fear of a dog dying

How To Cope With The Fear Of My Dog Dying

My heart beats dog® and it also deals with the fear of my dog dying. I’m a lifelong dog mom so this isn’t the first time I’ve had these feelings nor will it be the last. Inevitably when I run into people walking their dogs, shopping at a pet supply store, or visiting the vet’s office, someone asks “how old is he?” I started shaving a few years off his real age when “Oh, he’s that old” or “well, at least he’s lived a good life” are tossed back at me after revealing to complete strangers that my dog is 12 years old. A young 12, my wife reminds me and the strangers.

I’ve begun to wake up in the middle of the night as if an internal alarm triggers me to be sure my dog is breathing. The fear of my dog dying is all too real, and I am not alone in this terror. I realize time will pass no matter how I decide to spend it—in agony and anxiety worrying about my dog dying or living fully and presently in the moment.

I’ve been through the death of a dog before, so I know a lot about feelings of grief and anticipatory grief. When your dog dies, your shared experiences and memories do not die. All of the things you did together do not die. Missing your dog nonstop to the point you feel nonfunctioning does not die, either. Not by a longshot and not for a long time. Love is a continuum, but so is grief. Love grows stronger and remains even in the face of grief. However, there are things I’ve learned to do to cope with the fear of my dog dying and I invite you to learn from me and apply these tips to your own fears.

fear of my dog dying

How Can I Cope With Fear Of My Dog Dying?

All of the fears and tears I had about my first dog dying didn’t stop the inevitable. All of my obsessing about what life would be like without her didn’t change a thing. Death stops for no one, and it’s something we all have in common. We are all born and we will all die. I still fear my dog dying, but I’ve become better about catching myself in the moment.

No amount of here-on-earth bargaining will stop the inevitable. I worry for me and how to be in the world without him. When my first dog died, I sought the help of a grief counselor. Of the many things she taught me, one sticks out in my mind vividly because I practice the technique regularly.

Set time aside to think about your dog dying. A lot of “talking heads” will tell you to not think about it, which is unrealistic. Of course you’ll be thinking about it! Rather than let the thoughts control you and the time you have with your dog, allocate a segment of every day, if needed, to think about your dog dying. Perhaps you set 10 minutes aside to think about it, cry, maybe write something in a journal, talk to a friend or loved one, or text with someone you trust. But do put the time in.

When you start to have death thoughts about your dog at any other time during the day, remind yourself now is not the time to think about it. You aren’t denying yourself the thoughts, but rather you are setting the time aside to dwell on it, think about it, and give the death fear your undivided attention. Once the time is up, you let it go. I use the timer on my phone to remind me. I’ll share ways I’ve learned to squash the thoughts when they come at any time.

Practice Managing Anticipatory Fear

No matter what type of fear you obsess about, this technique can work. Maybe you fixate on what someone thinks of you, if your boss will be miserable, what an ex is doing these days, or fear of your dog dying. By allocating a certain period of time to expend on the “worry,” you tuck it away and don’t revisit it until the next day.

Fear allocation time is a lot like setting a television program to record. The recording mechanism comes on, records the show, and later you view it. You delete it or save it. Fear allocation works the same way: You set the time aside, visit it, move past it, and know it will record again tomorrow.

If every single day, you ate a big banana split or a large sundae with all your favorite toppings, eventually the results would show on the scale. I’m all for body image and empowerment of self, but too much of something can turn really bad really fast. Anticipatory fear is the same way. If you think about your dog dying over and over, not only will you not stop death, but you’ll be robbed of quality time spent with your dog.

Actor and advocate Michael J. Fox once said, “Don’t spend a lot of time imagining the worst-case scenario. It rarely goes down as you imagine it will, and if by some fluke it does, you will have lived it twice.” 

Think about that: You worry about your dog dying and your dog dies anyway. You give the fear and anxiety double the power. It’s hard to focus on the here and now, I know. That’s why you’ll allocate time to think about it, talk to friends, scribble in a journal, or sit on your bed and hug the dog and think. You don’t deny the fear but you don’t allow it to control you.

Acceptance of the fear isn’t a weakness nor does it mean you agree with it. By acknowledging the fear and giving it a certain amount of time, you learn to work through it.

woman grieving her dog dying

Things That Are A Boatload Of Crap About A Dog Dying

Let’s get a bit philosophical. No matter if you own your dog or your dog belonged to someone else, he or she is going to eventually die. That fine balance between embracing the short flicker of time dogs spend on this earth and the indescribable impact they have on our hearts is a tricky one for sure.

A heart that beats dog® also breaks dog and there’s no amount of time, techniques, therapy sessions, medications, or “deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers” that will stop that pain. I recall telling my grief therapist I just want the pain of grief to be gone. She reminded me grief is a process and there is no fast forward button on it. You need to walk through the fire to come out on the other side.

