My dog is dead, and I'm a mess
June 27, 2014 2:40 PM   Subscribe

What can I do in the short and long-term to process and cope with my dog's death?

I had to put my sweet, loving, stubborn, wonderful German Shepherd to sleep last night. He had cancer for a long time, I knew it was coming, and he went from a happy, normal dog to an unhappy dog in a matter of three days and it was very clearly time. I took him to the park on Sunday, and on Monday morning, there was blood everywhere. Prednisone, a better day, and then everything fell apart on Wednesday night. I had a vet come to the house and it went as well as I could have expected. But I woke up this morning in tears, and I the enormity of the loss is just starting to hit me.

There's a lot of sadness, and a lot guilt. I keep turning over in mind the mornings I overslept and he got a short walk down the block, the times I took him for granted. I should have taken him to the park more. I did my best, but I worry that my best could have been better. Everyone says he was lucky to have me - I was lucky to have him.

The house is so quiet, and covered in dog fur. And blood. I have to clean up the blood today - I can't deal with seeing it anymore. I have to figure out what I'm going to do with his stuff. But I can barely bring myself to eat anything, never mind scrub the floors. I was thinking I'd keep, for sentimental reasons, his collar, leash, and favorite toy. I might also keep a couple bowls and his crate in case I find a stray. I will keep his blankets and use them for myself. I will throw out his beds. I will give away his food and other toys to neighborhood dogs.

I miss him so much. I will always miss him, right?

I'm single, my life is kind of a scattered mess, and I don't like my roommate and I'm planning on moving soon. Life was honestly pretty lonely before I found my dog. I don't want to go back to being that person. No one greets me at the door when I come home. We were a two-animal unit, dog and momma, and now it's just me. Just me sucks.

I don't believe in an afterlife. The rainbow bridge stuff just bugs me, honestly.

I just miss my baby bear so much. Does this get better? Are there concrete steps I can take to feel better? I went to a yoga class, and I cried. Maybe I'll just run a lot. What do I do? What did you do when your dog died?
posted by ablazingsaddle to Pets & Animals (44 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
When we put our sweet senior kitty down, we cleaned and cleaned. And we watched trashy mindless TV. And I got a tattoo of her paw print. And then three days later we got another kitty. And that made it better. But yes, I miss my kitty.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 2:47 PM on June 27, 2014

I just miss my baby bear so much. Does this get better? Are there concrete steps I can take to feel better? I went to a yoga class, and I cried. Maybe I'll just run a lot. What do I do? What did you do when your dog died?

Let yourself grieve. How you feel and what you feel, and all of that, is highly individualized. I'd approach it like you would having the flu or an injury - this is a new temporary normal that will pass - and give yourself room to incorporate this new reality into your worldview. You are going to feel what you are going to feel and it's just fine. There is no right or wrong way.

You did just fine by your pup. He was clearly the best dog ever, and he lead a charmed life by pretty much any dog standard.

It gets better with time. I miss my departed dogs dearly - Chauncy, Bucky Jo Riley, Peanut, Puddles, Duke... But, it's not so crushing now. Most days.

When you a ready, there may be a new dog. And a new day.

The Canine's only real flaw is that their lives are so short.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:54 PM on June 27, 2014 [15 favorites]

I'm very sorry for your loss. Yes, it will get better. Time is big factor. Crying and yoga and running are all good things, for now. You're not doing anything wrong.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:55 PM on June 27, 2014

Please, no guilt. Every day with you was your dog's best day ever, even if the walk was short, even if you were busy, even if you thought the two of you had had better days.

You will always miss him. In a while, it won't be the stinging overwhelming loss it is now, but you will always have a hole. This is okay. In a while, you will remember the good times again, and your first thought of him won't be the sadness and guilt.

Take care of yourself. Let yourself grieve, treat yourself gently. Listen to what your body and heart want. If you want to cry, it's okay. If you want to run, or eat soft foods, or curl up on your bed - this is all okay. Everything and anything you do to feel better - it's okay.

I am so sorry.
posted by umwhat at 2:58 PM on June 27, 2014 [8 favorites]

Oh, I'm so sorry. He was darling.

I sat and wrote a long account of my dog's last days, and then a lot of other stuff about her. I lit a candle and just sat there thinking about her. I don't believe steps like that really make this stage go faster. This right now is bereavement and it's very disorganizing. CS Lewis wrote, "No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear." But you will pass through this, and then it will be more the kind of grief that reminds you he is still a part of you.

