Losing a Dog
Separation and Divorce

Coping with divorce or separation is anxiety filled, especially when losing a dog. Who understands? Are you grieving over a dog loss? Feel an ache in your heart or the weight of a brick in your gut?

I never thought this would happen to me. The dog loss takes divorce anxiety to a whole new level, especially with the kids grown and on their own.

Few people seem to understand the kind of loneliness losing your canine creates or how to heal the grief.

As it should be, dogs are not human so they fill a different part of us. They soothe in a different manner, especially since most communication is unspoken. For this we are grateful and hopefully we return the favor.

On the other hand, without words, how can we explain we must leave them even though it’s the last thing on earth we want to do? My eyes well up every time I think about it and each time I see a picture.

The following is my story about losing a dog (three actually) and how I'm coping. Dealing with the sadness, anger, fear, loneliness and guilt of this double whammy can immobilize us. We need focus and to envision a new and better life.

This is something I never wanted to face. Things weren’t right in my marriage but we had five dogs. Not just five dogs but five pit bulls that didn’t get along.

My husband and Moo were inseparable and so were Lily and I. We both loved Bonz, Helen and Lulu immensely so splitting up the family was not discussed.

Then one horrible summer day, my Lily died. I was devastated and wrote about her along with the Rainbow Bridge Poem. Her partner in crime and favorite playmate Moo mourned her loss with me for a few weeks and then he got on with life, while I wondered if it was time for me to move on as well.

With four dogs, we could split them evenly but who would I take and where would I go with two Pit Bulls? Who would rent to me? They are still a pariah in many places.

In the meantime, our aloof dog Bonz began sticking to me like glue and I was glad to be needed by my 12 year old elderbull. Lulu and I got closer as well, so that made the choice easier.

Moo and Helen got along famously and would miss me but would adjust well to life with my spouse.

After several months we amicably decided on a separation. We talked like grownups and pretended it didn't hurt. And we worked really hard at not thinking about losing a dog we loved.

We didn’t tell anyone about our plans and we decided together I needed to be near my family, which meant moving out of state. I needed a place to stay until I got on my feet but no one in my family wanted my dogs. Didn’t they understand? I fought the impulse to raise my voice and yell, “Don't you get it? I’d rather live in my car than be without my dogs!”

After weeks of talking and tears, a decision was made that pleased no one. I could only take Bonz. When I was packing up, Lulu literally turned her back on me as if I wasn’t there. That left me in more pain than I thought I could ever handle.

The dogs I lost

Bonz and I drove over 1200 miles and moved in with my youngest son and his pit bull, Kurby. I had to choose Bonz to avoid dog behavior issues. He and Kurby have similar dispositions and we knew with a slow introduction and controlled time and activities, they could be good for each other.

Three dogs were to much for my husband to handle without me. Since Lulu and Helen were arch enemies, this was the height of dog behavior issues. They had to be separated at all times. We both tried to re-home Lu to no avail. This is where the overwhelming guilt of losing a dog came in for me.

I didn’t want to leave her, and there wasn't a day I didn't think about her being locked up.  Incredibly loving and playful, she was also fear aggressive to strangers and other canines. How do you re-home a dog like this?

I believe when you adopt a dog, it is for life. That means I have failed. Not only am I dealing with losing a dog, but having to go against my own core beliefs.

When I got settled I found the local dog rescue organization. They were sympathetic and tried to help me find someone who could take my problem dog and help her until I could take her back myself. After several days I was told they couldn’t help me.

A week or so after my visit to the rescue organization office and meeting some of these wonderful folks, a new idea came to mind. If I can’t help my own dog once I get settled, why can’t I help another? Even if I could temporarily foster a dog I could make a difference. If it were a good match, Bonz and I could adopt and if not, we would be helping until he or she gets a forever home.

I think life is about moving forward and paying it forward. Contribution and giving is what truly makes us whole and happy. Like the icing on the cake, it makes life sweet.

Here is a picture of Bonz with Kurby. They became friends. When I'd look at them together I'd smile and remember something - how I felt when my son moved away from home and took Kurby with him several years ago... not only did I miss my son, I felt like I was losing a dog.

I guess we should keep in mind that when one door in our life closes, another will open. I'm crossing my fingers.

Dog Stress and Mental Dog Health

Our dogs are feeling creatures. If they live in a household with fighting or tension, they feel it. If we feel a loss, if we are depressed, if we are sad or angry it affects them as much as it does us, both mentally and physically.

In “the way of the dog” when we linger with these feelings it is perceived as weakness and we lose our pack leadership role.If it so happens that you are the lucky one and got custody of the dog, keep this in mind.

If your dog becomes obstinate, refuses to listen, eats your underwear or in general is a butt head – look in the mirror. It’s time to channel that energy. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself for too long, step up to the plate. Spend more quality time with your dog. Long walks and play time will be good for both of you.

Helpful Ideas after Dog Loss

Losing a dog because of separation or divorce can seem even more painful than a dog’s actual death at times. Here are a few ideas that might help you ease the pain of losing a dog. I hope so.

  • Spend time with other dogs you know
  • Dog sitting can help fill the void and bring in a little extra cash
  • Sponsor a dog for awhile by giving money for food to a rescue organization
  • Foster a rescue dog. I’ve met people who do it anywhere from a few days to a few months. There is always a need for loving humans.

The best way to overcome your own problems is to give to someone else. It not only helps others but it gives you a better focus. After all, you are not the only one who has to go through change. Let’s make this life change work for us, not against us. We can do it!!

. . . An update after 19 months

Ten months ago my daughter and I made the cross country drive and got Lulu! Not only that, she got help with her behavior issues and is happier and calmer than any other time in her seven year life. It just goes to show, you never know when that other door will open in your life, or your dog's.

Lulu is dressed incognito because she doesn't want the neighbors to know she was in rehab.

Losing a Dog to Rainbow Bridge Poem 

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