How do you find the words to describe the devastation of losing a dog?

It’s indescribable. The day your dog crosses the rainbow bridge is one that dog owners dread with their whole heart. If you’ve been through the loss of a canine companion, you’ll know.

The pain of dog loss

The loss of a dog in childhood and the associated pain can come back to us in a flash when we watch a movie where a dog dies. Many of us would admit that watching a sad dog movie is the only thing that can make us properly cry those heavy mournful body-shaking sobs that only come with profound grief. 

When dog owners think of a dog loss, it’s hard to talk to others about it. A friend of mine just lost her dog recently and many of our exchanges have just been broken heart emojis. That sums it up, and fellow dog lover friends will undoubtedly be the ones there for the wordless exchanges. Retorts, which often mean well, like “it was only a dog – you can get a new one”, or “it’s not like you lost a (human) loved one” can feel invalidating and cruel.

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash


A dog loss story that touched us all

Thank goodness there are people in the world that can put complex emotions into words. When The Daily Show presenter John Stewart told the world about the loss of his beloved dog Dipper, dog lovers around the world felt united in grief.  From his tearful adoption story of how Dipper came into their lives to the immortal words “in a world of good boys, he was the best”, Stewart had us all reaching for our dogs to give them an extra scratch behind the ears or take them on their favourite walk, just delirious that they’re still with us.

John Stewart tearfully described how Dipper was ready, but he wasn’t. None of us ever are. And every time we hear of dog loss – on TV, from a friend, or in an article we’ve read, we’re painfully reminded that our loss is still to come.

Even as I write this, I’m welling up. The thought of having to face that day brings physical symptoms of nausea and a lump in my throat. It brings on a host of emotions that only those who’ve known deep grief can understand. It also evokes the reliving of old traumas, when childhood pets were lost one by one.

Give in memoriam to help street dogs


Remembering your dog

There are many ways of coping with grief after the loss of a dog. One of these is to have a memorial – scattering their ashes in their favourite place, planting a tree or creating a photo collage for your home. John Stewart paid tribute and highlighted the work of the Animal Haven rescue center where they adopted Dipper – another powerful way of honouring your dog’s legacy.

I read online recently a poem entitled ‘A dog’s last will and testament’ (Author unknown). In the poem, a dog seemingly expresses her dying wish – that her possessions and space in the home (and heart) of her human be given to a dog in need. I swear I’m not going to make it through this blog without crying.

It’s a beautiful sentiment to give to dog charities in memoriam when you suffer a dog loss. You will feel this particularly acutely if you had a rescue dog walk faithfully by your side in this life. It may take time before you’re ready to let another furry friend into your life but they will find you when you least expect it. And yes, 10-15 years down the line you may be in for another heartbreak but if you know the love that I know for my own best girl, it will be worth it.


A Dog’s Last Will and Testament

Before Humans die, they write their last will and testament, give their home and all they have to those they leave behind. If, with my paws, I could do the same, this is what I’d ask…

To a poor and lonely stray I would give my happy home; my bowl and cozy bed, soft pillows and all my toys; the lap, which I loved so much; the hand that stroked my fur; and the sweet voice that spoke my name.

I’d will to the sad, scared shelter dog the place I had in my human’s heart, of which there seems no bounds.

So, when I die, please do not say, “I will never have a pet again, for the loss and pain is more than I can stand.”

Instead, go find an unloved dog, one whose life has held no joy or hope, and give my place to him.

This is the only thing I can give…

The love I left behind.

 — Author Unknown


Photo: author’s own

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About the author

Vaila Erin is a writer, lover of animals, and a bit of a nomad. For her, life is about stories — observing yourself and others so that you can laugh, cry and entertain each other with its absurdities. Connect with her at or via LinkedIn.