Tag Archives: grieving a dog

Last of a terrible, horrible year

This is the last post of 2020 – a horrible year. Good riddance.

Like most everyone, for us and our business, it’s been a terrible, horrible, very bad year. We’ve never been so happy to see the end of a year as this one. We know the calendar is an artificial construct, that there’s no actual “turning the page” between December 31 and January 1. And yet…

Worst saved for last

There has been untold sadness this year, with losses of loved ones, jobs, businesses, social networks, and of course, pets. 

In a bad year, December has been the worst month of all. Seven people we know have lost beloved dogs this month. Not social media, internet friends. Actual real-life people we know. Whose dogs we knew. And want to acknowledge.

The roster of loss:

We’re going to talk about these dear dogs alphabetically – because there is no other way. Each was vitally important and there can be no hierarchy of loss. Each one is agonizing.

Cooper was a Frenchie owned by Jennifer. We met her and her Frenchies and Rottweilers at an agility trial in Chicago Ridge years ago. We later found out she’s a veterinarian and a staunch supporter and member of a rescue group we’re also involved with.

Dobby was a Brussels Griffon. He was the beloved pet and snuggle buddy of our friend Beth, who is one of the top Obedience competitors in the area – if not the country. Beth had the highest-achieving Obedience Griff, ever. It wasn’t Dobby. Beth has Border Collies to compete with now. She has Griffs to love, and laugh, and cuddle.

Jinny was a Keeshond. She was a source of joy for our dear friends Emily and Harold and she died much too young, suddenly. We’re all still trying to absorb the loss of a six-year-old dog. 

Journey was a Brussels Griffon and lived a long, full, and happy life with our friend Ann in Massachusetts. Journey had an incredible one. When he was diagnosed with lymphoma more than two years ago, Ann made sure to fulfill every dream on her little guy’s bucket list. He was a lucky boy.

The list goes on

Technically, this dog left us last month, but for us, it was the first in the series of knock-out blows that’s pummelled the end of this year. Jubilee was a French Bulldog – legendary in the breed. She was our friend Sarah’s first dog as a “grown up” and set records in flyball. She was an amazing companion and friend, but, after 15 years, she was tired. And Sarah was brave enough to recognize it.

Olive was a French Bulldog/Boston Terrier mix and Carlene’s best friend. And we were responsible for bringing them together. Hope got a call from rescue to pick up a dog in Wisconsin one day. Or the dog would be surrendered to a high-kill shelter. She hit the road and picked up Olive. Without really thinking about what to do with her once she got her. Fortunately, our friend Carlene lived half a block away, recently dogless. We begged her to foster Olive until a forever family could be found. Carlene was her forever. 

This horrible year marked the loss of many adored dogs. This was Teddy, a French Bulldog.

Yoda was a French Bulldog related to Hope’s. At first, his mom Olga and we were just friends on social media. With a common love for the Florida Keys, we were able to meet and become real-life friends, too. Yoda is another gone too young, too suddenly, to process. His death was particularly poignant, since it was on the same date as our own Teddy’s two years ago. And our mother’s, 26 years ago. December 9 will never be allowed again.

Hug your dogs

In perspective – our dear friends, Amy and Garry lost their beloved Shiba Inu Sumo this year. Sumo was an agility, rally, and obedience competitor. And, like all the dogs here, a dearly-loved family member. Even worse, they lost Garry’s mother to COVID-19. It has truly been a horrible year.

We’re sorry if we seem maudlin. Each of these dogs was one of the lucky ones – loved completely and spoiled thoroughly. Hug your dogs. Their time with us is precious and none of us knows how long we have. 

Preparing for your dog’s death

Four of our friends are blessed to have old dogs. They celebrate each day and acknowledge their good fortune. And we can tell each is trying to prepare for her old dog’s death.

Death isn’t a pretty word. We don’t use it a lot and there are tons of euphemisms so we don’t have to. It’s shocking and stark. Exactly how it feels, no matter how much preparation you do.

Celebrating the oldies

Our friends with the old dogs are all over the country, have different breeds, and, as far as we know, only a couple know each other. What they have in common is dealing with the creakiness and vet bills for old dogs. And none of them would change a thing.

The healthiest of the group is also the oldest. This dog just celebrated his 17th birthday. Yes, you read that right. 17th. And, aside from being a little slower, a little creakier, he’s trucking along just fine.

Another friend’s dog is 14. This dog is a rescue, adopted at about one year old. She’s been a lifeline for our friend, who has been through some tremendous life changes since she got her dog. And the dog recently started suffering some seizures. They’re working to keep it under control, but there are good days and not-so-good ones.

Our third friend’s dog is about 12+ years old – we know we recently wished her a “Happy Birthday,” but we don’t remember which one it was. She scared her “mom” recently by having a stroke, but she seems to be, slowly, recovering. This dog has made a practice of scaring her mom. She’s the miracle dog of the bunch.

