How to Live Without Your Dog

If you think you can’t live without your dog, you’re not alone. These tips for surviving your dog’s death are inspired by a question from a reader.

how to live without your dogGoodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet by Gary Kowalski is an excellent resource for coping with the death of a dog.

Here the comment that inspired this article on living without your dog: “I have no family, I’m divorced, no friends, am very depressed, and my dog is the only friend I know,” says Jeff on my article about putting your dog to sleep? “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.”

And here are a few practical tips for surviving your dog’s death…

Living Without Your Dog

“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. It may not be the best consolation, but it’s true.

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. 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.

If you feel bitter or angry at the vet, read How to Deal With Anger at the Veterinarian.

Find other creatures to 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.”

If you get another dog, remember that they’ll never be the same as the one you lost. You’ll need to balance mourning the death of your dog with embracing a new, different dog.

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Give yourself a sense of purpose – a reason to live

How to Live Without Your Dog

How to Live Without Your Dog

Maybe you don’t have other animals to take care of, and maybe you don’t want to take care of anyone else. That’s fine, but remember that being needed is something all humans need. “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.”

Have you lost your sense of purpose? Find ways to make your life meaningful. Ask your friends and family what makes their lives worthwhile and interesting, and try something new every week.

Strive for a healthy, balanced life

Do you think your life is meaningless without your dog? If you have absolutely nothing else to live for except for your dog, then you may need to seek help. It’s not healthy to get all your life, love, and meaning from a your pet. I love my dog with all my heart, but I also love my work, my husband, and my writing.

Help Living Without Your Dog

how to heal after losing your petIn How to Heal Your Heart After Losing a Pet: 75 Ways to Cope With Grief and Guilt When Your Dog or Cat Dies, I share the most valuable, comforting advice I found when I was dealing with the loss of my own dog, Jazz.
I interviewed veterinarians, grief counselors, and pet experts for the best ways to survive the death of a beloved dog, and I included stories from real pet owners who coped with guilt and grief in sometimes surprising ways.

To be truly healthy and happy, you need to be balanced. And that means finding happiness in several different parts of your life, not just from your dog.

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.

“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.”


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139 thoughts on “How to Live Without Your Dog

  • Laura

    We just had to put our beautiful Amy Louise to sleep on april 20th and it’s been the hardest 3 days of my life. My heart is so broken. We went fishing and she must have gotten into something that made her sick. The vet told us that on top of that, she has IMHA. It’s an autoimmune disease. So her body couldn’t fight off the infection from her getting sick. It’s just been so hard dealing with the guilt of taking ones life wheb she wasn’t ready. She had so much more life in her. Her blood level got to 4%, she had no oxygen in her blood. She had 3 transfusions. And they said if she had anymore it would just prolong the inevitable. God I miss her so much.

  • Karen Revis

    I totally understand Geri about Todd. Omg i do the same thing….cry, panic attacks, i cant function. 68 days for me. i dont know how to live like this. i live alone with no family or friends even in the state. its awful. hugs to you and i wish i could meet with you and help eachother.

    • diane

      I am just losing my beautiful little boy . I am devasted. from being ok 3 weeks ago he now gone to having an aggressive tumour . they want me to put him sleep. I lost my other one two years ago and had to have her put sleep I’m still not over that . now benjie going be joining her . I don’t want live without him . I can’t live on my own . I really want to go with him

      • Gerri

        Diane, I am so sorry for your loss. I truly understand how you are feeling. The only “comfort” I have found is this blog. It does help to “talk” with people who do know what you are going through. I had “to let go” of my precious, Todd, after nearly 15 years. Prior to Todd, I had to “let go” of my sweet: Copper in 2003, Buster in 2004 and Brewster in 2013. I too am still living with there loss. I don’t say this to make you feel like this pain will never end but, to again say, I do understand and please know there are people who are praying for you. I hope you are lucky enough to be surrounded by family and friends who love and support you. I have found that “talking” about Todd brings me some “joy” even if it is with people who I
        have never met. You may see that I reply quite often. I reply to try and comfort someone in need as well as it can help me. Everyone is different thus how we handle situations are different. I pray you find some way to “help” as I know it can feel hopeless. I hope you take comfort in knowing there are people who understand and are praying for you.

