Grieving Loss of Eldest Furry Baby

Updated on January 04, 2010
J.F. asks from Philadelphia, PA
6 answers

Our almost ten year old lab mix is loosing the battle for life. We found out she had a tumor on her spleen when it was pretty much too late to do something about it. The vet expected it would rupture at some point and she would "go" quickly without pain. Sadly, it is causing other complications for her and we fear she may be in pain but want to let her "go" on her terms.

That's the bck story but my request is for advice to help our seven year old beagle adjust to life without his "big sister" - they have never been apart since he joined our family when he was three months old. How do you help a dog cope? We are not going to get another dog immediately as we are expecting our second child in February and have enough going on without trying to incorporate another pup.

Our son is 19 months and while he loves LUCY I don't think he is old enough to understand the loss of a pet at this stage BUT if you have any advice for helping him too that would be great!

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So What Happened?

I really appreciate the advice received so far and look forward to more responses if others have them. Euthanasia was not a real option with it being the holiday weekend so we just kept LUCY as comfortable as possible and let her know that we understood she wasn't going to get better and that it was ok to "let go". She passed through the night Saturday in to Sunday after lots of loving from each of us. Herman seems a bit lost and we will take the advice of removing LUCY's things slowly. Our cat is actually looking for LUCY more than any of us - she has been home when BOTH dogs were away but seems rather confused about where LUCY went - go figure, I worry about the dog and the cat is the one grieving!

Our son does not seem phased at this point and has greatly assisted in distracting my husband and I from getting to caught up in our emotions around him. Of course when he goes to bed and the house is too quiet we get good and emotional. ;-p Thankful for the many years of joy that LUCY brought to our lives and wishing her peace and joy in Doggy Heaven!

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answers from Philadelphia on

First of all, I'm sorry that Lucy is going through this, as is the whole family.
O.K. now here is my background: I am a licensed Veterinary Technician with about 20 years experience working in Emergency, ICU and anesthesia. I have seen very many dogs with the condition that Lucy has and actually euthanized my first girl, Taro, at age 13 due to splenic hemangiosarcoma. I have professional and personal experience with this is the point of all that.
Please don't make Lucy get to the point where she ruptures her spleen-she would go fairly fast but it's not peaceful or painless and I'm surprised your veterinarian insinuated it is. If you have the choice to euthanize her before that point, please show her how much you love her and don't let her suffer.
As far as your beagle goes, I do think dogs grieve for each other but each in their own way. Since I am in the profession, I have had the ability to euthanize my dogs at home and then I let the other dogs say goodbye-usually they sniff their brother or sister some stay far away and that's fine, too. I had one bring a toy to their brother. I think they understand death-certainly in different terms than we do but perhaps going back to their wolf ancestors, they understand something. If you can't euthanize at home, your beagle will adjust but will probably need some extra loving and TLC. Also, don't quickly take away all Lucy's stuff (bed, bowl, leash) but maybe take one away at a time, I think that might help-though might be harder on you. I also think your beagle might really help you grieve so cry and hug him, use him as a tissue! But just make sure Lucy has tons of loving and not waling cries in her last days and then just love and attention to your beagle. And your human child will just be worried about your sadness but probably not grieve Lucy but he will be a great source of love for you and your husband plus he will keep you "normal" and on your schedule, reminding you to keep going on.
Best wishes and peace to Lucy and the family,

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Your other dog will morn the death of your dog on his own terms. We just lost a cat and the other cat would cry out loud so i took her to the vet and he todl me she is morning the death of the cat. As for yoru sone he is too young to understand just tell him the dog is in heaven. My thought and prayers are with you at this time of sorrow. They become a part of the family.
take care T.



answers from Philadelphia on

we have lost 4 cats since my younger daughter was born (3.5 years old)!!! The first three, my daughters were under 3 years old, and since there was still at least one left, they honestly didn't notice that much (and they were their buddies!!!). the fourth just died two months ago, and my now 3 and 4.5 year old took it much better than expected. I did as well.. i think having kids distracted me a bit, because if any of the cats had passed before I had my daughters, i would have been a MESS!
Anyway, in each instance, even when one of the littermates had died, the other cats seemed to handle it ok. I wouldn't worry about it too much, cause what are you going to tell the dog?!!



answers from Philadelphia on

First, I am so sorry. My 11 year old dog is my "firstborn" so I can only imagine. I have not been through this ,but a friend at work has. After the dog passed, she had him cremated and brought his ashes home. She said the dog at home was all out of sorts looking for his friend, and she let him sniff the ashes. She said he seemed more relaxed afterwards, like he understood. It might be worth a try. I agree with the other response that like humans, dogs probably grieve in their own time. If your baby passes at home ,that may help too. Again, I am so sorry for you sadness right now. I hope all goes ok.



answers from Philadelphia on

I don't have any advice but wanted to say that you are in my thoughts and prayers. It is not easy to lose a pet that you have grown to love so much.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I am so sorry for your dog's diagnosis. My first "real" pet was a husky that lived to 16. It is really hard when we have to say goodbye. Nikki was with me through college, my first marriage, my first apartment, my first house, etc.
My friend had two dogs and O. passed and the other seemed to adjust fairly quickly. I think the younger O. sensed the older O.'s illness.
As for your son, he is pretty young but I would start now mentioning the concept of living things' lives having a beginning, a middle and an end. If he asks why she died, you can keep it really simple (no "put to sleep", resting, etc). Just tell him that Lucy was very sick. The vet tried to help Lucy but Lucy was just to sick for medicine to work. It was the end of her life.
Have you ever read The Rainbow Bridge poem? You can read it at:
I also second the other poster's advice to consider euthanasia rather than prolong the inevitable. I consider it a great gift that I was there with my beloved dog at the end. Again, I'm sorry that you're going through this.

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