Losing a Friend: Dealing with the Loss of a Family Pet

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Dr. Ruth MacPete, DVM/Pet Health Information Network/IDEXX

Losing a pet is hard. Just like many of you, Dr. Ruth MacPete has been there. Read on to hear her story and find some great resources to help you cope with the loss of a beloved pet. For more from Dr. MacPete, find her on Facebook or at www.drruthpetvet.com!
Cody was a goofy red Doberman who thought he was a cat. Considering he lived in a household full of cats, it is easy to see why he would think of himself as one of the felines. After all, they seemed to have the life; they had food out all day, could jump on tables and counters, sit on their parent’s laps, sleep on a pillow or under the covers, and never had to go out for a walk in the rain. So in spite of his huge size (90 lbs.), he would try to sit on our laps whenever he could and he would adopt the kittens we were fostering as though they were his own. Each litter of kittens I brought home was greeted with a big wet nose and maybe a lick or two. He willingly shared his bed with them and would sleep on the edge of his bed in order to not disturb them. However, being a dog had its perks. Cody hiked everywhere with us, taking trips to the mountains, beaches, and parks. He even had dog birthday parties with all his four-legged friends. Many would say Cody was a lucky dog, but looking back I know we were the lucky ones because Cody brought us so much unconditional love and joy. Cody was a loyal and caring companion; when we needed cheering, he made us laugh, when we needed comfort, he gave us reassuring kisses. He even made our foster kittens feel at home by playing hide-and-seek with them and sharing his food and bed. He was also a survivor who rebounded from knee surgery, recovered from being paralyzed from Wobbler Syndrome, and outlived cancer and surgery in his 14 years. He seemed indestructible so we were caught off guard and devastated when he became ill and this time didn’t’ recover. Losing Cody was especially difficult for my husband who had him as a puppy in college and we still get teary eyed when we think of him not being in our life any longer.

While losing Cody was heart wrenching, we were fortunate to have the support of family, friends and my veterinary colleagues during this difficult time. Saying goodbye to a friend is never easy and everyone copes with loss differently. I share my story of losing Cody because it is important for people who lose their beloved pets to know that they are not alone and help and support are available. There are numerous pet loss websites and hotlines to help you cope with your grief. They all have trained professionals who understand what you are going through. Remember, you can also speak with your veterinarian, who understands the special bond shared between you and your pet.

Once the grieving period is over and you feel ready, think about opening your heart and home to another animal. How long it takes to get there varies from person to person and you’ll know when the time is right to bring another pet into your life. Though you can never replace your lost pet, animals have lots of love to share and they can help fill the void in your heart. 


University of Illinois, College of Veterinary Medicine C.A.R.E Helpline

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Pet Loss Support Hotline

Argus Institute: Colorado State University’s Pet Loss & Hospice Programs

Association for Pet Loss & Bereavement
Pet Loss Website
UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Pet Loss Hotline 
Iams Pet Loss Support Center

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.