Oh, and I hate the following words and phrases used in conjunction with a dog’s death:

  • She’s/He’s gone
  • Final goodbye
  • Let her go
  • She’s moved on
  • The loss of a dog
  • Put to sleep

When death finally comes, I know people mean well. I offer the same condolences and feel the pain deeply. However, the collective love and respect from other wounded warriors who understand is something to hang onto when the time comes. Friends and their kindness have sustained me and continues to do so, some of them cyber style and others IRL.

It’s all semantics, but death is final in terms of the body. Where the soul goes afterwards is something you and your belief system must work through. For me that place is heaven. When the time comes and a beloved dog dies, there are some things you’ll wish died with your dogs. Namely, the pain of a dog’s death is the worst pain I’ve ever known. The rational human being I am knows wanting my pain to go away is a big ask that will never come this side of the rainbow bridge. I’m the one stuck holding the umbrella.

There are some things you can do when your dog does die, and I will post more about that at the bottom but share these wisdom nuggets here:

Saying “never again” was a crock of shit. I used to say I would never again allow a dog to share my life and that I could not bear the pain of losing them. I’ve learned pain is the price we pay for a love that big. I’ve learned each dog is my heart dog and they each are their own unique individuals.

I’ve learned the pain of a dog-themed tattoo is temporary and kindergarten compared to the grad school course of living through your dog dying.

I’ve learned saying my deceased dog’s name and introducing her to people she didn’t encounter in her time on earth keeps her love alive and her soul ensconced with mine.

I’ve learned dogs impart lessons and wisdom on our lives. If I became a big blob of eternal sadness after her death, I wouldn’t be honoring how she lived on earth and how she thrives in heaven. She died but her love didn’t. Almost two months after she died, my wife gave me a locket with the words ‘Love Never Ends’ on it. It is so true.  

Things To Consider If You Obsess About Your Dog Dying

Even if ________ (your dog’s name here) wasn’t yours, he or she would die someday. So while Dexter, my dog, is here on earth with me, it is in my DNA to make his life the best possible. This is the line of thinking you can adopt to retrain your brain to live in the now.

For me, the career I’ve chosen, this blog I write on, and the dedication to helping other pet parents helps me fight against the terror of my dog dying. If you allow the terror of things that haven’t happened to take space in your mind, you will lose every time. Anticipatory fear has squatters’ rights and it is very hard to evict. Hard, but not impossible. I love hard so of course I fear and grieve hard. How about you?

When thoughts of your dog dying start to sneak in outside of your allocated worry time, ask yourself WWMDD (What Would My Dog Do)? Would my dog be obsessing and in terror or would he continue to exude joy and want the best for me? Dogs are incredible teachers, perhaps the best on the planet, because their lessons are eternal and they ask for very little in return.

At the end of any given week, I’m telling 30 or so people how sorry I am for the death of their beloved pet. I am sorry because they are left with a razor-edged piece of broken glass beating inside their chest where their totally intact heart once thrived.

I say I am sorry because I understand and empathize. And then I remind myself thank God that wasn’t me and my dog is still with me. It’s all I can do as a human being with heavy emotions and heavy empathy to not give into the terror. It sucks to see happy people when your dog is dead but the circle of life is designed with earthly beginnings and earthly endings. Someone will always rejoice while someone else is in pain.

When I brought a second Cocker Spaniel into my life, I felt like I was in a haunted house as I gingerly walked across the creaky floor, waiting for someone to jump out and take him from me – it’s a terrible feeling.

My therapist told me to turn the lights on. Just like that. “Then turn the lights on,” she said. You can’t live in darkness and fear or you aren’t the best version of you for your dog. She helped me understand:

  • Grief is real and you can’t skip over pain;
  • Pain is the price we pain for big love;
  • We suffer so they don’t have to;

I used to cringe inside whenever someone told me “it’s a final act of love” when a dog is euthanized to stop suffering or pain. I’ve since learned those words are true, but that’s for another time and another post. Your dog is likely very much alive if you are reading this post. An earthly “ending” is a next world beginning, and one I intend to be a part of when my time on earth is over.

why do i fear my dog dying

How To Mentally Prepare If I Fear My Dog Dying

Everyone processes grief differently. For me, when the moment came, it felt like a bolt of lightning hit my heart in a way I could not fathom. The pain was shattering, unrelenting, all-consuming, and I wanted to sleep and not wake up but I didn’t want to die. If I slept, I didn’t have to be present in the world and realize her time on earth was over. I also didn’t want her to suffer and stay alive for me. It was fair, then, to allow her to cross over and put her earthly body to rest. It took me years to take comfort in that and not feel as if I stood by and allowed a veterinarian to kill my dog.