Bless you.
posted by BibiRose at 2:58 PM on June 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

It really gets better! You're grieving and everything you've written here sounds like you're being very healthy about the whole process. Right now you're in the part of grieving where it just flat-out hurts and that makes it hard for people to see an end point. But you'll reach a point where yeah, you'll miss your dog, but it won't hurt to think about him and you'll be able to enjoy the memories and be happy about your life together. Everybody's different. Some people take a week, some people take a few years. Neither person is better at grieving.

Going to yoga, going running, letting yourself cry, those are all really good ways to feel better. Especially the letting yourself cry. Allow yourself time to hurt, and time to work through your feelings. If it helps, schedule it into your day, but if not then let it happen when it happens. If other people are making demands of you, generally speaking telling them that your dog died not even a week before will get them off your back.

Try hard to eat regularly. Schedule it so you don't forget. Make simple meals that are easy, and yeah, splurge on pre-made stuff right now if you can afford it if that's what makes it easier for you to eat. It's okay to feel sad while you're eating.

If I were you I would put all of your dog's things in a big bin to be dealt with next week. The blood is a sticking point, though. It's important to clean that up just for sanitary reasons. You say that you don't like your roommate, but are they, at least, sympathetic about the dog? I feel like people are generally pretty understanding when it comes to these things, even terrible roommates. They might be okay with helping you clean a little. Not the blood, but maybe vacuuming the fur? It's okay to be sad while cleaning - a lot of people, actually, use cleaning as part of grieving. Get out all the materials you'll need and set them up. Fill a bucket with water. Put it all in place. Sit there for a while, then clean a small spot. Repeat until you look and see you've done most of it. Finish it off, or take a break and come back to it. Break it down into chunks and let yourself feel however you feel between and during those chunks. Then it will be done.

It's good, I think, to keep a little selection of things from your pet. I have my old cat's favorite water bowl, her last collar, a really kind note from her pet sitter, her favorite mouse. It's all kept in the bowl on my shelf. My parents have similar items from our family dogs and cats. I don't believe in an afterlife either and hate the rainbow bridge stuff too. But having these things helped me go through all of their stuff, because I wasn't just wholesale getting rid of everything.

You'll get things done in your own time. Let yourself feel how you want to feel. If you find yourself happy, for whatever reason, feel that too! Sometimes the loss of a pet is more of a burden being lifted and we can feel guilt about that. But push that guilt away. You're allowed to feel sad and happy and relieved and lonely all at once.
posted by Mizu at 3:02 PM on June 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Does this get better?

It really does. What's neat is that at first you will cry at every thought of him, but eventually you will smile at every thought of him. There's a funny little pivot point (that comes when you least expect) where the good memories wipe out the sad thoughts of his last days. You'll still miss him, always, but thinking of him will bring you to a bright place and not a dark one.

I know that sounds impossible now, but it really will happen.
posted by dayintoday at 3:03 PM on June 27, 2014 [12 favorites]

We put our boy down last September and it was awful. But our grieving process has been shorter than I expected it to be at the time. I miss him every day and wish he was still here. But the nature of Dog is such that their imprint on our lives is constrained by time and lack of speech. You will get through this time, and you will find another pooch.
posted by mwhybark at 3:03 PM on June 27, 2014

I have had the privilege of being "momma" or at least "sister" to many cats and a few dogs over the course of my lifetime, and with each animal's passing I mourned their personages deeply for months, if not a year or so after. It is normal and okay to give in to this sadness, because in becoming stewards to our dear animals, they become linked to us in ways that I think are largely inexplicable and unexplainable. To me, the bond that I had with each of my puppies and kitties was a force unparalleled by any other, and it made sense to mourn them deeply because the loss I felt was really and truly great. It is okay to grieve, and it is okay to take it easy, because psychologically you are experiencing a kind of trauma, and you need time to process what's happened so your mind and heart can make good with it.

So take care of yourself right now, take care of yourself in the months to come. You could hire someone to come do the clean up. Give them a list of what you want set aside so you can take care of it when you are ready. Let them remove the things that do not need to be there anymore. And know that feeling guilty dishonors the memory of your baby way more than whatever it is you feel like you didn't do correctly. You were a good mama to your pup, and that's all there is to it.

