8 Things Every Dog Owner Should Know When Their Pet Crosses The Rainbow Bridge

artwork by Laura Caseley for Little Things

Unfortunately, it’s the nature of pet ownership to lose your beloved fluff ball. The average human will live eight decades, but a dog’s lifespan is much shorter.

According to the American Kennel Club, dogs live for an average of 10 to 13 years, depending on the breed.

That means that every human who welcomes a sweet pup into the family will have to eventually face the tricky proposition of losing a furry best friend.

There are lots of beautiful ways to memorialize your dog after he crosses the rainbow bridge, but that isn’t necessarily comforting in the days immediately before and after a pooch passes on.

In fact, it can be really hard to prepare for that moment.

That’s why we put together a list of important things all pooch-owners should know for the day their beloved dog dies.

#1: The Grief Will Hit Hard

#1: The Grief Will Hit Hard

You might be surprised by how hard you are hit by grief.

It’s easy to think that you will be able to cope with the death of your pet, but people often discover that they are just as devastated by the loss of their dog as they would be by any death.

Even though humans know intellectually that they’ll have to say goodbye to their beloved dogs eventually, it doesn’t make it any easier to face the reality.

#2: You Might Feel Guilty

#2: You Might Feel Guilty

Guilt is a totally normal emotion to experience as you’re processing your loss and grief, but people are sometimes taken aback by how strongly they blame themselves.

People worry that perhaps there was something more they could have done early, they worry that they made the wrong decision, or that they missed a sign that their pup was in pain or unwell.

These worries are totally normal, but try not to let them take you over. At some point, you have to trust that you did everything you could for your sweet pup, and he loved you for it.

#3: Your Vet Will Be More Of A Comfort Than You Expect

#3: Your Vet Will Be More Of A Comfort Than You Expect

During your dog’s lifetime, the veterinarian is just the person who gives your pup shots and diagnoses infections.

After you pup dies, the veterinarian might become your best friend for a while.

That’s because vets see this kind of loss every day, and they often know exactly how to support and comfort a grieving pet parent.

Vets can also help you with details like figuring out how to lay your dog to rest; many vets offer cremation services and memorial boxes.

#4: Grief Can Spike Unexpectedly

#4: Grief Can Spike Unexpectedly

Laura Caseley for LittleThings

After you lose your dog, you’ll probably spend a few days mourning before slowly starting to feel better.

When that happens, it’s easy to think that the worst of your grief is behind you, though that often isn’t the case.

Sometimes, grief will reemerge as fresh and painful as the day your dog died. Know that the grieving process is long and complex, and let it take its natural course.

#5: You Might Have To Make The Choice

#5: You Might Have To Make The Choice

Laura Caseley for LittleThings

For many dog owners, the most difficult part of losing their pet actually comes before the pet passes on.

Many owners find themselves in the painful position of choosing to end the dog’s life, and having him put to sleep.

When you adopt a dog, you have to be prepared for the possibility of making this choice.

If your dog is elderly, in pain, and unable to comprehend what’s happening, it might be your responsibility to help him avoid unnecessary pain and suffering.

#6: It’s Worth Asking For Paw Prints

#6: It's Worth Asking For Paw Prints

Laura Caseley for LittleThings

After your dog passes away, your vet will usually offer to help with the remains, often by cremation.

Before that happens, you might want to ask the vet to take your dog’s paw prints for you.

Many vets are happy to help you through your goodbye by giving you one last memento of your beloved pup.

Even as you move on, having his paw prints is a lovely way to remember a loyal and beloved friend.

#7: If Possible, Be There

#7: If Possible, Be There

Laura Caseley for LittleThings

We don’t always have a choice in how our dogs pass on.

If it’s an accident or completely unexpected, you might not be with your dog at the end.

However, if you can choose to be with your dog, definitely do it, though it might be painful for you.

What’s important is that your dog will feel loved and unafraid with you by his side holding his paw.

#8: Remember, You Gave Your Pup The Best Life

#8: Remember, You Gave Your Pup The Best Life

Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Eventually, as the weeks and months pass, you’ll find yourself healing. You’ll never stop loving and missing your dog, but you’ll know that your pup is in a better place now.

Most important of all, you will know that, while he was here with you, you gave him the best life ever.

He loved you to pieces, and we bet he wouldn’t have traded one second of the life the two of you had together.



20 Responses to “8 Things Every Dog Owner Should Know When Their Pet Crosses The Rainbow Bridge”

  1. bill doyle says:

    thank you for a guide through these most difficult days as my 13 year old baby girl rescue passed 10 days after our birthdays she was born on my birthday but im 60 . This happened yesterday and im a wet rag have no energy no appetite live alone……and disabled………my heart is empty and my house has a big empty hole in it. I can barely stand up but thank you.

    • MsMoneypenny says:

      Three months later and the pain is still as raw as it was when I lost him. I don’t really enjoy anything any more. I am cheered when I see and get to interact with a dog but terrified of going through this pain again. Twice in four years.

