What is a dog-less life like?
October 28, 2019 7:24 AM   Subscribe

I lost the best dog last week, who was by my side for 16 years. If you lost a dog and then decided not to get another dog, how did you cope and transition?

I feel adamant about not getting another dog. But it feels so weird to not take walks or to have dog beds everywhere. We do have a younger child so the house isn’t entirely quiet. How did you manage life after a dog? My partner does want another one, so it’s been a debate.
posted by inevitability to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Take your kids for walks with you instead. If they are small put them in a stroller, some of my favorite life memories are walks I took with kids, in my case my niece & nephew as they were growing up walk at their speed & see the world through their eyes.

It's been a week. It's not the time to decide if you want another dog or not yet for either of you. Give yourselves time to grieve & heal. In 6 months or even more when you both feel ready, then have the conversation & decide. Took me almost 2 years to decide I wanted a dog again after my heart dog passed away, it's OK to take time and it's OK to change your minds.
posted by wwax at 7:53 AM on October 28, 2019 [12 favorites]

I became dogless last month having had dogs for over eighteen years. I don't know that I have fully adjusted yet. I'm in a different situation to you as I live alone (though I still have a cat). I'm not planning to get another dog. In my case I felt I had no choice but to give my last dog up for 'adoption' after his health problems had become too much for me to cope with on my own - hardly less upsetting an event than the unexpected death of my previous dog.

I'd been spending quite a bit of money on day-care and vet bills, so I guess I'll be better off financially. My days seem suddenly longer with less to fill them - I'm getting more sleep; arriving at work earlier; reading more. I am, however, getting less exercise - that could be the single biggest problem for me, that I'm no longer doing all that walking.
posted by misteraitch at 7:56 AM on October 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

After my dog died I switched to cats instead. I find having cats less demanding and more flexible than having a dog. I still get love and cuddles from a furry creature, but there's so much less work.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:05 AM on October 28, 2019 [5 favorites]

My dog passed away exactly a year ago today.

The house felt excruciatingly empty at times, especially because my then-bf, now-husband was often away at school for weeks at a time. It had been years since I was the only creature in my home, and it felt awful to be by myself.

I devoted more time to exercise classes. Previously I hated to leave my dog alone longer than necessary, so I rarely worked out (other than hikes and walks with him of course).

I found myself free to travel more spontaneously (and more cheaply — no dog sitter).

Doglessness has been more lonely but also more flexible. I’ve tried hard to relish that flexibility, although I still miss my dog every day. I’m slowly warming to the idea of getting another dog one day, but probably not anytime soon.
posted by shb at 8:15 AM on October 28, 2019 [9 favorites]

If you lost your buddy a week ago, you don't have to decide right now, or for good, whether you want to bring a new one into your home. I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm sure they were Extremely Good. Note that you can keep your toe in the Dog World even without having one by supporting a local rescue (or three) (or five).
posted by praemunire at 8:42 AM on October 28, 2019 [6 favorites]

We lost our dog almost two years ago, and although we haven't 100% committed to no dogs again ever, we certainly haven't met the right dog yet.

I experienced that lack of walking, lack of dog accessories, etc. that you describe, and I guess I translated those missing parts to the same kind of 'lack' as the kinds of things that have gone missing when my human loved ones have passed away. It all rolled into the grief over my pups.

We have adopted two new kittens though and are delighted that they seem very interested in the plethora of dog toys that had been hanging out in the closet. ymmv and I agree it's quite soon to think about what you might do...
posted by Tandem Affinity at 9:05 AM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm so sorry for your loss. I'd suggest that you not think of disagreement over whether to get another dog as a "debate." Try to think of it--and talk to your partner about it--as different grief responses. Both valid, neither absolute.

Life without a dog after having a best dog for 16 years is strange. It's too quiet. I lost both of my dogs within the past year, the most recent one in July. With both of them, they were sick for a while and I knew the end was coming, so I got through some of the grieving process in advance. But when the second one died and I suddently didn't have to do any of the routine things I'd been doing every day for the majority of my adult life? Ugh. It was really hard. My apartment felt empty (and I have cats--they just don't take up as much space). I could spend an entire day not going outside. You've lost your friend, and you've also lost a very ingrained way of life. It's a physical and psychological adjustment. It's gonna feel weird.

And then, as other commenters have noted, there's a kind of freedom. After my dogs died, I could be gone all day, and go to a concert after work, and not have to worry about getting home for the dog. I could take a spontaneous overnight trip to someplace non-dog-friendly. I could leave a sandwich on the coffee table without it disappearing, and that made me cry because I missed my bad dog who liked to steal food so much, but hey, I still had a sandwich to eat.

Maybe you can take a spontaneous overnight trip. Maybe you can bring home a lovely plant that would have been destroyed before. Maybe you get a lovely new set of bedsheets that won't end up covered in hair. And you'll miss the hair, I can't believe how much I miss the hair, but you'll love getting in those lovely sheets.