Much love to you. You did right by your little bear (that's what I used to call my puppy, too).
posted by Hermione Granger at 3:04 PM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm so, so sorry. I've read your other dog posts and you were a great dog mom and obviously loved your guy so much.

I think you'll just have to force yourself to clean up the blood, but give yourself a break otherwise. It's so hard at first, but you'll start to feel better with time. Definitely save some reminders of him, even if you have to hide everything in a closet for the time being.

Basically what everyone else has said already.
posted by snaw at 3:07 PM on June 27, 2014

I remember reading your questions about your dog. He was a lucky dog to have you! Yes, you'll always miss him, but it gets easier. Staying busy may help - my friend says of grief, "I know when I don't feel like doing something that I need to do it."
posted by analog at 3:13 PM on June 27, 2014

I miss him so much. I will always miss him, right?

You will. But both of you had better lives because of each other. And in many ways, he will always be a part of the best part of you. I've posted this before, but it's really true:

"Every time I lose a dog, he takes a piece of my heart. Every new dog gifts me with a piece of his. Someday, my heart will be total dog and maybe then I will be just as generous, loving, and forgiving."

I'm so sorry for your trouble. Take comfort in knowing that your friend loved you with all his heart and that you did the best anyone could possibly do. He would not want you to be sad.
posted by mochapickle at 3:15 PM on June 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

Aw, sweetie. We put our dog down in November. She was my best friend, and my husband's best friend, so we both lost our best friend on the same day. I didn't go a day with out crying for two or three months.

Things that helped a tiny bit, and only a tiny bit, but at least it was something: rearranging furniture and changing habits so the loss wasn't so obvious. A few weeks in, we got a kitten. She was and is a lovable idiot, but it genuinely helped to have someone walk into the living room and knock a plant on the floor, or walk across my face while I was sleeping. I ordered a lot of seeds and plants online in the winter. I obsessively designed my garden. I needed to think about spring, about the future, about things growing. I drew up plans for stuff I wanted to build, things like that.

We got a new puppy four months in, roughly. The saga is in my posting history. Our new dog is adorable and lovely, sweet and smart, but she's a puppy - she's a kid. Our other dog was like a sister, or a friend. The new dog will become that some day, she'll be our equal, but she's not a replacement. Still, the space of having her on the couch with us, and having to walk her everyday -- those things help.

Things gradually get better. I wish I could tell you that feeling like shit for a while wasn't a core part of the deal. And I still cry if I talk about it too much, or think about it too much. I still have her ashes. Our new dog inherited her toys. You don't have to make a ton of decisions about possessions right away.

Don't beat yourself up about any aspect of it. You did the best you could and she loved you and that's it. We all do the best we can, that's all any of us can do, that's all any of us will ever do.

I hate that rainbow bridge shit. It feels terribly cruel to those of us who don't believe in an afterlife, like it was designed to highlight loss.

I feel kind of awkward putting something so prosaic in here but blood is cleaned pretty easily by a salt paste (the cleaning of the evidence was something we went through as well. We rented a carpet cleaner from Home Depot. It was so fucking depressing, but there was something in the action that represented taking the first step toward acceptance.)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:19 PM on June 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm so sorry you lost your dog friend. Barbara King just did a blog post on losing a favorite cat on her NPR blog. You might appreciate it: Outliving Our Pets: A Tribute To Pilar.
posted by gudrun at 3:23 PM on June 27, 2014

It gets better.

All the second-guessing stuff hits really hard up front, but after a week or so even your own brain will be like, dude, no, you could NOT have fed him a steak every day of his life, and he did not suffer existential angst over that one time you stepped on his foot.

You will always miss him, but you will not always hurt constantly, that passes faster than you want it to. You will cry commenting on AskMe posts from people who just lost their dogs, even 8 years later. You will dream about him, and sometimes they will be nightmares but sometimes the two of you will just be, like, hanging out. Those are the best.

In those early self-flagellation days (and even still I have the bad 2am moments once or twice a year), I had to pick and hold on to a really special memory, something that reminded me that even though sometimes I did not deserve him...sometimes I did pretty awesome by him too.

For the next few days you just have to hang in there and take care of yourself. You can put his things away or not as you feel like it. Do clean up as best you can, as hard as it will be to do it's never going to get any easier.

I'm so sorry for your loss.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:26 PM on June 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

I am sorry for your loss. I too had to put my dog down after a illness and the realization he wasn't going to get better. It will take some time to get over, crying is a release, so don't be ashamed to cry. My husband cried too, we lost part of our family.