When your dog dies, it’s as if you are driving during a blizzard and you skid on ice. You completely bypass the tree you are about to hit and instead, you nosedive into a black hole. That’s how it felt for me.

Whether you believe in an afterlife, a heaven, a rainbow bridge, a reincarnation or nothing at all, there is one fact on which everyone can agree: when you die, you will be in exactly the same state as your dog who passed away.

The idea, belief, notion, and hope of our dog’s souls carrying on in heaven (or insert non-earthly place here), is what sustains me.

I talked about setting time aside each day (if needed) to think about your dog dying. If you find yourself thinking about your dog dying outside this allotted time, try changing the channel.

Changing the channel is a technique my wife taught me. You must be cognizant you are having the thoughts in order to flip them away. Here’s how it works: You are watching television and a commercial comes on or you are simply channel surfing. Much like flipping through the channels on television, you flip through channels in your mind. You literally catch yourself and redirect your fear thought to a positive one.

Here’s where it gets interesting: Sometimes you can’t snap yourself out of it. In those times, a journal or index cards come in handy. Action is the enemy of anxiety. When you are wrapped up in fear of your dog dying, it’s hard to think of snapping out of it. Hell, I’ve had thoughts of life without my dog and had no idea I was thinking them until I look up and the Jeopardy credits are rolling. Did you ever do that when you’ve been out driving? Suddenly you are a town over or pulling into a parking lot and you wonder how you got there.

If you are serious about wanting to divert your feelings into a positive space, here’s what helps me when I get wrapped up in thoughts about my dog dying: I have a book of quotes in a three-ring binder. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s full of quotes I see on Instagram, Facebook, and on the Internet in general. I type them up, print them, cut them out, and sort of scrapbook them into a three-ring binder. I go to that binder when thoughts creep in and during anticipatory fear allotted time. They help to ground me.

I write. I blog and share my thoughts, research, and health and wellness tips with you all. I call them “fidoses of reality” because they are. You don’t have to be a writer to write things down. Jot them on your phone, on a tablet, or on your laptop. Whatever works. Pour your pain out onto a page so the thoughts out of your head.

There’s a proverb I think about from time to time. “Take what you want says God — and pay for it.”

How Not To Let Death Fears Affect Your Dog

As you know, dogs are very in tune with our emotions. They may not always show it, but they sense when things are not right with us. This alone is often enough to snap me back to reality.

No matter their age, dogs are really good at reading a person, especially their owners. Dogs react to sadness and may even avoid you if they feel your angst and nervous energy.

Get real with your fears. In that journal or quote book, you can explore what exactly is triggering your death buttons. I once wrote in my journal that it isn’t good to love a dog so much because they just end up breaking your heart in a gazillion pieces. I now know better. When your dog dies, your experiences do not die. It’s the body that goes, but the love never ends.

If your life is better for having a dog in it, that makes you incredibly special. Ive learned to give myself grace for that. Dogs don’t randomly obsess with anyone. Some dogs seem to love everyone, but dogs always know who their person is. And if their existence on this planet is to give us joy and companionship, I owe it my dogs to spend my existence living in the now.

Forever is composed of nows.

— Emily Dickinson

I imagine my dogs living in heaven together and welcoming me and my wife on arrival. I feel like heaven isn’t a destination but the next logical step. Maybe for you, life ends here on earth. That’s more of a reason to live more fully in the moment. Have the “fi-doses of reality,” but stop and change the channel when fears torment the truth.

I picture fear as this huge faceless dark monster who challenges me. I ask myself what my dog would do in the face of fear. My dog would do what needs to be done and then move on. Reality is bigger than fear. Living large in the now defeats terror.

How To Kick Fear Where The Sun Don’t Shine

Fears become as powerful as we allow them. The next time fear creeps in, ask yourself this:

Am I caring for my dog to the best of my ability? If not, what can you change so you feel you are doing your best? More money? A better job? More time together? Change what you can.

Whether your dog is 12 or 2, a puppy or a senior, walks on fours or hobbles on three, is in a wheelchair or runs like a mustang, living in the now is a must for peace of mind and quality time with your dog.

Now ask yourself this: Do I want my dog to be living his time on earth stuck with a mom or dad who has fears and tears, terrors and waking nightmares about the lack of his presence someday? No! Even if a dog is older and sleeps more or young and full of energy, when you are freaking out internally, they can sense it in some way.

You make your dog happier by being happier in the now. You make you happier and at peace by living in the now.

If you live without fear, you aren’t alive. We all fear something. I get so aggravated when people say to ignore the fear. You have to dive into it, deal with it, acknowledge it, give it a voice, let it be real, and then admonish it from controlling you.

