Dog Love > How Do You Live Without Your Dog?

How Do You Live Without Your Dog?

If you feel like you can’t go on living without your dog, you are not alone. Your heart is broken into pieces – and those pieces are welcome here. Join us as we say goodbye to our beloved furry friends and animal companions. You will find comfort, strength and encouragement as you read through these ideas and insights on how to live without your dog.

These tips for surviving your dog’s death are inspired by a question from a reader. “I have no family, I’m divorced, no friends, am very depressed, and my dog is the only friend I know,” says Jeff on Comforting Prayers for the Loss of a Dog. “She needs to go to heaven but what about me after this is over? Who can be with me to do this, are there any organizations to help? I don’t think have the courage to do this alone and I fear for myself when it’s over.”

Living without your dog different – and some say more difficult – than coping with the death of a human loved one. Why? Because as George Eliot said, “Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” Your beloved dog was always there for you, unconditionally loving, listening, and passing no judgment on anything you said or did. And when you touched, petted or groomed your dog you were flooded with feel-good hormones, such as oxytocin and endorphins. So was your dog! And that’s why learning how to live without your dog is so painful.

“Time always brings eventual relief from the pain and your life will return to normal,” writes Gary Kurz in Cold Noses At The Pearly Gates (a book that offers many spiritual ways to survive pet loss). “There will be a time when you feel guilty for feeling better, but event hat will pass. Nothing will ever take away the sense of absence, but the disabling and relentless grief will subside and eventually disappear. I know it may not seem that way now, but…it has proven true every time.”

Time helps. And in the meantime, here are a few practical tips for living without your dog.

How Are You Living Without Your Dog?

“Grieving the loss of a pet encompasses all the same elements as grieving the loss of anything else,” writes Dr Lisa Lembeck Roberts in The Anatomy of Grief: Processing the Loss of a Pet. “There may be different intensity levels, but the process is similar. It’s important to remember that each individual’s way of processing grief is as personal as the individual herself – so not matter what you are feeling, rest assured it is normal to be feeling it.

You are normal. It is normal and healthy to feel sad after your dog dies. You are grieving a major loss in your life, and the feeling that you can’t live without your dog is not abnormal or crazy.

For the first few weeks, avoid visible reminders of your dog

Though it helps some people to keep their dog’s collar and tags, it may be too sad for you. People mourn, recover, and remember in different ways.

How Do I Live Without My Dog?
How Do I Live Without My Dog?

Here’s what pet bereavement counselor Wallace Sife writes in The Loss of a Pet: “Get rid of your pet’s toys and other things…they are mostly painful, and not good for you at this time. If you can’t throw them out yet, put them out of sight in a drawer or a box in a closet or basement. The real memory is in your heart.”

Seeing your pet’s collars, leashes, dishes, and beds in their usual places may make it harder to heal. Maybe one day you’ll donate them to friends or an animal shelter, or use them for a new pet. But for now, it may be best to put them out of sight.

Find furry friends to love and care for

Do you live alone and feel like you have no friends, family, or neighbors to lean on? Think about getting another pet.

“My responses to each of my pet’s deaths differed in duration and intensity, depending on how quickly the end came, how much we suffered during their decline, and how many other pets I had,” says Sid Korpi, author of Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss. “The silence of the house when our dog Ludwig died was deafening because we had no other dogs at the time. It was tougher than when Mortimer left us, because we had our two Westie girls, Blanche and Keely. I didn’t love or miss Mortimer less intensely, but I was forced to pull myself out of my pain when the girls needed me. They reminded me life has to go on whether we’d like to wallow in the past or not. I’d feed them with tears rolling down my cheeks.”

Give yourself a sense of purpose, a reason to live

“One of the basic human satisfactions is the feeling of being needed, and attending to an animal gives many people a daily sense of being useful,” writes Gary Kowalski in Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet. “It is important to know you make a difference, at least to one appreciative creature. For some people, losing a pet can mean losing a sense of purpose.”