Like all griefs, this one will change over time. And may change your mind about geting another dog eventually. For now, I hope your spouse will agree to wait because it isn't fair to you or a new dog to bring them home when you're this not-ready. It's only been a week? See how you feel in three months.

I knew (know) I wouldn't be ready to commit to a new dog of my own any time soon, but realized I really hated not having a dog around, so a couple months ago, I started fostering. It's nice--I get to take care of a dog, a dog I like a lot but know isn't mine, and eventually I'll send them to their forever home where they'll be the best dog for their people. I'm not suggesting fostering as an answer for you or even that many people, but it's working for me.
posted by adastra at 10:11 AM on October 28, 2019 [11 favorites]

Well for me it was the realization that just getting another dog would not make everything ok again, Dogs, like people are all different. Wait, don't rush out to replace your friend. And when you do, consider a rescue or shelter dog. Peace.
posted by patnok at 1:03 PM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

I lost my best girl, Chan, very suddenly in March. I miss her desperately, and our routines, and her waking me up when the raccoons come around, and her funny yawns, and how much she loved houseguests, and watching her dare herself to get into the ocean, and... and... and...

But I cannot go back into that. Not now, maybe not ever. To assuage these feelings, I started volunteering with the senior dog rescue in my neighborhood. I haven't fostered an old buddy yet, but that's what I'm working toward. In the meantime, getting to spend QT with a buncha dogs is great. And, between you and me, when I get to take these mutts on solo walks, you bet your ass I'm telling them all about Chan and how cool she was, and how cool it is when they find a forever home like Chan did.

My biggest internet hugs to you, friend.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 4:24 PM on October 28, 2019 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all. It’s been a teary-eyed and sad day, but all your responses help.
posted by inevitability at 5:02 PM on October 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

As others have said, take your time. The first couple of weeks will be tough.

After the first couple of weeks I started volunteering at the SPCA and that scratches my doggy itch for now. I know that I'll get another dog when I'm ready, whenever that might be.

Not related to your question but something that helped us was going through some photos and picking out one or two nice ones of the dog to frame in the house. It just helps with closure.
posted by McNulty at 1:59 AM on October 29, 2019

My dog died about 3 weeks ago, and it's the first time I've been without a dog for about 17 years. I must say it's been comforting reading the other responses here. I work from home and am alone a lot so the change has been very hard. I also am in that space of not wanting another dog.
I donated a lot of his medicines and toys and stuff to the spca which helped me a lot as they clearly needed the things so badly. I decided to hang on to some things, like the leash, his dog bed etc as it seemed wrong to try to "delete" all evidence that he'd existed.
I'm trying to find things that I can do now that were not possible before, like planting lots of pretty ground-cover plants in the backyard that couldn't survive before with a dog peeing / walking on them all the time. I'm also making a point of going out more often and staying out longer, trying to write in a coffee shop instead of at home, visiting friends late at night, all the things that were awkward before with a dog needing me to be home.
It's a bit difficult because up to now most of my social connection happened with other dog walkers and now that's gone as well.
I'm considering asking neighbours if I can walk their dogs because I'm suddenly not getting enough exercise, and our neighbourhood is not safe to walk in by myself without a dog - not sure how that will work out. Also considering volunteering at the SPCA but I'm still far too raw for that - maybe in the future.
A relative is paying for tickets for me to travel overseas next year and that's a huge positive that would not have been possible with a dog, and that helps.
I've also suddenly inherited four rescue budgies (parakeets) that are in need of a lot of care (they've been neglected and are traumatised) and it feels good to have something to take care of that isn't quite as consuming as a sick dog was. They need me, but it's also fine if I go away for a few days and get somebody else to feed them.
I'm sorry for your loss. It's very hard. My husband and myself have agreed not to discuss whether or not we'll get another dog for the moment. I know he wants another dog, but I don't know if I can go through the pain of loving and losing again.
posted by Zumbador at 3:12 AM on October 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

I’m sorry about your bud :-( My best friend died almost a year ago, and at that time we went from four dogs down to none. I still have a hard time with it, and every day the house seems empty and weird. But we work long hours and decided that for now we would hold off on another dog and take some time to do extra things that we haven’t been able to do for quite a while, as others have said (e.g. not going home right after work, hobbies that don’t make me feel guilty that I’m not spending time with my dog, weekend excursions).

But I need dogs in my life in some way, so I’ve taken up volunteering one day a week at a shelter, and we weekend foster dogs or watch friend’s dogs so it ends up that we usually have a dog at our house about two weekends a month. It’s definitely not the same as having your own best bud, but it feels good helping out friends and shelter dogs until we are ready for our own again.
posted by canda at 5:24 AM on October 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

i was not altogether healthy about it. i missed a week of work, and slept with her ashes for a couple months (still sleep with her hoodie). my boss finally came to me one day and told me that i needed to get another dog. i felt it was too early, but then i met watts, and suddenly that crazy, intense grief was relieved - and i had a reason to get out of bed.
posted by megan_magnolia at 1:30 PM on November 2, 2019

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