I know you probably don't want to do it now, but when you feel the time is right get you another dog. How about going to a shelter and giving a dog a new chance at life? A dog that will love you unconditionally. You will never forget your dog, but there is room in your heart for another best friend. They truly are God's wonderful creatures!
posted by just asking at 3:31 PM on June 27, 2014

I am so sorry... a lost animal leaves such a gaping hole in the household that it is really, really rough. It does get better. He is no longer in pain, and you were a fantastic caretaker and amazing human companion for him. ((hugs))

Is there a friend you can call to clean for you? I did this for my now-husband when his elderly cat passed away, and he said it helped a lot. While he was out, I removed her beds, litter boxes, toys, and did a deep vacuum. I didnt throw everything away, but put it in a non-visible location to be dealt with later.

Getting another canine companion can help a lot too. Maybe not right away, but a few months down the line.
posted by Fig at 3:34 PM on June 27, 2014

What everyone else said about it getting better. But it takes time, and you have to allow yourself to grieve, and not to feel apologetic or embarrassed about it. Your dog was your soulmate - it's a loss as profound as any loss can be. It helps to talk to others who have been through this kind of loss, so if talking to folks here isn't enough, you might want to seek out a pet loss group. There are some online, but in large cities, the shelters often run in-person groups. Being with others who are feeling as raw as you are can be cathartic.

Make a memorial box with your dogs favorite things, and his ashes, if you've had him cremated. That helped me to feel like my Sweetie (the cat of my heart) wasn't completely leaving me.

Please think about fostering for a rescue or a shelter. It will allow you to feel like you're not betraying the memory of your loved one by running out and getting a new dog, while helping an animal in need, and giving you some canine companionship and a fur shoulder to cry on.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 3:44 PM on June 27, 2014

It really does take time. You can chase the worst memories away by very deliberately reminding yourself of all the good ones (or just pick one good one and focus very hard on it) but you're very much allowed to grieve.

You'll always miss him, but you'll miss him in happier ways.
posted by holgate at 4:00 PM on June 27, 2014

I just read this today and it really struck a few chords with me. Breaking the Power of Guilt (via Pet Loss Support Page)
posted by one4themoment at 4:06 PM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I will give away his food and other toys to neighborhood dogs.

This is a mitzvah. It might hurt to do it, but the lives of those dogs will be better because of your actions, just like you own dogs life was better because of your actions. A neighbour once gave us half a bag of dog food and her dog's bag to tennis balls. She later commented that it made her feel better to see our dog playing with her dog's toys, like they were still bringing happiness.

Read up on the grief process. You may or may not experience some, all, or none of the stages. Whichever happens, you can't accelerate it. Just try to sit with the emotions. The alternative, not feeling them, does a disservice both to you and to your friend. You have my permission, for what that's worth, to sit on the sofa and bawl your eyes out for a few hours whenever you feel the need to.

With regards to the coming home to an empty house, maybe create a new ritual for when you come in. Something that changes the order a little and distracts you from the fact that he's not here.
posted by Solomon at 4:18 PM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I had to put my cat to sleep and she got blood on the carpet, which I had to clean up. And I had the residual guilt thing and I was single at the time. People grieve differently, but for me I go and get a new pet ASAP. Getting a new cat who curled up as I went to sleep really helped. If you're not ready for a new dog quite yet, maybe you could foster or even just volunteer at an animal shelter. The doggies there could benefit from your love for sure.
posted by bananafish at 4:45 PM on June 27, 2014

Having lost several dogs & cats to age & illness over many years, one comfort I didn't expect was that the place they have in my heart has never gone away. Even with new dogs & cats: the new ones never push out the old ones. It's more like your heart gets bigger & has more love.

We've always had more than one animal at a time; we help each other through it when we lose one. I hope one day there will be more animals in your life to love.

Hugs. Hang in there.
posted by yoga at 4:48 PM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Losing a dog is awful. Here are things that helped me after losing my dog to cancer:

1. Get another dog. It doesn't replace them in your heart, but you'll love the new pet too. The routine of having another being to rely on you is a wonderful, important feeling.

2. Frame a picture of your dog and put his tag between the picture and the frame glass. It's a nice way to keep part of the collar, but not all of it.

