When My Puppy Said Goodbye to My Old Dog

Note: This is a different kind of essay for this blog. More personal and sad. You’ve been warned. Thank you for reading. -Lindsay

When my puppy said goodbye to my old dog

When my dog Ace died, it was in our living room on a Friday. Meaning, the vet offices were closed. So I had the burden and blessing of keeping his body with us until the next morning. Most people do not get to experience the death of a dog in this way anymore.

From the comfort of our living room floor, I curled my body around his like I’d do if he were alive. Pressed my lips to his soft, smooth forehead. Kissed that low spot between his eyes. Told him I loved him, what a good boy he was. Inhaled his dog scent maybe a dozen times.

When I went back to the bedroom, I left him out on his blanket. He appeared to be sleeping there like any given night. Peaceful and safe.

Next morning was most painful, knowing my dog was still there but not. I hoped he’d somehow be alive again, like he is in my dreams, that we’d been wrong about his death.

But no.

That morning was silent. No wagging black tail. No senior dog to be let outside and fed.

I still had my young pup, of course. Remy and I went through our normal routine, so normal that he seemed indifferent to the loss of his brother.

Until, about a half-hour later, when the pup stood over his friend, stunned.

Remy had been there for Ace’s death. He’d been present during the heart attack. He’d walked by the body many times seemingly unfazed.

I did not shield my young dog from my old dog’s death because I always thought animals understood dying and accepted it.

So it broke my heart and gave closure that morning to see my young dog, standing there, suddenly confused by his brother’s stiffness. Like he’d thought Ace had just been sleeping this entire time. (Not unusual for our old guy!)

My young dog stood there beside his friend and mentor, tail wagging frantically in question.

He sniffed Ace’s face real close, then jumped back, shocked by this change.

Maybe he wondered why Ace didn’t give a little growl, like he’d always done when Remy pressed close.

My young dog stared, backing away from stillness and scent.

He knew then.

Our old friend was gone.


24 thoughts on “When My Puppy Said Goodbye to My Old Dog”

  1. I’m sorry about Ace, Remy. I still get all choked up when I think about Linus. Luckily for us Stetson and Raven are doing okay with his passing. I think Raven is trying to step up a little since Linus was the protector of the family. Always, thinking about you guys. I hope everything is well in Montana.

  2. We had the same thing happen with both an older cat and our “middle” dog in recent years. Our 14y.o. cat rested where she passed for most of the day, til my husband could come home from work and we could take her to the crematorium. (I’m not one to cremate my pets, but he is, and he insisted we do so when our 10y.o. cat had to be euthanized due to a fibrosarcoma 2 years prior, so now we’re kind of stuck doing so.)Our 3 dogs and remaining 2 cats “visited” her often during those hours, and seemed to make peace with it.

    When it was our middle dog’s turn, we knew, due to his size and the fact that the two trips we’d already made with him to the vet were extremely taxing to his body, we’d be sitting up, waiting for his passing. We all camped out in the living room that night, leaving the other 2 dogs’ crates open so they could come and go as they pleased. The 2 cats paced much of the night, the dogs came and went, though both seemed to appear instinctively as things went from bad to worse. He didn’t leave us until around 11am the following day, but still.

    My husband has always advocated for letting animals pass on their own, though, with the first cat, we waited way too long (I was prepared and would have much preferred taking her in to the vet sooner, but he was just not having it)and I still feel bad about it. Rather than have her suffer daily and try to manage her oozing tumor, I would have had her euthanized as soon as things were no longer comfortable or pleasant for her. What I’ve learned is, death is ugly, no matter which way it happens. It’s never peaceful, or perfect. Some animals tolerate euthanasia beautifully, but others fight the drugs and for them it can be just as violent as being allowed to go at their own time. Plus, so few of them DO go at their own time- they linger for us. I didn’t want that for my 14y.o. dog, who passed away last November. I told him as much.I knew when it was time, and had already communicated my intention to be waiting with her at the clinic as soon as they opened.

    He made us wait another 3 hours, so he could drive to work, leave instructions for the sub for the day (they wouldn’t let email it), and then drive back. 3 more hours where she struggled, after being up all night. At least he got to see her pass quietly after the vet injected her, rather than the violent struggle against it that he was expecting. He learned something. Still, she was MY dog and I would have rather had things done MY way, instead of waiting on him to be there. He refused to be there when we had to take the aforementioned cat in, so I had no expectations that he would be participating.

