How to Comfort Someone Who Has Lost a Dog
As heart-breaking as it is to lose a dog, it is also hard to know how to comfort someone grieving their fur soul. These words, quotes and sample texts can help. Be kind, check in often, honour the dog’s life and purpose. Support them through the five stages of grief and watch for signs of depression.
One time, a fellow nurse tearfully told our team that she lost her dog suddenly in a terrible accident. After a round of hugs, I invited a few of our closest colleagues to contribute a couple of dollars for a bouquet of flowers. All were grateful for a way to show their sympathy, except for one (not a nurse) who laughed and said, “Are you for real? It’s just a dog.”
Her unkind words still echo quietly, but ultimately, they inspired the rest of us to open our hearts and show great kindness during that nurse’s painful loss. At first, we may have been awkward in our words of support but we learned what to say and what to do to support her through the stages of grief.
What To Say When Someone’s Dog Dies
Despite death being a part of life, we can still fumble over our words when talking to someone who has lost a dog. Here are some suggestions on what to say in those first few moments:
- I’m so very sorry. Your dog was family and I can’t imagine what you’re going through.
- We share in your heartbreak. We are here for you for as long as you need us. We all loved (your dog).
- (Your dog) was everything to you and this situation is heartbreaking. I’m here to walk through this with you together.
- I see that you are in so much pain. I am here to share that pain with you and to wait for the day when a little joy will come back into your memories of (your dog).
- I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Having a dog will bless you with the happiest days of your life, and one of the worst days. I am here for you.
Spirituality, Religious Beliefs and the Afterlife
For those who follow particular religions, making reference to a special saint or ascended master can be comforting. For example:
- St. Francis is the patron saint of animals in the Catholic Church and may offer comfort to pet parents
- Some Buddhists may be more comfortable with a simple, sincere acknowledgement of the importance of the dog’s life, as the concept of “loss” is not relevant like it is in Christian religions. It may be appropriate to honour the dog by wearing white and passing along love and compassion to others, just as the dog did in his lifetime
- For spiritual people who find comfort knowing their dogs have an afterlife, they may find peace reading about the evidence that dogs have souls.
What Not to Say to Someone Who Has Lost a Dog
If you’re reading this, you care about dogs and their pet parents. You won’t be like my colleague who mocked our nurse friend’s loss by saying, “it’s just a dog”. Nevertheless, we may not be aware of the harm that some words can cause during this intense grief.
Avoid saying these things to someone who has lost a dog:
- At least he lived a long life. Dogs have a short lifespan to begin with – even if they outlived the average time for their breed, their time on earth is never, ever enough.
- You knew he would die before you. Of course they did. But the times of joy and love were cherished and never long enough. If one doesn’t risk loving another being for the fear of death, what is the point to life and love? Whether we have a dog for a month or a decade, we give our hearts fully and deserve support through the grief.
- When are you getting a new dog? Hopefully no one would ever say this to a person who has lost a child, parent, sibling or friend – of course they are irreplaceable – and so is their precious fur soul. Give the gift of love, patience and time for the pet parent to grieve fully. They will never be able to replace their beloved dog, just as children, parents or friends could never be replaced. In time, the heart will heal and it may be time to embrace a new fur soul, but he will be unique and not a replacement.
- He’s in a better place. Although you may believe that this is true, it can add to feelings of separation and isolation. For the person who is grieving, the “better place” is the place where dog and person live together.
- Stay busy. Grief is a long, difficult process. Although taking on extra activities can be a welcome relief from the pain, make space to grieve. Avoiding it can lead to anxiety, trauma-related symptoms, addictions, coping problems and even physical disease. Like letting a painful infection drain from a wound – or recovering from major surgery – we must pay attention to the healing process and not distract too much from it. Continue with normal activities, but don’t avoid grieving by distracting from the necessary journey of healing.
What Can I Say to Comfort Someone Who Lost a Pet – Over Text?
Texting is our reality. It allows us to communicate any time of day or night, to people anywhere in the world. To some, texting may seem impersonal, but it can still be comforting.
Here are some tips for texting someone who lost a pet:
- Send a text as soon as you find out about the dog’s passing. The pet parent needs real time support. The text can be simple such as , “Oh, my friend I just heard about (your dog’s) passing. I am sending my love until I can hug you in person.”
