Mourning/grieving period for pets

Sprinning off from this thread: Our dog died

Some people aren’t dog people or even pet people. Maybe they wonder what the big deal is if your pet dies. You and the pet don’t plan a future together or have a deep discussion about the meaning of life. You don’t get their advice, you don’t get their help when you move, they don’t loan you money, and so on, like a human friend might.

However there are also people who take pets very seriously, maybe as seriously as human relations. You could have a pet 15 years, lasting longer than some friendships or marriages. And you don’t find that kind of unconditional love and loyalty from a person IMO.

If your spouse dies, for instance, the common thinking seems to be not to make any major decisions for awhile because your emotions can cloud your logic. Don’t change careers, move across country, get into the next serious relationship, etc. for awhile. I think this is probably why @Whack-a-Mole recommended taking a bit of time before jumping back in.

Is it different for pets? We lost our dog on March 30 and it really hurt. But we welcomed two new pups home for a trial basis on April 9. We had a “Start looking now because it will probably take awhile” attitude about this. We thought that if the right ones came along—now or six months from now—that would be a sign.

She’s personally known and really liked some pit bull mixes and she wanted one, so check. We wanted two dogs so they would entertain each other, so check. We didn’t want neverending competition between them and these are littermates, so we hope that will work out. Years ago when we ran into roadblocks in adopting, she always said, “What’s yours will come to you.”

She’s really fallen for the pups and I think it’s a done deal. I know she still hurts for the one we lost, though.

What say you, serial pet owners? Do you mourn a certain length of time between pets? Does it depend on the pet? Have you had any regrets about getting the next pet too soon? What insights do you have about our relationship with pets?

I bring in a new young pup when it becomes clear an older one is failing a bit–or sometimes sooner, as in my adopting Kosh as a young puppy when 4 year old Shoga was getting lonely and old dog Bear wasn’t keeping her company enough. Shoga came on board while I was nursing Widget through his final struggle with cancer. I know that I don’t do well without any dogs around and I’d rather have my current mob (generally I try to keep a limit of two dogs but this was a special case) than try to think about getting another dog when I lost all the others.

I think grieving is different for everyone–my daughter lost her dog two years ago and hasn’t made any move to adopt another one, for instance. Me, I find that I can mourn my gone before dog while still enjoying the antics of the ones still here and, in fact, the antics make the process easier for me.

I put my dog of almost 16 years down a month ago. It’s better with each day, but there are times when I mindlessly expect a dog greeting when I return home and open the door.

Have not had a dog since growing up, but we always got a new one immediately upon the death of the old one. That seems best to me. I don’t see it as denigrating the previous dog at all.

It depends. When our dog Iris died, we waited a couple of years before getting another. She was an amazing dog, but also had some issues. I knew I would want another bully dog of some kind, but that they can have some challenging issues. We were particularly heartbroken by her death because we had almost lost her from a splenic torsion, paid for surgery to save her, then paid for emergency vet surgery to save her from the botched first surgery*. She recovered fully, but then something like a year later, we discovered that an earlier spinal issue had gotten much worse, and though she was stoic, she was in a lot of pain. So, we had her put down. This was another wrenching decision, because surgery was an option, but this surgery and particularly the recovery would have been too hard on her. She was probably 7 or 8 years old.

After waiting so long, we started looking, but were very careful. I still had a cat, so that eliminated lots of dogs who weren’t known to be OK with cats. Eventually we found Gracie the Wonder Dog. She’s the best dog we’ve ever had.

That said, I’ve gotten a new cat a week after losing a cat I’d had for 12 years. And I started looking for a new cat quickly after another cat I’d had for 12 years died – one I was very tightly bonded with. I miss having a cat in the house. But, I also was really careful in picking the new one out, because I knew it was important to get a cuddly cat that was OK with dogs. Took a few months, and got a really awesome cat.

I think it depends on so many things. I never judge what others do, and I can’t say what I will do next time, because I don’t know. Waiting for the right pet worked for us the last two times, but it also worked out great when I got a kitten a week after the death of the previous cat, because she was a great fit for me, which I could tell when I met her.

*I mention paying because they were wrenching decisions to make, confronting losing her each time and incurring large charges to save her.