3. Animal shelters welcome donations of beds, blankets, toys, etc.

4. Consider fostering a dog for rescue if you're not ready to give your heart away so soon.

5. Spend time with others outside of your house. The abcence of your dog is strong for the first several weeks. It helps to be out avoiding it.

I was a mess just like you and I still get a pang when I think of how incredibly sweet and loving she was. I miss her dearly, but the trade off of the unconditional love we get is the limited nature of their lives. My heart goes out to you.
posted by cecic at 4:58 PM on June 27, 2014

I am so sorry for the loss of your dog - he was gorgeous! It is the worst, but it does eventually get better with time. Definitely let yourself grieve and cry, and don't be surprised if the smallest things set you off in the near term. Shortly after Barney, my previous Welsh Terrier, passed, I was grocery shopping and came across a display of Beggin' Strips, which had been his favorite treat. Out of habit, I started to grab a package, then it hit me and I started bawling in the store.

I definitely agree with the person who suggested seeing if you can get someone else to clean up the blood. I know I wouldn't be able to handle doing that. I gave Barney's leftover food to a friend's dog and some of his toys to my parents' dog, and I kept some of his toys and his dishes (which Linus, my current Welsh Terrier, inherited) Do what feels right to you.

I knew that eventually we would adopt another dog, but we didn't put a timeline on it. We adopted Linus a few months after Barney passed away, and doing that was the most healing thing we could have done. The right time will be when the right dog comes along - the one who needs your love as much as you need theirs, and you'll know it.

Hugs to you.
posted by SisterHavana at 5:05 PM on June 27, 2014

I'm not getting another dog for at least a year. Not ready.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 5:05 PM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry about your pup. I remember your previous posts and I thought you sounded like one of the best pet owners ever.

Some of the best advice I've been offered about grief is to do what you need to do to get through your day, for the first few days. This just happened to you! It's OK to be gentle with yourself and allow yourself time to feel sad and just not do anything. if you are able to. Gather up your strength. Watch trashy TV or movies. Eat comfort food. The idea isn't to do this forever, but rather, not to put pressure on yourself to "be normal" for the first little while. I think it's good to conserve your energy immediately after a loss--it's exhausting.

And although I just read your update about not getting another dog for a year, I just wanted to say...if, before the year is up, you find yourself really aching to get another dog--please do. You will never forget this dog, and it isn't an act of disloyalty, I promise.

I'm so sorry. Take care.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:18 PM on June 27, 2014

I am so sorry for your loss. We lost our beloved dog in an accident, and I couldn't believe how much it hurt. It does get better, but it does take time.

I hear you about not getting another dog for at least a year, but for me getting another dog was a big part of feeling better about my dear Simba. I decided that I would get a rescued dog, but I wouldn't do it until I could find one of the same breed as the one I lost; it felt like I was letting the universe decide when it was time for me to have a new dog, and that worked really well for me. I feel like a big part of the reason it helped so much that even though Nicholas is the same breed, he's a completely different dog. So I still love and miss Simba, but I don't feel guilty like I replaced him.

I love that you are taking your loss seriously, and allowing yourself to feel, even if what you are feeling is sad. Take all the time you need, and keep your heart open.
posted by layceepee at 5:20 PM on June 27, 2014

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Allow yourself to really feel it now, it is a very healthy thing to do. Yes, it gets better but it does take time.

I was gobsmacked by the intensity of my grief after my cat died. I cried a lot, I woke up early and went for long walks, I watched a lot of old movies. I traveled to a country where I saw nothing but stray cats everywhere. Eventually I was able to adopt two new kittens who are now as much a part of my heart as the first one was.

It sounds like your dog had a very good life thanks to you. Eventually you will be able to do it again and give a good life to another, but you can think about that when you are ready.
posted by maggiemaggie at 5:30 PM on June 27, 2014

"Take what you want, and pay for it, says God." Whether or not you believe in the big G, this saying hits home for me every time I lose one of my beloved dogs, and now that I am an Older Person, that has happened quite a few times.

So, first of all, know that you were the joy of your dog's life and he loved every day with you. Guilt makes no sense to dogs, and I'd strongly suggest to you that given that you clearly showered your dog with care and affection, it likewise makes no sense to beat yourself up for things like shortened walks. You gave him a wonderful, wonderful life which he relished, that's what you want to remember.