However, before you can contribute and feel useful – and before you feel ready to live without your dog – you may need to grieve. How do you say goodbye to a dog you’re afraid of living without? It depends on you, your personality and perspective. Some people find prayers and the presence of God comforting. Other people need a practical role or focus that helps them walk through their dog’s death. If you are having trouble grieving and letting go, consider a pet memorial service to say goodbye to your dog in a more formal way.

Learn the difference between “passive grieving” and “active grieving”

Choosing to actively grieve loss and death will help you learn how to live without your dog.

When you passively grieve your dog’s death, you:

Living Without My Dog
  • Ignore the pain and hope it goes away
  • Suppress or push away feelings of grief, pain, anger, and loneliness
  • Focus on the loss of your dog or cat
  • Allow your sad emotions to dictate your thoughts and actions
  • Replay the images of your dog’s last day or hours
  • Refuse to work through tips on how to cope with your dog’s death

Passively grieving the death of your dog seems easier and safer because it means you don’t have to face the painful emotions. But, not actively grieving your dog’s death leads to worse – and prolonged – pain. Passive grieving does not help you learn how to live without your dog.

Avoiding your grief doesn’t help you heal your heart and make room for a new dog in your life. It shuts you down and stops you from coping with your dog’s death in healthy ways.

Actively grieving your dog’s death, on the other hand, involves:

  • Allowing your painful emotions to rise up, even though it feels unbearable
  • Expressing your sadness, bitterness, pain, and loneliness
  • Exploring different ways to memorialize or honor your dog
  • Talking to animal lovers who coped with the death of their own beloved dogs
  • Trying different tips for coping with dog death, focusing on which are most helpful

Coping with your dog’s death in active ways is more difficult in the short run but much healthier in the long run. And, active grieving will help you get ready to invite another dog or cat into your life.

Hold on to your hope and faith for a future you can’t even imagine

Do you think your life is meaningless and empty without your dog? Allow yourself to feel empty, sad, and lonely. Try not to fight or suppress how you truly feel. Fighting your feelings only makes them worse. It hurts to let grieve and pain sweep through you, but feeling the pain is the only way to learn how to live without your dog. You may feel like you’re going crazy, but your feelings will pass. And they will become less intense with time.

Friar Jack Wintz has been pondering animals and pets in Heaven for years, and he is convinced that God’s loving relationship with creation includes the afterlife. “Our God is a God of overflowing love, goodness, and beauty who is ready to give over everything to those he loves,” says Friar Jack. “Surely the Creator would not suddenly stop loving and caring for the creatures he had put into existence with so much care!”

how do you live without your dog

In I Will See You in Heaven, Friar Jack Wintz describes how God has always taken care of His beloved animals – from the Garden of Eden to Noah and the Ark! In this book, you’ll find wisdom, comfort, and the reassuring hope that we will see our cats and dogs and other animals in heaven.

Friar Jack has been pondering animals and pets in Heaven for years, and he is convinced that God’s loving relationship with creation includes the afterlife. “Our God is a God of overflowing love, goodness, and beauty who is ready to give over everything to those he loves,” says Friar Jack. “Surely the Creator would not suddenly stop loving and caring for the creatures he had put into existence with so much care!”

This bestselling book now includes readers’ photos of their beloved four-footed companions who are waiting for them in heaven — where Friar Jack reassures us, with simple teachings from scripture and St. Francis of Assisi, we will see them again.

“If there is a heaven, it’s certain our animals are to be there,” says Pam Brown. “Their lives become so interwoven with our own, it would take more than an archangel to detangle them.”

May you find ways to live without your dog, and may you find courage and strength to believe that your heart will heal. You may even heal enough to open your heart and soul to love another dog one day.


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156 thoughts on “How Do You Live Without Your Dog?”

