Why Can't I Get Over My Dog's Death?
Coping With Losing Your Best Friend
I have learned over the past two years that losing your best friend is sometimes harder from one pet to the other. It is as if there is no rhyme or reason to it, but here are the things that have helped me heal. That's not to say that I will miss him any less, but these tips have made the pain tolerable.
- Celebrate your good fortune that you had him or her in your life!
- Try and focus on the happiest memories and the good things
- Remember him or her with pictures, collages, even a desktop slide show
- Be thankful for the many moments you had in spite of your loss - the glass is half full
- Allow yourself to be sad - whenever it comes upon you
- Cry when you must and laugh when you can
- Don't give up on another dog or pet - I tend to believe that your best friend will 'come back to you' in ways you have not realized yet
- Realize life is not always fair but realize that time does make heartbreak easier to take
- Let yourself grieve without guilt, shame or remorse - we cannot change the events in our lives. We can only accept them and move on.
Of All the Dogs in the World
To say I have loved and lost before when it came to dogs would be an understatement. I have been so blessed in my lifetime to own at least 15 dogs. However, as much as they were so incredibly special to me, I have never taken the death of one of my dogs as hard as I've taken losing Griffin. I have come to the conclusion that somehow he was my therapy dog and I didn't even know I had one!
I had just lost one of my most favorite dogs ever when I lost Kodi. People that know me say every dog is my favorite but unfortunately, they would be wrong. There were favorites – and many of them – I just couldn’t help it. I have been blessed with having all these dogs over my lifetime (which was still not enough I will add) but there were always sublime standouts. I did not want to start over again. I was at that point where I had just one dog left and she was older, and frankly, I just didn’t want to go through that pain again myself.
Then I saw him. My friend, who was a malamute breeder, sent me a picture of 4 puppies (2 of them long-hair malamutes) and I fell in love with him. However, I told myself “No, can’t go there again” and told the breeder thanks but no thanks. It hurts too much and how can I ever replace my Kodi? He was part malamute and he had been one of the magic ones. I talked to my husband about it and he definitely didn’t want to go down heartbreak lane again.
That being said, I decided to leave it at that. Cut our losses so to speak and quit going through the trauma. The last thing I needed to see (though in retrospect the best thing that ever happened to me) was the movie The Proposal. The puppy in that movie did it. It simply sealed the deal. I walked out of the theater, turned to Bob and said simply “I’m so sorry but this decision goes to a higher power. I have to have that puppy.” It seemed fortuitous as my friend had already given away the puppy away but she got him back just for me.
To say Griffin was the dog of all time would be putting it mildly. I feel like I’m Elizabeth Barrett Browning but how do I describe the ways I have loved that dog? I’ve known a lot of dogs in my day obviously but this little fellow was just surreal. I wanted to name him Dante, which ironically means enduring. He has certainly put a stamp on my heart I will carry with me forever.
I could go on and on and wax eloquent about his many characteristics but suffice it to say that 2 years later and change, I still cry over losing him almost every day. I dream about him, but I suppose that is a good thing. He was in a word incredible. He was so beautiful and I mean inside and out. Every day that I had him I thought how blessed I was to have him in my life and how incredibly happy I am still to have known him and raised him. Malamutes are not known for being “as teachable” as Griffin was. I always laugh when I say it, but he would literally do anything for a treat. If you don't believe me, look at his pictures in some of my other hubs. These were all captured with the promise of just a treat and a few words of instruction or encouragement!
He was majestic. He was incredibly handsome. Every person who ever passed him on the street, saw him in the back of our car or came to visit was just in awe of this gorgeous creature who also happened to be almost human. We had people pass us in their car when we had the back open, put it in reverse and come back just to look at him and go “wow – what a beautiful dog.” That was putting it mildly.
He had a language all his own and he talked to everyone he met and to us every day. He was one of the most social dogs I’ve ever seen. He loved nothing more than to travel with us, be with us, or to just talk to us. He loved walking down the streets, going on hikes, or cruising counters. He was the expert of all time there and made it look like you were the one who was mistaken. There was nothing left of anything so no crumbs or incriminating evidence. He would just look at us innocently as if to say “What are you talking about? What food?”
He would lie next to us in bed just for a bit to say he loved us and put his head on you in just the right place or cuddle against you just so. I called it Griffin acupressure. Instead of being frightened, most people were drawn to all 95 pounds of him. We had people run out of hotels to touch him or call down from balconies exclaiming they had never seen such a beautiful boy.