- It’s ok to use emoticons with your text. Emoticons like a single rose, a paw print or heart can share how you feel without relying simply on words
- Send texts frequently. Although it depends on how close you are to the person who lost their dog, a text every day or two that simply says “thinking of you” can have a positive impact.
- Invite the person to talk more personally on FaceTime or zoom, if they’d like. You can text, “I want to check in to see how you’re doing – can I FaceTime you?”
- Text to share comforting quotes or supportive articles such as, Do Dogs Have Souls?
What Can I Do to Comfort Someone Who Has Lost a Dog?
As difficult as it may be for you, it is a hundred times more difficult for the person experiencing the loss of their dog. Make the effort to connect and comfort.
Don’t Fade Away or “Not Bother” the Grieving Pet Parent
Those that believe they shouldn’t “bother” the grieving often do so to protect themselves from uncomfortable feelings. Embrace your discomfort and remember that reaching out is an act of kindness toward others. If the grieving person really doesn’t want others around, they may be depressed or in mental health crisis. Keep reaching out and watch for signs of depression or suicidal thinking.
Things You Can Do to Comfort Someone Who Has Lost a Dog
We have experienced some incredibly kind gestures following the deaths of our dogs. Here are some of our favourite ways to show your support:
- Send flowers. Flowers fill a home with life, beauty and nature. Their soothing scents can calm the nervous system and support healing. Our favourite bouquet is a combination of:
- lavender (to calm intense emotions, plus purple is the colour of the spiritual crown chakra)
- eucalyptus (to decrease nasal congestion from crying, plus green soothes heart chakra)
- white roses (pure love)
- pink carnations (symbolizes self-love and caring for self)
- baby’s breath (symbolizes innocence and everlasting love)
- Drop off a prepared meal. Those in grief may neglect caring for themselves. Support their health by dropping off a meal. We will always remember a kind friend who drove an hour to leave a package at our door – a tray of lasagna, a bottle of wine and flowers.
- Send a sympathy card. A card validates the important relationship the person had with their dog because, it’s never “just a dog”.
What Can I Write on a Sympathy Card for Someone Who Lost a Dog?
You can get special sympathy cards for the loss of pets. Or you can write your own sentiments.
Use any of these or change them around to say what your heart feels:
- May you always feel the loving paws of your Fur Soul around you.
- Your beautiful hands helped lift up your Fur Soul into the Heavens – may you feel the peace and kindness that you showed your (dog) through his entire life. (These are comforting words for people who needed to euthanize their dog).
- Your home seems empty now without (your dog). I pray that – with time – comfort and joy will once again fill your home with the memories and love of (your dog).
- We are taught that angels have wings – your angel had four paws
- Dogs are rays of light that sparkle on Earth for a short time to brighten our days – when they pass, their light turn into stars.
Add a few memories or things the dog loved to do:
- Your (dog) was always so excited to see me! I loved how his eyes would light up.
- Your (dog) was such a personality – remember how he would hide your shoes in his bed?
Best Quotes to Write in Sympathy Cards
If a personalized message isn’t your style, or you’re looking for something timeless and inspirational, consider quotes from your favourite authors, philosophers or artists. Is there a favourite song that echoes your sentiments? A poem? Religious verse?
Best Quotes about Dogs
- How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” – Winnie The Pooh
- “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” – Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss)
- “Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them and filling an emptiness we didn’t ever know we had.” – Thom Jones
- “Like a bird singing in the rain, let grateful memories survive in time of sorrow.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
- “The bond with a dog is as lasting as the ties of this earth can ever be.” – Konrad Lorenz
- “Until we meet again, you will live on forever in my heart” – Unknown
- “One day, all the dogs who we’ve ever loved will come running toward us; and that’s going to be a great day.” – Unknown
- “Those we love don’t go away; they walk beside us every day. Unseen, unheard, but always near, so loved, so missed, so very dear.” — Anonymous
- Message from the Rainbow Bridge: “It’s ok to miss me even though you know I am still near. Do not rush yourself through the grieving process. I need you to take care of yourself, to be kind to yourself as you heal. I’ll be with you every step of the way. @rainbowbridgeraina
- “Death cannot separate two hearts meant to be together forever.” – Unknown
- “Someone asked me what the most difficult thing about having a dog was. I replied – the goodbye” — Unknown
- “Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love, they depart to teach us about loss. A new dog never replaces an old dog, it merely expands the heart. If you have loved many dogs your heart is very big.” — Erica Jong
- We love quotes from the song, “Everything Reminds Me Of My Dog” from Canadian icon, Jane Siberry. It’s quirky, fun and lightens the heart. It may be a way to remember the dog with joy
What Can I Get Someone Who Lost Their Dog?
