artwork by Laura Caseley for Little Things

Unfortunately, it’s the nature of pet ownership to lose your beloved fluff ball. The average human will live eight decades, but a dog’s lifespan is much shorter.

According to the American Kennel Club, dogs live for an average of 10 to 13 years, depending on the breed.

That means that every human who welcomes a sweet pup into the family will have to eventually face the tricky proposition of losing a furry best friend.

There are lots of beautiful ways to memorialize your dog after he crosses the rainbow bridge, but that isn’t necessarily comforting in the days immediately before and after a pooch passes on.

In fact, it can be really hard to prepare for that moment.

That’s why we put together a list of important things all pooch-owners should know for the day their beloved dog dies.

#1: The Grief Will Hit Hard

#1: The Grief Will Hit Hard

You might be surprised by how hard you are hit by grief.

It’s easy to think that you will be able to cope with the death of your pet, but people often discover that they are just as devastated by the loss of their dog as they would be by any death.

Even though humans know intellectually that they’ll have to say goodbye to their beloved dogs eventually, it doesn’t make it any easier to face the reality.

#2: You Might Feel Guilty

#2: You Might Feel Guilty

Guilt is a totally normal emotion to experience as you’re processing your loss and grief, but people are sometimes taken aback by how strongly they blame themselves.

People worry that perhaps there was something more they could have done early, they worry that they made the wrong decision, or that they missed a sign that their pup was in pain or unwell.

These worries are totally normal, but try not to let them take you over. At some point, you have to trust that you did everything you could for your sweet pup, and he loved you for it.

#3: Your Vet Will Be More Of A Comfort Than You Expect

#3: Your Vet Will Be More Of A Comfort Than You Expect

During your dog’s lifetime, the veterinarian is just the person who gives your pup shots and diagnoses infections.

After you pup dies, the veterinarian might become your best friend for a while.

That’s because vets see this kind of loss every day, and they often know exactly how to support and comfort a grieving pet parent.

Vets can also help you with details like figuring out how to lay your dog to rest; many vets offer cremation services and memorial boxes.

#4: Grief Can Spike Unexpectedly

#4: Grief Can Spike Unexpectedly

Laura Caseley for LittleThings

After you lose your dog, you’ll probably spend a few days mourning before slowly starting to feel better.

When that happens, it’s easy to think that the worst of your grief is behind you, though that often isn’t the case.

Sometimes, grief will reemerge as fresh and painful as the day your dog died. Know that the grieving process is long and complex, and let it take its natural course.

#5: You Might Have To Make The Choice

#5: You Might Have To Make The Choice

Laura Caseley for LittleThings

For many dog owners, the most difficult part of losing their pet actually comes before the pet passes on.

Many owners find themselves in the painful position of choosing to end the dog’s life, and having him put to sleep.

When you adopt a dog, you have to be prepared for the possibility of making this choice.

If your dog is elderly, in pain, and unable to comprehend what’s happening, it might be your responsibility to help him avoid unnecessary pain and suffering.

#6: It’s Worth Asking For Paw Prints

#6: It's Worth Asking For Paw Prints

Laura Caseley for LittleThings

After your dog passes away, your vet will usually offer to help with the remains, often by cremation.

Before that happens, you might want to ask the vet to take your dog’s paw prints for you.

Many vets are happy to help you through your goodbye by giving you one last memento of your beloved pup.

Even as you move on, having his paw prints is a lovely way to remember a loyal and beloved friend.

#7: If Possible, Be There

#7: If Possible, Be There

Laura Caseley for LittleThings

We don’t always have a choice in how our dogs pass on.

If it’s an accident or completely unexpected, you might not be with your dog at the end.

However, if you can choose to be with your dog, definitely do it, though it might be painful for you.

What’s important is that your dog will feel loved and unafraid with you by his side holding his paw.

#8: Remember, You Gave Your Pup The Best Life

#8: Remember, You Gave Your Pup The Best Life

Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Eventually, as the weeks and months pass, you’ll find yourself healing. You’ll never stop loving and missing your dog, but you’ll know that your pup is in a better place now.

Most important of all, you will know that, while he was here with you, you gave him the best life ever.

He loved you to pieces, and we bet he wouldn’t have traded one second of the life the two of you had together.



26 responses to “8 Things Every Dog Owner Should Know When Their Pet Crosses The Rainbow Bridge”

  1. bill doyle says:

    thank you for a guide through these most difficult days as my 13 year old baby girl rescue passed 10 days after our birthdays she was born on my birthday but im 60 . This happened yesterday and im a wet rag have no energy no appetite live alone……and disabled………my heart is empty and my house has a big empty hole in it. I can barely stand up but thank you.

    • MsMoneypenny says:

      Three months later and the pain is still as raw as it was when I lost him. I don’t really enjoy anything any more. I am cheered when I see and get to interact with a dog but terrified of going through this pain again. Twice in four years.

    • Maggie says:

      Sorry to hear about your loss I just lost my great friend dillinger today he would have been 9 years old this year. He was a great Chihuahua

  2. Peggy says:

    Dear Bill, I am so sorry for your loss……….and words can’t take away your pain. In time the pain will lesson and maybe you can help another fur baby like you so kindly did already .. I wish you the best…

  3. MsMoneypenny says:

    No, he’s not in a better place. His better place was here, with me. That comment drives me crazy.

