Re: Losing A Dog Is Like Losing A Child

I was assaulted, even stalked for the title of my piece on The Dodo. My story came from my heart. I was amazed at the level the attackers stooped to. 

Imagine if every time a parent lost a child, people who love dogs would seek them out online to say, “how dare you assume losing a child is worse than losing a dog.” That doesn’t happen because it’s almost universally accepted that losing a child is one of the worst things that can happen to a parent. There are actually lists of what not to say to a parent who has just lost a child. Friends who are overwhelmed by trying to imagine themselves in the same situation are ridiculed for their awkward attempts to convey empathy. Practically everything dealing with the loss of a child is designed as a support system for the parents struggling with the enormous sense of grief related to that loss.

People who have lost dogs or other pets are not given the same consideration as people who have lost children. The prevalent idea is that it was “just a dog” or “just a cat” or “just a pet.” But in reality, many people who have lost pets suffer a tremendous sense of loss that brings about the same issues of grieving as those who have lost children. Now, this is the part where intolerant people will feel they have a right to inject their prejudice by telling me “it’s not the same!” They lost a human child. Someone else lost a four legged child. There is where the difference ends. After that, the symptoms, the struggles, the pain, the emptiness, the heartache are all similar. 

But there is one other major difference. People who have lost a child have a worldwide network of support and a paradigm that serves to insulate them from mean spirited attacks. People who have lost pets find most of their support within a community of other pet lovers, but are often ridiculed in subtle and not so subtle ways in the larger world. Unfortunately, the major paradigm that many people feel comfortable with concerning the loss of pets is: “it was JUST a pet.”      

Here is what I’ve seen and experienced first hand in the past two years. Strong masculine men crying uncontrollably because of the loss of their dog. Two sisters who told me they seriously thought their dad was going to die from grief because his dog had died. A woman so distraught she was unable to sleep for six months after her dog died. When Lisa's uncle's dog died, her uncle had a heart attack. And myself, someone who has cared for dozens of people at the end of their lives, totally caught off guard by the enormity of loss I felt when Zoe The Happy Dog died. 

I am a Buddhist. In Buddhism we have a term called samadhi. It is a state of meditation where one experiences union with the divine. For myself this means having the understanding that we are all the same! The life of an animal is sacred. To believe that one life is more important than another is not my reality. Zoe was my child and my soulmate. More than any other being in my lifetime, she changed me for the better in ways I never could have imagined. 

Grief should not be used to excuse hateful inappropriate behavior. The loss of the lives of our loved ones provide a perfect opportunity for us to grow spiritually. If we all operate from our hearts we may have a lot to teach each other from our common experiences.


A note from Bob's sister Pat:

You and Cyndi were so close and you were a blessing to us when she was dying. It was the most traumatic time in our know she was slipping away and there was nothing we could do to save her. She fought a good fight but in the end, she lost and the grief we felt is still there..just a tear duct away, when an animal is hurt or abused and we think of her devotion to all living creatures. She never had children, but any stray or helpless animal that needed a Mother..she stepped in and gave all of her love. When one of her furry children was hurt or died...she grieved as if it was her own was real grief and no one can ever tell me it was any different than the grief we felt at her passing. This was MY child and animals were HER children...and grief is grief...if you have a heart...  


Views: 2602

Comment by Zanelle on November 12, 2015 at 2:00pm

What a wonderful photo!  Here is a big hug for your loss.  All life is sacred.

Comment by Arthur James on November 12, 2015 at 2:09pm


... Namaste...

I have many dog


One is especially 

Sad. The black and

white Mutt had a 

hunter's arrow in

Her Side. Sigh...

She would take a

stroll in the woods.

I came upon Magee 

one day walking. Sigh.


Life goes on and on...

I stop off  @ Our? huh?

To see Who Nice? aye!

`~' sigh... It great pain.


Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on November 12, 2015 at 2:23pm

you're so right

Comment by alsoknownas on November 12, 2015 at 3:30pm

We went through the unexpected loss of our 9 year old Bengal cat this summer.

I understand completely.

Comment by Sandra Cole on November 12, 2015 at 3:58pm
I have lost children and animals - it's *all* grief, and although it hits from different angles sometimes, grief is an enormous pain to carry, no matter whose loss you're grieving.

I'm sorry for your loss.
Comment by nerd cred on November 12, 2015 at 8:33pm

Reading this I also read the piece on the Dodo and your older piece here about Zoe. The relationship you intentionally grew with her and the depth you took it to are beautiful and inspiring.

A dog digs into you, into your heart and soul and becomes part of you like a kid can't - unless you're intent on seriously screwing up the kid.

Losing a dog is like losing a part of your soul. The saving grace should be that you have the dog's whole life to prepare yourself. Maybe that's why they don't live as long as they should.

When I was in the midst of my divorce I was talking to a friend about the ex's behavior, particularly to the kids. My friend the psych major said we were all just "ego objects" to the ex. Just parts of him, without our own separate identities. Without him, moving away from him, we didn't matter.

That's almost what dogs are, without the destructive aspect. Dogs can move away from us but for their lives to be good they have to attach to another human. They don't want or need to be separate like humans do. They have evolved to be ego objects to humans. Perhaps what I mean, then, is less that they become part of our souls than that they are part of our egos.

Truth be told, I don't much care. I just want to have my dog with me as long as possible.

Comment by Arthur James on November 13, 2015 at 6:19am


I read this again off line.

I really heard You. If I

get another Cat that went

off in the Woods t die?

I Never found Cyclops, a

One Eye Yellow Cat... I

might name New Cat?

koshersaalami. KOSH?

`~ '

Comment by Julie Johnson on November 13, 2015 at 6:31am

There's nothing like a Good dog, to soothe your soul.  

Comment by Robert Starkey on November 13, 2015 at 7:08am

Sorry Kosher, but you are wrong this time. I do not feel the need to explain, but like all the others you have assumed something you do not know about my life. I have experienced all the things you assume I have not. I have the right to make the comparison from my own experience. Lots of people making assumptions then asking for proof! I will not play that arrogant game!   

Comment by Lateboomer on November 13, 2015 at 9:27am

Please, Bob - don't listen to those who try and devalue the pain you felt in losing Zoe. They have no idea what you went through, and cannot possibly ever know. Everyone's grief experience is different, and I do KNOW you didn't mean to spark competitive 'my grief is worse than yours' comments. I am so sorry this has happened to you.  I know this wasn't the intent when you wrote the article.  I am very sorry that certain readers felt the need to demean you or make themselves feel superior - your feelings and pain are one thousand percent valid and you were not wrong in trying to express that.


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