Many dog owners will agree that their canine is considered to be a part of their family. To lose a member of your family, canine or otherwise, is heartbreaking experience. Of course, with all living things, it is an inevitability. Most working breeds such as the German Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd or Belgian Malinois will usually live between 10-12 years. Considering that the life expectancy of a medium sized dog is only about a tenth of our own, many dog owners will have already experienced this grief in the past. However, the loss of a canine in your household can be an especially difficult experience for your children. Harder still, is when the loss of a canine comes unexpectedly, such as the case of a police officer in a K9 unit who’s protection dog is killed in the line of duty.
Many people, possibly even yourself, may be shocked or confused by the level of grief that one can experience over the loss of a canine. Many people have the unfortunate mindset that if the loss was not that of a human, there is no reason to grieve. However, the emotional attachments one can feel towards their canine companions can be very strong. Often, the very things that make your dog different from a human are what make them so endearing. Dog owners are blessed with the unwavering loyalty and dedication of their canines. Owners of protection dogs, guard dogs or security dogs may also dread the thought of losing the sense of security that their canine offers themselves and their family. The most important thing to remember is that grieving over the loss of a canine is both normal and appropriate.
Considering the emotional attachments you feel towards your canine may not be much different than what you feel towards human members of your family, healthy grief over the loss of a canine may not be much different than grieving over a human. However, there are still a number of factors unique to the loss of a canine that must be considered. First and foremost is the idea of having a pet “put down”. No one would ever want to make the decision to have the plug pulled on a human being, but many dog owners are forced to make this decision with their canine. To make the decision to end a life to relieve suffering is no easy task, but once the decision is made, no amount of guilt or regret can undo what has been done. Another difficulty is choosing whether or not to hold a memorial or funeral for your canine. This is made especially difficult by those who may undervalue your loss due to the perception that canine life is not as important or as worthwhile as human life. The most important thing is to do what you feel is right. If a funeral will help you mourn the loss of your canine, then one should be held. Likewise, a funeral or memorial may be a good opportunity for your children to say goodbye, and may help them with their own mourning. Finally, one must decide when and if they will get a new dog. After the loss of a canine, it is usually best to allow yourself time to grieve before getting a new dog. Canines are unique in their personalities and abilities, and cannot simply be replaced. However, if your canine happened to be a working dog, such as a guide dog or protection dog, it may be in your best interests to purchase a new one sooner rather than later. While it may be difficult to accept a new canine so soon after your loss, the benefits of canine protection may not be something you want you and your family to be without.