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Things About Grief and Dogs

Of all the loving and supportive comments I received when my dog Ace died last year, a single negative comment stood out and burned:

“I can tell you’re not sad about Ace.”

My dog Ace 11 years old

In those words, this person criticized two of the most important things to me:

My love for my dog Ace.

My writing.

Maybe you’ve experienced this, too. The feeling that you didn’t “properly” display your grief in public or on social media.

And that because of this, maybe you were not grieving in the “right” way or even grieving at all.

But how can you possibly express grief in an email, a blog post, a Facebook caption? And is it even right to try?

How could I have explained … that three days after my old dog died, my young dog ripped the tiniest corner off my dead dog’s empty bed, and that I fell to my knees and sobbed?

And how my young dog flipped over on his back, then, unsure of what he’d done but pretty sure he’d upset me. And how I cried into his fur, pressing all of my love for my old dog onto the shoulders of my young dog and how he was unprepared for this, unsure of how to be my rock yet, and how he wiggled and bit at my arm. And then I laughed.

Grief is not a visible glow or shadow, yet sometimes it is.

We all know this, that grief is random sometimes, unexplainable and unexpected, even when we expect it.

It’s how my cat Scout became so depressed after the loss of his companions (Ace and our cat Beamer died on the same day) that I worried I’d lose him too. And I would just hold him for a long time and together we processed our grief.

It’s how, even though Ace has been gone 11 months, and we’ve moved 1,300 miles since then, I still find his hair on me.

Little pieces of my actual dog. In our washing machine. On my blankets. In my car.

Though, less and less.

It’s how I somehow love my young dog Remy even more than I loved Ace, even though I do not want to love Remy more.

It’s how I miss having the most obedient dog in the group, and now I have the least. But that’s OK because I know I was lucky with the first and Ace was good enough to make up for the next 10 dogs and it’s OK if none are ever as good as Ace because of course … they never will be.

Two good boys Remy and Ace

Grief lingers in the patterns I follow, how I’m doing the same things with Remy today that Ace and I did 10 years earlier. Agility classes. Teaching the same tricks. Hiking and backpacking on Easter weekend. Running and running and running …

These are the pieces of grief you cannot see or read but we all experience in our own ways. Through patterns, and, randomness.

It’s how I wondered, how I will I continue on without him?

And then, somehow, I did.

Ace and me

Related posts:

Grieving my dog offline

When my puppy said goodbye to my old dog

A letter to myself: “When my old dog dies”

Do I have to be there when my dog is put down? (no)

What if there’s no rainbow bridge?

Irene McHugh

Monday 27th of January 2020

I've just discovered your blog through the Pet Bloggers Journey and I am aghast that anyone would write that comment at all! Your response here is not only perfect, it's helpful to me. Bernie and Lizzie are my first two dogs, ever. Sometimes I do think about how I'll deal with their deaths, so reading about your experiences has helped prepare me a little more. Thank you!

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 28th of January 2020

Aww, thank you, Irene.

Nancy L. Stordahl

Thursday 25th of April 2019

I think the comment that person made was completely out of line, not to mention hurtful. Even though that was only one person saying such a thing, you were sort of fixated on that one mean comment, temporarily anyway. I think we tend to do that a lot. Or at least I do. For ex, I have one really negative book review on Amazon, so of course, that's the one I was hot and bothered by for a while. But I got over that. As you wrote so eloquently, grief is random. It's also very personal. You get to grieve in your own way. What others think or say about it doesn't really matter. Thank you for writing about this topic again. Grief needs to be written about and discussed more. A lot more.


Thursday 18th of April 2019

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for this. My 2 1/2 year old dog passed away at the end of January and I have been absolutely heartbroken. He was quite possibly, the perfect dog, in every sense. I’ve struggled with how to express my grief from the other standpoint. My grief is all consuming and I’ve been afraid to vocalize it because I feel as if some people will be like “oh he was only a dog” not understanding that he was actually my whole world. His loss was devastating and I’m only just learning how to cope with it. So thank you, if only for showing me there is solidarity in grief.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 18th of April 2019

Oh my, I'm so sorry to hear your dog died.

Cheryl Carlton

Thursday 18th of April 2019

Grief, like all emotions, are different to each person. Losing a dog is hard. There are always people who think, "it's just a dog".


Thursday 11th of April 2019

We had our dog for 9 years, I used to say he was more like a cat than a dog. He was quiet, listened well and was always a good dog who did his own thing. Shortly after my mom passed away I found a boxer puppy that I fell in love with. The dogs got along ok but she became my best friend and snuggle buddy. I still loved him but he wasn't a cuddler and so I spent most nights sitting on the couch with her in my lap. People would tell me I loved her more than him but I tried to ignore it because I knew I loved him too. When his kidneys started failing at 12 & 1/2 I had to make the decision and I felt a ton of guilt. I'm certain no harm was meant when they said it but it is something that still sticks with me.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 11th of April 2019

Aww, so sorry to hear that. The things people say are silly sometimes.