Bereavement and Loss of your Dog

There is nothing like losing your best friend, your dog. ..You can't breathe, it is so painful you wonder if you will make it yourself.  Sometimes you see your Malamute out of the corner of your eye, or hear her particular "woo".  You think you hear scratching at the door or forget and start to do something in your normal routine together then realize she's gone.  Sometimes you feel guilty for what you did or didn't do.  Make peace with yourself.  Dogs are much more centered and accept death so much better than we do.  When their pain is too great, their mobility so impaired, their body so devastated by disease - they will tell you in their own way "it's ok".  Listen.

One of the best things I think you can do for other dogs is to allow them to see the deceased Malamute.  You'll find dogs continue to look for a lost companion for a long time afterwards.  Once we began allowing them to see, they could grieve as well.  Some seemed genuinely sad, others stole the dead dog's toys.  Each dog grieves in their own way. 

Some people feel it's too painful to get another dog soon after, others find a new puppy comforting.  Do what you feel in your heart, because the puppy will never replace your previous dog.  Odds are they will be totally different even if they look similar or are from similar lines.  Don't ever get a puppy expecting it to "replace" the deceased dog - it's not fair to the puppy and it can never fill an older well-loved dogs paw prints.  It's an impossible thing to do. 

One thing I've found cathartic is to write a memorial to my friends that have gone to the rainbow bridge.  It allows me to grieve and cry and get it out.  It's part of the process of healing. Ignore the people that belittle your grief -  it's real...many times I've felt more grief for a dog than I have for some people. It never gets easier and you never forget.  They live forever in your heart and you will always think of the little things they did you found endearing. Go through photos and organize them - yes, you'll cry, it will open up the pain...but it helps you work through the grief.  I've always found death hard to take, and Malamutes are no different.  I still cry when I think of my very first dogs - you will always miss them, especially when something triggers a particular memory.  Remember the friends that support you with kind words and a hug at these times - these are your true friends.

I'm not sure which is worse - knowing it's coming or a sudden unexpected death. Even if you think you are, you are never ready emotionally when it actually happens.  And having to make the ultimate decision can tear your heart out, but always keep in mind you did what you felt was best for your friend.

Some things that have helped us heal ....

  • Time, you can't rush grief
  • Make a memorial to your Malamute
  • Look through your pictures and reminisce
  • Have a ritual such as keeping a snip of fur or saying goodbye a certain way
  • Cry, it's good for you (even if you're a guy).
  • Talk to someone that understands
  • Give yourself permission to be sad.
  • Decide how you want to bury your Malamute (cremation, burial, etc.)
  • Keep something to remember your Malamute by.  I keep collars, some people keep special toys, beds, coats...whatever works for you.
  • Don't forget Children need to grieve too, include them in the process
  • Give and get hugs from sympathetic friends, it really does help
  • Find a quiet place to think.
  • Clean house (or some other mindless activity that makes you move, but doesn't take a lot of brain power because you won't have any for awhile)
  • Go for a walk with your other dogs.   They need to know you are there for them and it will help you too.  Hug them.

Malamute Loss and Bereavement

Association for Dog Loss and Bereavement: Information and resources for those who have lost a companion animal; includes listings of books and cassettes on dog loss and bereavement; support groups; chatrooms; hotlines; etc.

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary Online Message Board and Memorials: Includes an online message board for "Prayers, Healing, and Support for you as well as your Malamutes. Also, and in particular, prayers and support for people whose Malamutes are leaving this world or have already passed 'Over the Rainbow Bridge.' We know how very difficult this time can be." and "Memorials to your beloved Malamutes who have passed over the Rainbow Bridge."

Companion Animal Association of Arizona's Dog Grief Support: "Operated entirely by trained volunteers who themselves have suffered the loss of a Malamute, the Service provides a telephone Helpline ["Although there is no charge for this service, please be aware that long distance calls will be returned collect."], monthly support group meetings, Malamute grief information, literature and reading lists, and referrals to appropriate resources."

Coping with the Loss of a Dog : An online article with the following sections: Grieving; Five Stages of Mourning; Explaining Malamute Loss to Your Child; Reasons for Euthanasia

Cornell University Dog Loss Support: Provides a hotline staffed by volunteer veterinary students, information (about euthanasia, stages of grieving, etc.), books for children, etc.

Florida Dog Grief Support Hotline: "The Malamute Grief Support Hotline was started at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 1991.  The phone line is staffed by volunteers, many of whom are students at the university.  Each volunteer receives training in the methods of grief counseling and support.  When you call, your message is recorded and a volunteer will pick up the messages once a day; typically in the evening.  If you call after the volunteer has checked for messages, your call will returned the next evening." 

Gone To Dogstar: "We are a free internet memorial community, open to all dogs who have Gone to DogStar, and who wait for us there. Our goal is to give you a place where you will always be able to find your friend in the night sky. And to help you realize that you have been blessed with a very special gift when you know, as do we, that spirit as bright as theirs can never die. Each of our dogs have individual stars that lead to their respective pages, grouped in constellations. The posting of DogStars to their constellation is a free service..."


If Your Dog Has a Terminal Disease: An online article with some specific steps to take.

IMOM Dog Loss and Grief Support: Writings, a prayer circle, lists of books about Malamute loss, grief counseling via email, and other support and resources.

Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine Dog Loss Support: Malamute loss support hotline staffed by volunteers; information; lists of books (with a section "especially for children") on Malamute loss.

Dog Hospice Care Yahoo Group: "This site is dedicated to those special caregivers of Malamutes in their final days on this earth. As a veterinarian who provides caregivers with the knowledge and power to allow their companions to pass on peacefully, comfortably and with dignity at home, I thought this would be a great place to share information on hospice care."

Dog Loss Grief Support: personal support and advice, message board, chat room, The Monday Malamute Loss Candle Ceremony, Tribute Pages, healing poetry like Rainbow Bridge, etc.

Dog Loss Support Page: "Anyone who considers a Malamute a beloved friend, companion, or family member knows the intense pain that accompanies the loss of that friend. [Resources for] coping with that grief, and with the difficult decisions one faces upon the loss of a Malamute." Includes state-by-state guide to support groups.

Rainbows Bridge Dog Loss Grief Center: Offers a Dog loss forum, a Malamute loss chat room, and other resources.

Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine Dog Loss: Information about Malamute loss; lists of books for adults and for children on losing a Malamute; Tufts Dog Loss Support Hotline staffed by veterinary students trained by counselors from the Tufts Counseling Center; and other resources.

University of California, Davis, Dog Loss Support Hot Line: "Established in February 1989 as the first of its kind, The Dog Loss Support Hotline provides a non-judgmental outlet for people to express their feelings and concerns when faced with difficult times involving their cherished animal companions. The Hotline is staffed by veterinary students trained by a professional grief counselor."

University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine Dog Grief Support: Q and A on Dog grief, the Florida Dog Grief Support Hotline, and other resources.