Tether yourself to this: What makes you feel better? The terror of fear and the thought of your dog dying or the act of doing something now that you can control and be happy about?

Time is too slow for those who wait,

too swift for those who fear,

too long for those who grieve,

too short for those who rejoice,

but for those who love, time is not.

— Henry van Dyke

Living With The Fear Of Your Dog Dying

If you share life with a dog, someday that dog will die. That’s the worst case scenario. You don’t have to like it — and I hate that. But it’s the reality for all of us: we will likely outlive our dogs. Thinking and acting on what I can do here and now, is what helps me when I start down the terror thoughts road.

I practice surrender with the time I allot, I practice acknowledgment when thoughts creep in, I practice helping others when I know things they may not, I practice focus on the way I behave in the now.

If you can’t function, if you can’t hold work, if you can’t have enjoyment, then professional help would be something to consider.

Consider this: Someone fears losing you but they manage. What would you tell a person who fears losing you and has terrorizing thoughts about it? That’s what your dog would likely want you to know.

i fear my dog dying

How To Live Life With A Heart That Beats Dog®

My dogs shape who I am. To toss that away isn’t fair to my dog in the now or my dog’s legacy someday.

Dogs give love unselfishly and that doesn’t die when bodies do. There aren’t many things that live eternal, but love is one of them.

I will pour the love I was given back into the world and in that way, my dogs never die. I will do this because it is in my soul, my beliefs, my heart, and will sustain me until I am reunited with my dogs. Can you imagine that day? I tuck that away and go there when I feel the pangs of fear coming. I wonder sometimes if me writing this now is helping someone five years from now reading this and I know I’m creating a future solution to defeating terror. Life is cool like that.

I talked with a friend once about what our dogs would do if we were the first to die. We wouldn’t want our dogs to give up, especially knowing their lives are much shorter than ours. So why should we give up on them and allow mortality fears to control us and rob the now? Grief is the price we pay for a love so strong.

The reason it hurts so much when a dog dies is because dogs don’t judge us, admonish us, leave us, they accept us, and they are innocent and dependent on whatever we do or don’t do for and with them.

No matter if you allow another dog to enter your life or not, that moment of time with your dog will never be replaced. That is yours. That pocket of love is yours. That special bond is yours. You don’t replace anyone or anything.

The heart is expandable – and it wants what it wants. How long you grieve is not a measure of how much you loved.

Next Steps In Fear Management

Take the time to carry your fear with you but do not let it be the driver. You control the steering wheel that is right here, right now, in this moment. Fear cannot control you ‘in the now’ unless you pull the car over, get out, and allow fear to drive.

Change your self-dialogue. Wherever you think your dog’s soul is headed after earth, give yourself permission to acknowledge you’ll be there, too.

What can you control? Do that thing. Do it again. Write down things you can control and do those things.

Is your dog alive right now? If yes, what can you do to have a quality moment or more with your dog?

If not, can you post about, share, or talk to someone about that dog? In that way, his or her legacy is alive here on earth while he or she lives eternally in _____ (your non-earthly place here).

When I talk about Brandy Noel, her life, the things she taught me, the medical problems she had, what I learned, and then pass that on to others, her legacy is alive and well.

I wish I had the answer you are seeking and that’s how to make the fear of my dog dying go away. It’s a mindset shift using the tips above.

Dogs change who you are when they are alive and they change who you are when they die. Dogs are the heroes of my heart and my heart beats dog®.

fear of my dog dying

Bark Back

Do you fear your dog dying? How are you coping? Have the above tips helped? I’d love to learn more about your journey. Please comment below.

Resources For Grieving A Dog

For help with dealing with emotions after the death of a dog, please read these articles. Always seek professional help if the angst becomes too much to bear:

How to Get Over the Death Of A Dog

Anatomy of a Grieving Dog Mom

Dealing with the Accidental Death of my Dog

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    1. I keep having these feelings of intense fear and pain when I think about my dog not being here. She is nearly 12 and in good health. She’s been my rock and I’m pretty sure she is my doggy soul mate. I told her tonight that when she goes I want to go too. Even though I have 2 young children and a loving husband, I fear I will never get over her and I worry about what work will say when she does go as I’m pretty sure I’ll be an absolute mess. I very much doubt I will receive time off for her death. I try not to think about it but sometimes it really makes me cry. I am sure animals are angels sent to guide us. I’m Def not prepared.

      1. I just came across this article and your comment. As I sit here a blubbering mess of tears I realize it’s not just me. I thought I was crazy. I thought surely no one obsessed over this the way I do. My current dog came to me in a time of major grief over losing my 16 y/o Jack Russell. I was broken. I’m convinced he sent Stella to me. She helped fix my heart. But I think because of that the fear of losing her is utterly crushing and unbearable. But coming across this article and these comments I realize I’m not alone. And that means that so many people have felt this way before me. And they survived.

