How to Cope When the Family Pet Dies

We got him at 8 weeks old. He was the cutest thing on four legs.

Photo by Cheryl Cox on Unsplash

The kids adored him, and at the time, we had two girls. He was my third child.

He was super protective of the kids. When they went up the street to play at the neighbors house, he would sit on the neighbor’s front step until the kids were ready to come home. No matter what treat I offered him, he refused to budge.

When we went to bed, he made the rounds of each child’s bedroom, making sure everyone was okay. Then he would settle into his place at the top of the stairs for the night.

After my ex left, he would damn near get attacked anytime he tried to visit, which was fine with me.

He was thirteen years old and he was a beautiful companion. It’s been ten years since I had to have him put down because of back and hip problems that are common with the breed at that age. He could barely walk, and was incontinent. It’s still difficult to even think about without crying.

Prior to this day, I had spoken with the vet about the possibility of surgery. He told me that it might be an option, but my dog would be in pain and on medication for the rest of his life. And all we’d be doing, was prolonging the inevitable.

That wasn’t an option for me.

I put it off for as long as I could. I know. Selfish. Even thinking about doing it broke my heart. It does to this day.

So one day while the kids were at school, I called my brother, he came over and we loaded our family best friend into my van, and made the trip to the vet’s office.

If I go into too much detail, I‘ll be too emotional to finish this piece, so I’ll just say that after it was done, I sat with him in my arms for almost 2 hours while my brother waited for me outside.

I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard, before or since.

I took him while the kids were at school, because if I waited until they got home, there’s no way we would have been able to do it. When they got home, I told them what I did that day. They were sad. We cried. But he was in such bad shape that they understood.

One morning about a couple of months after that day, my oldest daughter woke up and came into my room. She said “Mom…I had a dream, and I have to tell you…” I sat up, and she continued. “It was about Tommy. He spoke to me.” I prepared myself for more tears.

She said that in the dream, she was at a park where there were lots of dogs running around, and there was a lake running through it. As she looked around, my brother in law’s dog ran up to her, and asked if she was looking for Tommy.

She said, “I was like, ‘What’s Bear doing here?’” because as far as we knew, Bear was fine. My in-laws hadn’t told us that anything was wrong with him, so we were both puzzled as to why he was in the dream.

In the dream, Bear asked her “Are you looking for Tommy?” and she said “I guess so”, and he said “I’ll take you to him. He’s over here!” And he led her to a spot by the lake where Tommy was lying, enjoying the sun.

When he saw her, he jumped up and started licking her face. She said that he loved it where he was, and then she said, “he said to ‘tell mom to stop crying, I’m really good’”.

As soon as she uttered those words, the waterworks started for both of us. I must have cried for 2 days.

A couple of months later, my brother in law came to visit with his wife and kids. As we sat down to dinner, we started catching up on family gossip. When we asked “How’s Bear?” He said “Oh didn’t we tell you? Bear had an inoperable stomach issue, and we had to take him to the vet...”

It was as if time stopped. My daughter and I looked at each other across the table, and we both burst into tears.

I told him that our dog was no longer with us, and then my daughter told them about her dream. When I said, “but we couldn’t figure out what Bear (his dog) was doing there…” he and his wife leaned back in their chairs and said, “ohhhhhhhh”.

With the exception of the sound of me sniffling, the whole room was quiet for about 2 minutes.

Think what you will, the dream helped give me some peace. I still cry, because it’s like I lost one of my ‘children’, but I used to wonder about where our pets go when they pass on. Now I’m pretty sure I know.


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Single mom to 3 grown ups. Growing into my writing career and enjoying the progress. I write mostly about self discovery, self improvement and relationships.

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