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Forgiving Yourself for Not Protecting Your Dog

Dogs don’t carry grudges. Your dog will forgive you for anything! But how do you forgive yourself for not protecting your dog? These suggestions are from dozens of readers who commented on my article about dealing with guilt after causing their dog’s death. Their stories will show you that you are not alone, and help you deal with hurting your dog.

dog died how do I forgive myself

In I Will See You in Heaven, Jack Wintz shows us that the dogs we love so much will stay with us throughout eternity. Our dogs are resting in peace, joy, and love – they aren’t slogging through pits of guilt, pain, and self-hatred. No matter how your dog died, he is safe, happy, and well-taken care of. And your dog forgives you, because he knows you would never have deliberated hurt your dog.

The most important thing to remember is that forgiving yourself for not protecting your dog is a process, not a one-time event. You have to first learn how to forgive yourself, then work through self-forgiveness every day. I encourage you to get help as you work through the process of forgiving yourself for not protecting your dog. Don’t try to deal with this alone.


How to Forgive Yourself for Not Protecting Your Dog

On Dealing With Guilt When You Caused Your Dog’s Death, one reader said, “I feel so guilty and can’t forgive myself for not protecting my dog. She was in her carrier going for shots. As I was putting her in car somehow she burst out and ran off. I blame myself for the door opening on carrier. We have looked for her for three days now. It’s freezing and snowing. I know she was scared. We started to call her right away. I don’t understand why she wouldn’t come to us. It’s like she just vanished. My guilt is so bad. I felt like dying rather than feel this pain and worry over her. Is she freezing to death somewhere, terrified and hungry? I’m ill over this. How do I forgive myself for not protecting my dog better?”

There are no simple tips for forgiving yourself for not protecting your dog because of the unconditional love your dog gave you. You loved your dog with all your heart, but you made a mistake. An accident happened – and if you could have prevented it, you would have.

Forgiving yourself isn’t easy, and there are no “one size fits all” tips for moving forward in peace. Self-forgiveness is easier for some people than others, depending on their personality, past experiences, relationship with their dog, and even their genes. Some people were raised on a steady diet of guilt and shame, which makes it hard to forgive themselves for anything. I can’t offer quick or simple tips on how to forgive yourself for not protecting your dog. I can, however. share what helped me forgive myself for not protecting my cat.

Believe that your dog forgives you

forgiving yourself after dog dies
How to Forgive Yourself for Dogs Death

How long do you think it’ll take your dog to forgive you for not protecting him properly? About half a second.

Your dog loves you so much, and has never had a bad thought about you. He never will, either. That may make you feel worse, but it’s important to know that your dog loves and forgives you. Give yourself time to grieve what happened. Face the mistake you made or the accident that happened. Grieve, cry, weep, wail, let yourself fall to the floor in tears. This hurts, but it is healing. And it’s part of forgiving yourself for not protecting your dog.

Spend time with dog lovers who have grieved – and are grieving

A healthy, comforting way to forgive yourself is to read stories like Losing My Best Friend: Thoughtful support for those affected by dog bereavement or pet loss. Learning how other people coped with losing their dogs can give you strength and support. You’ll also feel comforted by knowing you’re not alone, that other people’s hearts were broken by the loss of their dogs…and they healed.

Reading the comments in this article will also help you see you are not alone. Terrible mistakes, oversights, and accidents happen. Failing to protect your dog doesn’t make you a bad person. Nor does it mean you’re unkind, unloving, or irresponsible. It was an accident, which means you would have prevented it if you could have. You would have protected your dog if you knew what was going to happen.

Learn how to live with your regret – without it overcoming you

I’ll never forget the day I failed to protect my cat. I’ll live with this memory forever — even though I have forgiven myself. I learned what to do when I feel bad about myself, and don’t like with guilt or shame. But I’ll still always miss my pet.

My little fluffy white cat (called Fluffy) was a rescue. She hid in the heating vents for the first three days after I brought her home. It was summer, and she was terrified. Eventually I cajoled her out with tuna and water, and we fell in love. I had another cat, Zoey, and they both would romp around in the grassy area of my apartment complex.

