How to Forgive Yourself for Not Protecting Your Dog


Don’t face this alone. These thoughts on how to forgive yourself when you didn’t protect your dog from an accident or death will help you cope. I gathered tips from dozens of readers who commented on my article about dealing with guilt after causing a dog’s death.

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.

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.





Forgiving 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 your personality, past experiences, feelings about your dog, and genes are unique. You may struggle to forgive yourself because of the way you’re wired or were brought up. If you were raised on a steady diet of guilt and shame, then you might not be able to forgive yourself as easily as if you were raised in an environment of forgiveness, acceptance, and freedom to make mistakes and move on. That’s why I can’t offer simple tips on how to forgive yourself for not protecting your dog…but I can share what helped me forgive myself for not protecting my cat.

Ask your dog for forgiveness

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 never entertains a bittern, judgmental, or critical spirit. Sit down with your dog’s picture, and ask him to forgive you. Grieve, cry, weep, wail, let yourself fall to the floor in anguish. Process your pain until you feel your dog’s forgiveness start to creep into your heart and soul.

Read 5 Types of Cremation Urns for Your Dog’s Ashes, and think about holding an informal “service” to commemorate your dog’s life. Say good-bye, and start moving forward slowly.

Spend 10 minutes every morning in forgiveness

I cant forgive myself dog deathDaily Affirmations for Forgiving and Moving On by Tian Dayton is one of the best ways to forgive yourself after your dog dies. I believe that daily prayers, affirmations, and mediations will help you let go of the pain and self-hatred you feel.

Learn how others failed to protect their pets – see that you’re not alone

My small beautiful white fluffy cat (called Fluffy)was a rescue cat, and 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 Fluffy, and 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 said good-bye.

Learn how other dog owners forgave themselves

I lost that cat 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 (though some might argue that putting her down was wrong).

Ask if your failure to protect your dog was something you did on purpose

I think that’s the bottom line and best tip on how to forgive yourself after your dog died, regardless of our personalities, genes, and past experiences. 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.



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Look at your dog’s life in its entirety

forgiving yourself dog deathGoing Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die by Jon Katz might help you forgive yourself because it will ask you to consider if 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 “better.”

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 thought about it again. To this day – nine years later – he still brings it up. It’s like he can’t forgive himself for making that mistake…and I forgave him long ago.

Know that self-forgiveness is difficult because of shame

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 totally forgot my husband’s action? That’s how your dog feels right now. Dogs live in the moment, and do not dwell 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! Don’t rob your dog. Forgive yourself, and let your dog rest in peace.

Read books on how to process forgiveness and grief

forgiving yourself after dog dies

How to Forgive Yourself for Dogs Death

Melody Beattie is one of my favorite authors – she wrote The Grief Club: The Secret to Getting Through All Kinds of Change to help her deal with the death of her son. I read her book More Language of Letting Go every day – it contains 366 daily meditations on letting go, trusting God, and living deeply fully madly.

If you feel like you’ll never find your way to forgiving yourself because of your dog, please call a counselor or distress line. There may be other issues you need to work through – and you’ll be healthier and happier in the long run if you confront those issues now.

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.

I welcome your comments on how to forgive yourself for not protecting your dog below. It might help to share your story – and I know other readers will be grateful to know they’re not alone.







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May you find strength to believe, grace to forgive, and hope for tomorrow.


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39 thoughts on “How to Forgive Yourself for Not Protecting Your Dog

  • Clayton

    Hi ,Iam writing this for Bo ,who drowned last evening , someone left a door open , the hard part is this all happened within 10 to 15 mins , & I was inside only 10 meters away & all I can think of is him struggling & me not being there for him .
    The thing with Bo was he was 17 yrs Jack Russell He was loosing his sight & lost his hearing some say he had dementia , but every other day he would surprise you & be jumping for joy
    Bo , we got off death row when he was 2 yrs old .
    8 mths later our house burnt down , if it wasn’t for Bo we wouldn’t be here , he jumped on the bed & warned us .he was so adventurous & independent as we live on a small farm.my wife has even wrote the adventures of Bo & posted them in the past , she loved him as much as me ,
    I repaid him once when he got stuck down a well . But to me that’s still not enough for my little mate .Oh How I miss him .thankyou for taking the time to read this

    • Thomas OConnor

      Sorry this happened, if we could only go back… But none of us can as much as we want to. Hang in there, everyone on here has made mistakes and it eats us up, your not alone. Bo was 17? You dont here of to many dogs that age, that was great that you got him there, must have been some healthy food…

    • Gale Cruz

      Clayton, Oh my gosh, you and I went through almost the exact same thing. My dog drowned and she was very old, deaf, blind and had dementia. If you scroll down you can read my story. We went to the vet the day she died, and while she mentioned the dementia, she didn’t specifically tell me that I should watch her every minute. If she had just told me that, I would have been so much more careful. My heart really goes out to you, but please forgive yourself. This wasn’t your fault. It took me a long time, about 7 months but I finally forgave myself. It was her time. And it probably was Bo’s time as well. 17 is a very long life. He went on his own terms. I know that might sound crazy, but I really believe it. You were a good dad to him and he knows how much you loved him. We want to believe that it would have been easier if we took our babies to the vet to say good bye, but it isn’t always so. I will be thinking of you now and hope you can find the strength to forgive yourself. You did nothing wrong.