Second, I'd suggest cleaning up and putting all his things away. You will always miss him -- each animal you are privileged to have this kind of close relationship with leaves a big huge dent in your heart -- but it hurts extra to keep looking at his possessions. Consider donating some/all to a shelter.

Third, it would honor your dog and help you if you looked for another furball to love. Another dog is never a replacement, but they are a real solace. I tell you this from my own experience. My dog, who I had just adopted, saved my sanity when my dad died. And so many dogs are facing an involuntary death sentence if no one adopts them . . . it is a tribute to your guy to do that. I promise it will help you feel better, too.
posted by bearwife at 5:41 PM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry.

You did the right thing; you went with your heart. He knew this.

Allow yourself to grieve.

Moving some of his stuff out of sight might help, and you might consider writing down all your favorite things about him, if you are so inclined. All the little things he did that cheered you, the things you always did together. Getting it all out on paper, and then putting that away might help (it has helped me). This will be awful at first, feeling all these things, but you will remember things you forgot and then most of the pain will happen all at once. For me, it is better that way. Then you can save the memories but not have them right there in your way as you try to cope for the next while. The important thing (for me, anyway) is to keep the memories but to also give yourself a little space to heal and recover.

Daily routines might also be a problem, and if you are taking yoga classes and things like that, you might consider planning things to do during times you'd usually spend with your dog - walks and stuff. Walk in a different place, or do some other kind of exercise until you are ready.

I lost my kitty on Sunday and though it was not unexpected (she was a quite elderly kitty) it has been devastating. She visited with me every morning at breakfast and was always on her cat tree. We moved the cat tree to another spot and now it is easier to walk through that room, but breakfast is hard. I also have two dogs and have been leaning on them a lot this week.

I know that feeling of wondering if you took your pet for granted, if you could have done more... Know that you were worthy of your dog, your dog loved you exactly the way you are unconditionally because you were an excellent human and he could rely on you completely, and you did all you were able to do.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 5:52 PM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

And by all means, wait until you are ready for another dog. You will know when you're ready. Certainly not today.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 5:57 PM on June 27, 2014

For me it was a cat but we were bonded similar to what I hear people talk about with their dogs. It's been six years (!!!!!) but I still can get choked up over Mini's last days. I remember what a character she was, just as if she'd been human. It is much better now but it took quite a while.

I can have a hard time letting go of tears. Last year or so I began a meditation practice, which is helping with that. Cry early and often, if you can; you're better off. It will taper off with time, and it always seems to take more time than we think it should.

Nthing putting your dog's belongings out of sight or donating them.

It sounds like you were a very caring, responsible steward and companion for your dog; not all animals are so lucky. You're in my thoughts.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 5:59 PM on June 27, 2014

I am so, so sorry about your dog. My dad went through this over the winter with his cat. He found it helped to keep a journal about the cat. He wrote down feelings, recollections, his worries about the last month's together, everything. He said it was very cathartic.

Regarding the blood--can you cover it with a towel or something and ask a friend or family member to clean it for you?

Regarding toys, food bowls, all of that . . . You don't have to pick it up now. You don't have to pick it up all at once. My dad took months to clean up everything. He did it a little at a time, as he was able--a couple of toys here, the water bowl there, the food bowl there. Each item hurt so much that it was too hard to do all at once. He never did dump out the litter box until another cat came into the house. My aunt's cat has been gone for years and the cat bed is still where it always was. It is OK for you to not do everything. It is OK for you to keep his memory with you.
posted by schroedinger at 6:29 PM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's no pressure to get another dog, but you might enjoy either volunteering or fundraising for your favorite local animal organization, in his honor.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:36 PM on June 27, 2014

I'm very sorry for your loss. He was a beautiful dog and clearly well loved.

I'm not in much of a position to give you advice since I'm dealing with a similar issue myself: my beloved pet died in early April, and pretty much all the color went out of my world with his passing. Here are a few scatted thoughts from someone a couple months "ahead" of you in the grieving process:

1. Everyone grieves differently. You need to figure out what works best for you and ask others for what you need; what you need may be very different from what works for other people. For example, my mother is the kind that needs to purge all reminders from the house, and in my absence, she came into my apartment and got rid of many of my pet's things. She meant well, but I was quite annoyed by this. Other people mean well when they ask when I am getting another pet, but to me, this is unthinkable. Everyone is different, so try different things and see what works for you.