  1. We share our home with two dogs: a 6 ½ year old Labradoodle, DJ; and ½ year old English Springer Spaniel, Patsy. Three weeks ago, our beloved parrot of 18 years died. I sent out a brief email tribute to some friends and was very touched by all the support I received back.  I talked about it with people and found that comfort came from people I didn’t expect – in the form of cards and gestures.  I even had a mystical experience where hundreds of birds landed on the trees right near Willie’s grave in my yard (living here for 14 years I’ve never seen that big a flock before), and sat there for a few minutes and then took off in another direction after circling his grave three times.  I felt he had been given the equivalent of a bird military salute.  It was very poignant and meaningful to me.

    My husband put up an online tribute on his blog to our beloved pet parrot, and I will be writing one for Tribute Tails. We had our personal ceremony for Willie, graveside, in our backyard. It was a tearful and fitting tribute to a dear winged friend. All of it helped me greatly.

    Thank you for your wonderful work,
    Dorry Bless
    Celebrant, animal lover, certified pet loss bereavement counselor

  2. I lost my Chihuahua October 25, 2018. I had her for 16 and a half years. I still have her cat brother whose 19 years old.

    It’s been almost two years. She got so sick with age I couldn’t let my girl suffer. The night before I took Montana to the Vet for the last time I was crying like a baby. My girl seemed to know it was time and she had become more affectionate. I cried as I told her I was sorry. My baby girl looked up at me with her huge brown eyes and licked me on the cheek. Normally she would only lick the tip of my nose. But she licked my cheek comforting me. She had no appetite for days and I got some honey hoping she would eat at least something and we shared honey.

    What hurts the most was my Vet. The texh held my girl and she was struggling. The Vet put the needle in and hurt my girl and took it out. Not one word did he say to me! I held my girl’s tiny head in my hands to calm her, told her I loved her and that she could go. It was OK. My Vet gave her the shots with me cradling Montana’s head and she passed. Then my Vet, a man who had taken care of cat #2 and was so kind to when he had to go, my Vet just walked out on me! Not one word of condolence or symparhy! Not one apology for hurting my girl. Nothing! The Tech had more care. My Vet’s attitude shocked me! His seeming non care made it worse!

    I walked home with Montana in the cat carrier stunned. My girl was gone! My cat ran from her body and me! I buried my girl in the back.

    I couldn’t eat or sleep. All I did was cry. I fell into a deep depression. I have no one. My girl had passed and my cat who helped raise her was in depression. I helped him throufh it. He’s still trying to help me through my depression. I cry for a lot.

    My anxieties ramped up without my girl. One day I went to mail a bill thinking about my girl and out of the corner of my eye I saw her for a split second walking with me as we mailed bills together. Well I thought I was losing my sanity in my grief and when I got to the mailbox a stranger said she sees my dog. No dogs followed me, no dogs in the parking lot! I said my dog’s dead.

    Sometimes Insee my cat’s attaxhed food bowl at an angle. I always put them straight, my cat doesn’t play with his bowls that are attached. But Montana did! It happens after I talk to her and tell her how much I miss and need her. The next day my cat’s bowls are turned exactly how she used to turn them. It happens after I cry over my girl, tell her how much I miss and need her or visit her grave in the back yard.

    I sleep with her teddy bear she had as a puppy. 60 years old and I sleep with Montana’s teddy bear. My cat knows when I’m going to have a crying jag and comes to comfort me.

    I thought my heart would never heal. My neighbor saw my grief and took me to an animal shelter just to pick a dog for comfort. So I phad them pull a Pit Bull mix. He looked into my eyes just like my girl did. We went into the room and I learned I had to bribe this dog to notice me with treats. He looked at me intensely like Montana and took the treat gently. Out of habit like I did my girl I held out my hand and said gimme five expecting nothing. Pop Tart rubbed his big paw across my hand on that command that I used to give my girl. It was if my girl was with me. I told Pop Tart all about Montana. He intently watxhed me just like my girl. And then what did he do? Gave me two hard kisses. He pressed his nose hard against the tip of my nose and kissed me just like my girl! I suddenly relaxed. I had no money to adopt and was still a broken mess but Pop Tart seemed to understand his job was comfort. Then he walked to the room’s door, looked at me, looked at the door, looked at me as if to say you’ll be fine now. And he was taken back to his cage.