  • Thomas OConnor

    Thats terrible.. Sorry that happened. I let my dog Dino get hit by a train, let him wander kind of the same way.. Its been a 1-1/2 and I still think about him everyday..I had 2 dogs and they were my family, to let 1 of them die at 6 years old that way is crushing.. I dont know how we forgive ourselves, I guess we dont. I try to think hows hes either in a better place or just gone.Either way hes not in any pain, hes not sitting alone somewhere thinking how I let him wander off and get hurt. Sometimes it pops into my head him getting hit….horrible……It would have been so simple if I could do that morning over to not have that happen.. But I cant, you cant either. it makes me feel a little better to know Im not alone with this, people like you made the same horrible stupid mistake.. I guess were really not perfect. But I bet we would all do almost anything to undo what we feel we did.

    • dianne holland

      Thank u Thomas. I hope some day i get through this and find some peace. Right now i just feel stuck in the sadness in losing her and cant move on. Thank you for reaching out to me. That helps that im not alone

  • Kiki

    Two weeks ago I lost my best friend, my love, the center of my Universe, Maxy.
    I recently moved to Utah to be with my mom after deciding to separate from my husband. I have been lonely, and I met a new guy at a party and we decided to go out for a hike the next day. In the sober light of day, I did not like him. It was noon and he had already been taking shots of whiskey, was condescending and obnoxious. I kept wondering how I can tell him never mind and take him home, but I was too cowardly. My Maxy loved going up the canyon for hikes so we continued with the date.

    Normally I am not the one driving and I have to hold him tightly with the window down only halfway because he is so eagerly trying to get as far out of the window as possible. I never thought he would actually jump, but I did know better because we have commented so many times on how he tries to stand on the ledge and we have to pull him back inside.

    I was driving this time, the window was all the way down, and in retrospect I just wasn’t paying attention to him like I should have been and should have known better to. I was holding him, but not tightly, I was so distracted by this drunk guy I didn’t want to be on a date with. Then Maxy jumped out. It all happened so fast but I remember I had held on to his leg, I still had him, which makes me think maybe I caused him to land on his head. Maybe he would have just broke his legs, which would still be awful but at least he would have survived.

    I can’t stop replaying seeing him in the road unconscious, then picking him up and all the blood coming out from his nose and mouth. He was still breathing but he died in my arms a few minutes later.
    I am so mad at myself, I feel so guilty, I feel like I let my baby down, that I didn’t protect him, that I knew better, that I was being selfish. Something in my gut even told me not to bring him in the first place and I wish I’d listened. I wish I had the guts to tell that loser that whiskey for breakfast is a deal breaker, I desperately wish I’d been paying attention to Maxy and not rolled the window down all the way, or when it happened and I had his leg if I had thought quick enough to slam on the brakes so the impact wasn’t as extreme.

    I just can’t believe I did this!!! I know Maxy forgives me because he was perfect pure joy and light, but I don’t feel like I deserve it.
    He was the most beautiful mini Aussie and he had just turned one year old!!! He was a baby and had such a full life ahead of him. I miss him so much as my whole life revolved around him. I feel tortured by the images and regret. I miss him so much, he was such a funny dog with so much personality. I can’t imagine ever getting another dog because they aren’t him. I’m so sad that he was so young and that I knew better and wasn’t present like I always need to be when taking care of a loved one.

    • Gale

      Kiki,

      Please don’t do this to yourself. Feel your feelings, and feel them deeply, but Maxy would not want you to blame yourself. It was a tragic accident. It’s been almost 6 months since Harley died, and I still feel some guilt but have managed to find a way to forgive myself about 90%. I’m just so sorry you’re going through this. I wish I could take away your pain. I’m here if you ever need to talk, but it does and will get better. It’s just going to take some time.

      Very warm regards,

      Gale

      • Abby

        I feel your pain. Me and my husband came home from shopping i let my little 12 yr old yorkie poo out. I walked up the side of my house to the hose. My husband decide to move our vehicles and ran over my dog and killed her. I cannot forgive myself for not picking her up and hard to forgive my husband for not looking. Its been a week and a half and i cry everyday. I cant move forward i just sit and think of her. She was my soulmate my love my everything. How do i get over this.