  • Gerri

    It has been 76 days since I lost my beloved, Todd. I try and “stay positive” but things are getting harder, not better. I have replied to comments on this site and my heart aches each time I read another. I am commenting so I can reach out to those who understand what I am going through. I was blessed to have Todd for an amazing 14 yrs, 9months and 2 days. I am married without children. Not a single person in my family can relate to what I am going through. This is not “just depression or a phase.”
    I too feel like I can’t breath at times. I have started having panic attacks as I see and feel Todd everywhere! I can’t even go to the grocery store without having to leave before I breakdown. Todd was everything to me and I was everything to Todd. Todd was not a “dog” to me and I hate that people think it is okay to grieve for the loss of a person but not a “dog”. My family never mentions Todd and if I do, they change the subject. I need to talk about Todd. Todd was such a big part of my life and every one “thinks” if we ignore the “situation” I will get over it and move on. I am tired of people telling me how I should feel or what I should do. My feelings are my feelings and pain is pain. I miss Todd more then words can describe. I am truly lost. I can’t wait to go to sleep just to get the day over however: I can’t stand to go to sleep as all I do is think of Todd and cry. I can’t wait for the morning however: I realize another day without Todd. I can’t truly sleep and when I do I relive Todd’s last “day”. I keep telling myself I did what was best for Todd. I even had a special vet come to our home so Todd would be “more comfortable” however: things did not go smoothly. I keep reliving this over and over in my mind. I sit here and just type, tears streaming down my face, wondering what to do once I stop typing. My house is not a home without Todd. I am not me without Todd. My life is empty without Todd. I have no support from my husband, my friends, or my family. My family thinks they are supporting me by “leaving me alone to deal with my grief.” My husband avoids me so he doesn’t have to see or hear me cry. When I am around people, I do my best, for their benefit, to not mention anything about Todd and this makes me so sad. Thus when I am alone, I cry uncontrollably and pray to God to help me find the strength to make it through another day without my Todd. “My Toddy”, “My butter bean”, “My T” and the numerous other nicknames I had for Todd. I still talk to Todd as if he is here and hope he can hear me. My precious angel, mama misses you…..

  • Hemraj Chettri

    I lost my lil 4 years old baby Khaleesi two days back. And the worst part is that I just came to know about it yesterday. By then she was already buried. I hate for not being there when she was dying. My parents say that she vomited blood when she died. It could just be a case of poisoning. Since yesterday was New Year’s eve, I went to my home and my mom and siblings came to pick me up halfway. I had no knowledge of her death till then. While I was about to reach home, I told my mom and siblings that I forgot to get anything for Khaleesi. That is when they told me that she died a day before. I wasn’t able to process it the first time I heard it. I was shocked. I felt like they were joking with me. I just thought that it couldn’t be possible. My lil Khaleesi couldn’t die so early. That’s is when they told me briefly on how she vomited blood and fizz all over her kennel before she died. They said it didn’t even take 5 minutes for the whole thing.

    And since then I feel a void in my heart. I miss her so much. The fact that I couldn’t be with her in her last few moments and that she was buried without me having to say her goodbye is troubling me so much. I don’t know how to react? I don’t know what to do. She was my best friend, she was my companion, she was the one who would sleep with me when I would be all alone at home. She would comfort me like no one could. She would just want to be pampered everytime I reached home. She would just snuggle and play with me. Her eyes would always be sparkling with so much love and admiration that you had no option but to cuddle with her. But all that is gone now. Everything is gone now. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to cope up with this pain.

    But more than me, it is my mom who has been hurt the most by this. She meant the world to her. Please help us to cope with this grief.

