Pet Loss and Grief - Articles Archive

A loss of a pet is still a loss.

05/04/2017 9:22 PM AEST |

The author’s dog, Sapp, who loved going for rides and running on golf courses.

“U want to cancel bc ur dog back home died? Haha.”

A few months after I moved to New York in 2013, I learned that my beloved childhood yorkie, Sapp, passed away. I was supposed to go on a date that night ― my first one ever since moving to the city ― and I felt like I just couldn’t handle it. That was the text I got in response to suggesting we reschedule.

I went on the date because I felt bad inconveniencing him. (Ah, young Lindsay. Still had so much to learn.) Part of me hoped that it would be a good distraction. When I got there, I was met with more condescension about my emotions.

Unsurprisingly, the dude didn’t last. But the impact of his dismissive attitude ― which made me feel like I was ridiculous for being sad over my pet ― did. And it wasn’t until a few months later that I actually processed (and cried) over Sapp being gone.

A simple Google search for “pet grief” yields millions of results, proof that many people mourn the loss of a pet. The theme even permeates pop culture: Books and movies have long explored what happens when our beloved dogs predecease us, from classics like “Old Yeller” and “Lassie” to newer tales like Marley and Me and A Dog’s Purpose.

But people can still report feeling embarrassed for grieving a furry friend, especially when others make insensitive comments.

Let’s make one thing clear: There’s nothing frivolous about being in mourning. It’s a lesson I wish I’d understood then. Pets can be just as important as human family members and losing them can be devastating.

Research suggests that human beings feel connected to their furry friends and they feel bonded to us, too. So it makes sense that we feel the magnitude of their passing when they’re gone.

“We need to be more sensitive to pet loss and the grief surrounding it,” grief expert Dan Reidenberg, executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education and chair of the American Psychotherapy Association, told me. “Pets can be in our lives for years. When that constant companion is all of a sudden gone, the grief is not only real but it can be profound.”

Reidenberg stresses the first step to moving forward from the loss is just acknowledging that you’re grieving. Below are a few other tips he says might also help:

Don’t set a time limit on how long you mourn.

Just let the process happen. “If you push it too fast it may come back down the road,” Reidenberg said. “If you delay it, you may find it coming out in different ways, such as irritability, lack of concentration, poor quality of work or trouble in relationships.”

Don’t compare your grief to someone else’s

“If a friend lost their pet and seemed to get over it in a few days but two weeks into your loss and you are still crying, that’s okay,” Reidenberg said. “We are all different in how we process our feelings so be okay being with your grief process.”

Decide what to do with your pet’s things

Some people want to leave their pet’s water dish out, others want to box it up immediately. There’s no one right way to do it. “What is important is to do what makes you comfortable when you are hurting,” Reidenberg explained.

Keep a photo of your pet around

“Just because our pets are gone does not mean you have to totally remove them from your life,” he said. That could mean putting up photos of your furry friend on your desk or keeping an image of them as your phone background.

Seek support if necessary

There are pet loss groups that can help if you’re having difficulties coping. If the loss begins to interfere with your everyday life, Reidenberg recommends reaching out to a mental health professional.

The bottom line, Reidenberg says, is to remember that your emotions may be unexpected but they’re still valid. They certainly were for me.

When I went through a painful breakup, had a bad cold, was dealing with anxiety or just needed a companion, my dog was there. I never spent time imagining a world where he wouldn’t be. The reality of that was difficult to process at first.

A loss of a pet is still a loss. And you’re allowed to grieve over it.

Credits: Virginia State Parks on flickr


Animals provide companionship, acceptance, emotional support and unconditional love.  If you understand this connection between human and animal, then you understand that coping with loss and grief of a pet is no different than when a person you love dies.  It’s natural for family and friends to express sorrow for your loss for a human, unfortunately, many people do not understand how important animals can be in people’s lives.  Many people may not even understand why you are grieving over the loss of your pet.

People consider their pet as part of the family.  They oftentimes will celebrate their pets’ birthdays, take pictures with them and include them in family activities.

The grieving process is as individual as the person, and can last for days and yet for another for years.  The grieving process is very much the same as when losing a close family member or loved one.  The Kubler-Ross model, otherwise known as the five stages of grief include: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling.  You can experience all five stages and then begin the process from the beginning again.  There is no timetable.

