A Girl and Her Dog: When Pets Die

A Girl and Her Dog: When Pets Die

She was 13 but we only had her for the last 5 years – Coco had come to my family unexpectedly. She needed a home and I felt that my parents needed a new dog. I told them she would just be there on a “trial run” but I knew better. They were instant goners and by the first night there was no “trial run”; there was just Coco.

Like any dog she had quirks and a personality that spoke louder than words. She loved cheese and her favorite spot was in the front yard keeping watch with her little paws crossed. She welcomed us home by excitedly herding us to the refrigerator or snack corner where she would whack our legs with her snout until she got a treat – that playful little gag always got me. But there was more than that too. She was comforting, she liked having me around and I thought her company was wonderful. Sometimes it felt like I knew her language, we were true buddies; I was her girl and she was my dog.

We had known about a bad tumor for a few months but it wasn’t until she lost interest in her favorite foods and began struggling to walk or get up that we started to think about how we would say goodbye.

I told my dad that I didn’t want to put her in a car or take her to the vet – two things she really hated. I wanted her to die at home and he found an answer for me with the company Lap of Love.  She would be euthanized at our house in a few days so we had time to say goodbye and be with her and then she would be out of pain.

On the day before her appointment I took her on our last walk together. She LOVED walks and I could tell that even though her body wasn’t allowing her to give me the full show of her enthusiasm, her determined stare through the screen door said, “Let’s go”. We went slowly at her pace and were gone a long time. She even laid down at the park and just looked around, something the Coco I knew would never have had the patience for. It seemed like she somehow knew she would never be there again and wanted to take it in one last time. It was a tearful, special and heart torn walk.

Her last day came and we spent it out in the front yard, basking in the sun and petting her as much as we could.

I found that I was somehow dreading and also wanting the doctor to come. I now wanted it all to be over almost as much as I hated the idea of it. One moment I would think, “this is right, she is really not herself,” and the next my hope would spring up and wonder if she might yet get better and have another month or another summer to spend with me.

But then the doctor arrived and my heart sank. She sweetly and calmly walked up, greeted my family and then met Coco, petting her so kindly and telling me what a sweet dog she was – it was so nice to hear. She then explained what she would do and what Coco would experience. My mom and dad went inside with the vet and signed the paperwork and Coco followed them, not knowing it was her last afternoon, her last walk inside. Somehow, when you know it’s the last time it is just agony and beauty all at once.

We put Coco on some soft blankets my mom had laid out and we petted her while the vet gave her the shot that would relax her before the last shot. She struggled to stay standing but her body gave in and soon she  was down on the ground in my arms and in a deep sleep. My parents each had one of her front paws in their hands, my husband rubbed her sweet head and my arms cradled her neck and held her close.

Then she was gone, she was gone but we couldn’t stop crying or petting, kissing and hugging her dear little body. My dad and husband lifted her onto a cot and carried her to the vet’s car. My mom snuck in a piece of cheese & a chicken stick to go on the journey with her.

The car pulled away and the moments that followed were a pure panic inside of me, my friend was gone and I didn’t know what to do. What did the house even look like or mean without her? How could she be really gone? Who would love me like her?

We made pancakes (another of her & my favorite foods) and seemed to fall into stories about her almost immediately. We found ourselves laughing at the crazy things she had done, we were fighting to remember, to tell all and keep her alive. I found videos I had taken of her and was shocked to see just how spry, energetic and bouncy she had once been. She really had been so sick, the decline was just so steady that the true weight of it didn’t hit me until I was looking backward.

We’ve done a few things to memorialize her; we put a pancake and some cheese in the hole she loved to dig for lizards in, we had her cremated (part of the Lap of Love service), and I sent away to FeltPets for a custom felt sculpture. I sent in photos and answered her sweet and detailed questions and a few weeks later received this:

I still miss her, grieve her and think I see her around the corners of my parents house. Pet losses are rarely acknowledged for being as significant as they are. I know that I felt unable to share about it with close friends who either minimized or were afraid of my grief; someone said to me as I tried to show them a picture, “oh, it’s ok, I don’t want you to get sad,” and it stopped me in my tracks. I already was sad but they didn’t know that allowing me to talk would have been so much better than trying to “spare me”.

on our last day together, enjoying some cheese!

I want to encourage any of you who have had pets die to share a tribute to your pet below, tell me some of your favorite memories with them or some of their funny quirks. I know you still miss them because I think I will always miss Coco. She was somehow more than just a dog, she was a kindred spirit and a true friend.

|| Share Your Story:

What is your experience with a pet dying?

How have you paid tribute to your pets?

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.


  1. Becky Finch Lomaka says:

    Hi Molly,
    Thank you for writing such a lovely blog. I know it must have been very difficult to write this about your sweet Coco. I am not sure that you know this but I was not John’s first love…his first love’s name was Berkley and she was a beautiful lab/retriever mix. Eventually Berkley came to accept that I was in the family to stay and she quickly became my dog too. She was full of life, funny, and strangely terrified of water even though she was part lab.

    When she died, my husband was heartbroken. I had only seen him cry that hard when his father had died. We, too, had Berkley cremated. John still has her collar that he keeps as as a special reminder.

    Our pets are part of our family; the grief we feel when they die is very real and very significant. Thank you for sharing your story.


    • Becky,
      The bonds these creatures develop with us are incredible and so much deeper than we tend to give them credit for. It’s amazing when an animal wants to be with us just as much as we want to be with them – it’s a relationship that is so simple and precious.

      I’m glad Jon had that relationship with Berkley and that you got to be a part of it. Thank you for sharing Becky!


  2. Jeff says:

    Your account of our dear little dog’s final journey with us is so well stated. You spoke for me some of the feelings I had yet to put into words, especially the conundrums of that final day. I knew too that it was time. That last morning, watching her struggle, I wanted that to be over for her. The problem was, it being over. We rail against death because innately we know it isn’t supposed to be this way. If the idea that “the circle of life” is the “way of this world”, “nature’s way” and all similar blather were actually true, death would not be hard. None of those sentiments are true and that is why death is hard. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

    So, I hope to one day see even those “insignificant” created beings that have shared themselves in different chapters of my life, will be in that place God has promised to prepare for us. I don’t think I want to be in an eternal state without a dog.

    I know this was hard for you to write. Thank you for doing the hard thing.


    • Dad,
      Thank you so much for your thoughts – I’m glad this was helpful for you to read and that it spoke to some of your own feelings.

      Death IS so hard and it’s worse if we have no hope of reuniting with them. I am so with you, God created them for our pleasure, to love us and be loved by us.

      Thank you so much dad, you made this experience possible and it was beyond anything I could ever have hoped for.


  3. Arlene Blix says:

    What a lovely story and one that reflects the contribution pets make to our lives and how their loss affects us significantly. Thanks for sharing it!

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