Coping With the Loss of a Pet

Albany adoption day 2007

Me and Albany. 2007

Before 2007, I’d never owned a pet, other than some stray cats we’d occasionally put food out for, and the garden snail my brother and I kept trapped for a while in a shoe box in my childhood bedroom. But my family talked me into getting a dog a few years ago. Our sweet Albany is a bichon poodle mix, and has been ridiculously healthy since the day we adopted her at a pet rescue event. I’ve never had to cope with the loss of a furry family member, but I know many who have. My husband Loren went to college with our friend Irene McDermott, the author of this post and a lifelong pet owner. – Kelly Lester

In 2003, it happened. Although my cat Helen overcame her spring irregularity that year (by eating canned pumpkin of all things, which is full of fiber and which animals apparently love), in July, she became listless. She began to drink lots of water but to eat almost nothing but the occasional treat. She moved from the bed to the bedroom floor, rising awkwardly only to make her way to the litter box. Finally, in August, it became clear to me that she was dying. I left it to my brave husband to take her to a vet, who confirmed our worst suspicions.

“Cancer,” he said. Riddling her pelvis and abdomen. “I could operate,” he added, doubtfully. But he quickly confirmed that there was really only one thing to do. That afternoon, we let my girlfriend of 17 years slip away from us forever.


I consider myself a sensible woman. I am a librarian, after all. Normally, I wouldn’t let a thing like a cat’s death bother me too much. But this one, even though I had expected it, hit me hard. That afternoon, I had to leave the reference desk to wash the tears off my face. In the evening, I just sat on the living room couch and cried.

Pet EuthanasiaI felt relieved to find extensive resources on the Web about grieving for pets. I suppose it makes sense. Few dogs or cats live more than 20 years. That means that serial pet owners will endure several losses as the decades pass.

This helpful brochure addresses the grief over a pet’s death:

Free Download:

(click): How Do I Know It’s Time? Pet Euthanasia

The American Veterinary Medical Association knows the way to comfort owners about euthanasia, counseling, “Try to recall and treasure the good times you spent with your pet.”

The vets also give very good advice about how to know when to put a suffering pet out of its misery.

Have you lost a pet? How did you and your family get through this difficult time? 

Irene McDermottLike many librarians, Irene E. McDermott, author of The Internet Book of Life: Use the Web to Grow Richer, Smarter, Healthier, and Happier, always shares her house with a cat. Buy her book in print or digital format at Irene shares her Pasadena, California bungalow with her teenage son and a new cat named Bubba.

I’m a huge fan of Irene’s new book. I’m honored that she quoted my enthusiasm for it on the back cover(!), and she made me smile when she told me she “takes her lunch to work every day in an oh-so-handy Easy Lunch Box!”