BEHAVIOR CHANGE After Pack Member Dies
June 18, 2012
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Help! My Dog is GROWLING AT ME!
July 2, 2012
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How to help your dog cope when another pack member dies.

After reading the horror and sadness of Natasha’s story, I got an email from my sister Sandy with a suggestion for helping our living pack members to cope with the death of another that I’d like to share with you.  She does warn that this may seem morbid to some, but if you stop to think about it for a moment– it makes perfect sense and may be particularly helpful if you have a pet who suffers with separation anxiety issues. 

I don’t see morbid in this but there is a battle going on inside between my head and my heart. My head understands it, accepts it and even sees the good this can do. My heart is having a huge problem with the emotionally disturbing image flashing like an annoying neon sign in my head of how cold the “life goes on” thing can be when we must move on without someone or some pet we love. 

When “that time” comes, humans commonly take their ill or elderly furkid to their vet to be euthanized. Unless you have property for burial, these pets will then promptly be “disposed of” or cremated without any attempt made to help the remaining living pack members cope with their loss. The living pets will miss the lost pack member and probably look for them because they won’t know (understand) where the missing member is. Sandy’s simple act of kindness may help your remaining furkids move on without so much sorrow. They won’t look all over the house for their pack-friend for days or weeks and not find them.  Having been given the opportunity to smell them they instead accept the death and move on.

Sandy’s SAY GOOD-BYE Ceremony

If you have a multiple pet household, I highly suggest if at all possible that when a pet passes away (planned or not) to place the pet on their blanket/pillow on the floor in the familiar surroundings of your home not the vet’s office. (You don’t want the remaining pets associating death with the vet’s office or you may wind up with issues when it’s time for their routine vet visits.) Allow all your other furkids — cats, dogs, whatever — to smell the deceased pack member.  ALL animals recognize death and deal with it differently. Typically they’ll sniff and walk away. To an animal, death is death and dogs know what death means.

We did this when our Simone and then our Jennah passed away and it worked beautifully. I know our Maverick only looked outside for each of them a day or two but then it was like he remembered “Oh yeah — she’s gone now.”  I’ve suggested this to other people and they agreed. When their pet’s time came and they did what I suggested, they felt it was so wonderful — even though it might seem morbid to some.

Luvya, Sis. Thank you for sharing this!

If You CREMATE Your Deceased Pet

According to my vet it’s rare for a pet to die at home, ideally going to sleep and just never waking up again. She told me that unfortunately, most pets die in their vet’s offices with the needle of death in their arm. Once the pet has left, us a good majority of people not having a place to do a burial, will leave their pet at the vet’s office for the cremation truck to arrive. I really don’t like to think about this because it’s just not a pretty picture for me. I’ve had to do this way to many times in my lifetime and it never gets any easier. We do insist on an individual cremation, none of that group-rate stuff for us. Although  we’re animal lovers, we want only our pets back in their pretty little tins where they then take their place on top of a wooden cabinet next to my desk in my office, with the ceramic angel I bought for them looking over them.

There is a new(ish) trend for vets to come to come into our homes to put our pets to their final sleep. Our pets can leave us in a comfortable, familiar place instead of the cold hard table in the sterile-like vet’s office. If you have a smaller pet, it’s not so bad because even at the vet’s office you can hold them as they fall asleep. It would be a bit more difficult to hold a big dog but I’m damn well going to try when it’s time. I haven’t checked but I’m pretty sure none of the vets in our area provide a home-visit service. Currently I think it may be more a big city thing. Maybe by the time it’s time here this option will be available.

Although I have a really hard time visualizing a much loved pack member being sniffed and then just walked away from like their life never touched us — for the sake of the remaining furkid(s) I hope my head will win the battle. I have to keep reminding myself that my furkids are animals first and that animals deal with some things very differently than humans do. I hope when the time comes for Riley or Nissa to leave us, that I can either be at home with them or at the very least bring them home and do what Sandy suggested. Unless we finally get to move out of the city and into the country where we would have a special burial grounds for our furkids, I know I’ll have to return my furkid to the vet for their cremation. But that’s ok because helping the one(s) left behind is important. Maybe it will even help me, too.

Do you think Sandy’s suggestion can help your pets to cope better with the loss of a pack member?


  1. Laura says:

    Thank you dear Debra, this is so helpful. We did pay to have Leah cremated, and plan to scatter her ashes in the glade where she loved to walk. I love the idea of the vet coming to the house – it would be interesting to find out if anyone here does that. They did offer to make a plaster cast of her paw, but we decided that wasn’t for us. They offer urns too, but didn’t really want that either. Unfortunately the ground here is sandstone so way too hard for a true burial or we would have gone that route. You are a blessing.

    • Mom says:

      Hi Laura,

      Saying goodbye is so hard! Whatever one decides to do with their FurKids when they pass on to Rainbow Bridge is a very personal decision. I’m very happy that you did what you felt Leah would have wanted and what works for you as well. I hope yours and Steve’s hearts are healing from her loss. I have no doubt she lived a wonderful life with your family.


  2. Natasha says:

    No, I do not believe this is a morbid suggestion at all. I wish I would have thought about it before, but my situation was highly unexpected. Jesse has been doing better here lately. I got her a blanket for the floor so that she knws that is her spot. I have also been taking her for more walks and taking her to Petsmart just to walk around. I have even caught her smiling a few times!! Our hearts are healing although we will always miss our Max. Thank you so much for caring enough to share our story.


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