A lot of my friends have senior dogs. Unfortunately, that means that a lot more of my friends had senior dogs. Over and over, I face the loss of a friend, a dog I have known for years. A family dog like Beau, who loved my visits because he got extra walks and tons of attention (not that he was exactly starved for love and affection otherwise). A longtime friend’s dog like Molly, who was a frequent guest in my home, or little Casey. (They were both poodles, though, so it might not be fair to lump them in with dogs; I am convinced that poodles are a link between canines and humans, tending more toward the human than any other dog breed.)
Each time a beloved dog passes away, I search for the perfect card. I’m always disappointed that the best dog-product stores have all the top treats, toys, clothing, and accessories for dogs, endless adorable birthday and thanks-for-taking-care-of-me cards … and pathetically few sympathy cards. And many of the few they do have are, well, awful. In addition to the card, Deni and I have a custom that we’re getting better and better at honoring. We choose a charity that we are sure that both the late dog and her or his human would support and make a memorial donation. I have to admit that I have missed doing this on many occasions, but I do feel that it is a meaningful way to mark the life of a beloved friend. Unfortunately, beyond offering these gestures, we haven’t come up with a way to make the loss any easier.
A number of books have been written about the loss of a dog. A particularly good one is Anna Quindlen’s Good Dog. Stay. I haven’t re-read it in a while, though I should; I have recommended it over and over, though.
What do you do to help a friend through the loss of a dog? What have you found helpful? Let me know, and a future Thinking Dog blog post will feature reader suggestions.