  • Laurie Post author

    May you find hope, healing, and comfort as you work through the guilt. I can’t imagine how you feel, but I know how hard it was for me to forgive myself for not protecting my dog. I don’t think the pain ever really goes away — you don’t ever “get over it.” But, you can learn how to forgive yourself, and be compassionate and kind to yourself.

    Remember that you would never have knowingly allowed your dog to suffer pain or harm. It was a terrible accident. My heart goes out to you…may you find self-forgiveness and healing, and accept yourself in all your weaknesses and flaws. You are doing the best you can — and it IS good enough. It has to be, because it’s all we have.

    With the love of Jesus,
    Laurie

  • Gale

    My beautiful little Min Pin Harley was getting pretty old almost 17. She was in kidney failure and i was keeping her alive by cooking for her, giving her herbs and other supplements and sub q fluids. I even took her for accupuncture twice a month and I believe I added 6 months to her life. We knew she was losing her eyesight, but seemed to see ok during the day. One night she fell in our pool, but we rescued her quickly. So after that we locked the dog door whenever it was dark, or when we weren’t home. She was getting so frail that she could barely open it anymore and mostly she had to be carried out. Some how she managed to get the dog door open and I found her drowned in the pool in the middle of the day. I don’t know how I’ll ever forgive myself. I felt like I was given a warning and didn’t do the right thing. I could have put chicken wire or something around the pool, or just never let her outside without me being there. I knew she was not long for this world and was preparing for the safe, warm and loving death that was coming. She wasn’t supposed to die cold, afraid and alone. I don’t know if it was quick or if she barked and cried for me and I didn’t hear her. I’m the one who found her and my husband tried to revive her, but it was too late. How can I ever forgive myself? The shock and trauma of her death is just killing me. I’ve accepted that she’s gone, but not how it happened. I really feel it’s my fault.

    • Mar84

      My 14 year old who I LOVED more than anyone in my life just drowned and I found him at the bottom of a pool. I was at a basketball watch party at my parents house where he stayed and weeks before I had been thinking, he’s getting confused, what if he ever walked into the pool? He hated water and avoided it, but i knew it cpuold happen. That night he was really stressed about all of the ppl at his house and I was doing stupid stuff on Facebook. He was crying and trying to get up the stairs to get to me. I was in the middle of messaging someone and was just like “hold on bud! Just a second!” Someone else started petting him and I somehow completely forgot (probably because I was mentally checked out and wasting my time doing narcissistic things on Facebook) and figured they had calmed him down. An hour or so later everyone had left and I was like “omg I forgot about him, where did he go?” I didn’t see him in any rooms and he wasn’t at the door. My heart dropped and I ran to the pool exactly where he was. To know I completely ignored him in his anxiety and that he also died scared and alone after that has made me unbearably sad and angry at myself. Ppl try to reassure me because I fed him steak and took him on a hoke earlier, but I feel like the way I failed him cancels everything oout because his last moments were so terrifying. I’m not saying this is all rational, but I just wanted to share my experience since I lost my dog by drowning as well.

      • Gale Cruz

        Mar,

        If you read my post you’ll see that my dog died the same way. Our older dogs become disoriented and these things can happen. I’m writing to tell you that forgiving yourself is a process, but you will get there. It’s been 6 months since I lost Harley and I still break down and start yelling at myself sometimes,but everyday I’m a little closer to making peace with what happened. Truly, this was not your fault. Tragic accidents happen everyday. And that’s what this was, just a horrible accident. I hope this won’t stop you from providing a loving home to another dog someday and soon. Your boy would want you to share your wonderful love with someone new. He/she will never take your boys place, no one could, but it will help you. As far as your feelings about it being rational, I don’t think there is a rational thought we can have when something like this happens. I don’t think your dog suffered. It was probably quick, but of course it’s the not knowing that’s so hard. I am here for you if you need to talk. Please forgive yourself. Your boy is fine and at peace and he wouldn’t want you to do this to yourself. All he ever know from you was love!

  • R

    I delayed a $500+ ultrasound on my dog to save money at the time, having already incurred a bill of over $500 for the visit, blood work and x-ray. I refused to believe it might be cancer. Rather, we treated her mild symptoms and took a “wait and see” approach with frequent re-visits while she did not get any better or worse.The vet did not know what it was, but presented cancer as a possibility. Only when my dog got worse 13 days later did I rush in for the ultrasound, but she died after surgery the next day. I was initially told that the ultrasound might not find anything but was likely to find something that the x-ray did not find. An earlier ultrasound may or may not have saved her life as she had a very aggressive abdominal cancer that ligated and invaded the main intestinal artery (earlier or later?). I can not have closure knowing that I might have contributed to her death by delaying the ultrasound and possible surgery earlier. This has ruined the rest of my life.

