Losing a pet is always very emotional for the owner. There are feelings of sadness (denial and isolation), anger, and often times of self blame (bargaining), then there’s a feeling of loneliness (depression), and then finally, acceptance. Although these feelings are, at the core, basically the same for someone with a pet as opposed to a someone with a service dog, they are stronger and longer lasting. Don’t worry, as someone with a service dog that has passed on, I have some experience here, and I can confirm, these feelings do go away!
Feeling sad is normal, and you may feel lonely and even scared, I want you to know that this is okay. You have been together for twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for years and years. The question “What will I do now without my dog?” is natural! Now, you have probably retired your dog from working full-time and have been living a functional life without them for sometime, but this is different, they are completely gone now.
You may also deal with issues of anger too, this is completely normal and just a phase of the grieving process as a whole. Maybe you are angry at yourself, feeling like you might have done something wrong. You didn’t. Maybe you are angry at them for ‘leaving you’. They didn’t. It wasn’t their choice, it was just their time! I know for me, Japhy, my service dog (in the picture) held on as long as he could. How could I know this? You just do, I think you could ask anyone with a dog and they would say the same thing “You just know.”
Then you start in on the self-doubt, or “bargaining” stage, asking yourself questions like, “What could I have done differently”? I even thought to myself, “If I hadn’t taken him to the vet, maybe I could’ve had him for a few more days!” Yes, I really thought that but I finally got to the last stage, acceptance.
The timeline will be different for other people, but it took me about a year to get ‘completely’ over it. Do I still have those feelings of loss? Yes, but they are not as strong. Do I still feel lonely? Not as often anymore, but like I said, he was there 24/7 audit’s hard not to notice that he’s not here anymore. Unfortunately, service dogs are so rare, it is difficult to find someone else who has been through the same thing, but reach out to other pet owners in the community or your veterinarian might know someone who you might be able to talk to.