grief, guilt & ...

Sunday, December 7, 2014

oh ... how I miss her. I miss you sweet Miss D. I love you forever xoxo Susan

Everyone grieves in different ways. For some, it could take longer or shorter. I do know it never disappears. An ember still smolders inside me. Most days, I don’t notice it, but, out of the blue, it’ll flare to life. Maria V. Snyder

grief, guilt & google.

Oh my, thank goodness for Google - my search words last evening were "guilt euthanasia senior dog".

I was searching for comfort, for a virtual hug, I needed someone, anyone, to remind me that these feeling of guilt, grief and way too many "what ifs" are all expected. 6 weeks ago tomorrow I said goodbye to my best friend of nearly 15 years. Winnie was with me pretty much 24/7 for 13 of those years. I miss her so much ... I feel like a part of me is gone. I believe choosing the time to euthanize a much loved pet, no matter how kind & caring that decision may seem at the time, is the hardest decision I'll ever make. I've made that decision 8 times in less than 8 years. Part of my brain reassures me that I felt these very same feelings of grief, guilt, regret & doubt almost every time. The only time I didn't feel it were the times I knew in my heart I had waited too long and my pet was suffering, needlessly. Selfishly.

my Google search found me this blog and this post ... an excerpt below.
Thank you Google & thank you Patricia McConnell for the hugs ... & for the comfort.

It took awhile, but I slowly began to notice how EVERYONE I talked to who loved their dog, like we all love ours, was guilty about something related to the dog’s death. It didn’t matter how or why they died: hundreds of owners, from prof’l trainers and behaviorists to the dog loving public, found something to feel guilty about. “I should have seen the symptoms sooner,” or “How could I have not known that the lock on the door was faulty and allowed my dog to run out the door?” or “Surely I could somehow have prevented the bite if I just hadn’t……”
It is easier to believe that we are always responsible (“if only I had done/not done this one thing….”) than it is to accept this painful truth: We are not in control of the world. Stuff happens. Bad stuff. As brilliant and responsible and hard working and control-freaky that we are, sometimes, bad stuff just happens. Good people die when they shouldn’t. Gorgeous dogs brimming with health, except for that tumor or those crappy kidneys, die long before their time. Dogs who are otherwise healthy but are a severe health risk to others end up being put down. It’s not fair, it’s not right, and it hurts like hell. But please please, if you’ve moved heaven and earth to save a dog and haven’t been able to… just remember:  Stuff happens. We can’t control everything. (Difficult words to dog trainers I know. . . Aren’t we all control freaks to some extent?) You didn’t fail. You tried as hard as you could. It’s okay.
Try folding up that guilt and pain like a pile of dirty, ripped clothing, and throwing it away. Remember: Much of what we love about dogs is that they live in the present and accept what happens. That’s our job, to accept what happens sometimes, even though it’s the hardest job of all.

I want to remind everyone who has lost a beloved dog, no matter what the reason or whether there was guilt attached or not: Neurobiologist Jaak Panskepp tells us that “social distress,” or what we’d call grieving, is registered in a primitive part of the brain that is also associated with the perception of pain. I learned about this while I was writing For the Love of a Dog, and it blew me away when I discovered it. Ah Ha, I thought; no wonder we talk about the “pain of loss” and “healing” after grieving. And don’t we respond to another’s loss as if they’d been physically hurt? We take people flowers and food when they are grieving just as we do after they have a major operation.  I remember feeling physical pain when Luke died, when Tulip died, when Pippy Tay died, just as I did when my mother died. I told someone it felt like I’d had abdominal surgery. Turns out that’s exactly what my brain thought too.
When you lose a dog, or if you are still grieving for one you lost in the past, your body thinks you’ve been injured. It needs you to take care of yourself. It needs rest and comfort and flowers and sweet soup and gentle kisses and hugs.


  1. So much loss this year among my friends. Sending you hugs, Susan.

  2. Grief is the price we pay for love.

    Take care of yourself.


  3. Try not to complicate grief. Cry, mourn, grieve and cry some more. Cry so hard that your whole being is just plain worn out and then cry a little more. We need to grieve. I have a calendar in my bathroom on April 2008 marked with the dayI had to put my Zoe to sleep. It has hung there since then. She was a rescue cat, one of the most beautiful Lilac point Siamese cats I have ever seen. She could have easily been a show cat. She hid the first week she was in my home. For one whole week I never saw her. I was working then and was not home during the day, but she did come out during the day or late night to eat and poop! So, that Saturday after she had hid for a week, I was eating breakfast at the table in the kitchen and she came in the through door with a meow. Like, I guess we will be friends! I can not describe the relationship with that cat. She was truly a gift from above. I had three cats that were with me from 12 to 20 years that are buried in my front yard. I had Zoe cremated and I will have Gracie cremated if I out live her. I intend for my ashes to be mixed with theirs and put with my other much loved cats! Just call me crazy!! LOL! Take care. xoxo! I have a dog story too...