    • Joan

      I know exactly how you feel. My dog had a check up in late June and was diagnosed with Lyme and back pain which we took care of. My Mom had, at the same time, been diagnosed with terminal cancer and I was her caregiver. I did notice my dog seemed to be breathing more heavily on his walks, but he hated summer and was fine as soon as he went into the air conditioned house. One day I came home from shopping and my husband said he refused his favorite treat. We looked at each other and immediately called the emergency vet since it was our vet’s day off. He was diagnosed with pancreatitis which he had 18 months earlier, but that time the symptoms were very obvious. He was treated for 48 hours, did well and was released. 7 hours later we noticed rapid breathing and went back. He was watched over the next 24+ hours and we were told he was ok. Then, hours before he would be rereleased he developed fluid in the lungs. 15 hours later he passed away. I was in total shock since he was doing so well. I looked back over the summer and realized that little things may have been signs of the illness which we didn’t pick up on since he was eating and seemed ok overall. I was so guilty. How could I miss those things which seemed so clear in hindsight? Well, it gets worse. My husband found that there was a test in his lab results in June that indicated the problem.( I wish he had never told me.) My vet said that we were supposed to call with follow up questions. We didn’t. I just don’t understand how, after a 15 year relationship, that my vet wouldn’t warn me about something so dangerous. So, now we knew that instead of getting to my dog immediately as we thought, he walked around for 10 weeks with a problem. I can’t get over this. I feel sick every minute of the day. People say it’s not my fault, but how does it help that I missed it and I probably could have gone to any other vet and he would have called me about this? I can’t eat or sleep. I have been diagnosed with depression. I loved him so much and feel that if caught earlier he’d probably be here right now. I feel like I killed him.

      • thomas

        It really sounds like the vet SHOULD have said something instead of putting it on his customer to call and ask.. I would be really upset with that ignorant vet… Sounds like you took your dog when you should have and probably spent a lot of money.. many people I know end up not spending the money.. So looking from the outside in I think your dog was lucky to have you and you could ask him I bet he doesnt blame you….

  • Leann

    My white German Shepard male chewed my daughters brand new car chasing a cat like chew toy we took him to the pound my sister showed me a picture and he looked so sad .I will never forgive myself I’ll always think I could of trained him better something but no answer he is sitting pound as we speak with over 300 other dogs u or adoption.I saved him from parvo and feel he is waiting for me to Dave him now.

    • gloria

      You don’t know how much $1300 might have been for her. Depending on your financial situation it is a lot different for different people.

  • Darla

    Hello, all. First, please let me say how sorry I am for all your losses.

    I know exactly how you feel. I lost my little boy Douce today. Douce turned 11 in November & had just recently been diagnosed with Cushing’s syndrome. We had gotten the enzymes stabilized & he was doing well.

    Not long after we moved in my husband found a Cane Corso he wanted, so she came to live with is when she was about 7 months.

    Douce, always the Jack Russell, had to show the Corso who was boss a couple times, & then they were the best of friends.

    Today, three years later, I let them in the yard like any other day. I heard a gruff, so I knew that meant I needed to intervene before a fight started. I did, but it was too late. The Corso had my baby by the throat & wouldn’t let go. I tried so hard, but she was too strong for me. I finally got the Corso in her cage & grabbed my baby. Little Douce passed away before we even got out of the driveway. I can’t make it without him. ?????????????

    • Leann

      Let me also say he was very bad can not find any good reason but guard dog to keep him .We bit off more than we can chew. He’s too strong for us and when gets into that mode of fence fighting or cat chasing he’s crazy . I am having a hard time with the knowing he may be euthenized .He deserved a better love a better owner. Should I go forgive him or let him go.

  • Rick Cantu

    Hello, my name is Rick amd I lost my beloved frenchie on March 7,2017..
    Ziggy was her name and I had her for 7 years and she was my everything.. I am a chronic pain patient and she was the angel that helped cope.
    Ziggy had been battling allergies for sometime and on that Monday evening the 6th of March she had begun to breathe erratic so I text my normal vet and he advised me to take her in to the emergency pet clinic, so I rushed her in at 5:30am.., they evaluated her and stated they would give her two shots, a steroid and Benadryl shot.. then they asked us to wait to insure that all was ok.. not even 2 minutes later Ziggy began to have an allergic reaction, I had to argue to get them to take her back and help her.. they then began to tell me about money and the cost to transfer her to hospital side, I did not care herd is my card. The hospital side took her and side we will stabilize her we have her.. 2 hours later I get a call they are telling me they need to perform a tracheotomy at a cost if $2500-$5000 was the estimate and that she would need at the least a stay of 5-7 days to asses the damage that has been done by the allergic reaction, they could not guarantee quality of life and she may need a permanent tracheotomy which would take away normality.. then came the estimate of a final cost of over $12000-$15000 more or less. Or I could make the decision to put her to sleep.. I made the decision to put to sleep and I have this overwhelming sense of guilt that I was wrong .. I tell myself that she would not have had
    A quality of life due the information given to me . To make it worse , Then I find out that the emergency clinic waited to give her the treatment to save her that’s the reason the hospital had the extreme options due to her elevated condition. So the guilt is that it was my job to take care of her.. she depended on me for care and safety.. and look what happen.,
    I am coping as best as I can and trying to move forward, trying to forgive myself and deal with my guilt.
    Thanks for listening , I welcome any advise.

