How to React When a Friend's Dog Dies

Friends can provide emotional support to someone after a pet's death.
Friends can provide emotional support to someone after a pet's death. (Image: Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images)

When a friend's beloved dog dies, you will witness the owner experience many emotions, like sadness, anger and guilt. A dog often fills the role of companion, guardian and family member for its owner. You may be wondering how to react to your friend's grief, especially if you have never experienced a pet loss of your own. There are a few things you can do to let your friend feel comforted and supported after his dog's death.

Encourage your friend to express her grief. Listen quietly to what she has to say. It may be information about how the dog died, or perhaps stories about the dog's life. If your friend doesn't want to talk about her dog at the moment, offer to listen at a later time if she needs to talk. Talking about the dog's passing and life can help put things in perspective for your friend.

Avoid minimizing the dog's death. Pets are not human, however, they are cherished parts of many people's lives. Owners devote years of care to their dogs. Avoid callous statements like stating you believe animals do not have souls. No matter what you believe, some people are comforted by the belief they will be reunited someday with their pets in the afterlife. Telling a person to "go get another dog" to replace the one that died is also an insensitive statement. Never make a person feel like her grief for a dog is improper simply because it is an animal.

Make a public gesture of sympathy. Some people perform burial ceremonies for their dogs. Others do not have property to bury their dog, but would still like a prayer or small service to be performed. Attend the ceremony if you are invited. Sending a sympathy card is a nice gesture as well. Even symbolic gestures, like donating money or items to a local animal shelter in the dog's name can help brighten your friend's day. Later, you could create a photo book or scrapbook about the dog as a gift.

Give your friend time to deal with his grief. Everyone deals with grief differently, and it can be a process that takes time. Be aware your friend may cycle through many emotions, over and over. He may feel denial at first, then anger at the disease or accident, followed by guilt as he wonders if he could have done more to prevent the death. If you notice your friend becoming more withdrawn or depressed over time, suggest calling a pet loss hotline or talking to a counselor.

Tips & Warnings

  • Children sometimes deal with the loss of a pet differently than adults. The best way to react to a dog's death is to be honest with the child and not tell him the pet "ran away" or some other story. The child may discover the truth and feel betrayed.
  • The death of a dog can be especially hard for senior citizens, particularly if the pet was their only companion. Keep a close eye on elderly pet owners and provide strong support for their grief.

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