We shared Zoe’s story and this is what happened next

Immediately following the death of our dog, Zoe, we took respite at a local restaurant. We couldn’t bear to face the emptiness of our dog-less home.

Zoe Love

Zoe, giving us unconditional love on her last day….Photo by Shallow Reflections™

We weren’t hungry, and reassured the server that our tears and poor intake were not from dissatisfaction with the food. She said she had recently made the gut-wrenching decision to re-home her dog, and understood our pain.

The lesson for us was not to hold back tears, and if you share your story others will share theirs.

I wrote about Zoe the day before she died during those interminable hours leading to her euthanasia. I wrote between sobs the next day, while we were cloistered in our home with broken hearts.

I thought I’d delay posting the piece as it seemed too soon and too raw. And then it seemed like I had to, because it was so soon and so raw.

Little did we know when I clicked ‘publish’ how many would read Zoe’s story, and respond by sharing empathy and comfort.

Many expressed feelings of sorrow over their own decision to end a pet’s life, or anguish over a decision looming in the near future.

No one said, “She was just a dog. Get over it.”

We read stories about Bruno, Daisy, Clara, Ranger, Monty, Boots, Zoe, Zoey, Rebel, Buster, Willy, Barney, Max, Emma, Bruin, Calvin, Winston, Alley, Boots, Digitalis, Zack, Chelsea, Ethel, Snookie, Benii, Emma, Roxie, Susie, Abby, Maggie, Rex, Molly, Cali and Shelby.

Some lived full lives; others cut short from tragic accidents or illnesses.

Here is a sampling from dozens of comments:

  • My heart goes out to you. We went through this same thing 3 months ago….4 years ago….last week….when we said goodbye to our beloved dog….cat.
  • I didn’t know how much my dog had become the fabric of my life…until he was gone.
  • I’ve held two of my dogs as they took their last breaths. Wrenching, but I take comfort believing they left this world knowing they were loved.
  • I had to put down my dog the day before he turned 14 years old. It was one of the saddest days in my life….Due to health issues I have decided I cannot care for another pet
  • I read your blog to my husband and we both cried, as much for you and your family as it was for us dealing with our loss….thank you for putting our feelings into words when we couldn’t.
  • It was horrible to see our dog go downhill…and it was a different horrible to have her gone.
  • Dogs are so loyal and full of love….wishing you peace in the days ahead and little bittersweet reminders of the four-legged friend that stole your heart: puppy collars from smaller days, dog hair on the furniture, and paw prints on your heart.
Zoe paw print

We found this in the snow the day after her death. Photo by Shallow Reflections™

One writer shared these lessons from her experience of loving and owning 11 dogs:

  • Life is fleeting – bark when you feel like singing and wag more.
  • If it’s stinky, roll in it (I learned it, but I don’t do it!)
  • If dogs lived as long as we do, the number of dogs we could have would be limited. This way, we get to enjoy many more.
  • They would probably do it for us, if they could.
  • Nothing snaps you out of mourning faster than a puppy peeing on the floor.
  • They are all waiting patiently for us to arrive wherever they are now.

People suggested ways to keep Zoe’s memory alive:

  • Create a photo album to remind us of the good times
  • Have a photo Christmas ornament made
  • Put a memorial in the yard, either a stone or a marker
  • Get another puppy….same breed if possible. Won’t be a clone, but enough similar characteristics that Zoe will clearly be with us
  • Have a pet portrait done by a local artist
  • Give a donation in her memory to the Humane Society
  • Have a temporary memorial in the house with her photo and some of her favorite items
Zoe with us 3

We miss her, but it is comforting to have her remains at home with us. photo by Shallow Reflections ™

Humor helps me cope, and these jokes popped into my brain for some comic relief:

  • I thought I was doing fine with our loss, until Patrick caught me drinking wine out of the dog dish. Just kidding. It was gin.
  • Patrick was startled when I woke him up this morning. Turns out my breath made him think Zoe was back.

When I put together Zoe’s photo/memory book I will include this verse a reader shared. He said it helped him cope when he lost his pug, and it has been a great comfort to us:

“We who choose to surround ourselves
with lives even more temporary than our
own, live within a fragile circle;
easily and often breached.
Unable to accept its awful gaps,
we would still live no other way.
We cherish memory as the only
certain immortality, never fully
understanding the necessary plan.”
-Irving Townsend

Thank you for reading Zoe’s story and showering us with condolences and compassion. We hope her story can help someone else suffering through this experience.