    • thomas

      Sounds like you did much more than many people do when their pet gets sick… Makes me think Ziggy was lucky to have you.. A friend of mine dog died recently and he is beating himself up because he basically did nothing vet wise, he says he couldnt afford to take him.. An allergic reaction certainly isnt your fault. Obviously you’re going to feel guilty but looking from the outside, it really wasnt your fault and you did the only thing you could for Ziggy.

  • anchoret

    I lost our little cat yesterday. She was only 8 months old. We came back from the shops and she came bouncing towards us, my husband said something to her and then she decided to cross the road just as a car was coming towards us. Driver didn’t even see her, he did stop but it was too late. Now my husband blames himself for not picking her up until the car had passed, and I just feel that it’s totally unfair and she deserved a longer life. But I wish I could know for sure that she’s safe and happy, that’s what upsets me the most I think, the feeling that I’ll never see her again.

    • thomas

      My dog was hit by a train.. I think the same thing sometimes, if I knew he was somewhere good…. it would make the guilt and emptiness I feel a little more bearable. But we dont get to know for sure…

  • Laurie Post author

    I’m so sorry your dog died, Cathy. What a horrible experience, to rescue a foster dog and then find him in your pool…your heart was in the right place, but a terrible accident happened! An unexpected tragedy, an accident that you couldn’t have known would happen.

    May you find peace and forgiveness. I don’t think you have anything to forgive yourself for because it was an accident that you didn’t know would happen, but I know those words aren’t easy to accept.

    My prayer is that you feel a powerful, unexpected sense of forgiveness and peace about your dog’s accident. May your heart be calm, your soul be serene, and your mind stop ruminating about what happened. May you accept that an unforeseeable accident happened, and that you are not to blame. If you feel you need to learn how to forgive yourself for not protecting your dog, I pray that forgiveness comes quickly and easily to you.

    Know that your dog is resting in peace – and that he really is in a better place. Accept that you only had the best intentions for him, and his fate was not your fault.

    Blessings, with sympathy,
    Laurie

  • Cathy

    I picked up a foster dog yesterday. He had been on a code red list, meaning he was going to be put down that day. That night (last night), I let him outside with my other dogs. Maybe fifteen minutes later, maybe more, I opened the door to let them in. I found my foster dog floating dead in the swimming pool. I don’t know if he died before falling in, or if he drowned. I am so sad now. I don’t know what to do.

  • Laurie Post author

    If you want to learn how to how to forgive yourself for not protecting your dog, it might help to learn the difference between guilt and shame.

    Guilt – if you have forgiven yourself – can be a positive feeling. It can actually encourage you to have more empathy for others. Guilt can help you make amends, take corrective action, and improve yourself. But you have to learn self-forgiveness before you can turn guilt around. Self-forgiveness is essential to enjoying your life and relationships because you will always have something you need to forgive yourself for! Whether it’s not protecting your dog, forgetting something important, or accidentally saying something hurtful…we constantly need to forgive ourselves because we are human. We are constantly making mistakes, poor choices, selfish decisions.

    And we cause accidents.

    If you feed it, guilt will become an unrelenting source of pain. You might believe that you should feel guilty and condemn yourself not once, but repeatedly. Guilt also may simmer in your unconscious. Either way, this kind of guilt is insidious and self-destructive and can destroy your life.

    There is a difference between guilt and shame. When you feel guilty, you feel bad about something you did. On the other hand, shame is how you feel about yourself. Shame is hating who you are and feeling ashamed of what you did. Guilt is hating the decision you made, but accepting that you are human and you made a mistake or a poor choice.

    Shame causes you to feel inferior, inadequate, or bad about who you are versus what you did. If you don’t learn how to deal with your guilty feelings and forgive yourself for not protecting your dog, your guilt will turn into shame. Shame is destructive, and has no positive effects. Guilt can be empowering because it can motivate you to see others with compassion. Guilt – when it’s resolved – can make you a better, wiser, kinder, more loving person. Unresolved guilt and shame will lead to greater self-preoccupation, selfishness, and unhealthy relationships.