        1. I understand, I’m going through this now with our 17 year old dachshund who was diagnosed a month ago with chronic kidney failure, I give her subcutaneous fluids once a week. She sleeps a lot and has lost some balance in her rear legs, but looking into her eyes, I tell her and her sister I love them so much, they stay in this world for love, I know this for sure, I have fear anxiety and tears on a daily basis. Mary Shiloh is 17 and her adopted sister Kara is 6 she is a puppy milll dachshund. Kara has respiratory issues, no one can figure out, or wants to take the time to. There truly is no one on time with the dogs at the vets, office, their so busy. This article has helped me, I took notes, it’s true our dogs sense our emotions, thank you for this positive article .

          1. I am so sorry that you are feeling the anticipatory anxiety and fear of death, Brenda. I know exactly how you feel. You are a wonderful dog mom, as is evidenced by your love and devotion to your babies. Cherish every day as you have. I am doing the same. Thank you for sharing your feelings here.

  1. I read your article it makes perfect sense it will also help me with my fear in losing my new kitty too as my heart is still shattered from losing my batman thanks for the help

  2. What a beautiful and sensitive post.

    When Honey started getting sugar on her face, I started thinking more about her aging, her health eventually failing, and like you, fearing her death. The crazy thing is that she’s absolutely healthy. And I finally realized that I was wasting precious time I could enjoy with her by living in a future place that, as you pointed out, I wouldn’t want to live through twice.

  3. My Treeno is the cat that holds my heart and soul. He’s 14 and has some breed and birth defect related health issues. I regularly tell him and other people that he’s going to live forever because I can’t imagine my life without him (my other cats will help me but it’s not the same. We have something special.) but since I know it won’t really be that way I focus on giving him the best life I can. I’m glad I have Plush and Caramel and Mocha or I’d be tempted to just go with him, especially the way the world is these days.

  4. I just lost my last cocker in March. Toby was 13 and 3 months when he died. I started to worry about his death after he turned 9 because my other dogs had not made it past 9. As he got further past 9 I worried a little less but, that thought was still there. He had a lot of issues with his eyes so I let that consume me more than the dying part so when it actually happened I was not at all prepared for it. He had not been sick at all, or so I thought. As it turned out the vet told me that night I took him in that he had done a good job of hiding it from me. Of course that did nothing but make the guilt all the more real because I worried that I made him suffer more than he should have. They found a large mass on his spleen that was bleeding into his GI tract that I had no idea he even had. I was totally consumed with all of those feelings of guilt, lonliness and the feeling that I just couldn’t breathe. I have also been through the fear of opening my heart to another and the guilt of getting another. Your article has helped validate all of those feelings and lets me know that I am not alone with what I went through. AND…of course, I am getting another dog!!

  5. Thank you for writing this beautiful article. I have had a lot of dogs in my lifetime, especially with my husband during our marriage. It never gets easier no matter how many we’ve lost. This year we lost two of our dogs, one somewhat expected because of advanced years (he was 17 1/2) but one was totally unexpected (he was 6) . We were devastated. Our house seemed so empty. So we decided to adopt another rescue but NONE were available due to the Covid-19, everyone adopting while they are stuck at home, which is a good thing as long as they keep them once their lives get back to normal. So we decided to get a puppy and contacted a Breeder that we purchased a puppy from 12 years ago and was put on a list where a puppy came available. The day we put our second dog down, while we were at the vets, my phone went into voicemail,but there was a call from a cocker rescue saying that they have a match for us. It helped us with our grief to open our heart and home to have another dog. So in the same week on a Sunday we brought home our Summer and later that week we brought home our baby Blue. I feel our hearts are bursting with grief , but bubbling over with new love in our lives.

  6. This is so well written. As I sit with my cocker spaniel next to me. I’m so lucky for now. I will read this a few more times I’m sure.

  7. This dog is very helpful! I believe that the fear that our dog dying always appears on our mind and we really do not want this to happen. However, we must admit that this is a natural part of our life. No one can deny it!

  8. You wrote a beautiful article about a subject we all fear when we are dog parents or our cat’s staff. The loss of these beautiful souls from our lives is always so devastating. I still can’t talk about my precious Dalmatian Pebbles and my two precious cocker spaniels named Sophie and Penny without breaking down into an ugly cry. Thank you for reminding us to be present in the moment and enjoy the little time we do have with them. Your heart doesn’t beat dog, but also angel.

  9. Having been through the loss of my precious fur babies I say this to myself with my living ones… if I had a crystal ball and someone told me they would live to 21 I then would be able to sit back and enjoy their lives at 12:,13,14,15…etc.