Some people are resilient and will snap back after a week or two, but other people will take much longer to heal (I'm still crying every day). There is no right or wrong when it comes to grief, and how you grieve is not a clear expression of how you loved, e.g., the resilient people don't necessarily love any less, and grieving for long periods of time doesn't necessarily mean you are weak or pitiful.

2. While feelings of guilt seem to play a role in many kinds of grief, they are very common in cases of pet loss--in fact, I think this may be the distinguishing feature of this kind of grief. I'm struggling with it myself. Anything you can do to get beyond this is crucially important. I do find it somewhat helpful when others assure me that I have nothing to feel guilty about. I guess I also take some comfort in the fact that many, many people report feelings of guilt when their pet dies. Clearly, we can't all be terrible pet owners! There must be something about the nature of the relationship (likely the asymmetrical dependence) that makes guilt such a common response after the death of a pet. And guilt may give us a false sense of control over things that are ultimately beyond our control.

From where I sit you have absolutely no reason to feel guilty. You rescued your bear from a shelter, gave him a loving home, took him to the park, and eased his passage out of this world. What an amazing series of gifts you gave him! I'm sure he felt like he won the lottery when he came to stay with you.

If you start feeling guilty about something, perhaps you could imagine what you would say to a friend who expressed guilt under similar circumstances and then adopt this as your self-talk. For some reason, we are often much harder on ourselves than on others.

3. I think it is a good thing that you are moving soon. Getting away from the reminders of the old routine can be a big help. You don't have to decide right now about what to do with all your dog's things. Perhaps you could ask a local friend to box everything up and clean up the blood.

4. Many vet schools run pet loss helplines that can be worth calling if you hit a bad patch. Here is a page with some numbers (summer hours may be limited). When my friends and family have gotten tired of listening to me, I've called several of these hotlines with varying results. In some cases, I felt much better after I called, but in a couple cases I felt worse--it all depends on the particular person you get. But these are free services and are staffed by those who understand the pain of losing a pet. It is worth a shot if you are feeling low and don't want to reach out to a friend.

5. I've done a lot of walking and binge watching of Netflix over the last two months. Both help in different ways.

6. While mostly I've just been missing my boy and feeling guilty and sad, his death has also brought to the fore a number of thoughts about life and death and meaning. Writing down some of these thoughts has been helpful.

Again, I'm very sorry for your loss; feel free to send me a message if you want a shoulder to cry on.
posted by girl flaneur at 11:27 PM on June 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh I forgot to mention one activity that did cheer me up a bit:

7. I had a number of silly nicknames for him that changed over time, and I wrote them all out. Something about seeing that list helped me to focus on the good parts of loving him rather than all the guilt and pain.
posted by girl flaneur at 12:24 AM on June 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry. Your baby bear was a beautiful boy.

Take all the time you need to grieve. It's a huge loss. The only times I've seen my dad weep -- just bawl -- were when his mother died and when Colin, our big, friendly standard poodle, had to be put down.

I'm single, too, and when my tuxedo cat, Max, had to be put to sleep, I remember thinking that no significant other had been as loyal and loving as my Maximum. The same year that Max died, so did a dear friend (an ex-SO). I had unfinished business with the ex, which I've worked to let go of, but none with my tux boy. The only thing that our dogs and cats do wrong is that they don't live as long as we do.

I'm not usually much on group activities, but a local animal shelter offered a pet owner grief support group that helped after I lost Max. It was good to talk to people who wouldn't downplay what I was dealing with.

"Rainbow Bridge" doesn't do it for me, either. I did find solace in a book called "Goodbye, Friend," by Gary Kowalski. It gave me ideas about small, personally significant things I could do to honor Max.

And girl flaneur made a good suggestion -- about writing out the nicknames. They're part of your relationship with your pup. You loved him and he loved you and knew he was loved by you. That's a special thing.

(((hugs))) And send a Me-mail if you need to. You'll be in my thoughts.
posted by virago at 10:15 AM on June 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

oh hell, that is so sad. Sorry -I love dogs and cannot even think how tough this is.

