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

  1. My family and I went on vacation and I took my 11 year old Lulu to a random pet sitter I found through Rover. She had all these 5 star reviews and assured everything will be alright. The very next day she lost her. She is tiny, Shitzu Yorkie mix, and escaped through her broken back yard. It’s been over 2 weeks and I can’t help myself but blaming myself that I took her to unknown place. My dog’s last look at me was like I was abandoning her. It was heartbreaking at the time and now I know I made a horrible mistake. I can’t quite understand exactly what happened because she should be home with me now and now I don’t even know either she is eaten by coyotes or at someone else’s house….. I can’t let the feelings of guilt and shame go….. It is devastating.

    1. Sometimes we have to leave our dogs with others to watch them, sometimes they arent as responsible as we thought. I had a dog I left with someone get out and hit by a car, I blamed myself too for leaving him there. I wouldnt have let him wander off if i was there as Im sure you wouldnt have either. I know its impossible right now but eventually it got easier for me to realize it wasnt my fault. I still feel some guilt though. I betn 100 out of a hundred people who heard you used Rover and the reviews were 5 star would all come to the conclusion that the person who was watching her was irresponsible and 99 PERCENT to blame. I would sue her.

    2. Alona,

      I’m so sorry for this. This was NOT your fault. And I hope and pray that you still might get Lulu back. I suspect that someone found her and just fell in love with her. I’m not sure if it’s worse to know or not know. I’m sure you’ve posted on Pawboost and called all relevent shelters. While two weeks might seem like an eternity, people have found their dogs after months, even years, so don’t give up hope. Perhaps even contact all of the Yorkie and Shitzu rescue groups. But whatever happens, you simply must forgive yourself. You read reviews and you trusted them. She is at fault and not you. I wish there was something I could do to ease your pain. You absolutely must forgive yourself. Wherever Lulu is, she doesn’t blame you. She knows you love her and would never put her in danger.

  2. I loved my 6 year old Bishon (Nellie)so much. She had bladder stones that cost 2,000 to be removed. I did not do enough to come up with the cost to remove the stones. Antibiotic helped for a year, stones got worst and she became septic and died from throwing up. The night Nellie was dieing I was high on speedy medication and was unable to feel what was happening, I saw but I just kept cleaning her and the vomit. I knew I couldn’t drive and was to ashamed to call for help. Nellie died in my arms and I just can’t forgive myself. It’s 2 years now, and I still cry for her a lot. I’m so sorry for not getting the help she needed in the beginning. I cannot forgive myself and feel just awful. GOD HELP ME!

    1. I think a lot of people couldnt afford $2000… I think its disgusting and super greedy what vets charge for some procedures. Hopefully your done with the speed. Guilt is a normal reaction, try to remember you did your best at the time.

    2. Rita,

      I’m so sorry about this. It’s very brave of you to tell us about your medication issue. Most people would just leave that part of it out of the story. You absolutely must forgive yourself. It’s a long road but you’ll get there. I lost my baby Harley 2 years ago too, and I still feel quite guilty. She drowned in my pool while I was on the phone with someone. But I know that my baby girl knows I loved her and would have done anything in my power to save her if I had known. I promise you that Nellie forgives you. She’s not in pain anymore and it sounds like she suffered quite a lot so now she’s not suffering anymore. You probably have PTSD and should get help for that. Try to remember that Nellie wouldn’t want you to beat yourself up this way. She’s fine and she wants you to be fine too. Please try to give yourself a break and if necessary, get some help. If you can’t afford it there are lots of pet berievement groups that meet for free. I’m sure you could find some comfort there. I’ll be thinking of you.

      Gale

  3. Its very hard when one of our dogs gets hit by a car, or in my case a train. Its been almost 3 years for me and not a day has gone by I havent thought of him (Dino). Hang in there.. I havent forgotten but it has gotten easier. It takes time. Our world is full of accidents.. I was very shocked when I googled how many dogs are hit by cars a year in the U.S.. We are not alone.

  4. Margarita was a rescue dog someone got her keep her for a week and returned her to the pound that’s where I found her,
    I had her for six years I felt I took really good care of her, She went on a lot of trips with us, My wife and I was out shopping late one night we got home 10:30 pm we had alot of things to unload so my wife opened the door Margarita met us at the door ever time we came home she was allowed to come out in the fount yard this time she came out and walked right out into the street by the time I turned around an thought about her I heard a car breaking and her yelping the worst sound I ever heard I never thought I would have to pick her up out of the street Margie was dead it only took two minutes its been almost one year I’m writing this because I broke down so bad today I don’t think I will ever be able to forgive myself
    If I would have just took one minute she would still be here
    I love you Margie

    1. Ron,
      It’s good that you broke down after a year. You were probably holding in a lot of your grief. People can tell you all day long that this wasn’t your fault, and of course they would be right. But all of us here understand your guilt as we all feel responsible for your pets’ deaths. It’s been 2 years since my beautiful girl drowned in my pool. She fell in it once before about 6 months earlier, so I really blamed myself as I felt like I had a warning that this could happen. You have to forgive yourself. This was NOT your fault. It was just a tragic accident. One that you’ll never let happen again. You’re human. Margie never did this before, so why would you think it would happen this time? Grief is so hard, but the worst part of grief is always the guilt we feel. Margie wouldn’t want you to feel this way. She knows you did your best and that you gave her a loving home. Please try to find a way to forgive yourself. I still cry about Harley more than 2 years later. I still blame myself, but I know I’m not perfect and that I really did my best. I know she loves me and forgives me and wouldn’t want me to be sad, and I’m sure Margie feels the same way. I’ll be praying for your pain to move quickly. Don’t be afraid of your feelings. Don’t avoid them. Feel them deeply and strongly and they will pass more quickly. We’re all here for you if you need us.

  5. This hurts so bad ! I have a 10 month Belgian Malinois and when he was younger he along with my 2 mini schnauzer’s killed my 22 year old chihuahua. I thought at the time because he was blind and deaf that it was a pack mentality for a sick dog . I was very upset of coarse and it took me along time to get there ! However last night I came home from work to find out my mini schnauzer was killed by my Belgian. I can’t deal with the guilt . Preston was MY DOG and I’m more of a cat person . I can’t stand to look at the Belgian which is my husband’s world ! We haven’t really spoken since both retreating in different rooms . I just can’t even stop thinking of my poor boy dying in the same room he was born in and I wasn’t here to save him . I had to bury him a few hours ago , alone , my husband didn’t even get up to help me . I’m so sad .

    1. Oh Allison, I’m so heartbroken for you. We tend to forget that dogs are after all “animals”. It’s not your fault. Your conclusion that the killing of your old chihuahua was an isolated incident was not at all unreasonable. I’m not sure why your husband didn’t help you bury your dog. He probably just feels terrible and couldn’t deal with his own emotions. He, also probably blames himself as the Belgian I’m assuming is probably his dog. But this was NOT your fault and it’s not his fault. It’s not even the dog’s fault. It was nobody’s fault. It was a tragic accident. I would tell your husband though that he absolutely must get training for the Belgian. Apparently they need a lot of stimulation and exercise. You want to be sure that your other mini-schnauzer is safe. It will take time to get over this. Two years later, I’m still grieving losing my baby and I still sometimes blame myself, but I promise you will get there. Cry hard and cry often. Don’t stay in bed though. Try to go to work and live your life as normally as possible, but don’t bury your feelings or try to hard to be strong for other people. You lost your baby. Preston doesn’t blame you and just thanks you for loving him and giving him everything you could while he was alive. He wouldn’t want you to be sad. All of us are here for you if you need us.