  10. My dog is a jackapoo named Chase. He is 9 & 1/2 years old. & I love him dearly. I am a single, 31 year old mama of a human 9 year old boy as well. Before my son was born I got a puppy (my chase) for my son to grow up with bc I had a dog that I grew up with from age 1 until she died at 13. My heart was broken. I remember collapsing & crying so hard. That was the first real loss I had ever experienced. & now that I am adult & more aware, & death of my loved ones is my biggest fear… I am so afraid I won’t be able to function at all when my Chase finally does leave earth side. He was with me all through my 20s which were really hard for me. & I have been severely depressed the last 2 years, & he has never left my side. I’m obsessed with him & he’s obsessed with me. I fear the day I will lose him & think about it often. & I know I will have to keep going because I have a son to take care of…. but that makes me sad too. Just living on without him. He doesn’t know he’s going to die, he thinks he’ll be with me forever. That thought kills me. Along with thinking about how very much I am going to miss him. & I just know I’ll never find one quite like him ever again. He’s so special to me. If someone told me I could live forever with my son & dog, I would do anything for that. Death of my loved ones, my dog, & then myself consumes a lot of my thoughts. I do believe in God, & heaven… & I pray constantly & thank God for my blessings everyday… but there’s still a tiny bit of “what if I never see them again, or what if I don’t remember them?” In my mind. It’s the hardest thing for me to move past, because it’s something no one truly knows to be exact & it is something absolutely no one can control no matter how much money or power you have.

    However this article did help a lot. In a time of a panic attack I googled “what to do if I can’t stop thinking about my dog dying” & this popped up. It helped me so much & I am going to try journaling which has been suggested to me in the past but I’ve never tried it, so I’m going to try it. & I will try everything else you said here as well. It’s so comforting to know someone understands & that I am not alone.

    Thank you so much for this.

  11. Thank you for writing this. I’m caring for my beloved 15 year old fur-kid now, and these fears consume me. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  12. My dog is a year older than me and has been with me my entire life. I’ve never been without him, and i’m worried about how I will be when he is gone one day. “If you live without fear, you aren’t alive.” <3

  13. My sons dog Lex was 15 and passed away a couple of days ago of heart failure. Lex and my son Mike live in Alaska. Mike was devastated They were so close. I know Mike is hurting. He has friends to see him through. I told him Lex is in Heaven and having a good time with other dogs. I told Mike when he goes to Heaven he will be with Lex eternally. I myself have an elderly cat that has has an incurable kidney disease but I know in my heart she will die but as long as we have here will make the best of her….God Bless you for helping all of us.

  14. Thank you for this. My kitty turned 18 today and I know the inevitable will come even if he’s okay right now. I’ve been having some bad anxiety and I’ve been living in fear for months. Ever since his hyperthyroidism diagnosis. He has that, my family dog possibly has heart failure… it’s been a rough year.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Samantha. I know how hard it is. We love our furbabies so much and just want them by our side always. Sending you a big hug a gentle scritch behind the ear for your cat. I will keep your dog and cat in our thoughts and paw prayers.

  15. Thank you for the thoughtful article. My best friend turned 7 in July, and while browsing some dog-related websites, I was shocked to learn he is now considered a “senior” dog. Though I have always known on a logical level that I am very likely to outlive my buddy, I didn’t really make the connection emotionally until I read those awful words – “senior dog”.

    I had no dogs growing up, or indeed any pet, and in my 20’s didn’t think that apartment living and long work hours would be fair to an animal. I was 35 before I felt ready to bring a furry companion into my life (he was supposed to be my sons dog, but he had other plans and instantly attached himself to me). I knew I would love him, but I am constantly amazed by how deep that love has grown. No human has ever been so selflessly loving, so kind and sweet and funny, so comforting and generous. He has given me everything, and asks for so little in return. He doesn’t want riches or fame or physical beauty or status or material possessions (with the exception of a couple of balls and some well-loved stuffed animals), he simply wants to spend time playing with me, hiking the woods with me, leaning on me, riding next to me in the car, licking my face and hands (which I have grown to accept if not love, haha), and making sure nothing eats me while I go to the bathroom. Whether I am gone ten minutes or ten hours, he is genuinely overjoyed at my return. He knows instinctively when I am sad or upset, and simply leans his warm weight into me until his loving touch makes it all bearable.

    How can I ever repay this dog for what he has done for me? He has made me want to be the person he thinks I am, to live up to his unwavering adoration, to be worthy of such boundless love. He keeps me active even when I feel like sinking into the couch and never getting up – how can I not get off my butt and take him out, when he is 100% dependent on me to meet all of his physical needs? How could I ever meet his generosity of spirit with anything less than total devotion? I could spend 24 hours a day playing fetch and feeding him nothing but NY strip and still the scales would never be balanced.