A young baseball team termed him "polar bear" and came outside in the pouring rain with multiple other people from the hotel just to pet him. We had people who followed us in the parks just to ask about him or pet him. We had families with children hold an elevator door just to let him ride with them and pet him rather than be frightened of him and his size.
He was such a special fellow. Walking downtown one cold wintry day, we had a throng of kids scream “snow dog” at the top of their lungs and laden with hats, coats, backpacks come running at him. They literally flung themselves on him and he just ate it all up rather than eating them up! I always said he was like a life-sized teddy bear. His fur was so soft that I can still almost feel it when I look at his pictures.
On top of being just an incredibly beautiful dog, he possessed the quality I find most endearing in life, which is humor. He had to be the funniest dog I have ever had the pleasure to own. His mannerisms, his antics, his training moments, his “talk” – all of it just made us laugh over and over.
Malamutes are most often thought of as snow dogs, yes, but they are also thought of as dangerous by many and as dogs that can be a bit challenging. If anything, Griffey was predictable. He would do anything for attention or treats and he loved, loved, loved people. He just loved life. He did so many comical things that we never had a day where we did not laugh over a “Griffin” moment.
He watched TV, ran upstairs to see my daughter and son-in-law on Skype and then tried to find out where they were hiding behind my desk. Yet, he was sweet and gentle enough that when we brought his niece home when she was 6 weeks old and he was 2 years old, he showed her the ropes and was the best mentor a puppy could have had. I marveled at him every day that I had him – and I truly thanked God for the time I had with him. I still do. No matter how much it hurts to have lost him.
Griffin in Training Making Everyone Laugh
Griffin Gallery - Some of ThousandsClick thumbnail to view full-size
People die every day of cancer. Dogs die every day of cancer or tragedies like poisoning or being hit by a car and much, much worse. I think the thing that upset me the most about losing my Griff was that I tried so hard to appreciate him, to give thanks every day for him. I was in love with him as a dog because he was absolutely incredible. I took such good care of all of my dogs but it just didn’t make any sense to me at all that this dog, so full of life and love, just all of a sudden ran across the deck one day and yelped. We had just come home from walking and he started to limp on his leg. He was so very much alive and so happy in all that he did that it seemed illogical that it could be something terrible. He was only 6 years old. How could anything be seriously wrong with him? Even the vets thought it was just a muscle sprain. No one thought it was serious enough to take x-rays, including us.
Resting and medications didn’t make it go away and poor Griffin was just frustrated. He wanted to live. He wanted to run and cruise counters. He wanted to have his life back. I am most grateful for the fact that after this started, before we knew how bad it was, we went on a week’s vacation. We always travel with our dogs and Griff and Gabby always went with us to hotels and on our outings and treks. At least I had the time to say goodbye (though little did I know it was going to be goodbye). As sick as he was, he was his usual magnetic self. We had time to cuddle. We had time to go to the places I wanted him to see though he was hampered by the limp so we could not do much – but he was with us for a full week and I treasure that time I had with him now. I do feel some closure over that.
We had an appointment on the day after we got home from vacation with an orthopedic vet because we couldn’t understand why he wasn’t getting better even with the medications and rest. Unfortunately, when they went to finally x-ray my beautiful boy, his leg snapped because the tumor had eaten away the bone. He went from somewhat in pain to being in excruciating pain. He also couldn’t walk on his leg anymore and now had to drag it. Just the sound of it still haunts me.
We were told they could amputate his leg (which would be a horrible thing for a 95-pound dog with cancer) and one as energetic as Griffin but that unfortunately and even more tragically, it would not save him in the slightest. He went from a little uncomfortable to crying all night and being hardly able to move with his now nonfunctional front leg. It did not take long for us both to realize that this was not fair of us to do to our beloved dog. It literally broke my heart but we had to have him put to sleep to ease his pain. I could not live with him suffering like that. They gave us the option to keep increasing his medication but unless he was practically comatose, he was in too much pain.
In the aftermath of it all, I’ve beaten myself up at least a million times. Why didn’t I see it sooner? When did it start and how did all that time go by and I couldn’t see it? What could I have done to save him? I have never been angry about it except at myself I suppose for not knowing. Would it have changed his outcome? No, I don’t think so at all. It is a genetic thing and it is most of all just so horribly tragic.