    Pop Tart started my healing. I still cry for my girl. I’m still depressed over her loss but not as much. When I can save the cab fare as I no longer have a car and my neighbor pretends she has no idea what shelter she took me to when it was her idea, will I go to that shelter and get another dog. I’ll have my family back. Manny my cat will have a dog sibling again.

    I need a dog so bad to fill the emptiness over the loss of my Chihauhua girl. And I have such anger for the Vet who acted like he didn’t care.

    I love you, Montana Sky!I’ll always love you!

  3. Kathleen Marchington

    I lost my Lucy, a four year old German Shepherd service dog on February 7, 2019. Almost 11 months ago. The night of the fire my daughter awoke me at 12:49 am screaming that there was a fire and we had to go. In my mind even though I was instantly awake was the thought, “Show me where that fire is, I’ll put it out!”. I came out of my room and Lucy tried to follow me as it was her “job”. I thought she’d be underfoot while I put it out so I told her to stay and closed her in the bedroom. The last image I have of her in my mind was confusion about why I wouldn’t let her come with. By the time I got three feet down the hallway I was completely engulfed in dark black choking smoke and was disoriented and couldn’t breathe. There was no going backwards and the fire was enormous. I don’t know how I got out safely. By the time the FD got there there was nothing anyone could do. The whole entire house was gone in a half an hour. Ashes. They later found Lucy hiding in the bathtub. If you had known Lucy you would know the bathtub was the last place she would voluntarily go unless she was terrified. All I can see is her scared to death, worries about where I was and waiting to die. The confusion about why she couldn’t follow me. I believe regardless of what well meaning people say all the time, that I killed her that night and I’ll never forgive myself. I will never have another dog. This has broken me. I don’t know how to recover from this. I really need a service dog for balance issues too but I’ll find another way. I miss my girl so much. She was more than a pet, she was my help and protector. She was my friend.

  4. I’m the one that’s dying, at age 62, from meastatic colon cancer. No longer able to care for my pets — a dog and cat tag team — I turned them over to a wonderful new home. They are thriving. This devastates me. Perhaps they already knew I was dying. My dog had been sniffing me. Now I have nothing to live for. I’ve got no family, no friends, no social network. I’m stuck in Wisconsin, not my home, since the cancer diagnosis in 2011. I’ve lost at least a dozen pets over my lifetime and grieved them deeply. This is worse. I’m so grateful they were able to go to a good home, but I miss them so much.

    1. Dear Melinda,
      Your words touched my heart a week ago, when I first read them. You’ve been on my mind ever since. I was away from home on an intense week-long course, and couldn’t reply to you. Plus I didn’t know what to say!

      I adopted Tiffy, our teacup poodle, from an elderly woman fighting breast cancer. Her chemotherapy treatments were really hard, so she couldn’t take care of Tiffy. Every time I pet, kiss and snuggle with Tiffy I remember her previous owner. I know Tiffy remembers her previous owner, because she is drawn to elderly women with white hair! I know she remembers….but I also know she loves me and is very happy with us.

      The sad, heartbreaking part of loving animals is the terrible heartache when they’re gone. I’m so sorry you don’t have your beloved dog and cat in your arms. They’re in your heart, but I know it’s still hard.

      May you find comfort, warmth and love in other ways. I pray for a sense of joy and peace despite the pain and loss. I pray for another animal friend or two to make their way to you…and I pray that you know the deep sense and presence of Jesus. May God guide your steps and shed light on your path, and may the Holy Spirit bless you with peace beyond all understanding.

      With His love,

  5. In the last year I have lost best friend, my husband and also my two dogs. I lost Max my Labrador to cancer and diabetic mylopathy, last May. And yesterday after 18 months fighting it was my baby boy Ben who had cancer in his mouth and could not eat without vomiting and finally even vomited water so I had to do the dreadful deed. I am alone in a silent house for the first time in my life. It is good to know it will pass but the pain and loneliness are insupportable right now.