We haven’t signed up for a new puppy yet, but we’ve stopped saying ‘never again.’

Have you shared your story about losing a beloved pet? Do you need to?

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31 thoughts on “We shared Zoe’s story and this is what happened next

  1. My mom keeps an urn of our dogs…and we’ve had many. My own animals I have parted with in ways less conventional so have no memorial nor true memory of the day I’d have to say goodbye. One dog died with my ex, another ran away, and the cat after spitting up the longest tapeworm in feline history disappeared to pass in peace in following days. :/ My memorial or my pictures I keep on my Facebook and someday hope to make my own memory book, they were my babes before…my babes. 😉 And their memories now make me smile. Beautiful post.

  2. Had to get a tissue 💕I may be coming back to this post soon for comfort . . . I have two that will one day soon be living in only my heart and my memories. Lancelot and Guinevere, precious pieces of my heart.

    • I’m so sorry you will be facing this in the future, Crystal. I hope it is not for a long time. Enjoy them while you can but when the day comes, know there are others who have been through it and understand the pain.

    • It was amazing how many people responded to my posts about making the decision to put Zoe down and the aftermath. It was so helpful to me and if writing about it even helped one person I felt like I had done my job.

  3. It has been 8 years since the family dog of my childhood passed away and I still cry when I think about her. A black labrador retriever who lived to be 15 years old, Novia was possibly the world’s best dog. I still remember as a child when she would sneak into my room and steal one of my barbies to chew on. I would get so mad! If only I could hug her one more time. She was a friend to me during those difficult years of early adolescence and the first time a boy broke my heart, I remember laying on her soft belly, crying into her comforting fur. Dogs just understand, without any words, they know our hearts in so many ways. I love that the bible talks about the beasts of the earth teaching us something if we would but ask them. (Job 12:7) Thanks for sharing your loss and your memories!!

    • Thank you for sharing your story, Sarah. I’m so grateful that the painful loss of our Zoe could touch so many lives. We have been moved by all the stories and sharing and know that Zoe didn’t just make a difference in our lives, but in the lives of so many others who have loved and lost precious pets.

  4. I knew when I read about Zoe, your story would soon be helpful in our lives. Maizie, our 13 year-old yellow lab, has become deaf, lame-sometimes she just “tips over”, and has several accidents on a nearly daily basis. Usually I have to lift her onto the ground from the deck to pee. We have an appointment with the vet tomorrow, just to be sure there’s not something wrong-she’s had Lyme so we (I) want to be sure there’s nothing we’re missing. My husband has made peace with the inevitable, but I guess I’m not there yet. I keep waiting for a sign, though when I read this, the signs are there. My family keeps saying,”people use diapers and wheelchairs, so why would you think about putting her down, just because it’s easier?”. It’s such a difficult decision, especially when mealtime comes and she gets so excited! I thought I was rational and could be selfless, but not today. Hoping I can make the right decision tomorrow, if that’s what it comes down to. Thanks for being there, Molly!

    • Oh Ann, my heart goes out to you and your husband. It is such a difficult decision, and not as clear cut as one would wish for. We also took Zoe to see if there was any medical condition contributing to her situation. The diapers did work, especially at first. Then there were accidents nearly every day with the diaper. No one can tell you when the time is right. It will help to discuss with the vet. I’ll be thinking of you and your Maizie tomorrow. Let me know how it goes.

      • Thanks, I will. You’re right-only we know the right thing to do, and we’ll do it with the vet’s direction.

      • Well, unfortunately there was no magic treatment to be prescribed. The vet felt that Maizie had too much muscle wasting in her legs to regain her strength. She offered a different combination of meds to treat her pain, but we said no. We didn’t want to cross the line from selfless to selfish, so chose to put her down. It’s truly been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, and I miss her every second. Thanks for listening. Unless you’ve been there, you can’t know how difficult it is. Keep up the good work!

        • I wish there was something I could say to erase the pain, Ann. You have been on my mind, and I wish it had been a different outcome. This stage of dog ownership really sucks. You did the loving thing for Maizie, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. I hope the blog posts give you some comfort knowing you are not alone. So many have experienced your pain and loss and understand. Hugs.

  5. We took in a rescue dog who we were told had all her shots, but she shortly died of Parvo. When we were ready to have another pet we all instantly fell in love with a sweet, kissing fluffy ball of Collie. My 7-year-old son asked me if it was safe to really love this dog. My answer was what I always told myself, “It was safer to love and experience the full measure of love, than not to.” I posted this quote on my FB page & timeline the other day: Be the person your dog thinks you are! I wish I could post the meme here as it is on an image of a full grown Collie, just like our Kippy. In times of stress, I spend time thinking about her and breathe again.