    It’s never easy, no matter how it happens. Whether it’s planned, expected,or not.

  3. This is a beautiful essay. Thank you for sharing this glimpse into a very tough day for your family. I’ve heard that it’s important for animals who live together to see their dead housemate if possible. That way they can understand a bit better their death and disappearance a bit better. I’m glad that you were able to give that experience to Remy.

  4. this is so sad and beautiful at the same time. I am sitting here in tears, reliving the deaths of my two cats, first mother Deliah and then her son, Benji, 2 years later.
    We now have a rescue dog since July last year and have really bonded with her over the last 2 months. It took a long long time, as we had so many difficulties in the beginning – mostly our (humans’) fault, but now our bond seems to get stronger on a daily basis. Amazing. I must stop dreading already now the thought that she won’t be with us forever and try and just enjoy the time we have with her.
    I love your blog and it has helped me a lot over the months… Thank you for also sharing your last evening with your beloved Ace with us

  5. Sorry to hear of Aces passing. My old boy passed on April 5 of this year. He was a BC and 14 1/2 years. He was good one evening playing and eating well and the next morning took a turn for the worse. I rushed him to the Vets, he took a small seizure and passed away on the table. I’m so glad I didn’t have to make the dissision of having to put him down. I felt better knowing that he lived his life to the fullest up until he passed. His grandson Moss 1 1/2 yrs and my cat Maxx 16 yrs. we’re lonely for awhile but have since gotten over him. They were sad that night and slept together on my bed for the first time since Moss was brought home. They know in their hearts better than we know.
    Prayers go out to you and your family at your loss of Ace. May he live on in your hearts. R I P Ace.

  6. We have had the vet come to our house 2 times. Both times we kept the bodies overnight for everyone to say their goodbyes before we took them to be cremated. It is sad hoping that it was a dream in the morning (I did that too) but it gave everyone closure I feel. We would not do it any other way from now on.

  7. Being present with your pet, if passing is assisted by a vet, is what I call the Last Act of Kindness. I have been there for every dog that had vet assistance. Regarding the idea that animals know and accept death, not necessarily true. I have rescue rabbits from a shelter, and have been educated by the rescue that rabbits need 2-6 hours with the body of a companion,(they will ignore or groom, and eventually leave the body) as they may stop eating as they wait for the return of their companion. Also, important to always take rabbits together to the vet, for bunny support. 😉

  8. What a beautiful, touching essay. With a lump in my throat I send my heartfelt condolences for the passing of your big boy Ace. He was a blessed boy to be a part of your family.

  9. Very sorry to hear about ACE. My heartiest condolence to you and your family about the loss. I have mix lab named Cocoa, who is just 5.5 months. Cocoa is our first pet and we are completely new pet parents. I just cant imagine my daily routine without him. I love to read your articles. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Our dog passed away a month ago. A dearly loved boy, who was there for my son when he was suicidal and there for my husband, when he recovered from multiple surgeries after a near fatal accident. He meant so much to us. He was a best mate to many. He fur friends knew he was not well, he smelt funky, he wasn’t the same crazy fur friend. We called the vet, when we knew it was time. He’d chosen his burial spot, on our farm, about a month before and the vet had offered to euthanize him there. He passed peacefully in my arms, before the vet arrived, and with all his loved ones around him. It will be a treasured memory forever. Your beautiful story has me in tears, yet again.

  11. My Labrador is my soul-dog – there are many dogs in your life – but I am closer to him than any other living being in my life – he is about 10 – he has Mega-Esophagus his entire life and has been blind from PRA for over 2 years. I understand this isn’t forever – but the reason I am commenting is about the smell – every night I go to bed and Shian even blind curls up next to me – and I go to sleep having my nose buried in the back of his neck – smelling his unique smell – clean smell but like toast burning on a campfire – it instantly calms me and puts me to sleep – it is so tough to see him blind so young – and struggling to eat anything – I have another dog and a puppy too – but Shian is my soul-child – and I can’t imagine going to sleep if him and his smell isn’t there – Ace is alive in the mind and heart of so many – you gave him an incredible even famous life – all your readers are proud of your courage and for being so open to share this…

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