    I know those who have shared their lives with a special animal understand what I am feeling. And I know many of them have somehow survived losing that very animal – I just don’t know how.

    None of the humans in my life understand how I feel about Dooders. My husband loves my dog, but thinks the depth of my feelings are somewhat ridiculous. He grew up with many pets, and though he was sad when they died, he quickly grieved and then excitedly brought home the next animal. He accuses me of spoiling Dooders, thinks it’s odd to be so devoted to a “mere” dog, and I know that he will not be a comfort to me when my best friend dies. He just doesn’t understand. No one in my life walking on two legs does.

    Ever since reading the article about senior dogs and the average life expectancy of large dogs, I cannot stop thinking about Dooders dying. It hits me at random times throughout the day, and I just ugly cry into his fur until I can get myself together. He seems a little puzzled, but nuzzles me and licks my tears away until the storm passes. Kind as always.

    I know I am obsessing and that it is totally counterproductive, but I haven’t been able to stop. The fear and grief that hit me in those moments are unbearable. I am terrified that the real thing is going to break me into pieces. I know that part of my fear is the knowledge that my grief will be tolerated for a prescribed period of time, and then I will be expected to “move on,” to agree that Dooders is “just” a dog and go on with my life as through very little has changed, when for me everything will have changed. Having to stifle my tears and hide my devastation seems like a double loss – of my best friend and also of the honest acknowledgment of all he really means to me. The anticipation of how isolating and lonely such a thing will be has been killing me.

    Your article has helped me to realize that doing this to myself twice is at best self-defeating and at worst masochistic. It is also unfair to my dog. I know my fear and pain distress him, just as his fear and pain distress me. I don’t want to add a single unnecessary second of hurt to his precious time here. He deserves a life of happiness and a human companion who is determined to make it so.

    Perhaps I can cultivate some online human friends who will (sadly) understand all to well how totally undone I will be when the best friend I have ever had leaves this earth. There is comfort in hearing that others have gone through the same, and felt the same bottomless love for their dogs or cats or hamsters or goldfish or horses, and that it isnt silly to love a “mere” animal so much, to maybe love them more than one loves people.

    Thank you for taking the time to write out your thoughts and feelings, and apologies for the length of this comment. It’s liberating to feel oneself surrounded by like-minded animal-loving “weirdos”!! Much love and healing to those grieving the death of a beloved animal – my heart goes out to you. I have so much respect for your strength, and admiration for your capacity for such a rich and transcendent love.

    1. Hi Ruth –

      First, thanks for opening your heart and sharing your feelings. We are dog lovers of the highest order here at Fidose of Reality, so we can totally understand and relate.

      You are doing everything you can for Dooders. Dogs live in the moment and they want us happy. Bask in that, follow the tips in this post, and live your best dog mom life. You always have a space here.

  16. Having somehow survived my last two dogs going to wait for me, Eevon at 16 years old in December of 2017 and Rein at 15 years old in January of 2019 I know this fear all to well. Eevon especially had gone from doing ok to doing badly in just over the summer and after severe weight loss and negative blood tests the vet gave me the option to look for cancer which I declined seeing as how it seemed very stressful and if that’s what it was there wouldn’t be anything they could do. I had so many sleepless nights with her and waking up to go make sure she was still breathing. Looking back now I’m glad I had time to prepare myself and to enjoy every extra day we had together even the hard ones. I actually wrote a guest post on a blog for my girl a few years ago


    Rein on the other hand was very sudden she was having terrible walking but she had arthritis and was on medication for it she seemed to be doing well. Until one morning I woke up and had to carry her out of bed, I had done it before but than she wouldn’t eat and after laying her down I realized she couldn’t lift her head. Taking her to the vet they said she had either slipped a disc or had a tumor on her spine but either way it would require an MRI and surgery for either. Knowing with her age that she might not recover I had to make a really difficult decision and that is a day I played over in my mind for a long time wondering if I made the right choice. 2019 for me was a really hard year just over a year with eevon and than rein at the very beginning if the year but I somehow got through it. I still have my two cats (11 year old Dina and 5 year old Sam) and my 10 year old chihuahua boy Castle. I had to pull myself up everyday so they were taken care of if they weren’t there I’m not sure I would have and I love them so much for helping me. Castle is getting gray now but still spunky and his IVDD seems to be well controlled.

    I am now actually considering getting another dog which I wasn’t sure I ever would but now I’m excited and nervous for the experience.

    I can’t imagine living without any of these guys and I like to believe they have made me a better person.

