Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

Pet Loss: One Last Goodbye?


Pet Loss_ One Last Goodbye?I felt his nose against the back of my leg,” my friend reported. “I was cooking dinner, wasn’t thinking about him but then I felt it. Right where he always leans.” She was undone. This wasn’t in her range of experience. She had no idea what to make of it. But her old dog had died recently and she was both unnerved and also happy to have felt him. I reassured her that this sort of thing and variations of it are pretty common experiences though few people speak of them.

He ran through the house today,” another grieving dog lover reported. “People will have me committed if they heard that but I saw him. This morning. And he was happy.

Through the decades of being present for people grieving their companions, I’ve heard many such accounts. People hear their dog, feel their dog, see their dog, sense their dog. The experience is unexpected and never on cue. The human is always surprised but also comforted. The universal sense seems to be that this is the dog’s way to let their person know they are okay.

I cannot speak to that. My intellectual side tells me this is a sorrow-filled mind making peace with a profound loss. My spiritual side wonders if this is a last connection from a dear one. My heart tells me it doesn’t really matter what it is. What matters is that it is common, it is comforting and if it happens to you, know you’re not alone and you’re not crazy—you’re a grieving human being who dearly loved that dog.

What do you think? The mind at work or two spirits touching one last time?

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  1. I think many things are possible. I study my family tree all the time, and have had no visitations, per se. My dog has end of life issues and seems to be having visitations herself…who knows?

  2. My heart and my mind tell me different things, but I know this: my dogs never truly leave me. I can forever feel their coat, smell them, remember their bark, the way they ‘talked’ to me. I lost a lovely girl at 18 months some years ago, but every now and then, when I bend over and the basset pendant I always wear comes free of my shirt, I swear I can feel Matilda nibbling at it the way she loved to do. I still get teary-eyed. Yes, part of me grieves forever, but another part, the stronger part, is happy that I can remember my dogs, and their quirky personalities, with joy and gratitude.

  3. Charlie was 8 when I got him. I had been lied to about his history. He had been badly abused and was deeply traumatized. He was a strong, highly intelligent cat who has been crushed. For the first two months he hid behind the toilet only coming out when no one was around to eat and use the litter box. When he finally did come out he was violent and hostile and would attack anything that came near him. Fortunately, his claws had been removed so as long as you dodged his teeth you were ok. It was several more months before he would let me touch him. I don’t remember exactly when he realized he was safe and no one would hurt him again, but he latched onto me like a drowning man to a float. He would be waiting at the door when I came home, in my lap when I was at the computer, followed me from room to room when I wasn’t, and slept curled into me every night.

    I had had cats before. I loved them, they got old and did, and I got new cats. But when something loves you as fiercely as Charlie loved me, it’s way deeper than that. When he died, there was a void in my life that will never be filled again. It’s been almost 10 months and I still am sometimes surprised when he isn’t at the door when I come home.

    Shortly after he died, I was in bed, half asleep when I felt him jump onto my bed. He walked up the bed as he always did, flopped onto his side and nuzzled into my shoulder, his favorite spot to sleep. I froze, wondering if I had gone crazy, not daring to open my eyes, and then he was gone. The next night, it happened again. It hasn’t happened again since. Maybe it was my imagination, maybe it wasn’t. I will never know.

    • Hi Brad – What a moving story of a deep connection. The animals who we have to work the hardest with to build the bond often nestle in the deepest within us, so I am not surprised that Charlie left a lasting void. Imagination or not, I am sure that if such a friend could come back, he would. Thank you for sharing this. – Sarah

  4. My first dog had come from a hoarder, was neglected and unloved. We developed a bond that I knew would last into eternity. I missed her terribly after she died, especially at night when she snuggled in. But three times she came back to me for a little snuggling. Normally, I wouldn’t have been one to believe in such things, but this really did happen and it was too vivid to be a dream or wishful thinking. I found the experience very comforting and it was a blessing to have had this chance to be with my little love again.

  5. I lost my beloved boxer Riley at the age of eleven to an aggressive cancer. I was devastated as only another pet owner can understand. I was so lost without him; he was my heart dog and closer to me than any other dog before or since. I couldn’t believe that he was gone and I’d never get to touch him again. Then about two weeks after his death I dreamed that he came to me and I got to pet him, hug him and get some sloppy boxer kisses, one last time. I have never dreamed of him since then. I still miss him terribly and probably always will but after the dream I felt a sense of peace and closure about losing him and I was able to move on and adopt another dog. Did he really come to me that night? All I know is how real it felt to me.

  6. I have had this happen and I know I’m not crazy .I don’t let anyone know except my daughter in fear of being put away.

  7. It happened to me with Rusty. On the way home from the vet’s office, I heard his tags jingling in the back seat where his car seat was. I am convinced he was saying goodbye. 🙂

  8. I haven’t had any of the experiences that y’all are talking about. And actually I have to say that I am jealous . I still cry all the time over the loss of my Giant Akita, Booger. I actually physically ache to feel him. I miss him so much. I don’t let anyone know that I still cry because every seems to have “gotten over” losing him already. But it has left a hole in my heart so large that I don’t think it will ever be filled. We lost him Nov. 16, 2015. I know this sounds CRAZY, but he and I had a lot in common and we needed each other. He was a stray who adopted us, and the best dog anyone could ever ask for. He had a gimped up front leg that he used to “hit” me with when he wanted to get my attention, and I would give anything to feel that one more time.

    • It doesn’t sound crazy to me, Laura. Not at all. You only lost Booger a couple of months ago. Of course you still miss him and cry. Healing takes time. It sounds like you two had a very special bond. You both were lucky. I’m so sorry for your loss. – Sarah

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