  4. Lisa says:

    The part about guilt is so true. No matter how much we think we are making the right decision at the time, I think it is human nature to start second guessing those decisions after the fact. Feeling guilt after the loss of a pet is actually one of the reasons my daughters and I came up with our pet loss cards. It’s comforting to hear that you did the best you could or that you provided a great life for your pet after they have passed. Thanks for sharing.

  5. JoeB says:

    I fully understand about the guilt, I was the one who rescued my best friend Bo, and he never forgot it. Through the years I was the one that took him to the vet when he needed it I was the one that made it all better. At the end when the tumor had weakened him I carried him into the vets and he looked at me as if to say Dad I trust you, you wont hurt me. I held him as he drifted away on the exam table. I feel the guilt of letting him down, of betraying him. The grief I feel is raw, I miss my dear friend and hope he is good where ever he is.

    • Marcio says:

      I have the same feeling of guilt of letting him down or betraying him. He passed two days ago. I haven’t worked since things started to get worse with him. He was always in my office, while I was working. Today I sat for a few minutes and almost heard him saying. “Oh really? You let me go and life goes on? Is that the way you loved me? Just going to work and pretending that nothing happened?”. I felt so bad and couldn’t finish what I had to do. I am feeling miserable.

      • Heidi says:

        I lost my english bulldog about 9 hours ago. I cant sleep he was my best little buddy. I wasnt with him when he died and that I feel guilty for. Maybe I took him to the vet to late, maybe the meds weren’t working I dont know. I just know that I have to stay focused on something or I wont stop crying. I miss him so much, I wish he had died on his mommy’s lap where he felt safe. I wonder was he trying to hold out until I woke up? I too feel guilty that maybe I didnt do enough to help him. I’m heart broken and so sad

  6. enthia says:

    my rabbit passed on 5 years ago it kind of made me hate my brother as i can’t go on a holiday before his death and i did not see him off his last journey and i did not know where he was buried i felt so sad that i could not visit him but i put on fake smiles so that he would not feel sad and now i am 12 sometimes i cry in my sleep because i dream of him

  7. Rylea says:

    Thanks for the guide my moms dog just past today

  8. Steve C. says:

    My dog Chewie died last Thursday. I miss him so much. He was a beautiful Goldendoodle that made it almost to 14 years of age. We fought so hard to keep him going. The house is so empty. This has really hit me hard. I love you Chewie.

    • We are very sorry for your loss. I just lost 2 in the past 4 months so I know how much it hurts.
      We have a pet loss and bereavement section on our website which give you resources in case you need a sounding board.
      We also have a memorial section where you can donate a small amount and put up a remembrance to your sweet Chewie.
      Again, we are very sorry for your loss.

  9. Animal Lover says:

    I came across your website in search for the right words to put in a card to Joe Petit, who recently experienced the horror of his neighbor shooting his beloved “Ludwig”…this is an ongoing case, in which the killer did not get charged (yet). I believe this will go to a civil case as I believe the truth has NOT been told and the killer should be held accountable. If there is anything you can send to help Joe in his grief, it is appreciated. His address is:
    5N 730 Pearson Dr. Wayne, IL 60184 (public knowledge). Thank you.

  10. Jason B says:

    Just had to put my 18 yr old miniature dachshund, Oakley, down today. One of the hardest things i’ve ever had to do. Still not sure we made the right decision. I never realized how many daily habits we had together until now.

  11. Yolanda says:

    Thank you so much for this. I had to make the decision 2 weeks ago for my beautiful Boston Ava. She would have 14 on Oct 10th and she picked me at 5 weeks. I have only felt pain like this one other time and that was when my brother died. I’m trying so hard to put all of my energy into my Bulldogge puppy Gypsy whom I love desperately but I miss the quiet calming of Ava’s presence

  12. LYNDA QUICKEL says:


  13. OwnerMe says:

    Today, I had to make the very tough choice of helping my 14 y.o. pitbull “Sparkle” to “cross over the Rainbow Bridge”. It was somewhat expected as she had been slowly declining, and the only good that helped in those last moments was having the opportunity to say Goodbye while staring into her peaceful eyes rather than some other tragic way that would have robbed me of that. I didn’t expect our vet to burst into tears which of course catapulted my emotions! Goodbye Sparkle. 14 years went way too fast.

  14. I will never stop mourning for Marley he was all I HAD PLUS MY BEST FRIEND! I would do anything to get him back healthy I am very upset and miss him so , I want to know about rainbow bridge is it for real in heaven? I had Marley blessed.

  15. Steve Yousten says:

    You can guess why I’m here. Lost my girl 7 months ago. Got her at 2 and had her for almost 10 years. Doing well but I had to walk somewhere today and I could feel her beside me, smiling up at me about getting to go on another great Adventure. For 10 years I wouldn’t walk anywhere unless she was with me and it brought it all back. I know one day I’ll have to let her go, but I’m just not ready yet. At least I know I’m not crazy.

  16. jeff fowler says:

    i lost my sophie yesterday i was out of town my wife let her out to use bathroom in less then 3 min she had got run over and killed ive had her 10 yrs im so hurt and sad i feel part of me died also how do i move on please mail me a letter at 1301 witherow bridge rd ne dalon ga 30721

  17. Cynthia Hines says:

    I just lost my choc lab Einstein was the BEST DOG EVER!! I Was with him when he died I told him how much I loved him and that it was ok to go. Even though I didn’t want him to I knew it was best, I have done nothing but sob for the last 5 days. I just want my baby back I love him so so much.

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