Gifts are meaningful and can last throughout the grieving process and beyond. Here are some beautiful, heartfelt gifts for someone who lost their dog:
- Commission an artist to paint or sketch a picture of the pet. A small sketch in a tiny frame and ribbon makes a lovely ornament for a window, Christmas tree or indoor plant.
- Buy a sentimental Christmas ornament. There are many beautiful ornaments like angels, dogs, rainbow bridges and engraved sentiments. The beauty of this is that, by the time Christmas roles around, those who have lost a pet may begin to feel joy again at the memory of their Fur Soul, rather than the dark grief experienced early in the loss.
- Plant a tree. If the person lives nearby, offer to take them to a nursery to pick out a special tree or plant as a memorial. An extra special gift might include ordering a plaque with the dog’s name on it. Our dogs were fascinated by our Japanese Maple trees – to the point where they literally ate two of them! The third one now grows in a memorial garden dedicated to them.
- Make a donation to the pet cemetery where the pet is buried. You can even purchase a bench or contemplative space with the pet’s namesake. Offer to contribute to a gravestone if the person wants that.
- Write a poem. Our neighbour wrote her heartfelt condolences to us in the form of a poem and we cherish it.
- Give a memory box with a picture frame. People who have lost a dog will appreciate a memory box to hold cherished items, such as a collar, tag, crystal pet charm, fur clippings or ashes. Offer to print a favourite photo of the dog for the top of the memory box.
- Dogs are connected with nature and nature beings. Check out stores that carry gifts like dragonflies, butterflies, birds, squirrels, fairies and angels.
- Offer to pay for a virtual session with a Reiki Master. Not only can Reiki be a profound method of releasing intense emotions and moving through grief for pet parents, specialized Animal Reiki Practitioners can also direct healing energy to the dog at the moment of his transition. Contact Healing Fur Souls for a virtual consultation.
The Stages of Grief and How to Support Someone Grieving the Loss of a Dog
The stages of grief apply to everyone – whether we lose a person, a dog, a job, our health or something else important to us. Here’s how to support someone through the five stages of grief after losing a dog (E. Kubler-Ross):
This first stage ravages a person with the raw sense of numbness and disbelief that occurs right after losing a dog.
Support someone in this early stage of grief by:
- Listening. Be ok with silence and resist the temptation to fix their grief or fill the space with words. Simply listen.
- Validate whatever emotion they are experiencing. Sadness, numbness, anger, relief, fear – all emotions are valid.
- Help them with self-care by providing meals, frequent check-ins and offer to help with housework or child care.
A person can become angry when reality sets in, blaming the pain from their dog’s death on vets, family members or other circumstances. Here’s what to do:
- Do not take anger personally.
- Validate that the anger is from a place of pain, “Your pain must be so deep right now; this is terribly hard on you.”
- Don’t let the person’s anger drive you away – they need you now more than ever.
This state of confusion often comes from a place of guilt. People wonder if they could’ve done more to prevent their dog’s death. They might bargain with a higher power or speak of “just one more day” with their beloved fur soul.
There are two things you can do that may provide comfort:
- Remind them that they did everything they could with what they had or knew at the time
- Encourage them to reflect on the ways their dog helped them achieve their life purpose. A helpful article to share is Do Dogs Have Souls?
This profound sadness can be a temporary reaction to grief, or a serious state of hopelessness that can indicate a mental health crisis and risk for suicide. Check in with your friend frequently, and get help right away if they show any of these signs:
- stopped taking care of themselves
- inability to talk about the future
- giving away possessions
- talking about suicide, being a burden or “ending it”
- suicide plans or attempts
If there is another pet in the home, ask how he is doing. Pets who have lost a fur sibling can experience depression too.
This is not the end of grief. It is the time when one can begin to breathe again and allow a bit of joy to replace grief when remembering their dog. Support a person through this stage of acceptance by:
- Talking about joyful or humorous moments with their dog
- Speaking about the dog’s unique personality and how they can never be replaced
- Remembering the dog. This may the ideal time to memorialize the dog by planting a tree of remembrance, going through their memory box together, visiting the pet cemetery and smiling about the joy that this beautiful Fur Soul brought.
Be kind to all beings. Respect the earth we share.