Scientists Explain Why Losing a Dog Feels Like Losing a Loved One

year ago

Dogs can help us get through many ups and downs in our lives, they are always there and sometimes they are the only ones we have. They give us a reason to wake up in the morning! Even a study confirms that dogs can improve their owner’s overall well-being, especially mental health. But what are you left with when that very reason passes away?

We at Bright Side put together this article for all of those who feel lost and confused after losing their dog.

The bond that is established between a human and a dog is heartfelt and sincere. And one aspect of that bond is the so-called, “secure base effect”. This is something that kids have with their parents. Parents are a secure space, they bring comfort, love, and confidence. A study shows that dogs tend to behave just like human children do. And there is no greater pain than the loss of a child.

But it’s not only a dog that you lose. You lose a source of unconditional love and support. It can be even harder if it was your service dog or emotional support dog.

The loss of a dog can also seriously disrupt your life. You must say goodbye to morning walks, playing fetch, going to the dog park and evening snuggles. Your life may seem suddenly empty and it can be hard to move on knowing that you’ll never have that with them again and at this moment it’s so easy to fall into despair and become depressed. Especially if other people around you keep saying that “it’s time to move on,” and “it’s just a dog.”

Another thing that can make it harder is the fact that there aren’t many things you can do to help yourself deal with the loss. For example, when a person passes away, it’s common to go to a therapist or join a support group, and you can talk to family members and friends, and they will most likely understand. It’s okay to cancel some plans or to take a few days off to mourn. But if it’s a dog that passes away, people expect you to be fine in no time.

Some people still think that their dog is still there, and if they hear a noise in another room, they might call the dog to see if they made the noise. And some may misname family members with the dog’s name, which shows a deep connection between the owner and the dog.

Bonus: Tips that can help you deal with the loss.

  • Take your time. Everything you’re feeling is real — just because someone else has it worse, doesn’t mean that your emotions are not valid. Give yourself time to cry, to grieve, to be angry, or upset.
  • Get support. You can talk to others who have been through the same thing, or if you feel too overwhelmed, you can search for a pet loss support group.
  • Come up with a ritual. When a person passes away, we have a funeral or a ceremony to get closure. You can do the same thing for your pet.
  • Don’t rush. You don’t have to get rid of all their belongings as soon as possible if it doesn’t feel right. Start by gradually putting stuff away and then when it gets easier, you can donate it or throw it out.

Did you ever have to cope with the loss of a pet? Tell us your story about your favorite pet in the comments!

Please note: This article was updated in June 2022 to correct source material and factual inaccuracies.
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This article could not have come at a better time. My husband and I had to say goodbye to our beloved Dozer yesterday. It's been really hard walking in to another room and not having him two steps behind. He had been my shadow for almost 15 years. Thanks for writing this!

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