    Realize that you may forgive yourself and still believe you were at fault, just as you might forgive someone else even though you think the person was in the wrong. You can have regret for what you did yet accept that you’re human and made mistakes. Perhaps, you did your best, given your circumstances, awareness, maturity, and experience at the time. This is a healthy, humble attitude.

    If you continue to have difficulties with self-forgiveness for not protecting your dog, it’s helpful to see a counselor. You may be suffering from shame, which predisposes you to self-loathing, guilt, and feeling bad about yourself. This can be healed in therapy.

    • BJ

      Dear Laurie, Your post on guilt and shame has helped me so much. I walked my dog without a leash and she ran up to a fence with 2 large dogs and they grabbed one of her floppy ears and attacked her. They were trying to get her under the fence and one had his jaw clamped on her face. I held onto her and kept her legs from being bit with my knees until I didnt think I could hold any longer. The dog opened his mouth and my little dog got away. She had quite a bit of damage and she had surgery and 2 night stay at vets. No broken bones and only slight damage to the ear and I brought her home yesterday. I keep running the scene in my head but mostly I just feel so guilty not having her on a leash. I have excuses but I know they are only excuses. I really just like her to run free because she is so happy when she does. I will never let her off leash again but I cant get over that it was my fault. I actually had to take some Valium to get through this. She has been everything to me for 13 years.

  • Jessica

    Dear Laurie,

    My loyal companion of 15 years was killed this weekend.

    He was a wonderful miniature pinscher and brought me so much joy over the years.

    Over the last year his health was deteriorating and had gotten worse this month.

    I had an appointment schedule for this Monday as he was rapidly losing weight, had an awful odor even after bathing and just wasn’t looking great. On Friday night, I hand fed him pizza cut into small pieces as a treat because he hadn’t been eating his food this week, although he was still drinking water. I gave him attention all night long and kept petting him in his bed as he looked tired out.

    I went to bed and he was peacefully sleeping.

    When I woke up in the morning and came downstairs, he wasn’t in his bed. I searched around and then was walking by the sliding glass door, I realized his leash wasn’t on the deck. I started to yell to my husband asking when he took him out and then I saw his leash wound up around the stake and him laying dead in the yard.

    My husband let him out in the middle of the night, dozed off in the couch and when he woke up, he forgot that the dog was out and came to bed. My best friend of 15 years died alone in 20’degree weather.

    I can’t get this image out of my head. I don’t know how I can forgive my husband and I can not believe I failed my dog like this.

    After so many years, this is not what he deserved.

    I know that his time was coming to an end, but not like this.

    How can I forgive myself and move on. How can I get this image of KZ laying there out of my head?

    I am devastated. I miss him already and my heart is broken.

  • Arafi

    hello, Laurie I’m here to thank you about your posts, also to give a little piece of advice if you accept it, of course.
    Not long ago I was taking care of this cute dog, he already had a house and an owner who really wanted him, because I just couldn’t take another dog to lie with me.
    Everything was perfect, until I took him to one of these campaign to spay and neuter for free sponsored by the government and some vets, I though everything would be ok, because previously I took my cats there.
    The surgery was done and me and the cute dg went home, I let him resting on his place while I went to feed the other dogs and cats because I left very early day morning, when I came back to check on him he was choking ans spiting blood, I still can’t forget that image of him dying and suffering.
    I want to die because I consider that was a crime from me, taking him there against his will, trusting cheap vets and then thinking that feeding the others was more important tan staying with him.
    I can’t stop thinking that if only I’d had seen him choking would he be alive?
    He was so cute and he already had a permanent home and he lost it all because of me! I still don’t know how am I supposed to live with that!!
    I accept my part involving his dead, but my advice is this: you still don’t mention in any of your posts something about trusting vets and them killing our beloved pets because they think its ok since they come from streets or they are not purebreed, or because we’re not paying anything then the animal’s life doesn’t worth it! Seriousy I’ve Heard about a lot of cases like this one, and now that it happened to the cuttest dog in the world, I want it to stop! No other animal should go through that just because a vet thinks its ok!!

    That’s all I wanted to share, meanwhile I’ll keep Reading your posts until I can stop crying and start feeling better, thanks again for sharing this 🙂

  • Sarah

    I lost both my Aussie dogs on Wednesday because I left them in a hot car.  I can’t believe I did this!  I took them out in the morning for their run, ran some errands, came back.  I was driving my husband’s car (he was in Miami for the week, I was alone) that I am not familiar with.  I got out and went into the house, began working off the list of things to do.  I was overwhelmed and multi-tasking (while waiting for the floors to dry I knocked-off a few phone calls, etc) very distracted.  It was a hot day and my dogs usually find a cool corner of the house and retreat their. 