    • Maggie says:

      Sorry to hear about your loss I just lost my great friend dillinger today he would have been 9 years old this year. He was a great Chihuahua

  2. Peggy says:

    Dear Bill, I am so sorry for your loss……….and words can’t take away your pain. In time the pain will lesson and maybe you can help another fur baby like you so kindly did already .. I wish you the best…

  3. MsMoneypenny says:

    No, he’s not in a better place. His better place was here, with me. That comment drives me crazy.

  4. Lisa says:

    The part about guilt is so true. No matter how much we think we are making the right decision at the time, I think it is human nature to start second guessing those decisions after the fact. Feeling guilt after the loss of a pet is actually one of the reasons my daughters and I came up with our pet loss cards. It’s comforting to hear that you did the best you could or that you provided a great life for your pet after they have passed. Thanks for sharing.

  5. JoeB says:

    I fully understand about the guilt, I was the one who rescued my best friend Bo, and he never forgot it. Through the years I was the one that took him to the vet when he needed it I was the one that made it all better. At the end when the tumor had weakened him I carried him into the vets and he looked at me as if to say Dad I trust you, you wont hurt me. I held him as he drifted away on the exam table. I feel the guilt of letting him down, of betraying him. The grief I feel is raw, I miss my dear friend and hope he is good where ever he is.

    • Marcio says:

      I have the same feeling of guilt of letting him down or betraying him. He passed two days ago. I haven’t worked since things started to get worse with him. He was always in my office, while I was working. Today I sat for a few minutes and almost heard him saying. “Oh really? You let me go and life goes on? Is that the way you loved me? Just going to work and pretending that nothing happened?”. I felt so bad and couldn’t finish what I had to do. I am feeling miserable.

      • Heidi says:

        I lost my english bulldog about 9 hours ago. I cant sleep he was my best little buddy. I wasnt with him when he died and that I feel guilty for. Maybe I took him to the vet to late, maybe the meds weren’t working I dont know. I just know that I have to stay focused on something or I wont stop crying. I miss him so much, I wish he had died on his mommy’s lap where he felt safe. I wonder was he trying to hold out until I woke up? I too feel guilty that maybe I didnt do enough to help him. I’m heart broken and so sad

  6. enthia says:

    my rabbit passed on 5 years ago it kind of made me hate my brother as i can’t go on a holiday before his death and i did not see him off his last journey and i did not know where he was buried i felt so sad that i could not visit him but i put on fake smiles so that he would not feel sad and now i am 12 sometimes i cry in my sleep because i dream of him

  7. Rylea says:

    Thanks for the guide my moms dog just past today

  8. Claire says:

    My beautiful dog just passed away so suddenly in my arms just 24 hours ago. Knowing her she would be upset to see me in tears since then. On the minute she passed I have lit a candle stood outside looking into the sky

  9. Betty says:

    I had to put my beautiful 15 yr cocker spaniel Dylan to sleep 7 weeks ago. He had liver and kidney
    failure. I old had him for two years and four months as his owner was terminally ill and couldn’t keep him. We travelled far to collect him and he was a wonderful old man. Settled in very quickly and was my constant companion. Up to his illness we walked for over an hour every day and his loss has made life empty. Everyone loved him and another dog owner called him ‘the gentle Dylan’ and he was. Life feels empty without him. RIP Dylan

  10. JoRobin Hurwitz says:

    omg u have actually confirmed all of my feelings to a T! My 2 rescue shelties are approx 12.5 (Flinty) &
    Flinty has been maintaining bladder cancer for over 7 months & responding very well to meds. Last week I noticed a weird cough, and heavy breathing.Vet found a golf ball size tumor on his lung:-(, plus some fluid around his little heart!
    After discussing w/oncologist we agreed to continue the same Protocal as for bladder cancer, but within a week, tumor grew and symptoms worsened. He is however eating like a scavenger, barking, rolling in the grass & running across the lawn to c his 4 legged friends. I am so confused. Is this a fur child that is ready for the rainbow bridge???? Initially Vet said 3-5 days (today is 3) and I cannot imagine that this is the time? I definitely DO NOT WANT to see him in pain, but am I doing the right thing by getting ahead of that :-(((??

  11. Genie Norman says:

    I just lost my sweet Lola a few hours ago. She had cancer and this morning after an hour or so of being up her condition deteriorated rapidly. She went from limping to not being able to take more than two steps and she would have to lean on the wall. It was less than a month ago she was diagnosed. In that time we saw her Vet, an Oncologist, a Spiritual Healer and then a Holistic Vet. I kept hoping for a miracle. We had been keeping her “comfortable”. Well, today she definitely was not comfortable any more. She was the best companion. Before I even got to a room I could hear the thump, thump, thump of her tail wagging. We called her Wag-a-bod because her whole body would wag from side to side. This pain is unbearable. I just want to hug her again and kiss her sweet nose.

  12. Genie Norman says:

    And I don’t feel like I set her free, I feel like I abandoned her….

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