  4. Yes to all of those things she says and remember that you have us here to support you! I think people and dogs, too, give signs so we know that the time had come. I have experienced this twice with people I love. But you have to really be paying attention. And I know that you do and you were. Susan, you gave her so many wonderful years after rescuing her. And you were with her at the end. She knows. Love to you and your broken heart...

  5. What a lovely, helpful blog post. Not sure why you feel guilt. Grief, yes, but NOT guilt.

    You and Miss Winnie were lucky you found each other. Consider yourself, HUGGED.

  6. Susan dear, you have nothing to feel guilty about, you loved and cared for Winnie for all of those years. you were always with her right up until the end. You shared the joy of times spent together, she could not have asked for a better friend and Mom. Sadly our animals get old and sick and it would be cruel to make them suffer unnecessarily by not letting go. I know your are grieving and hurting and it would have been a decision not taken lightly, you made the kindest decision for Winnie. I know how much you miss her and it hurts, there is an emptiness, life is not the same without her sweet presence there with you, in time when your emotions aren't so raw you will see that you made the right decision for her...
    Love to you and your breaking heart ...
    xoxoxo ♡

  7. Sybil wondered above in the comments what I would have to feel guilty about regarding Winnie's death.

    It's the terribly thing about grief, upset & sadness I'm stuck in thinking about her death about those last few days a weekend that I thought and overthought calling the vet early Monday morning. Her nails were too long, her nails were black and therefore really difficult to trim I was always so afraid I'd hurt her and she picked up on my hesitation, would become anxious too. It was impossible for me to keep them short. Every visit to the vet with her, usually twice a year, I'd mention Miss D's too long nails. I worried about them constantly. My vet didn't seem too concerned. That last weekend it was obvious that one of her very long nails had become infected, just that amount of pain and discomfort on her already weak, atrophied arthritic back legs made it so she could barely stand, she couldn't squat to do her business. I googled "too long nails senior dog" and was devastated, though not surprised, by what I found. Long nails, especially for an arthritic senior dog are terrible. The nails throw off their ability to stand properly, make the dog feel unstable and of unsure footing ... not to mention the possible pain her nails may have been causing her. That last weekend together (& still) all I can think of is I ruined her life by not trimming her nails, by not being adamant with our vet, by not throwing a fit in the examining room and demanding she do something about Winnie's too long nails ... I've been torturing myself with that guilt. It's a case of the one bad apple spoiling the lot. I know I should get myself stuck instead in the nearly 15 years of love & adventure, of pure dog bliss & happiness. The article that I've mentioned in this post reminds me that we all do it - we hunt for the bad apple when we're sad.

    1. You aren't perfect but I think all told you were a wonderful friend to Miss Winnie and everything you did, you did for love.

      She is not in pain. She is at peace. You need to find peace too and cut yourself some slack.

  8. Oh Susan, please don't beat yourself up over this and stop torturing yourself. You did not neglect Winnie, if the vet had thought her nails were an issue she would have done something. Senior dogs and cats can sometimes injure their nails and as their circulation is compromised they can become infected. You had a difficult decision to make, she was suffering the effects of old age, it will come to us all and you did the kindest thing to free her from her pain. My cats are indoors as you know and though they have a scratching post, Bob has made a right mess of my very expensive oak table at one end. I have to trim their claws very carefully as you can quite easily cut into the 'quick' and cause a painful injury, the thought of this happening frightens me. Sometimes I opt for filing their claws with an emery board. Emily, who is such an anxious cat won't let me trim or file her claws, she senses my anxiety so I take her to the vet who has no problems cutting them and Emily lets her do it without any fuss. You have nothing to feel guilty about, it would have been worse if you had injured her nails.
    Love and big hugs dear Susan.xoxoxo ♡

  9. thank you always dear Dianne for your thoughtful & very loving comments - you are our angel + Itty Bitty Princess Betty's favourite far away godmother !!

  10. I know how awful it is to have to make that decision to end a beloved pet's life and the guilt you've felt - what ifs and buts also plagued me when I had to make that decision in the past. It isn't easy but hold onto the fact you put your friend's best interests at heart.


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