    I never thought of them in during the day – just figured they were “busy” sleeping.  At the end of the day I collected items I had to return to the store and called for them to come along for the ride.  They were no where.  When I checked the back of my car, there they were – dead. 

    I’m not sure I can move on from this or forgive myself for not protecting my dogs.

    • Jennifer

      I so feel your pain right now I put my dogs on the covered deck with food and water in the morning and went off to work. Like I do everyday. It’s a large deck covered on backside of the house only gets sun in morning. I knew it was going to be a hot day I didn’t know too hot it is shady on the deck. I left work to go to a graduation party and retuned home to find he had died. I feel so awful that I didn’t think to come home or put up the mister . I don’t know if I will ever get over what I did to him. I feel like I failed him. My other dog was just fine but he was an English bulldog with heat sensitivity. Missing him so much the house feels so empty without him here. All the pain I caused him and my kids I just can’t stop thinking about all the what ifs and how I could have prevented this.

  • Ashley

    Laurie,

    I rescued a dog, Buddy 3 years ago and immediately fell in love. Soon after I met my boyfriend through our dogs playing together and the four of us have been inseparable ever since. We took our dogs everywhere and doted on them everyday. We always took them on vacation and this summer we went to Florida. Last summer we had rented a pontoon boat and took them to a secluded beach area where they loved running around on the island. This summer we did the same thing on my birthday and although he had never done it before, Buddy jumped off the boat directly into the path of the propeller. My boyfriend immediately jumped into the deep ocean water but when he got to Buddy he was already dead from his injuries. We took Buddy to the island and buried him there because we were on vacation and could not transport him home and the previous summer he had loved the island so much. It absolutely devastated us and ruined our vacation and my birthday. We have been feeling so much guilt for this since it happened. We keep saying if we hadn’t taken him on the boat or if we had put him on a leash or if we had reacted quicker maybe Buddy would still be alive. He had always been fine on boats and I still have no idea how he got off the side as it was enclosed. I am not sure I will ever be able to let go of the guilt I feel as I was his mother and feel like it was my duty to protect him. Reading your post gives me hope I am not alone, but I miss him so much. He brought joy to everyone and was the happiest dog. I’m not sure how I will go on not seeing his wagging tail and having him jump on me and lick my face. We do still have our other dog and I also feel guilty for causing the death of her best friend and for being so depressed this past week. Because it happened on my birthday I am not sure how I will celebrate my birthday in the future without being reminded of my baby. We are thinking of getting another dog as a companion for our other dog, but I also feel guilty that Buddy would think he is replaceable, which he was not. I cannot get the image of him lying dead in the ocean out of my head. I am so sad we had to leave him in Florida as well and cannot visit his grave. I am just praying for peace for both my boyfriend and I as he feels just as much guilt. I am so thankful for the years we had Buddy but can’t help but feeling like his life was cut short and it was because of our actions. I am just in so much pain.

    Ashley

  • Laurie

    Dear Kathy,

    I am so sorry about the tragic accident that took your dog’s life. Losing our a beloved dog is painful under any circumstances, but when you accidentally part of your dog’s death…it’s just all the worse. What a horrible memory, a terrible thing to experience.

    Once your shock and grief starts to fade, you will see that it was an accident. You would never have deliberately hurt Ginger, and you would do anything to keep her safe. You loved her with all your heart and soul.

    Ginger knew how much you loved her. She basked in your love every day! She trusted you and knew that you were always there for her. She is now resting in peace. She is safe in His loving arms, and her soul and spirit will always be part of you. Ginger isn’t remembering the way her life ended — and she’s definitely not re-living it! She is at rest, and she wants you to have peace.

    Ginger forgives you, and it breaks her heart that you are so grieved. She doesn’t want to see you in pain. She wants you to be at peace with the accident. She wants you to be at peace with yourself, and with your husband.

    May you find the peace that surpasses all understanding. May you have faith that God is taking care of Ginger, and may you hold on to the hope that your pain will lessen. It WILL get easier. You will forgive yourself in time — and remember that forgiveness is a daily act, a daily choice. May you find ways to forgive yourself for not protecting your dog.

    I pray for healing on your home and in your marriage. Ginger is watching you with love….don’t destroy her peace by allowing bitterness or unforgiveness to rule your heart and home. Give her what she so desperately wants: the knowledge that you have forgiven yourself and your husband for the accident, and that your heart is healing.

    Peace doesn’t happen overnight – it’s a process that takes time, and a choice that you need to make every day. I pray that you make this choice to forgive yourself, and that peace fills your heart, mind, and soul.