I think grieving is a process. A healthy, if painful, process. I do not see painting over the grief with a new loved thing as ideal. If my SO died the notion of getting a new SO within a few weeks is unthinkable to me. I realize pets are not people but, emotionally, I am attached to that pet as well. So, the same idea applies. I just could not contemplate replacing a beloved pet within a week or two of them dieing.

But this is not a hill I will defend. Everyone is different. What works for me is not the same as what works for someone else.

@lobotomyboy63 has some new pups that he and his wife love I ain’t gonna rain on that parade.

There’s no approved length of time between the death of a dog and adopting another.

We’ve let the trauma associated with losing a dog abate over a year or more before considering another canine. That way we also forget what a pain in the ass they can be. :smiley:

The first time we lost a dog it was another year before we got another. I’m not sure we’ll get another dog this time. Our kids are grown now. Both our cats are older, and I’m not sure how they’d adjust to another dog. I’m definitely still grieving the loss of Ginger, and it’s been a little over two months. I definitely don’t judge anyone who gets another dog quickly, but I don’t see it happening with us.

My dog died in 2019 at the age of 10. For the first several days I was devastated and my mind was throbbing all over, and I couldn’t focus on work or anything else of importance. For a couple weeks after that, I had regained some of my mental faculties but I was still terribly bummed out, and I had to slowly let myself acclimate to a post-dog world.

I vowed after my dog’s passing that I will never get another dog, as to not replace my cherished memories of him. Everyone handles grief differently though, and I don’t judge anyone who choose to get new pet afterwards.

Few things sadden me as much as a dying dog story.

After my last one I vowed never again.

It’s been a couple of years and I remain convinced that the joys of dog ownership do not make up for the trauma of saying goodbye.

Just my opinion, of course, and I understand why most would disagree.


“Every pet is a tiny tragedy waiting to happen.” ~George Carlin

I still think it is worth it despite how awful losing them is. I mean, think about it…it is awful losing them because they brought so much to your life.

Just my $0.02

We lost our two cats just over a year apart. No sooner had one succumbed to a year long painful illness, than the other became sick.

Two years of nursing suffering pets drained us emotionally. And I was harder on our human little one it seemed. These cats were her constant companions for the first five and six years of her life. Though now she barely remembers them :frowning:

There was no way we were going to get another cat right away. It was a year before we were ready, and then the kid had convinced us a dog would be better.

I hope my citing you doesn’t come off as a challenge to your personal approach or anything…like you, I think what’s right for one isn’t right for another. But I wanted to bring it up because a similar question had crossed my mind.

I was a bit surprised that Mrs. L was ready to jump in again as quickly as she was. I think I made some peace with it already, looking at it like “I was a sort of trusted steward of this animal for this many years and I did my best. She repaid well me with her love and I have no regrets about sharing my life with her. I wish it had lasted longer, but we all die. There are others who need me now, though.”

Two cinematic moments come to mind…

  1. Was Michelle Lee in Knott’s Landing or Dallas? Her character’s husband died and after awhile she was starting to date again. IIRC her kids felt like she’d betrayed the memory of their father and she tearfully replied that their father had made her feel wonderful and she missed him but he wasn’t coming back and she wanted to feel that way again. The kids realized if they loved their mom, of course they should want her to be happy.

I started off in the kids’ camp but by the end, I got that. Our girl wanted us to be happy, I’m sure.

Because our relationship with dogs are so different from those with humans, I can imagine “replacing” what a dog brought to my life much more easily by getting another. Yes, they’re individuals but the unconditional love and loyalty seem like standard features. YMMV of course. I don’t remember if Michelle ever found another husband or not.

  1. In GI Jane, Viggo’s character quotes a poet.

Master Chief John Urgayle : [quoting “Self-Pity” by D.H. Lawrence] I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A bird will fall frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.

The organization from which we adopted had several on their website and we thought the mother of these two was a dalmatian that was having a leg amputated. They later showed it hopping along after surgery and I thought, ‘A human would probably think how difficult life was going to be from then on etc., start wondering how to operate a wheelchair or whateve. The dog just adapts with the cards she was dealt today. Life is now, in front of us, not behind us or how things used to be. But you can miss the present if you let yourself be too stuck in the past.’

That probably doesn’t add up or make sense as stated. I can’t articulate it yet.

Suppose your significant other dies. I once seriously dated a widow. Although some time had passed since her husband’s death, she still wasn’t over him and the relationship failed. So I understand why human relationships struggle after a loss.