One day, I called and called and called her. Nothing. She wouldn’t come. After several more minutes of me calling, she eventually staggered out of the bushes across the yard. She could barely walk – she was dragging her shattered left hind leg behind her. Blood, bones, it was awful. I took her to the veterinarian, who gave me the choice between $1,300 surgery or putting her to sleep. I let her go. That was the most difficult, painful decision…and it took me a long time to forgive myself for not protecting her better.


I lost Fluffy 15 years ago, and I still feel guilty and sad about the whole thing. I (mostly) forgave myself by reminding myself that she loved being outside, and if I had known she was going to get hurt I never would’ve let her go. My other cat Zoey went outside all the time, and never got hurt. Our current cat Nunki has been going outside every day and sometimes all night for 10 years, and nary a scratch. I didn’t do anything wrong, nor did I deliberately cause her death.

Look at your dog’s life in its entirety

forgiving yourself dog death

Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die by Jon Katz will help you forgive yourself. This book invites you to consider how you gave your dog a good life, if you were his advocate in times of need, and if you used your best judgment in the end. If you deal with these issues, you can alleviate guilt, let go, and forgive yourself for not protecting your dog.

One of the best tips on how to forgive yourself after your dog died is to remember that you didn’t hurt your dog on purpose. You can’t hold yourself responsible for an accident – whether it was not latching a gate properly, not taking your dog to the veterinarian soon enough, or trusting others to look after your dog when you went away.

Learn why it’s so hard to forgive yourself

On my honeymoon, my husband and I were flying to St Maarten. We were wrestling in our seats, and somehow he caused the armrest to smash down on my nose. It was extremely painful – tears came quickly even though I’m not a crier – and thankfully my nose wasn’t broken! I forgave him immediately and forgot all about it. About a year later, he brought it up and said how guilty and bad he felt – and I hadn’t even thought about it since then. To this day – 13 years later – he still brings it up. He can’t forgive himself for making that mistake…and I forgave him long ago.

Our actions are tied to how we feel about ourselves. If I do something I think is bad or wrong – such as not protecting my dog – I no longer see myself as a good person. I feel ashamed of myself, and I think I’m bad. Who can forgive a bad person? That’s why I can’t forgive myself, and why forgiving yourself for not protecting your dog may be so difficult. You see yourself as a bad person.

Accept your dog’s forgiveness

Remember how I forgot what my husband did? That’s how your dog feels right now. Dogs live in the moment, not in the past! Your dog forgives you, loves you, and wants you to be free from self-hatred, guilt, and pain. Your dog wants you to be happy – he lived to make you happy! Forgive yourself, and let your dog rest in peace.

Learning how to forgive yourself is a process that takes time. Allow yourself to grieve, and let the child in you believe that your dog is in heaven. Your dog has already forgiven you a million times over, and is watching you with love and compassion.

Take time to read through the comments below; you’ll see you’re not alone. We’re all struggling with forgiveness, guilt, and grief. Feel free to share your own story.


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75 thoughts on “Forgiving Yourself for Not Protecting Your Dog”

  1. Kim,

    I know it’s very hard, but you must forgive yourself. It really was an accident. Roxy knows this and would never blame you for this. You are in shock and yes, probably have PTSD and should possibly consider counseling for this. There are groups specifically for people who have lost their pets in tragic accidents. Seek out others to talk to. Cry hard and don’t avoid your grief, but also don’t avoid life. Try not to ruminate although it’s almost impossible at first to do that. Find the joy in the memories of your beautiful girl. My dog drowned in my pool 20 months ago. It took a very long time, but I did forgive myself eventually. Please know that everyone here understands and loves you. We are here for you and you are not alone.

  2. My heart aches for you. My husband accidently ran over my dog 1 1/2 yrs ago and i still think of it everyday. U never forget but it does get easier.