Well you need to sit down and grieve. You lost a dear friend. You are emotionally affected by this. It is okay to handle yourself with gentle gloves. You need to tread slowly. Cry like a baby. Go ahead get it all out. Find yourself a good place and say goodbye to him. Or write a nice long letter, thinking of the good times, the times you were tough with him. Just let him go. He is already gone. Accept that slowly.
You will heal in time of course but right now the first things to do is to say goodbye, cry, treat yourself gently, be nice to yourself and then get back on your feet. Also try not to confuse different issues with this one (your roommate thing, etc. ). I would suggest this as it helped me a lot. Also, don't rush to get a dog now until you are a bit more stable. However this might be something you can keep in mind when you do start looking again.
posted by jellyjam at 2:13 PM on June 28, 2014

Man, I remember your previous threads about your dog. I am so sorry about your loss. It is so so hard. I think sometimes we feel bad about being upset, that it's "just a dog." But seriously, that dog was a huge important part of your life and it's totally okay to grieve. It's okay to cry. Hell, I'm crying right now.

I know that this is cliche, but it does get better with time. My 14-year-old Corgi had to be put down in February and I was a wreck afterwards. Shortly thereafter my Terrier had to go to the vet and I almost couldn't handle being there. However today I took my Terrier to the vet and it was no big deal. So I guess it's important to recognize that it's okay to grieve but that you will feel better with time. You will always miss him but you won't always be in anguish.

Do you have a friend who can help you clean? Cleaning is a pain but it really helped us. Especially a big dog that sheds. For some reason the hair everywhere is a very difficult reminder. Alternately can you hire someone to clean? (You'd probably have to clean the blood yourself first - Jolie Kerr has a whole column about how to do that.)

As for the guilt - I think honestly having that guilt is what makes us good pet owners. Recognizing our animals' needs and feeling like we can't possibly meet all of them. But you forget how many *horrible* pet owners there are out there and how many animals are neglected. So those of us who are good owners feel guilty because we can't always go on as many walks, or we can't get home as early as we'd like from work. But you put so much time and effort and love into that dog, and he knew it and loved you for it.
posted by radioamy at 2:19 PM on June 28, 2014

I lost my sweetie cocker spaniel Lily eighteen months ago.

I cried for a week. My boss sent me home from work, I was such a mess.

The next week, I couldn't stand the constant silence in the house. So I started looking for another dog.

I went to Now I have two cocker spaniels, Sailor and Chasely.

I adopted again so quickly because I knew--I knew--that Lily would want me to have another dog. She was a stray that a co-worker found, frightened and alone and probably dumped by her previous owner. We had a home together for three wonderful years.

Taking in two dogs who were frightened and alone at the animal shelter was the best thing I could have done for them, and for me. They love me, and I love them, and I tell them about Lily sometimes when I'm missing her.

You may not be at a place where you can adopt again. You may never be at that place. But it helped me, and I'm so glad I did it.
posted by magstheaxe at 6:26 AM on June 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

sidenote: two days after my upthread post we went to an adoption event and came home with a 7-year old lab/sheperd mix. He's still waiting on us to discover his name but he is very calm and has been respectful and considerate of our itty bitty kitty.
posted by mwhybark at 2:13 PM on June 30, 2014

Thanks everyone. I feel silly marking a best answer - they're are really, really helpful and I feel less alone.

I'm in a weird place in that I, intellectually, know that dog's lives are short and that I did the right thing, but I feel incredibly sad on a physical and emotional level. My eczema flared up, I'm not hungry, and I cry randomly. I'm assuming that it will get better, though. I know that he is in a better place, and I know that I'll never forget him. It just hurts right now.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 2:35 PM on June 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry for your loss. I had to put my own dog down in February after 17 years together. That it happened during a particularly stressful time in my life when I already felt alone only made it worse. I was a zombie for a week after and struggled for a long time.

As others have said, let yourself grieve. There are support groups both online and in real life that deal with this and talking to people going through the same thing can help.

Also, find ways to remember your dog. Talk about them, share all the funny/adorable moments you had together.

Something that helped me was to remember how brave and full of life my dog had been, up until the last weeks, and to try and take courage in my own life and face it with an open heart like she dud hers.

I think adopting another pet is mentioned in times like these because it can help with some of those restless urges that come from having a pet-oriented life disrupted. To quote C. S. Lewis again, "Thought after thought, feeling after feeling, action after action had H for their object. Now their target is gone."

Some people heal by getting into a familiar routine with a new pet. Three weeks ago I adopted two kittens and it did help. That said, I was ready to adopt again and I'm glad I did not rush into it as I know I would irrationally expect them to take the place of my dog rather than accepting them on their own terms.
posted by bgal81 at 6:43 PM on June 30, 2014

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