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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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The End of Your Pet’s Life: The Grief May Surprise You


This is a bit off topic for me, but my wife, daughters and I made the very difficult decision to euthanize our beloved family pet, a black Labrador mix named Bogie (Humphrey Bogart Bello). Bogie was 15 years old and in very declining health, but that did not make the decision any easier. He has been a part of our family, and by our sides (sometimes a thorn in them!) for most of his 15 years. We have seen him go from a rambunctious, high strung, almost uncontrollable young pup, to a mature, quiet, gentle senior citizen, with many milestones and stories in between. He had developed some serious physical (and mental) conditions that led to our decision, and I know, in my heart, we made the right one; still, as I indicated previously, it wasn’t easy.

We took Bogie to the vet on Saturday, intending to treat one of his many conditions, and our request for treatment resulted in a discussion about what was best for him, treatment or an end to his suffering. With the gentle assistance of our caring veterinarian at Hilldale Veterinary Hospital in Southfield, MI (Detroit suburb), we chose to end his suffering. We stayed by his side as the vet administered a sedative; we petted and kissed him as he fell gently to sleep. Finally, we said goodbye and left the room. We could not bear to stay and witness the specific procedures that would end his life, although some families, I understand, choose to stay to the very end. We just couldn’t do it.

I am a grown man; I have watched all of my grandparents, my father, most of my aunts and uncles, and even a nephew pass away from old age or serious illness. Obviously, the loss of Bogie is different than those losses. This is not human loss, and, in the natural scheme of things, a dog has a relatively short life span as compared to humans. A person who welcomes a dog into the family, knows (in the recesses of his mind) that he will, someday, face this type of experience. Yet, I cannot believe how distraught I am; to my great surprise, I am quite grief stricken. I find myself missing the little things. Bogie is not there to happily greet me when I get home. He is not at the kitchen window, barking as people walk by. His dish sits empty in the utility room. I can no longer hear him sneaking a drink in the toilet. I can eat without him staring at me, longingly, for some of my food. He is not at the back door, barking to go out. As bogie got old, and could no longer jump on furniture (shedding black hair on every piece he came in contact with), he would sleep at the side of my bed. When I got out of bed, I had to remember he was there and navigate around him. Over the last few days, when I awake, I engage in my "navigate around Bogie" routine, forgetting he is no longer there. I no longer find clumps of his hair (or other things he left, in his old age), all over the house. These are simple examples of the many little things in my life that have changed with his passing. I miss them all, and thinking about them, and him, brings a smile and, at the same time, tears.

Yesterday, I received an unexpected package of information from our family veterinary hospital. The package contained a letter expressing sincere condolences and a list of resources available and things you can do to mourn your pet and "ease the grieving process". I was surprised to find that there are many resources for the grieving "parents" of pets. Since there are probably many people who are sharing or about to share this same, sad experience, I decided to share these materials, with the hope that they will help ease the grief of others:

1. In the Detroit area of Michigan, where I live, there is a "grief support group" for pet loss, at a local church (this one meets the second Monday of every month). For more information, go to www.beyondthepawprint.com.

2. Michigan State University (which has a degree program in Veterinary Medicine) has a "Pet Loss Hotline" for grieving pet owners. The number is (517) 432-2696. The Michigan State link is to a Pet Loss Support website offered by the university.

3. Nationally, there is the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement , I’ve linked the website, but the web address is www.aplb.com. This is an amazing site that allows visitors to post memorials, provides helpful tips and articles (I love "All Pets Go To Heaven"), hotlines, and support groups. The Association will also send condolence cards from friends of grieving family members. There are chat rooms for grieving family members to visit.

4. There are numerous books on the subject of pet loss and healing. Here are a few:

  • Brown, R.J. (2005). How to Roar: Pet Loss Grief Recovery. Morrisville, N.C., Lulu Press.
  • Byock, I. (2004). The Four Things That Matter Most: A Book About Living. NY:Free Press.
  • Hansen, M.V., Becker M., Kline, C., Canfield, J., & Bryan-Hunt, J. (2005) Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications.
  • Carmack, B. (2002). Grieving the Death of a Pet. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress.
  • Reynolds, R.M. (2000). Blessing the Bridge: What Animals Teach us About Death, Dying and Beyond. Troutdale, Oregon: New Sage Press.
  • Sife, W. (2005). The Loss of a Pet: A Guide to Coping With the Grieving Process When a Pet Dies (third edition). NY: Howell Book House.

5. Finally, here are some additional websites on Pet Loss and pet loss products and services:

One of the recommendations contained in the materials that I received about the grieving process was to write something about your pet. The materials said that the writer would "feel better" after writing about him; I’m not sure this particular recommendation works. However, I know that I will feel better with the passage of time, and I am happy to share these tips, publications and websites with others who are going through similar experiences.

Bogie: We love you and we will never forget you. Rest in Peace, my good friend, rest in peace.


