Don’t ever feel guilty about grieving the death of a pet. We are saddened or distressed when valuable possessions are broken or lost. But grief at a pet’s death can be deeper than the loss of any inanimate object. A dog may not be “worth” nearly as much in dollars as an antique, but the real value of “man’s best friend” is not monetary. Dogs aren’t things; they’re companions. They’re not man-made objects, but conscious beings—masterpieces of the Creator. There are ways in which a pet dog in its innocence can be our “best friend,” touchingly responsive to our moods and emotions.
Although they aren’t created in God’s image like human beings, higher animals share many remarkable qualities with us. They exhibit traits like joy, loyalty, affection, and courage. They also help us discover much about how to live fully in the present moment and enjoy the beautiful world that God has made.
Grief for a pet is real and valid because the relationship between them and us is real. The emotional impact of a family dog’s death is a real and significant loss, although on a lesser scale than that of a friend or family member. A pet’s death offers opportunities for learning important lessons about the grief process and preparing for future losses that will hurt even more.
We often find it easy to love our pets unconditionally because of their own loyalty and unconditional love for us. However, if our sense of loss at the death of a pet is more severe than the sense of loss of human friends and relatives who have died, we should consider why. Even in a world cursed with sin, we should miss human relationships more than relationships with pets. In this sense, the grief at a pet’s death can bring an awareness of our need for deeper relationships with the people in our lives.
It’s never healthy to suppress or deny your grief. Mourning the death of an animal that has shared your life experiences for years will be painful, but attempts to deny it will have negative consequences. Don’t forget the relationship you had with your dog any more than you would forget your relationship with a human loved one who has died.