With pets, is it that the owner feels guilty, like he should have been faithful to the memory of the pet he lost? Or does he adopt pets that aren’t good matches, or too many pets? Or is it something else?

No fussed about it at all. I find the discussion interesting.

Pets are not people.

But the emotional angle is still there.

I think people need time to recover from an emotional shock. Time to process it.

With a pet it is not about being unfaithful. It is about letting yourself work through the loss of a loved one.

Everyone is different about that.

As I said in the other thread: I need to have more than one cat. Because the thought of grieving for a cat in a house that had no cat at all in it is too much for me.

The particular cat is gone, and I’ll mourn for years, though the amount of pain diminishes. But catness still exists in the world, and I can pat the living cat. It helps.

Those of you comparing to mourning a human spouse – while there are, I’m sure, a few people who need to mourn the loss of a human, spouse or otherwise, by retreating entirely into solitude: most people seem to need to mourn such losses in company. Families and friends gather together to mourn. Many have commented on how hard it is during covid to not be able to do so. I at least didn’t and don’t need to mourn my old cat alone, because I had her feline friends to hold next to me.

When my now-wife moved in with me, she came with cats. I’d never lived with cats before, but they stole my heart very quickly. Seven years later, Cuthbert died unexpectedly (and while we were on vacation, no less). We were absolutely devastated, but out of concern for Bertram being lonely, we decided we would get another cat as soon as possible. As it happened, we ended up adopting a bonded pair (brothers). Unfortunately, they didn’t get along well with Bertram, but we had committed to them, so we had three cats.

A year later, Bertram also died unexpectedly. So now we just have the two brothers, Alistair and Neville. We are incredibly grateful that they are in our lives, and we love them deeply—they are very different cats than either Cuthbert or Bertram, and they amuse and entertain us in their own special ways, as cats do.

The way it worked out has been fine, but having our two current knuckleheads hasn’t changed the loss we felt and still feel with both Cuthbert and Bertram. If we had lost both of them before adopting anyone else, I don’t know how long the gap in between might have lasted. We still mourn both of them. I don’t know what’s appropriate time-wise, but it’s impossible not to miss them.

We’ve always had two cats at any given time. Each time one passed, it just seemed wrong to have just one, and usually the remaining cat visibly missed the one who was now gone.

Once, our cats passed one after the other, and we were left with none. The place seemed dead, totally lifeless. I don’t ever want to go through that again.

Our last one, Best. Cat. Ever., left us a couple of years ago, and we miss him every day. Due to circumstances, mainly COVID, we haven’t adopted a new one. I think it’s weird with two people and one cat, and I know she must be lonely. As soon as possible, we hope to adopt one or two more.

@Asimovian, @jsgoddess, what is your cat naming algorithm? I really like what it’s produced so far.

Shamus the Maine Coon died on December 29, 2019, and I was devastated. He’d been Mom’s cat and Dad and I took over his care when she died unexpectedly. Dad followed Mom 3.5 years later, and having that cat made grieving Dad easier. So when poor Shamus died just 3.5 months after Dad did…

I didn’t get another cat until the end of September. That was way, way too long. Had 2020 been different and had I not injured myself pretty badly in January, I probably would’ve been ready for a new cat in March. Even post-injury I was ready by May and if everyone and their brother hadn’t been adopting pets, I’d of gotten one from a shelter. (I still haven’t found the right kitten/young cat from a shelter yet because there are so few…though I’m afraid the cat drought is going to turn into a cat flood at the shelters come fall when lots of people go back to the office).

I wouldn’t bring home a new kitten or puppy within days of losing a cat or dog, but I’ve seen doing just that work out just fine with several friends and coworkers, so hopefully the OP’s situation will too.

As cornball as this may sound, you have to really trust your gut in these matters (plus, you have to listen to it). Having a set time table for grieving or moving on could cause you extra grief/guilt at a time when you just don’t need it, dammit! Opportunities don’t come along every five minutes and if a possible pet presents itself at a certain time under a certain set of circumstances, you need to move on it now. Don’t think you can withstand another furry friend passing away so you won’t get one? You’re 100% correct. Need to adopt a critter the next day after one expires? You’re 100% correct. Lord knows, there are plenty that would be happy to be your pet. Do what’s right for you; it will probably be what’s right for the situation. Anyone else clucks their tongue? Screw 'em.

(Apologies for the screed.)