The most magnificent dog in the world should not have had to suffer that way and we should not have had to lose him. At first I would tell people “You just don’t understand. He was so special!” What I realized later was the fact that we all have had a dog that was the most magnificent in our eyes and in our hearts. It certainly can’t hurt any less for anyone to lose their best friend as it hurt for us to lose ours. I saw him everywhere and I still think of him every day, even though we have since moved. He is part of us and he will always be part of me. Unfortunately and fortunately, it is as if he was just here 5 minutes ago.
I read something very profound one day that said “Why do you put a question mark where God has put a period?” Humbling and so very true. I cannot change what life/fate/God’s will has decided where my dog is concerned, and I need to accept it for what it is, one of life’s heartbreaking events.
Today, I try and dwell on the bucket load of blessings he gave me and I recall to the moment what made me laugh about him every day. I have literally thousands of pictures and videos and he lives on through them. He was such a sweet, sweet dog and especially for a malamute, he was one of a kind! He was so incredibly intelligent and observant. I swear he was an angel in fur. He soothed me every day that I had him. He was my therapy dog without me knowing I needed one. I could have done anything with him by my side and I did. I miss him every single day and I think I will miss him until the day that I die. He was that special.
I did not know how I could possibly ever go on but then of course, there was the “little’ matter of his niece, who was broken into pieces as well. She absolutely adored Griffin. She was more devastated than us if that was possible because 4 months earlier, she also lost our “queen bee,” Denaya, our rescued malamute who was probably 16 years old. In a couple of months, Gabby had suffered the loss of her entire canine pack.
As humans, Bob and I cried and cried. We still cry over Griffin, but Gabby just gave up. She came into my office on a daily basis and literally threw herself on the floor in desperation as if to say “What do I do now?” Oh that I could just throw myself on the floor because I would have said the same thing over and over and just given up.
Why do certain dogs mark us? Why do they wrap their paws around our hearts and make it feel so full and then break it apart when they leave? That’s the magical question. We tried everything with Gabby and she would spark for a few minutes with walking. She even became a retriever playing ball in the park and would run until she was exhausted and even came back with the ball! It would always come crashing down though when we were home again. It was very obvious she was grieving and probably going into depression from her loneliness.
Bob was the one who finally said we needed to do something. We felt that she was going to give up and die if we didn’t find her a companion. Enter Mad Max. We ended up going again with a puppy and though he looks nothing like Griffin, he “is” Griffin in many ways. He is not the same exact replica. That is probably a very good thing but then again, he is comical in his own ways.
Strangely, he does things that Griffin used to do. In fact, he adopted Griffin’s chair (I could not leave it behind and brought it with us when we moved). He has many similarities to Griff but he is his own boy. Again, that is good. Most importantly, Gabby did not give up. She rose to the occasion and embraced her new pal with all the zest and love that Griffin gave to her when she came on the scene. The most treasured and bittersweet moment was seeing Gabby “smile” in pictures when she was playing with Max, tolerating Max, and showing him the ropes that her beloved Uncle Griffin showed her.
I believe Griff lives on in spite of his tragic death and I only hope that he is running free somewhere and saying it’s all okay...or that he is waiting for us on the other side. He was a treasure I have never seen the likes of nor will I ever again I imagine. I will always miss him because he made such an imprint on my heart, but I do believe he is coming back to us in his own ways through Max and just by us remembering him. There will never be another one like him, but to have known him and to have loved him was the ultimate gift of a lifetime.
I have thought about this so many times and truthfully have gone at it from every angle possible.
- Was it meant to teach us something?
- Did it happen to prepare us for the other losses that occurred over those 2 years since Griffin left us?
- Will it ever get easier to look back without grieving for him still?
- Is it possible that I will ever get over losing my all-time favorite canine companion?
I don’t know the answers to any of those questions but I do believe that perhaps time at least soothes all wounds if not heals them. It is certainly easier today than it was 2 years ago or even 1 year ago perhaps.
The only conclusion that I’ve come to is that everyone grieves in their own way and that healing is never going to be same for everyone. Every experience will be different, just as with the grief I felt over losing other dogs. In those cases, I did heal more quickly but that really has nothing to do with the current grief that I feel from my loss of Griffin.