  3. Dear Kim, I understand what you’re going through as I had posted here about my sons border collie CALY getting hit by a car at the beginning of July. I I read a post on here about PTSD and read about it a bit and it did get me to get hold of my thoughts because continuing to think about the situation in a way that you blame yourself you immerse yourself in guilt and shame. Your thoughts can spiral out of control. I started to tell the story to myself that it was a tragic accident. I would look at pictures of her and instead of seeing her look back at me saying “why didn’t you watch after me and protect me” she is instead saying” I’m sorry I ran off on you while you weren’t watching me” it may sound silly but it helped me believe that she didn’t blame me. I too didn’t tell a lot of people because I still feel shame and don’t want to answer questions that will set me off such as “don’t you have a fence around your yard ?”
    I created a journal and I would write to her . I wrote a lot the first few weeks and now I am writing in it about once a week. It’s actually a form people are encouraged to do when grieving and I find it helpful. It will take time dear. I miss her so much- we all do. It’s normal to look for blame and I found myself doing this too. Why couldn’t my husband take care of his own issue etc. but the realty is that it was simply a tragic accident. Just keep reminding yourself that over and over again.
    She will forever live on in your hearts. Hugs to you and your family. This is one of the saddest things I’ve ever been through and my heart goes out to you.

  4. Marlene – Your story touches me beyond words. Our family is shattered from a similar incident. Last Sunday I threw a huge party and had my family running around the yard preparing. We live on a couple of acres, we had 4 dogs. Our dogs are our world, our children like you. One dog in particular, I called my angel, Roxy, also a border Collie. She came into our lives and just stuck to me like glue. She was my best friend. She went with me everywhere I went. She was perfectly behaved. Anyway, last Sunday we had vendors coming into the back of the property setting up food trucks, water slides, a mechanical bull, I wanted to have a party my grandson (4) and son (14) would never forget. That it definitely was. A day of great food and fun for all. That night after everyone was gone, I went upstairs to my room and called her name, she was always quietly waiting for me like a perfect little angel. She didn’t come to me. I went downstairs to one of my sons rooms sand opened his door as he would many times have her with him, she was not there. My heart jumped a little, but I didn’t start to panic. I went to my next sons door & knocked asking if he had Roxy, he said no. 2 seconds later he swiftly walked out of his room, across the house, out the back door and to the far end of the property. By the time a was half way to my son, he was rushing back towards me trying to block me from proceeding. I looked at him and I new she was gone. As the next 5 minutes unfolded, my husband joined us, the 3 of of were together with her lifeless body. We then realized what we had done. Much earlier in the day, I sent my husband to get ice in a rental car I had rented for my son to drive as his Tahoe motor went out a few days before and was in the shop. My husband took the rental to get the ice, he backed the SUV up to our patio to unload it. My son had all the doors and back hatch open to unload. They both saw Roxy jump into the back. My son went on to the next task, my husband pulled the rental into the far side of the property way out of the way for the party. As he parked the car, he became immediately distracted with all of the vendors & things to do, he closed the door & walked away. We all proceeded to have a party to remember for the next 9 or 10 hours. We all (myself, my husband, our five kids & my parents are the only ones we have told exactly what happened, & we are all struggling with overwhelming guilt.) Even though my husband actually walked away, we all feel the same. Why didn’t we wonder why we hadn’t seen her? It’s unbearable. I am sick inside thinking of having a great ole time as she suffered in the car for god knows how long. I held my 14 year old son in my arms and we sobbed together all night. We are all literally sick. I don’t know how to move past the guilt. I don’t think all people would understand so have decided to keep the details within our family. I feel so horrible I can’t even explain. I found this board in my misery & somehow, knowing your story and feeling sympathy for you & your beloved animals Marlene I think helped me through a moment or two, I feel your pain and you are in my thoughts constantly since I read your story. I do not know how we can move on and keep going without this extreme guilt & sadness.

  5. This is not about my dog, but my rabbit. She was my first rabbit and the other day didn’t seem herself. She wasn’t eating properly and I separated her from the others so that I could keep an eye on her. The next day she was still the same. We don’t live close to any vet and got some advice and meds from the petshop where I got her. I thought I somehow she would be fine. That evening she drastically deteriorated. I watched her die a slow, painful death. I sat with her the whole time, tried to comfort her, but I feel very guilty, actually devastated for not getting her the appropriate help. It took two days from noticing she was ill until she died. Seeing her die was unbearable and I hope that she will forgive me because I can’t forgive myself.

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