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pet loss tribute

"Lord, please let me be half the man my dog thinks I am."

By Russell Friedman

The Dog Ate My Homework and Stole My Heart

Grieving pet owners have a hard time finding a safe person or place to talk about what they are experiencing. So they call us looking for a willing ear.

They tend to call our offices on the weekends, perhaps because that’s when the absence of their companion hits them the hardest.. As usual, we answer the phone, “Grief Recovery Institute.” There is almost always a pause, and then a very small voice says, “What do you do there?”

We’ve learned that the question “What do you do there?” is code for, “My pet died, and I am so afraid that someone will judge me for the pain I’m feeling. I need to make sure that this is a place that won’t make me feel worse than I already do.”

Our answer is, “We help people deal with death, divorce, PET LOSS, and other major losses that affect their lives.” We make sure that we emphasize PET LOSS so they can hear it clearly.

The sigh of relief at the other end of the phone is audible. It is usually followed by, “Really, you help people whose pets have died?”

And then we go to work. The bulk of what we can do for them on the phone is to establish the obvious - that their heart is broken and that is the normal and natural emotional response to the death of a cherished animal companion. The idea that their heart is broken is made exponentially poignant by the “unconditional” nature of our relationships with our pets.

After all, your dog or cat never once said you’re fat, stupid, or ugly, although we do have to be careful with that line. True story. We once helped someone whose parrot died. The dang parrot actually said, “Good morning, dummy,” to its owner. Needless to say, that was one devastated person who sorely missed being called “dummy” every day.

The other thing we always do is to help those callers deal with the sometimes insensitive and unhelpful comments made to them by well-meaning family and friends. Too often, by the time they’ve called here, they’ve heard, “Don’t feel bad, you can get another pet,” or “Don’t feel bad, it was just a dog,” and a host of other comments that add to rather than acknowledge their emotional pain.

There is another frequent and painful aspect associated with pet loss. The human owners are often put in the position of having to make the final, life or death decision about when to let the vet give an injection to end the pet’s life. This is almost never an easy decision to make about an entity that you love. Even when it is the most humane and loving thing to do, it feels bad.

We have spent thousands of hours helping people who are struggling with the decision they’d already made to let their pet be euthanized. They question themselves over and over as to whether or not they had made the right decision, and then they ask our opinion. As you can imagine, we can’t answer that question for them. Nobody can.

What we do know is that it is a broken heart talking. It is a broken heart that replays the decision over and over. It is a broken heart that is having a difficult time adapting to the new reality of life without the cherished animal companion who they loved, and who loved them back with equal fervor.

Broken hearts needs to be heard without judgment and criticism. As friends and family, we can all do our part by listening with our hearts as well as our ears.

By Russell Friedman now offers one on one Grief Recovery Sessions and Out Reach Programs. Read more about Grief Recovery. For more information please email us

Dee Founder
Grief Recovery Specialist
Certified By The ©The Grief Recovery Institute®


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