Dogs offer an unconditional type of love we don’t always experience in our human relationships. When it’s time to say goodbye to such an integral part of our families, it can be a traumatic experience.
Dr. Mary Gardner is a veterinarian and co-founder of Lap of Love. Geriatric medicine, the aging process in animals, and teaching families practical ways to care for and manage their elder pets are her passions.
She describes how the right time to introduce a new dog to the family will be different in every situation. “Processing grief can be very helpful in general, and the distraction of a new pet may be good, but may also take away from memorializing the first dog.”
There isn’t a universal approach for handling the complicated grief process. But taking time to acknowledge rather than minimize feelings of grief and memorializing the pet you have lost can help you better understand if you and your wider family are ready to consider a new dog.
Bereavement counselling can be beneficial for people struggling to cope with the loss of a much-loved dog. Brenda Brown, MA, FT is a grief specialist and owner of Grief About Pets. She offers support services to owners before and after losing their pets.
She also agrees that grieving is a very individual process and explains that “as a grief specialist, I always totally focus on my client’s story and relationship with their deceased pet.
We talk about their grief symptoms and how they can cope with each one, whether it’s physical, mental, spiritual or social.”
If you have another dog or other pets in the family, it’s important to consider them before introducing a new dog to the household. Throwing an excitable young puppy into the mix when you have a senior dog that’s choosy about who they socialize with may not be a fair decision.
However, dogs can experience grief at the loss of their furry friend too, and, sometimes, having a new dog around for companionship can help them feel less lonely.
Dr. Gardner thinks it’s common for grieving owners to compare their new dog to their previous one—she admits she has even done this herself.