The fourth friend’s dog just turned 12 this week. And it was his birthday that got us thinking about this stuff. His mom didn’t think he’d make it this far. He’s suffering from Addison’s Disease as well as a list of other ailments. 

Signalling their thoughts

Our friends have all made comments that let us know they’re trying to prepare themselves for their dog’s death. Saying things like “as long as she’s happy.” Or “he still loves his walks, they’re just shorter.” And posting videos of treats lovingly hand-fed and a dear old dog munching happily.

The thing is, and they all probably know this, there’s no way we’re ever ready. Personally, we’ve been lucky enough to have dogs who lived to ripe old ages. And we’ve been gut-punched losing younger dogs suddenly. It’s always a shock. The house is always empty – even other dogs and people are still there.

One of our friends has been sort of expecting her dog to die for a while. Her dog was never the healthiest, and many conversations have been gloomy. We know she’s been trying to achieve a state of mind to accept what’s going to come, but it’s not possible.

Shoving it aside

Death is a reality of all lives. Some of us focus on it more than others. And some of us (our personal tendency) is to push the thought aside, as best we can, for as long as we can. We figure that it’s time enough to deal with grief when it happens. And in the meantime, we’ll cuddle, and play, and train, and enjoy the company of dogs. We don’t know how much time we’ll be granted with our dogs, so we let them know we love them every day.

How much grief is enough? Mourning a dog

I (Hope) have been struggling lately with a decision – is it time to get a puppy? Am I done with mourning my dog?

This post is going to be a lot more personal than most – it’s my usual job to share what we know about dogs and help you have the best/easiest/happiest/least stressful life with your dog.

But this is a decision that all people who love dogs face at some point – and I’m hoping by sharing it will help somebody else, sometime.

How long is grief?

It’s been five months since my 8-year-old French Bulldog Teddy died. It still doesn’t feel quite real – I’m still surprised when I realize he’s not next to me sitting on the couch, watching tv in the evening.

Most of the people we know have been through the agony of losing a pet. There’s no “good” way. Sudden or expected, illness or accident – every single way leaves us hurting. Teddy’s death was unexpected and fast – there was only a couple of hours between realizing something was wrong and saying goodbye.

When to move on

Teddy’s picture is all over our website, and all over both our business and my personal social media feeds. I rarely “share” the memories, because I don’t want to wallow in grief, or have other people feel sorry for me. I know two dogs is the right number for me – but do I want a puppy? Or do I only want my Teddy?

Fawn French Bulldog lying in grass

In March I contacted the breeder from whom I’d like to get my next puppy. Since French Bulldogs are very popular right now, I fully expected just touch base, let her know I was interested, and get my name on a waiting list. We’ve known each other for years, but I’ve never had one of her dogs. So I expected to have to wait, and am certainly willing to do so.

I was a bit shocked, delighted, and terrified when she told me that she was expecting a litter at the end of the month. And, if there was an available puppy, it could be mine.

My choice

I know there are some people reading this who are aghast that I’m planning to get a pedigreed puppy from a breeder, rather than adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue. I’m familiar with all the arguments on both sides of the debate. And, whether you agree with my choice or not, it is my choice. We all have the right to choose what’s right for our lives, circumstances, and situations.

I’ve adored French Bulldogs for decades, and it is my breed of choice. I know that Torque (my four-year-old Frenchie) is mourning for Teddy as much as I do, and would probably welcome another dog.

Is it the right time?

That’s the question I’m really wrestling with right now. Puppies are adorable, disruptive, wreak havoc with schedules, are generally pains in the butt, time-suckers, cute, cuddly, wonderful, and terrible – all at the same time. Am I ready for that?

Brindle French Bulldog puppy

The other part of that question is – would it be fair to the puppy? Could I give it the time, attention, and devotion it deserves? Or is it possible I’d be constantly comparing it to the one I adored and lost? Am I ready to fall in love all over again? Or am I still stuck on the memories?

Can’t stand the cute

The breeder has been sending me photos and videos of the puppies in the litter. When I watch them, the cuteness is overwhelming. And there’s an immediate “I want one!” reaction.

But the doubt creeps in after the video ends.

Checking them out

There’s really never a “good time” to get a puppy. They’re always disruptions. But they’re also sources of joy, smiles, and laughter – even when the naughtiness gets to us.

So sometime in the next couple of weeks I’ll make the four-hour trek to see if one of these puppies is meant to be mine. It feels a bit odd to make a date to fall in love. Or not.

Take care of yourself

If you find yourself in a similar situation – take the time you need mourning your dog and take care of yourself. I don’t yet know what I’ll decide about that puppy, but I do know that I won’t let Teddy’s death mean more than his life. I can’t be one of the people who reject love because grief, eventually, arrives. There will be another dog, some day.