  17. My beautiful little cat was killed by a car last Xmas and it absolutely broke my heart and my soul into pieces into shreds completely I’m still devastated by his passing the pain of loss at times is horrific. Now I’m thinking how I would ever get over my dog leaving me too he is only 7 but the thought absolutely terrifies me he is my best friend my baby my heart we all love him so much however I’m not sure I’ll cope if something happens to him. Reading this has helped me. I’m changing channels blessings to you

  18. I came across this article at the right time. My 11 yr old KY mutt is my heart and soul. He is 11 and has non-cancerous fatty lipomas, but over the last few months there has just been more and more. He’s moving, eating, breathing and existing fine and by all appearances comfortably. I know from his vet, though, that as these things multiply and grow they will start to impact the above.

    I just feel sheer dread and terror about it. I read an article about a woman with a terminally ill dog – her POV was “he’s here right now.” A choice to focus on what she has v what will happen. I loved it. My Max is always at my feet or at my side, when he is sleeping next to me and I wake up a bit, I’ll reach over and tuck a blanket around him if it’s cold.

    Trying to enjoy every moment with him. Dreading the vet appointment next week.

    I read the whole article and it spoke so well to a lot of what I feel. I just don’t know what I’ll do when he’s gone. He’s my heart, best friend and just my center. I grieved my father over a long slow goodbye (Alzheimer’s) but this is different. More acute to everyday functioning? The dog that knows your every move and is waiting at the door for you. Just the unconditional love ❤️

    1. My Cocker has many fatty lipomas and just keep an eye on them. Most times they don’t become cancerous. I know how you feel but live each day in the moment and stay present. Your dog will thank you. Hugs.

  19. Thank you so much. My cockapoo is my first pet and only 1 and I have had really premature thoughts of anticipatory grief. Your blog has been a great help. Living in the moment with my gorgeous Winnie is such good advice.

    1. Thank you for stopping by. I had to take my own advice on anticipatory grief over the years, too. I am glad you found it helpful.

  20. It’s been 4 days since my baby has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and I’ve been balling my eyes out every single day… he most likely has a year or less left and every part of me feels horrible. I stay up all night petting his belly to sleep

  21. We just found out that our beloved Chocolate Lab Bella has terminal cancer. She is only six years old and she has at most a few months to live. We are all devasted. You couldn’t meet a sweeter more loving dog. This is all so unfair. My daughter, whose mental health is already impacted by several other things going on in her life, is going to be absolutely heartbroken. I have barely gotten over the loss of our last dog nearly six years ago now. Life just didn’t seem to be the same without him, and now I have to go through the same thing again — and far too early.

    I am having such a difficult time with anticipatory grief. I cannot stop crying and my work performance is suffering greatly at a time when I really need to pull up my socks. The problem is Bella is still pretty much her usual self. She still enjoys fairly long walks. Her appetite is still very healthy and she enjoys her food. She still loves to snuggle with us and she can still jump up into our bed, which is very high. I know I need to focus on making her remaining time as happy as possible and I cannot do that if I am sobbing and crying every five minutes. I need to be strong for her and give her the best possible experience of her remaining days here on earth. Thank you for this. You have helped me gain the strength and courage to develop the coping skills and the ability to truly enjoy every last minute with our sweet girl.

    1. My heart is with you. Give her all the love as you have and continue fighting the good fight. I totally understand.

  22. This is a beautiful blog. I found it whilst searching for an answer to my constant fear of losing my darling pups. I love them so very unconditionally, and would take a bullet for them happily! I spend time every day thinking about ‘it’ despite their ages of 2 and 6. However, it goes so quickly, and I wish time could slow right down. Thank you for making me realise that I’m not crazy ❤️

    1. I’ve learned to enjoy every second with your dogs, just like your dogs enjoy all their moments with you. I, too, wish that time would slow down as well. You are definitely not crazy, and you sound like an awesome dog mama. Hugs!

  23. Thank you. I really didn’t realize how many people grapple with this. The thoughts were impeding my ability to function and robbing me of the joy with my healthy but senior pet. Thank you.

  24. I googled “how to cope with constant anxiety with my senior dog”, when I tell you in now way shape or form was I expecting anything to help me, but this did. This was so beautifully written, I’m seriously a puddle of tears. This touched my heart and really shook me to my core, you are an incredible writer and an even more incredible person. Your dog would be so proud to know you are continuing her legacy. This changed my mindset and perspective in so many different ways. I’ve been in a cast for two weeks now, constantly worried I am not doing the best for my dog Panda because I am unable to walk on my own at the moment. After reading this I remember how happy she is that I am home with her all day and how she has a blast playing fetch with me even if it’s from the couch. It wouldn’t be fair for me to beat myself up about my condition and panic about if I am doing enough when I should be as happy as my dog is that we are together in the first place. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart you really shifted something in me.

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