    In sympathy,
    Laurie

  • Kathy mitchell

    Laurie
    Last night around 9 pm it was dark. My husband took out our dog ginger of 14 1/2 year old dog on leash and tied it to my passenger side car mirror. I had no idea he did this. At the moment I thought ginger was inside. I told him I am going to Walmart to get 3 things for breakfast. And he must have forgotten he left her outside. She mixed datschund/pug When I went out it still so dark I never saw her and went straight to my car and drove off to Walmart which 2 miles. Here people stop my car said you are staging dog behind you I said what. I got out saw that it was our dog all torn up. I was in shock like why I realized that the leash was in mirror. I then realized too my husband had done this and I didn’t know.
    The cop ask me how I said I didn’t know I guess my husband must have done this to let her out to use bathroom and forgot to tell me he tied her to the car. At first I was so mad at him and I didn’t know.
    We had to take her to emergency animal clinic where they told me she already passed away.
    This grieve us both I felt like I killed her and my husband felt like he abused her. We both hearing impaired and I can’t imagine while I was driving our dog I am sure yelp in pain and I didn’t hear her. My husband think she probably was choked by the pull of leash. I keep seeing flashback of her so turned up on the parking lot horrible sight it just break me and bawled. My daughter keep telling me that we didn’t kill her and it was an accident. We have prayed and ask other to pray over us and the Lord will give us peace. This is so hard. Please let me hear from you. We feel like we don’t want any more dogs. This is so painful.
    Kathy

    • Juan

      Hello. Two days ago my dog died in an accident. He was about 10 years old, he was a small dog and the most caring and loyal one. I have a lot of guilt because that morning a friend of mine calls me to see if he can come over so that I could lend him a tool that he was needing. I tell him it’s ok. When he arrives, I open the front door and think for a moment “maybe I should go alone” (leave the dog on the house), but he haven’t gone out yet, so he comes with me following me. I go and get the tool in the garage while my friend is with my dog outside. Then, the dog is around while we chat and say goodbye. My friend gets in on his truck and starts doing reverse, I noticed my dog is not around so I tell him to stop and there he was, one of the tires was already stepping on my little dog, so I take hime cautiously and cover him in my shirt and we go running to the vet but he died. So’ I’ve been grieving. He was always by my side. I have done things like these a million times and never even close to an accident. I think he decided to cross underneath the car because it was a high pick up truck. I said sorry to him a million times. I’m crying all the time. My friend feels bad, and I know he was the one that put the car in reverse. But I’m taking all the blame in because I was his protector. The house feels so lonely without him. And the only thing I can think is that if it was a cleaner death or not an accident, I know the guilt probably would still be there, in terms of “what could have I done to make him last longer” or whatever, or if it was an illness then biologically there is some logic in understanding the death. But, when it is like this, an accident of this type, I think I will never overcome it. I know I gave him a good life, he was always there and I was always there for him, until two days ago. He was approximately 10 years old, but he had more years in front of him, he was a healthy dog. Sorry, for writing all of this here, but I’m trying to read and try at least to overcome whatever is possible. Another fact, is that I have two nephews that are in vacation with their family and they loved that dog, they were always with him, and the dog with them. They will be crushed once they hear what happened. So it is all two painful. I’m constantly thinking all the things that I could’ve done to prevent this, like for example taking him to the park at an earlier time, so that when my friend arrived, I could’ve let him inside, or I could’ve done something on the weekend and not be home and prevent that, or carry him in my arms before my friend put the car to reverse. All of this options where so clear, so I feel devastated. It is all so tragic. He was part of the family for more than 10 years.

      • Abby

        Juan i totally understand similar happened to me. I let my girl out she always wondered the front yard. But this time she got under my husbands car and he ran over her. I am devastated and dont think i will ever forgive myself.

      • Gale Cruz

        Juan,

        This wasn’t your fault. It was a tragic accident. Your boy wouldn’t want you to be sad. He knows you loved him. I hope you can find it in your heart to get another dog, and soon. It really does help with the healing and there are so many dogs that need homes. Maybe when your nephews come to visit, you can all go to your local animal shelter and look around. Forgive yourself. It will take time, but you must. You can’t carry this around forever. It was just an accident. They happen every day. I’m sending you light and love, and hope you feel it. Don’t feel badly about the long post. You need to get it out now. Cry hard and cry often, but soon you must forgive yourself.

      • Abby

        Last friday i came home from shopping. I let my little girl out. She always wonders the front yard but never goes under the cars. She got under my husbands car he didnt know. He ran over her . He found her already passed. I am totally devasted and ask myself why didnt i pick her up and take her out back with me, dont know how i will ever get over this. I cry every single day the guilt that i didnt protect her. She was the love of my life i took her every where with me. Now i am just lost.