I've had two beloved family members in my life: a half German Shepherd, half Great Dane, and a pure-white German Shepherd.
10 Things You Should Never Say to Someone Whose Dog Just Died
Here's a list of what you should never tell someone whose dog just passed. Imprint this in your head, because you never know if one day you’ll need it. Some of these statements or questions may seem obvious to avoid, but to many people, they are not. Furthermore, there are elements on this list that many people would never consider as off-limits.
1. “He was just a dog.”
“Just” can be a very powerful word. Using this word invalidates the grieving person’s emotions, and in fact, even makes that person feel challenged. If this individual is feisty or opinionated, and you tell him or her, “But she was just a dog,” be prepared to be fiercely called on your remark.
Ever see those bumper stickers that say, “The more I get to know people, the more I love my dog”? There’s truth to this. One day, a family member told me, “God must be SO disgusted with how people have turned out, how they treat each other. I’ll take a dog ANY day over a human.”
Dogs are family members to many people, their only companion who won’t judge and who’ll always come running when summoned. “Give a dog five minutes of your attention and he’s your friend for life.”
Being that dogs service the handicapped and provide untold joy and stellar companionship to so many people of all ages, you actually have no cotton-pickin’ right to say, “He was just a dog.”
2. “He's is in a better place now.”
Maybe. But their dog is no longer HERE. Never make this comment.
3. “At least he's no longer suffering.”
Don’t be surprised if the grieving replies, “True. But now I am.” Congratulations. You just dug yourself a hole.
4. “Are you STILL upset about your dog?”
Have you never lost a loved one? Imagine someone feeding you this line. Remember, to some people, dogs mean more to them than some of their immediate family members.
5. “I don’t know what you ever saw in that dog anyways. He wasn’t the brightest.”
People don’t get dogs because they want chess partners or to discuss world events. A dog can be as dense as a box of rocks and still be a significant source of joy to a person’s life.
6. “You can always get another dog/new puppy.”
Would you ever tell someone who just lost their young child to cancer, “You can always get pregnant again”? Actually, some people DO say this when a woman suffers a miscarriage. But hopefully you’d certainly never tell a premenopausal woman who just lost her teen daughter in a car accident, “Oh, but you can still try for another child.”
Dogs have unique personas, as any person who’s ever known dogs will tell you. Do not give out this wayward advice. The bereaved already knows they can “always get” a new puppy.
7. “I’m surprised you haven’t gotten a new puppy already.”
No matter how innocent the maker of the comment might be, it forces the grieving pet owner to acknowledge the loss of their dog. Even if that person doesn't respond to this comment, you can bet that he or she is now thinking about their lost pet when, for all you know, they’ve been working very hard to stop thinking so much about it and move on.
If you think they’re being overly sensitive, it’s really none of your business now, is it?
8. “One day, you’ll see him again.”
If the individual believes in a doggie-afterlife, they already know/believe this. Don’t bring it up. But what if you just happen to point this out to an atheist or agnostic? You just reminded them that they’ll never see their wonderful companion ever again.
9. “Well if you’d had your dog on a leash, he wouldn't have run into traffic.”
Don’t ever bring up a mistake that someone committed that led to the death of their pet. You can be quite sure that for the rest of their life, they will be kicking themselves with guilt and be plagued by endless “If only I . . . ”
10. “You spent a lot of money on that dog. At least now you’ll be able to go on that dream vacation you kept putting off.”
The very sad person whose dog just died would give anything to have their pet back —even if that meant never again going on a nice vacation or being able to afford pricey clothes, handbags or a new set of golf clubs. When my parents’ second dog passed away, my brother said, “What I’d GIVE to have just one more hour with him.”