      • Isabel

        I’m sorry for your loss,,I lost my baby Free I. Sept. 2017. I still cry for her almost every night. Its not easy, and I can’t say it’ll get easier, its not easy for me. I just think she’s waiting for me on the other side. Isabel

    • Patricia

      I’m reading your post with tears streaming down my face into my ears (I’m in bed). I love my dog more than life itself and I pre-grieve the loss of Nellie even though she’s not sick, just getting old. My heart goes out to you and all the hurting wonderfully caring pet parents I’m reading about. There is no love or loss quite like the loss of a pet. My sympathy to you and all of us that cherish animals.

  • Julie

    I can’t breath .
    It’s been two weeks and I still can’t breath whenever I am home alone and my sweet , horrid , funny little Pomeranian suddenly started having seizures that cause irreparable brain damage , and held him in my arms while he took his last breath . And I died . I think I loved that dog more than my family , my kids , my parents , my husband .
    For 2 weeks I have been nothing but busy with family affairs and appointments and life . I avoid home like the plague it easier to shop , or watch the grand kids , or do anything but go home and not hear him barking his welcome home and see his little fluffy self greet me at the door . He is in the backyard buried in the flower garden , I can’t go out there yet , I just tell him goodnight and then cry quietly when no one is awake . He was my constant companion for 16 years . He was a brat , he hated everyone but me , he bit anyone who was stupid enough to try and pet him .he was always trying to squeeze between me and my husband and was insanely jealous when grandkids started showing up . But I loved him and he loved me .
    I will never get another little dog . I can’t bear the thought of betraying him .
    I miss you Tank my sweet little tanky .
    I miss you .

    • Gerri

      Julie, I just read your comment and my heart aches for you. I am so sorry for your loss of, Tank. All the things you describe are exactly how I feel. I wish I had words of wisdom and a way to make it all better but, if I could do that, we both wouldn’t be so sad. I too cry quietly and when I am alone, I cry out loud like a baby. Everyone deals with grief in their own way. I have been reading and collecting poems as I plan to put a scrapbook together (in the future) for my beloved, Todd. Todd was my world and the statement you made, ” I loved him (Tank) and he loved me” I have said that exact statement on numerous occasions regarding my precious, Todd. I have also found a website called, Cuddle Clones. Cuddle Clones uses your pictures of your precious loved one to create a “replica” if you will. I will say this process was hard as you have to go through pictures. When Todd passed, I wanted anything and everything I could find/buy to try and fill the huge void in my life and in my heart. Todd was my life. When you described how you held your sweet, Tank as he took his last breath, you felt you died. I just wanted to reach through the computer and hug you. When I was laying with, Todd, during his final minutes, I recall when the Dr said, “His heart has stopped” to which I responded, “so has mine”. Words are powerless to describe that “feeling”. You mentioned that you think you loved, Tank, more than family etc. My husband just said to me that he was tired of being #2 to a “dog”. Well, what can I say but it was and is true. We can’t help who and how we love. Our “fur babies” give us a love matched by no other. I have also ordered a custom wind chime from a site called, and the seller is ListenToThewind. Etsy has everything, just type in pet memorial etc and maybe you will find something that might bring you some comfort. Nothing will replace the love and loss you feel but, sometimes having some thing tangible helps…even if it is just a little. My thought with the wind chime is that every time I hear it, I know Todd is near. I too have vowed to never get another dog. If you don’t get attached to something you can’t get hurt…right? I will say that Todd was my fourth “fur baby”. I lost my first dachshund, Copper, on a Monday and (now I can say) by the grace of God and maybe Copper, I had Todd that Friday. I felt such guilt and initially had a hard time bonding with Todd as I too felt I was betraying, Copper. I can’t explain in an writing how guilty and blessed I felt at the same time. They say don’t make any big life decisions following a loss. I think whether you decide to get another “fur baby” or not will come with time. I think that you should know that you are not replacing, Tank, by any means. For me this decision is based on the overwhelming pain I feel and I do not want to go through this ever again. I love animals, especially dogs. I keep telling myself, maybe I can volunteer or something with dogs so I can have the best of both worlds. I have yet to do this as I can barely get myself out of the house, but it gives me something to consider. I love kissing dogs sweet, little, cold noses. I can’t imagine never doing that again. I hope this helps you in some way. I wish there were more support groups for pet loss. I feel when I am able to talk about, Todd, he is still with me. Bless you and your family. Please know there are people that understand what you are going through and truly care. Sending you virtual hugs. Sincerely, Gerri