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  1. Christy R says:
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    Mark, I don’t have a pet due to my son’s allergies, but your post brought several tears to my eyes. I am sorry for your loss. I grew up with a dog and know how pets are so much part of the family. I am sure many families will appreciate the support information you shared. Thank you for sharing your story. In some way, I feel I know Bogie.

  2. Mark Bello says:
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    Thanks for the kind words. Hopefully the post helps others

  3. Megan G. says:
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    Mark: Thank you for your blog. I too have lost a pet that had been with me for 7 years. I know how hard it is to say goodbye, especially with all the reminders around the house. Sometimes we don’t realize just how much joy a pet brings to our lives until they are gone. Thank you for sharing your story.

  4. David says:
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    Mark: I’m so sorry for your loss. Maybe one day you will be able to open your home to a new furry friend :)

  5. Lauren says:
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    Mark: So sorry for your loss. Pets are such an important part of a family. Their unconditional love is irreplaceable…not to mention that they cant talk back to us like our children. Thanks for the post. I wish you and your family all the best.

  6. Sid Korpi says:
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    I am so very sorry for your loss of Bogie, though I am always glad to hear someone acknowledge the depth of the grief we feel when an animal companion passes. It honors the pet’s life to acknowledge what a hole his/her absence leaves in ours when they die. I work as an animal chaplain in Minneapolis to help people prepare for, cope with and move on after their loss. I recently wrote the book “Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss” because I’d lost (in addition to my mother, stepfather and uncle) three dogs, two cats and my cockatiel in a relatively short span of time. I found sharing my stories and those of other people the world over was very healing—even as I frequently shorted out my keyboard from crying over it. It has since gone on to win the Reader Views 2010 Reviewers Choice Award in the inspiration/spirituality category, which indicates that the book’s target is not solely pet loss but healing from the grief of any major loss. It is because of several experiences I (and others) have had that indicate the ongoing presence of our beloved animals (and humans) who have passed on that helps to ameliorate the agony, as we can know they are still around us, albeit in a noncorporeal form.

    I hope Bogie gives you some signs that he is still near even as he’s free of his physical body. Look for him in your dreams, listen for the jingle of his collar, notice his unique scent, pay attention to other animals that may act like him to indicate he’s around, etc. These are all manners in which we can receive communication from the Other Side IF we are open to and unafraid of receiving them. (And, your inner skeptic may say, if we’re simply imagining them to make ourselves feel better, who cares? We feel better and remember our loved ones. What can be wrong with that.) Read my book, however, and you may be persuaded of the truth of those messages.

    Once your grief has subsided adequately, I hope you’ll open your heart and your home to another needful animal (preferably from a shelter rather than a puppy mill, of course).

    Wishing you all the best.

  7. Facebook User says:
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    My sympathies on the loss of your Bogie. Your article was well timed for me. I had to put my beloved black Persian, Clancy, to sleep on Tuesday morning, April 20. He would have been 15 on August 1. I realized suddenly at Easter that he had lost a significant amount of weight (heavy coat covered the initial evidence) when I picked him up- and on Tuesday- I found out why- he was in renal failure- his kidneys pretty much at the end of the line. I spent most of the weekend agonizing about bringing him to the vets. I gathered up my courage- I had never made this decision on my own- and had the bloodwork done on Monday. I rocked him much of Monday night,I didn’t think I would have the courage to bring him back in but he was such a good friend, I simply could not stand to see him suffer. I -like you didn’t stay to the very end- but spent some time loving him into sleep at the vets. I had him cremated- and will pick up his ashes within the week. I have another kitty- a 10 year old rescue tabby who I also love which has helped- but no one will ever take the place of my Clancy. He became a huge part of my heart. Thanks for the article.

  8. Ana says:
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    Hi Mark: I know what its like to watch your loyal little friends health deteriorate. You become their voice and only advocate. Their health decisions fall upon you unlike a human and in the end you question if you did everything you could. A Lab living to 15 sounds like you did everything right. Find joy in your loss through all the happy memories you and your family had with Bogie.

  9. Mark Bello says:
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    I am humbled by all of the responses and expressions of sympathy. Obviously, this is an experience shared by many. Hopefully, the resources provided in my post and by readers will provide others with some comfort in their time of sadness. Thanks to all who have commented. Regards, Mark

  10. Jon Lewis says:
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    Mark, what a wonderfully written piece. While reading it, it makes me think of our current dog who is 4 years old. When I get home, I will definitely take him for granted a lot less. I think this is the same reason I really enjoyed the movie “Marley and Me.”

  11. Facebook User says:
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    Mark, I really empathised with your article. I dread the day when we lose our little dog – now almost 10 years old and diabetic and with cushings disease. However, at the moment, he is healthy, happy and very very cheeky, so we are determined to love him as much as we can.

  12. Anonymous says:
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    Beautiful and almost made me cry.