Unbelievably to me still is that I lost a Labrador at exactly the same age to the same exact condition and accepted that tragedy much easier than this time. That in itself made me feel very guilty for some time, but I realize now that it is about how much love I felt for Griffin that is perhaps prolonging the grief and loss. I did not love Mariah any less - I just loved Griffin more somehow.
All I know in the end is that I loved him with all my heart and to have done that is far better than what my life would have been without him in it. He was priceless to me and my time spent with him will always bring me joy, in spite of the pain of losing him too soon.
Saying Goodbye Is So Very Hard To Do
In my heart and in my mind, we walk along the ocean still and he is whole and healthy.
Rest in peace, my sweet, sweet boy and thank you for all the happiness you gave us. Thank you for visiting me in my dreams and for channeling Max! (Please try harder there - he needs a lot more help, bless his heart!)
Six years was definitely not long enough. I will never forget you.
Why Do We Love Our Dogs?
There are a lot of reasons and I've come to realize every single one of them in the past 2 years!
- Pleasers - they try to do what's right to please us (most of the time)
- Unconditional love generators - try to make them stop loving you!
- Tactile soothers - (in Griff's case, a living, breathing furry body pillow or a real life teddy bear)
- Joy makers - laughter and merriment because they do the funniest things
- Goal makers - I want to train my smart malamute to do tricks!!! (not easy)
- Faith builders - through their innocent eyes, life is simpler
Use Whatever Tools You Can To Cope with Loss
Reading articles and books such as "Losing My Best Friend" noted below really helped me cope with my loss. Even though it is hard, I love the line remember them with tears and laughter because the tears are inevitable but the laughter always comes back as well.
Having loads of pictures and videos have helped me tremendously as well. I can put myself right back there and again be so grateful for the ride with Griff.
As I was trying to heal from suffering my terrible loss, I found myself doing a lot of writing about it. As I mentioned, it took me quite a long while to write this!
I further went on to write a book about it, pouring my heart and soul into that. I was hoping to aid others who might be going through the same experience and possibly having as hard a time as I have had getting over my favorite dog of all time.
I have found a great inner peace and comfort in being able to channel my grief into a positive from such a sad "chapter" in my life in losing him.
In short, doing whatever we can to heal ourselves is the ticket. If we can somehow learn to express what we feel or even just get to a point of understanding it a bit more, we can achieve the ability to grieve but not quite as acutely. I still cried many tears in writing my book but it did help. I only hope that it goes on to help others as well.
As I said above, I always think that somehow Griffin speaks to me and wants me to be okay since he's gone. Yesterday, a very dear friend of mine at work shared a video with me from Animal Watch with Anneka going to visit the giant malamutes owned by Lorna Bartlett from Arctic Rainbow Malamutes.
What immediately stood out to me and almost knocked me off my chair was Taggie, the beautiful long-hair malamute who came in the sliding door and seemed to gravitate toward Anneka. I began to cry. It was liking watching a movie of my sweet Griffin. She looked like him, she had many of the same mannerisms and it was just surreal. It made me miss him terribly, but then in some way, it made me think of Griff when he was healthy, happy and so very personable.
Don't misunderstand - all of Lorna's malamutes are beautiful and enchanting. I could see Gabby in one and my rescued malamute Denaya who died in 2015 as well. Even Dooby reminded me of a malamute I was going to adopt after Griffin died but he was a little too big for us.
I contacted Lorna just to tell her thank you for the incredible gift she had given me of somehow "seeing Griffin" again. I will keep the video forever in my favorites and look at it maybe when I'm missing him. Lorna wrote me back that Dooby had just died 3 weeks ago and again I cried, this time for them as I know what a devastating loss that is. My heart goes out to them because malamutes truly do grab you by the heart and become part of your human "pack."
Part of working through grief I think is just learning to take it a day at a time and finding ways that bring our pet back to us in some small way. This video did it for me and for that, I shall be eternally grateful. It is yet another coping tool and a wonderful way to remember my sweet boy.
Animal Watch Giant Alaskan Malamutes
Good Resource on Amazon
I had so much laughter with Griffin that this book really meant a lot to me. Remembering him with laughter and tears works for me every time. Check out some of the other books on grieving for Fido as well and find the one the speaks to you and your unique relationship with your special dog. I'm sorry for your loss as well.
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Audrey Kirchner