  • Lori

    I lost my beautiful little prince 3 days ago. I can’t bear to come home from work as he was always waiting by the door everyday. I know this because I live with my sister and she told me that everyday at the same time he would sniff the crack in the door waiting for me to come through it. He slept with me every night and was the first face I saw every morning. When I would go in road trips my little gizzy was with me all the time. I even took him to work on different occasions. I just don’t know how I can go on without him I was so blessed to have him from 8 weeks old till he was 14 What do I do now ? Don’t know if I can love another dog the way I loved my little prince. I feel guilty for not being able to save him Trust me I tried everything. Anyways I just wanted to know if I’m going crazy 😭

    • christine nightingale

      Lori You are not crazy, you are grieving. You had your little Prince in your life for all those years and have just lost him, it is going to take you some time as you move through the grieving process. Everyone is different how they handle grief and it is not for anyone else to ever say you should be over it, move on, pull yourself together. It will take you as long as it takes you. From my own experience when I had to have my beautiful Labrador Lucy put to sleep in April after 11 years together the first few months was just so very hard for me as i could hardly get out of bed. I described myself as a mum grieving for her child as there were many people who have never had the experience of that bond we have with our dogs. Some even told me to just go and get another dog?? It was very hurtful to me. It has been 8 months since I said goodbye to Lucy and it has got so much better for me, I never thought it would but she is on my mind every single day still and I do get the odd day now where I get completely overwhelmed by the huge loss and the gaping hole that is now in my life. Sorry for your loss of your Prince it is early days for you, you have to grief as you loved Prince so much and it is painful and lonely but over time it will become easier but it is early days for you. Just be kind to yourself.

      • Gerri

        Lori, I truly feel your pain. It has been a little over a month since I lost my beloved, Todd. I wish I had a magic answer thus we would both feel better. I will say that having this site to express your thoughts and have others validate them is helpful. The pain you feel is real and by no means are you crazy. If you did not have these feelings then…you would be crazy. I too was blessed to have, Todd, for 14yrs, 9mos and 2days. I do not have children and I am unable to work thus I spent every day with Todd. The last 6 months I only left him 4 times for about an hour and 1/2 and I made sure my brother n law, God bless him, was available to sit with Todd. I completely understand the feeling of being lost and to wonder what to do with yourself. I mentioned in a previous post the saying, “The Silence is Deafening” is all too real. I found a site that makes stuffed animals that resemble your fur-baby. I plan on doing this but looking through pictures is difficult. It’s something to look into, maybe for the future. Nothing will replace the love you have for, Prince and people do grieve differently. I suggest you grieve in whatever way works for you. I also purchased a custom wind chime from a site that has just about anything The wind chime is designed so in my heart, when I hear the sound, I know Todd is still with me. I wish you all the best and I am a true believer in hugs. Hug yourself if no one is available and know that I am here if you want to “chat” with someone who knows how you feel. Bless you and I am sending you a virtual hug.

      • Lori

        Thank you 🙏🏻. I called him my little prince because that’s how he was treated. His real name was gizzy. He was my reason for going home and waking up everyday. He was my “Go to “. I have his ashes at home now the vet hand delivered them the Day before Christmas Eve It was my only wish for Christmas. I still wake up in the middle of the night and I swear I can feel him laying on my feet like he used to do “I think he did this cause it drove me nuts “. Lol. He would then quietly move up towards my pillow and I would wake up to my little buddy staring at me. It’s going to be a long hard road I hope that everyone here finds the peace and comfort that they need for the new year. Hugs everyone Forever missing my little prince (gizzy) 🙏🏻❤️