    • So sorry to hear of the loss of your rescue dog. That must have been rough. I went to your page and saw the meme with the collie that looks like your Kippy. Dogs do help us focus and relax, don’t they. So happy that Kippy is bringing you and your family such joy. I wondered after we lost Zoe if it would be hard for me to see others with their dogs, and I’ve found it is just the opposite. It give me great comfort to see dogs and their humans loving each other. Thank you for stopping by, Rosyln, and sharing your story.

  6. We adopted our dog Stinky, a gorgeous furry Lhasa Apso, when he was 4 1/2 years old, when the owners could no longer care for him, as they had a new baby. He was an amazing dog, fearless and although he was small, he seemed to believe he was a German Shepard. Although during his last few years he was on the decline, I continued trying anything new and he would rebound temporarily. It only put off the inevitable. I was deathly ill and some thought he stayed alive to be there for me. He was 17 1/2, and his quality of life had declined dramatically, so I finally had to make an appointment to end his misery. On that morning, my daughter put him outside for some fresh air while she cleaned the soiled space where he slept. When she came out to get him, she found he had passed on, as if he “knew” the decision we had made. I had promised him I would get better, and I was true to my word. I’ve written this story in my book because right after he passed, I had an amazing experience where I “saw” him running towards the light. He stopped and turned to look at me to see if was ok. Of course it was.

    Being an animal lover, I know how hard it is to lose a beloved pet. My daughter is living with me now and has a dog and two cats. The love I feel for them is beyond words. Molly, I love your ability to bring humour into even the most challenging of times and may your memories of Zoe bring you great joy as you move on without her by your side. Much love and healing to you and your husband. I absolutely LOVE the paw print you found in the snow the day after Zoe passed and thank you for sharing it with us all!

    • Thank YOU, Beverley, for sharing your story. I love the name Stinky! How sad to lose him, but it sounds like he gave you a definite sign that he was doing fine in his ‘new’ life. We had looked for that with Zoe and found a shiny penny on the floor after we had taken down our Christmas tree and vacuumed. We couldn’t imagine how it got there, and we comforted ourselves with the belief that Zoe sent us a penny from heaven. Not much compensation for all the money we spent on her through the years, but it was the thought that counts, right? Haha! I appreciate your kind, and comforting words during this time of painful adjustment for us in our dog-less home.

  7. We lost our a year ago last September. I can’t say I miss his farts – but I do miss his face and his soft tongue. I’m not surprised your readers jumped in – unfortunately too many can relate to the experience.

    • There are some things I don’t miss, too, Liv (besides farts!) Last weekend we went away for the first time in 20 years without coordinating doggie care. Unfortunately when we came home to an empty house it didn’t seem worth it. 🙁 Thank you for reading and leaving a comment.

  8. I am one of those commenters who went through the same thing just last month. I feel your sorrow, your anguish and your loss. And thank you for writing about it so that others, like me, know we are not alone.

    • I know you did, Helene. I read your blog post about your beloved Duncan, and cried because I knew we were headed there soon with our Zoe. I just went to your site and read your post introducing Max, your new puppy, who was clearly meant to be. We are in the stage of not being ready for a puppy but my heart skipped a beat when I saw photos of Max. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  9. It’s heartbreaking to lose a pet and all the more so when you have to make the decision in order save them pain. I cherish every moment with our little 14-year-old fur baby and dread the day I have to say goodbye. Your story was touching and sweet and I’m glad to published right away so others could find solace in it.

  10. Thanks fur (not typo) your article.
    When Leslie left her cat when she moved, I took care of Katie. I took her to the Vet for the last time. That afternoon I cried while trying to get groceries. Pets are part of a family

  11. Oh, Molly, this was such a poignant piece–and I loved your touch of humor; amid the tears and pain, it IS possible to smile, even laugh. You’ve done a wonderful thing by sharing your loss and enabling others to share theirs. XO

    • Thank you, Roxanne. It has been quite an experience to share this loss through the blog, and receive the response from readers. Writing is a therapeutic outlet for me and I’m glad it helped others share their feelings about losing beloved pets. XO back to you.

    • Thank you Marcia. It is so hard to imagine life without them and it is the first time in 20 years we have been without a dog. We are not going to rush into getting a new dog for now, and we love to see other people enjoying theirs. Give those two pugs a hug for me okay?

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