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The Loss of a Pet

Playwright Eugene O’Neill’s way of accepting the approaching death of his beloved dog was to write a Last Will and Testament as if his dog had written it.  It will provide comfort for those bearing the loss of a dear pet:

A pet blogger’s  account of her recent experience of letting go of her beloved cat .

When a Pet Passes Away  (from Animal Friends Pittsburgh)

Pets provide us with incredible companionship and affection, but they leave us far too soon. Anytime we love, we open up our hearts and make ourselves vulnerable to the pain of loss. Sadly, experiencing and coping with the death of a beloved pet is a part of life that is inevitable but always difficult.

A pet has a unique way of entering our hearts, and those who have not experienced it are not likely to understand.  People who are puzzled, telling you “It’s just an animal” just don’t get it. They’ve missed out on the love and rewards you’ve been fortunate to enjoy. Seek out others whose perspective is like your own.

The grief that comes from losing a pet is as real, and can be as powerful, as the loss of any family member. When you find yourself in mourning over a pet, allow yourself time to grieve, and realize that tears and sadness are normal.

At certain times of the day, these feelings are likely to be more intense, such as entering an empty house or missing treat time or a bedtime cuddle. The death of a pet may also evoke many feelings, some unexpected. For some of us, any loss recalls memories of other losses in our lives, which magnifies our emotions.

Dealing with a beloved sick or injured pet often forces us to make painful decisions, and the accompanying guilt can be overwhelming. Should I have done more? Was euthanasia the best option for my suffering pet? Could I have recognized the signs and symptoms of illness earlier? Give yourself the credit you deserve for doing the best you could with difficult options.

Your pet, like other family members, was unique, and can never be replaced.   The experiences you shared at that time in your life were special, and efforts to find another pet exactly like the one lost are certain to disappoint. When you’re ready to consider another pet, remind yourself that your new friend will also have special, endearing characteristics that can be overlooked if you insist on making comparisons.

The time following the pet’s loss can be difficult for others in your household as well. Children may be confused or fearful, and need the opportunity to share feelings and learn about finality of death. Other animals in the household may also grieve, missing the companionship of an ever-present pal. Giving them a little extra attention will help soothe their experience of loss, and the affection they return will benefit you, as well.

Don’t deny yourself the experience of loving an animal again. When experiencing grief, it’s easy to say, “never again,” but the healing power of time can again open your heart to the joy and companionship of a pet.  Many visitors to Animal Friends share with us their stories of loss as they begin the process of searching for a new best friend, even shedding a few tears in the process.

Often, the best way to acknowledge and give thanks for the life of a pet is to offer a second chance to another.  As you get acquainted and gain one another’s trust, you’ll discover proof that life indeed goes on, and that it’s possible to love again.

After a Pet Passes Away

It’s not discussed a lot but an important issue – especially to someone with limited mobility and a limited income – is how to handle the departed pets’ body.  If cremation is being considered, it might be good to price check with the National Greyhound Adoption Program in Northeast Philadelphia.  They offer lower priced veterinary and cremation services to the public at their facility.  A communal cremation where the ashes are not returned to the owner costs $65 for a pet between 6 and 30 pounds.  The private cremation of that size pet is $120.         (on 1/21/2016)                                                           

Pet Passages was started by pet lover Joe Lombardo of the Lombardo Funeral Home in Clifton Heights, in response to fraud in the pet cremation industry.

Pet Loss Hot Line

Volunteers at Pet Friends offer support to those with a pet who is ill or has passed away.  The service is free of charge and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Call  856 – 234 – 4688.  Pet Friends is located in Moorestown, NJ.

Pet Loss Help Line (sponsored by  P&G Pets)  1-888-332 – 7738.

Pet Grief Support of America, 17200 S.E. 58th Ave., Summerfield, FL 32691; Free service that operates 365 days per year.

Although the Rainbowbridge website has a commercial component (memorials costing $25) , they also seem to offfer several kinds of support without charge,  for those experiencing pet loss.

There’s a new Pet Loss Support group in Philadelphia.  It is a free service of Queenie’s Pet Sitting (7174 Germantown Avenue). It meets on the third Thursday of the month, from 6:45 to 6 pm.  For more information:     or     call: 215- 248 – 9999

Additional Sources of Information:

 Veterinary Grief Counseling at the University of Pennsylvania Vet School:

A list of pet hotlines, many of which have to due with coping with the passing of one’s pet.   Note that  many require the caller to pay for long distance phone charges.  Cornell and Michigan State appear to return calls , so the costs of getting support through them should be lower.

The veterinary school at Tufts University (in Massachusettes) offers a Pet Loss Support Hotline  –   508 – 839 – 7966.


AHELP – A group in Seattle that helps with end-of-life care of pets.

 Helping a pet who has lost his/her owner:

Should the sad time ever come that it is necessary to have a pet cremated, it is good to remember that the National Greyhound Adoption program in NE Philadelphia (19154) offers cremation services in a compassionate atmosphere and at a reasonable rate.

There are new pet cemeteries at Laurel Hill Cemetery (Noah’s Garden of Pets) and West Laurel Hill cemetery.

The Williams Lombardo Funeral Home in Clifton Heights PA is a Pet Passages Affiliate.  They offer  ‘Ever After Pets’ pet loss services and cremation of the highest standards.     or call  (610) 626-2110.   They offer these resources to help deal with grief:

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