Misty, the 10-year-old Golden Retriever who inspired the Senior Dogs Project

The Senior Dogs Project
..........."Looking Out for Older Dogs" ...........

"Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog."
Sydney Jeanne Seward


The Road Ahead....Dealing with Sorrow and Guilt

Are you re-thinking, over and over again, whether you chose the right time to euthanize your dog? Do you worry that you didn't try hard enough to find the best possible care for her? Are you blaming yourself for the mistakes you think you made? Perhaps you should have fed her a different diet? Perhaps you should have taken her to the vet sooner? Maybe it was the time you yelled in anger that made her sick, or the time you left her at the kennel where she barked all night. You are not alone. All of us who have deeply loved our dogs experience such doubt and guilt....and, of course, deep sorrow.

Try to focus on all the positive aspects of your relationship with your dog, and give yourself credit for all the good things you did for her. Try to understand that doubting yourself and blaming yourself are normal and natural, but are not rational or realistic. It is 100% certain that you did the very best you could for your dog.

Don't be reluctant to seek comfort and support in dealing with the grief and guilt you are experiencing. There are many resources you can use. Here are some suggestions:

Pet Loss Hotlines:

National Pet Loss Grief Support Hotline

Toll free. 866-266-8635. Monday - Thursday 7-9PM Pacific Time. Saturdays 1-3PM Pacific Time. Messages can be left at other times and will be returned.

Pet Loss Support Hotline, University of California at Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine
The phone number is toll free, 800-565-1526. This program, operated by trained veterinary students, offers compassion and resources to help support owners grieving the loss of a beloved pet. In the process, veterinary students are taught communication skills and compassion that will be invaluable when they enter practice. Hotline staffed 6:30 to 9:30 Pacific Time, M-F during school year, Tu-Th during summer months.

Tufts University Pet Loss Support Hotline

Chicago Veterinary Medical Association in conjunction with the Delta Society
708-603-3994 Consultation and call is free except for applicable long distance charges. Offers pet loss support counseling. Hours: Messages can be left anytime. Calls are returned 7 to 9pm, M-F.

University of Florida at Gainesville, College of Veterinary Medicine
904-392-4700, ext. 4080 Consultation is free, except for applicable long distance charges; calls are returned at no charge. Offers pet loss support counseling. Hours: Messages can be left anytime. Calls are returned 7 to 9pm EST, 7 days a week.

University of Michigan College of Veterinary Medicine
517-336-2696 Consultation and call are free except for applicable long distance charges. When counselor returns you call, charges will be reversed. Offers pet loss support counseling. Hours: Messages can be left anytime. Hotline is staffed Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 6:30 to 9:30 pm EST.

The Internet:

Here are the URLs for some Internet websites and pages on pet loss:


Many more organizations and websites are linked from:


Animal Hospice Compassionate Crossings is not a place, but rather a philosophy that promotes healing through shared understanding. Mission: to provide support, compassion, and genuine attentiveness related to the passing of a beloved animal companion.

A personal and profoundly moving website: Following the loss of his dog, Beautiful, Klaus Schallhorn posted a website in tribute to him. You may find it comforting and enlightening to visit the site.

We highly recommend that you subscribe to the Senior-L E-mail list, which is especially for people with senior dogs. You can post to the list or just read the posts of others. Subscribers to the list are often facing the pain and grief of losing a dog. To subscribe, address an e-mail to: listserv@listserv.aol.com Leave the subject line blank. In the body of the message, write: subscribe SENIOR-L your name You will receive a message from the list asking for confirmation of your subscription. Be sure to follow the instructions in this message and the additional guidelines you will receive from the list owners concerning how to post messages to the list. Subscribing to the list is free, and you may end your subscription at any time.

Tributes and Memorials

Sometimes it makes people feel better if they do something special in memory of their dog. For example, you might put together a scrapbook of photographs and stories or things you want to remember about your dog. Even though you may be sad when you look at the book from time to time, it is a nice way of paying tribute.

You might consider making a contribution to a shelter or a rescue group in memory of your dog. Your local shelter or humane society most likely has a memorial program. If your dog was a specific breed, you can contact the local breed rescue, which is also likely to have a memorial program. If friends ask what they can do, you can suggest making a donation to one of these programs in memory of your dog.

Recommended reading:

A Final Act of Caring: Ending the Life of an Animal Friend
by Mary and Herb Montgomery. Order from Montgomery Press, PO Box 24124, Minneapolis, MN 55424. Or send $5.95 (includes postage and handling) to Montgomery Press.

Good-bye My Friend
by Mary and Herb Montgomery. Order from Montgomery Press, PO Box 24124, Minneapolis, MN 55424. Or send $5.95 (includes postage and handling) to Montgomery Press. For both books, send $9.20.)

Coping with the Loss of a Pet: A Gentle Guide for All Who Love a Pet
Wallace R. Clark & Company. Call the publisher at (800) 342-9968 to order.

Conversations with My Old Dog, by Robert Pasick, Ph.D. Adpar Press, Ann Arbor, MI. Order from amazon.com or by E-mail: RPasick@aol.com. Paperback, $10.95.

Surviving the Heartbreak of Choosing Death for Your Pet
Available from Dogwise.

When Your Pet Dies: How to Cope with Your Feelings
Simon & Shuster; 1985. Call the American Animal Hospital Association at 1-800-252-2242 to order.

The Courage to Grieve
Judy Tatelbaum, M.S.W.,is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (California LCSW# 5853), psychotherapist, inspirational speaker, and workshop leader, who encourages people to face life's inevitable crises courageously. She is known internationally for her best selling books, THE COURAGE TO GRIEVE and YOU DON'T HAVE TO SUFFER, and her DVD: THE COURAGE TO GRIEVE, THE COURAGE TO GROW. Her website has several excellent downloadable articles.

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