering, and to let him slip away and go to that mystical and wonderful place called The Rainbow Bridge.

Wrapped in a blanket, our boy was taken from the house and placed gently in the vet’s car and then it was over.

The emptiness and the tears continued. 

The lead was placed on the sideboard along with Albert’s collar that bore his name.

I just stared at it and the tears continued to flow. I felt like I had been hit in the chest by a sledgehammer and wondered if I could ever feel better again.

My wife and I were so upset and we had many people in our lives who were also so sorry to hear our dreadful news and people online were great too at offering their condolences.

It helped us a lot.

They say that time is a great healer and that you come to terms with losing a dog.

I think that we all grieve differently. It’s 12 years on now and I still miss him hugely. I still cry when I think about him at the end.

So the time has been different for me.

Moving On But Never Forgetting

The only way my wife and I could deal with our loss was to get another dog. We had to.

It was our way of coping and I am sure it is different for everyone who reads this post, but for us, it was something we simply had to do.

1 month after Albert passed we got another Greyhound, called Oggy. He was very different to Albert and I remember picking him up in Newton Abbot with my wife and her just sitting in the back of the car holding him, and I knew that Albert would have been very happy that we had given another one of his brothers the chance of a good life.

I simply knew he would have been looking down, with his tail wagging in approval.

Getting Oggy was the absolute best way for us to deal with losing Albert.

When you really love having a dog and enjoying all the things that you got the dog for, the walks, the play and the companionship…when it is suddenly gone, you feel lost.

Hollow inside, like something huge is missing from your life.

All the wonderful things about having a dog are suddenly gone in an instant, the instant that your dog, your best mate…draws their last breath.

It’s a sense of feeling lost of duty..of purpose. I looked forward to my daily walks with Albert so much that to be suddenly not able to do them was a very troubling feeling.

I also felt guilty too.

Guilty that I wasn’t helping Albert’s memory by not giving another Greyhound in need a much-needed home.

I think it was a combination of all of those feelings that made us get back into the mode of becoming dog owners again.

It worked for us and it may well work for you. We can’t be without a dog now because of the incredible journey we started in 1999.

Because of all of the wonderful things, Albert taught us about being good dog owners.

Because of all of the mistakes we made and how Albert never judged us.

But most of all because we knew it was the right thing to do.

As dog enthusiasts, trainers, owners, and people who just love dogs understand already, dogs really are incredible friends to the human race.

And I think that we owe them so much for making us better people, that it has to be the right thing to do when you are faced with the emptiness and darkness after a dog has passed on……to give another dog a chance too.

I hope that in some small way my words can offer some kind of comfort and I know it is the most miserable thing I have been through three times now..and no, it never gets easier either.

Nothing that means so much is ever easy to say goodbye too and dogs, and specifically my three Greyhounds Albert, Polly, and Oggy have all left me and my wife with such fond and rich memories, that It really was a ride that we never wanted to get off.

You simply have to keep moving forward……

Words are powerful. Words are comforting.

This wonderful poem by the late great James Stewart is probably the most moving way to remember your dogs and I know that you will have tears in your eyes by the end of it.

It gets me every time I hear it. It is simply magical and beautiful.

Those tears are because YOU were the best thing that ever happened in YOUR dog’s life… and I simply know, that they all thank us for that.

I am thankful that I became a dog owner.

I am thankful for those wonderful dogs showing me how to be a better person.

And in this crazy world we live in, having a dog to share your life makes it so much better!

Eusoh Cool
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