Man and dog at sunset

8 Things Every Dog Owner Should Know

When your pet crosses The Rainbow Bridge

There are 8 things you should be aware of when the time comes for your dog to cross over The Rainbow Bridge.  These tips include information compiled by the Animal Health Foundation as well as some of my viewpoints, to help you in making the adjustment in your life. Trust me; it’s NEVER easy. AND IT SHOULDN’T BE.  After all, they were a significant part of your life and the lives of your family members.  And, when your beloved fur baby passes, it can be profoundly devastating.

Each time we bring a new pet into our lives, we know what the outcome will be. It’s inevitable. It’s the nature of owning a pet. Unfortunately, that day will come when we must say our goodbyes. The average human will live eight decades, and in many cases, much longer. Not true for our pet. His lifespan is considerably shorter.

Dogs live 10 to 13 years on average, depending on the breed and size. What does that mean? It means that each time we welcome that sweet pup or wonderful rescue dog into our family, we understand, like it or not, that someday we’ll be faced with one of the hardest tasks on earth: Having to say goodbye to our faithful companion.

There are many beautiful ways to memorialize your dog after he crosses the Rainbow Bridge. In the days to come and you’ve had a chance to recuperate from your loss, there will be time to think about paying a special tribute to him. Think about it. In the days before or right after losing your pet, it isn’t necessarily the most comforting thought. The mere idea of having to prepare yourself and your family for that immeasurably difficult time will take every ounce of strength you can muster up.

That’s why we’ve assembled a list of vital things all pet owners should be aware of for the day their beloved pet passes.

#1: The grief will hit hard

And, you might be surprised by just how hard that grief hits you. It’s easy to think you’ll know exactly how you’ll cope with your loss; however, we often discover that it is as devastating as losing a family member. And in some cases, it is even greater. Yes, as pet owners, we know intellectually that the inevitable day will come. But it doesn’t make it any easier. And as I always say, IT SHOULDN’T!

#2:  You might feel guilty

Feeling guilty is normal. Remember, your mind and your heart are processing loss and grief, and we tend to blame ourselves. Again, that’s perfectly normal. Just try not to let these concerns invade your life. At some point, you must let go and trust that you did everything humanly possible for your loving pup. He loved you for everything you did for him. Never forget that.

#3:  Rely on the comfort of your vet

During the lifetime of your pooch, you often thought of your vet as just the guy who took exceptional care of your pup’s health. Now that your pup is gone, your vet might become your best friend for a while. Why, you ask? It’s simple. He sees this kind of loss daily, and he quite often knows exactly how to support and comfort you in your time of grief. Also remember, he’s become a pretty good friend and knows you better than you think. He will help you with details, like figuring out the best way to memorialize your pet.  Many offer cremation services and memorial boxes. For our family, we have always gone the route of cremation and commemorative boxes, and we have each pet in my husband’s den, right where they belong. Beside their daddy’s desk. The same place they laid when they were alive. But, then again, that’s just me.

#4:  Grief can spike unexpectedly

After the loss of your dog, you’ll spend several days mourning before slowly starting to feel better.  When this happens, it’s easy to think the worst is over, and your grief is behind you. However, that’s not always the case. At times grief will reemerge as fresh, painful, and as intense as the day you said goodbye. And just know that the grieving process isn’t easy. It’s long, hard, and complicated. It’s essential to allow it to take its natural course, however long that might be. THERE IS NO EXPIRATION DATE ON GRIEVING. We all grieve differently. Take your time. Don’t be rushed by anyone, no matter how good their intentions might be. Everyone grieves at their own pace.

#5:  You might have to make the choice

For many of us, the hardest part of losing our pet comes before he actually passes on. The time when you have to make a painfully difficult decision: Choosing to end his life. One of the most difficult choices you’ll ever have to make. Whether you got him as a puppy or you rescue a senior dog, you have to prepare for this possibility. If he’s elderly, in pain, and unable to understand what is happening, it is your responsibility to help him avoid any more unnecessary pain and suffering.

#6:  It’s worth asking for paw prints

After his passing, your vet will usually offer to help with his remains, often by cremation. Before that happens, ask him to take your dog’s paw prints for you. I’d never heard of this before writing this article.  However, when the day comes to have to decide to put our beautiful Golden Retriever, Drummer, down for his final sleep, we will certainly ask our vet to take his paw prints, as well.  What a precious last memento of your beloved pet to keep, even as you attempt to move on. Such a lovely way to remember a loyal and beloved friend.

#7:  If possible, be there

Granted, we don’t always have a choice as to how our dogs pass on. Sometimes it’s an accident or something completely unexpected which precludes us from being there at the end. However, if you can choose to be there with your dog, by all means, do it. It might be painful for you, but just remember it’s not about you. What’s important is your dog knows you are there to hold his paw, stroking his head, kiss him everywhere, for him not to be afraid, and for him to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was loved and will be sorely missed.

There’s one more thing I’d like to add to the above. I’ve heard this from several vets throughout the years, and we have always done it.  If you have another dog in your home, remember he’s losing a buddy as well. Whether your vet comes to your home for the final sleep, as our vets have always done, or you go to his office. Take your other pet along, and be sure to have him in the room when your dog is put to sleep. He’ll understand far better than we about death. Animals inherently understand this, and he won’t have to wonder what happened to his buddy. He’ll be there along with you, and you’ll grieve together. But he’ll know immediately that his friend has crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Trust me on this.  Animals have a keener sense of death than we know.

#8:  Remember, you gave your pup the best life ever

As time goes by, maybe months, maybe years, eventually you’ll find yourself healing. You’ll never stop loving and missing your dog. But you’ll know he’s in a better place now — no more pain. Most importantly, you will understand that you did, indeed, give him the best life ever.  He loved you with all his heart and protected you with his life. I’ll bet he wouldn’t have traded a single second of the life the two of you had together.

I hope that with the help of the Animal Health Foundation and some words of wisdom from me, I have left you in a far better place than you were.  Saying those final goodbyes to your best friend is never easy.  And it shouldn’t be.  Just remember, one day you will meet again beyond the Rainbow Bridge, where neither of you has to suffer any longer. With his wagging tail and his head held high, he will escort you proudly through the Gates of Heaven.

I thank you for allowing me to share a little bit of valuable information for you at a time when you’ll most need it.  It was challenging to write, as my tears kept splashing on my keyboard. As you can probably tell, I truly miss my pets. We lost our Golden, Remington, five years ago to cancer. He was only five years old. No, I don’t think you ever fully get over the loss of your pet. We think about all of ours whom we’ve had to say goodbye to within our 55 years of marriage. So, don’t allow someone who has never had a pet or even understands the love of one, to goad you into thinking you should be over it already. They’ll never understand that kind of unconditional love. Love to their very… last… breath!

May God bless you and help you through this difficult journey.

Good Old Doggie Correspondent Carroll Regan deCarle is a passionate dog lover, having had German Shepherds, Keeshonds, and Golden Retrievers. Her current best friend is a cuddly, yet mischievous Golden Retriever named Drummer. Carroll is a published author and motivational speaker. Despite her many accomplishments both online and off, she calls herself “The Non-Wizard of the Worldwide Web.”

Visit Carroll on Facebook and Linkedin.  Email


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