What To Say When Someone’s Dog Passes Away

Hands holding paws dog are taking shake hand together while he is sleeping or resting with closed eyes

Losing a pup is undoubtedly one of the most painful events a person can experience. In a time of tragic loss like this one, it is essential to offer comfort and words of upliftment to console the grieving person.

However, it is easy to get tongue-tied and be at a loss for words, especially if you do not have a pet or seem to understand their grief. In cases like this, you might wonder what the right things to say or do without appearing insensitive. If you know someone whose beloved pet just died, here are some things you can speak to help them feel better.

Broken with grief female dog grieving owner holding the lovely pet collar

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Do People Really Grieve The Loss of A Dog?

As someone who has never owned a pet or experienced the pain of losing one, it is easy to be rendered awkward by a pet parent’s grief. However, it is essential to remember that grieving isn’t just reserved for the death of a human. Dogs are a massive part of their owner’s life.

They bring joy and entertainment into a person’s life with their every bark, howl, and whine. Their happy tail wags and slobbery kisses are a comfort for many people, and although we may not speak the same language as our furry friends, they are undoubtedly the best companions we could ever ask for.

Now, imagine experiencing this special bond with a pet and having them go away one day without any chance of ever coming back. Imagine never coming home to the furiously wagging tail and the little excited dance of a dog who is delighted to see you. 

Like the death of a human, the death of a dog often leaves a void or abyss that makes a person feel hollow. These animals are a considerable part of the family, and their death, like the death of any family member, hurts deeply in a throbbing way that neighbors or friends cannot understand.

To any other person who does not understand the bond that a dog owner shares with his pup, a pet is just another animal. However, to a dog owner, their dog is everything. Although you might not quite understand how devastating the loss of your friend’s pup is, you must know how to comfort and support them in this period.

No one really gets over the loss of a pet, but with sympathy and a circle of supportive friends and kind people, healing from the grievous loss of a dog will be easier.

What To Say When Someone’s Dog Passes Away

“Sorry for your loss,” “My condolences” “He’s in a better place now.”

Those are the default sentences that pop out of a person’s mouth while trying to comfort a person grieving the loss of their dog. But do they communicate the support and empathy you feel?

Many of the sentences like those above sound almost flippant and superficial. While those are a great initial reaction to the news of a loss and are a great response to show you care, there is a wider range of sentences that can be used to communicate your compassion better.

The words a person hears after the loss of a dog go a long way in helping them heal. While nothing will take away the pain of losing a pet with whom a person shares a strong bond that transcends human comprehension, hearing words of encouragement will offer solace.

However, even as an empathetic person, it can be awkward and challenging to figure out what to say without sounding insensitive or making the bereaved feel uncomfortable. As a rule, it is essential to stop and filter your speech. Regardless of how tough a person is, they become sensitive while grieving.

So, what can you say instead?

Below are some sentences you can use in conversations, in texts, or on a card to offer comfort to someone who just lost their dog.

1. “I heard about <pet name>. My heartfelt condolences for your loss.”

This simple sentence, followed by questions like “how are you holding up?” Or “is there anything I can do to help” is a great way to let your grieving friend know you care. Many people have concerns about mentioning the dog’s name to the bereaved so soon after its death. However, saying “dog” or “your pet” is insensitive and mentioning its name shows the bereaved that their pet was more than just a “dog”. 

2. “<Pet name> was very lucky to have you as his best friend. You gave him delightful memories.”

“Your pet had a great life because of you”. 

“The bond you shared can be compared to none”. 

“You gave <pet name> a wonderful life, and I know they loved you so much.

The death of a pet can cause many pet owners to play the blame game, constantly beating themselves up about things they could have done differently. By continually reminding them about their pet’s happy life, you would help your friend ward off the negative thoughts and focus on the positive.

Your friend’s dog might have been part of your friend’s life for only a few years, but your friend was part of the dog’s life in its lifetime. Helping the bereaved see that they gave their dog was showered with love will help them feel better.

3. “I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ll be thinking of and praying for you.”

“I’m thinking of you during this difficult and sad time.” 

“You are in my thoughts, and I’m here if you ever want to talk.”

This will not only communicate your empathy but also let your friend know that you care enough about them to keep them in your thoughts and prayers. The small act of support will go a long way in helping them feel better.

4. “I know how special your bond with <pet name> was. If there is anything I can do for you, please let me know. I’ll always be here for you.”

Letting your friend know that you are only one call away will encourage them to reach out to you when they feel overwhelmed. Although the loss of a pet can be draining, showing concern and offering a helping hand will help them and will provide a safe space for them in their trying time.

5. “I was devastated when I heard the news. I’m terribly sorry you have to go through this.”

“I was saddened to hear of <pet name’s> passing.”

This acknowledges their loss and expresses your sympathy. It is a better variation of “I’m sorry for your loss.”

6. “<pet name> was special. We will miss them greatly.”

Showing a friend that their pet was as unique to you as it was to them will ensure they don’t feel alone.

7. “<pet name> might not be here right now but will forever be in our hearts. They were a great dog.”

This simple sentence is a medium to celebrate the dog’s life. It is the perfect way to encourage your friend to think about the colorful memories their dog left behind and dwell on the positive while they grieve.

8. “Wishing you comfort and peace in this difficult time.”

Saying you wish it doesn’t magically help your friend feel better. However, it goes a long way in showing support.

9. “<pet name> left his/her beautiful paw prints in our hearts.”

“<pet name> was a bright ray of sunshine.” 

“<pet name> was a precious gift I’m glad we shared.” 

“I’m grateful for the fond memories I shared with <pet name>.”

Showing your grieving friend that you are grateful to have shared memories with their dog is a great way to show your sympathy by offering positivity in their difficult time.

10. “Would it help to talk about them?”

People grieve differently. Some people find solace in talking about their losses and their memories. Asking questions like this helps you provide comfort with intruding, as not everyone appreciates being forced to relive the best moments they shared with their pet.

Some less formal variations are “do you remember when…” and “I saw a field that <pet name> would have loved to play in. Like that one time that….”

11. “You made the right decision. What you did was in <pet name>‘s best interest.”

This is a kind thing to say when your friend had to put your dog down (AKA using euthanasia) after a long illness. Situations like this often leave the pet owner feeling guilty, and constantly reassuring them that they made the right choice will help them deal with their grief better.

12. “I’m sorry you lost a special friend. Would you like me to arrange a small memorial?”

Not every dog gets to have a memorial after their death. Suggesting to arrange one not only shows that you care but will also help your friend get closure, making it easier to process their grief.

13. “I may not understand your grief, but I will always be here if you need help.”

“I can’t imagine the grief you feel after losing <pet name>.” 

“No words or sympathy will ease your pain, but….”

Don’t make the mistake of trying to make your bereaved friend feel like the death of their dog hurt you as much as it did them. You will never share a bond as memorable as those two did, and you must respect that while offering your condolence and support.

14. “<Pet name> was a special dog. They were one of a kind.”

This lets the bereaved know that their pup wasn’t just any other dog and acknowledges how special you think it was.

15. “I know it is not easy losing a best friend. I hope you find the strength and peace you need in this difficult time.”

“Losing an important family member is not easy. I’ll always be here if you need me.”

This lets the bereaved pet parent know that their pup was important in their life. Losing a dog is losing a companion. While there isn’t much you can do when a person grieves the loss of their furry friend, with the right words, you have the power to hasten their healing and offer the solace they deserve.

What You Should Never Say

When talking to someone whose pet recently passed away, there are some things you should never say. Although we think we are making these comments or remarks with the best intentions, they are often very insensitive in after-death situations. Some of these things include:

  • “Your dog is in a better place”: Although we say this to insinuate that the pup is now in doggy heaven, it often has the opposite effect that we aim it to. Saying a dog is now in a better place is like insinuating it is better off being away from its owner. A dog’s ‘better place’ should be cuddling with his paw-rent, not dead.
  • “It’s just a dog.”: No, it is not just a dog, and you have successfully made the owner feel worse about themselves. Chances are the pet parent will forever hold a grudge against you after you say this to them.
  • “It was for the best”: No, it wasn’t. You might think saying this to a pet parent whose precious doggo died after a lengthy canine illness will make them feel better. However, we guarantee that it won’t.
  • “They have very short lives, don’t beat yourself up about it”: This is plain insensitive, there’s no point sugarcoating it. When you get the urge to say this, don’t.
  • “At least, it’s better than…”: Don’t try to compare and write off a person’s grief. Let them mourn however they are comfortable.
  • “I understand”: No, you don’t. You might have a clue of what it feels like if you have ever experienced loss. However, it is essential to remember that a dog and its owner’s bond are unique. 
  • “Don’t cry.”: Don’t dictate to a pet parent how they should or shouldn’t grieve the loss of their pet.
  • “When will you get another dog?”: A dog is not just a broken toy you can replace whenever you feel like it. While the pet parent might adopt another dog later in the future, it is insensitive to downplay their current grief.

man looking at photos of his dog that died

 

Other Ways To Show Support

There are various ways you can show support other than offering words of condolences. Some of these are:

  • Understand them. People deal with grief in different ways. Just because they don’t seem to grieve how you expect them to or seem to go overboard with their emotions doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to offer solace as much as you can without being intrusive. 
  • Ask them how you can help. In situations like this, pet parents often need all the help they can get. Again, remember not to be pushy.
  • Validate their feelings. Grief over the loss of a dog should be taken seriously. Never try to make a person feel like they are overreacting over their dog’s death.
  • Send sympathy cards and notes
  • Send flowers and other sympathy gifts
  • Organize something to honor their pet if you can
  • Be kind to them throughout the grieving process.
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Jonas Muthoni