The loss of a pet may be a child’s first experience with death.  The child may blame themselves, their parents, or the veterinarian for not saving the pet.  Children may have feelings of depression, sadness and fear that other people they love may also be taken away from them.  Trying to protect your child by saying their pet ran away can cause feeling of betrayal once they learn the truth.  Expressing your own grief and allowing your child to grieve is a healthy way to approach the loss and the sadness.  It is healthy to be able to talk about your pet and reminisce about all the happy times instead of avoiding the topic. Encourage your child to talk about your pet. You can prepare a memorial for your pet and have your child write a letter to their pet… it can be a cathartic experience for them.

Many people ask the question of whether they should replace their pet immediately.  Rushing into this decision does not allow your child or other family members to experience the loss and sadness which is part of life.  You will know when the right time is to adopt a new pet after giving yourself time to grieve.

Owning a pet provides many wonderful experiences including companionship, support and love. Pets have their own personalities and we grow to love them deeply. Do not allow others to minimize your loss when they say “it was just a pet”.  Owning and caring for a pet takes a truly special individual.  Take your time with your grief.

There are many wonderful pet-support groups and hotlines.  If you find yourself unable to cope, you can seek counseling.



Our 14 year old dog, Abbey, died last month. The day after she died, my 4 year old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey.. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so she dictated these words:


Dear God,

Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you inheaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.

I hope you will play with her. She likes to play with balls and to swim. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her You will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.

Love, Meredith


We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to Heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.


Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, ‘To Meredith’ in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, ‘When a Pet Dies.’ Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:



Dear Meredith,

Abbey arrived safely in Heaven.

Having the picture was a big help. I recognized Abbey right away.

Abbey isn’t sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don’t need our bodies in heaven, I don’t have any pockets to keep your picture in, so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.

Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you.

I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.

By the way, I’m easy to find, I am wherever there is love.





Published April 9, 2017 – 1:04pm
Last Updated April 11, 2017 – 12:20pm

 My sweet Maddie on her favourite pillow.
My sweet Maddie on her favorite pillow.



Published: September 22, 2012

Lyons, Colo.

Shawn Kuruneru


ODY died peacefully last year, Nov. 29. He was 14 and a half. Truth be told, Ody didn’t just die. I killed him. I paid a vet to come to my house and inject a chemical solution into a vein in Ody’s back leg.

People ask me how I knew it was time. There was no watershed, but a slow accumulation of miseries. Ody had been in serious decline for six months. Partial paralysis of his laryngeal muscles made it hard for him to breathe, and he would begin to pant at the slightest exertion. His once deep tenor bark had transformed into a raspy Darth Vader croak. The signals from his addled brain often failed to reach his body, so when I walked him he left a Hansel and Gretel trail of pee and poop behind him. His muscles atrophied, and his walk was crab-like and unsteady. He grew increasingly uninterested in food and people, his two great passions. Worst of all, he began falling more and more frequently and was unable to get up by himself.

Toward the end, I would wake in the night to scuffling sounds. I’d search the house and find Ody trapped behind the piano or tangled up in the exercise equipment. It was on the fourth such night that my husband said: “It’s time. We can’t do this to Ody anymore.”

Euthanasia is deeply entrenched in the culture of pet keeping in America, and for the vast majority of companion animals, death will be orchestrated by a human caretaker, the time and date chosen in advance and not, as it were, decided by “nature” or some higher power. Yet despite its ubiquity, we rarely question its moral appropriateness.

Euthanasia is typically thought of as a choice between suffering and death — and, indeed, it can offer relief from unyielding pain. But death is too often prescribed as a de facto treatment for suffering when much less aggressive possibilities exist. We can ease our animals into the valley of death, rather than abruptly shoving them off the cliff.

Pain is the barometer most often used to assess whether an animal should be euthanized, and one of the most important improvements we can make in caring for our pets is to provide them with better palliative care. Untreated or undertreated pain is epidemic among companion animals. Kevin Stafford, an authority on veterinary ethics, estimates that 10 million dogs in the United States suffer from osteoarthritis but that only a small fraction get treatment. Of those dogs that do, he says, many are treated ineffectually or are given too little pain medicine for too short a time. The only treatment many arthritic dogs receive is euthanasia.

Effective and affordable pain treatments for animals are available; many human pain drugs were developed using animals. We can also lessen the pain for ailing pets with structural alterations to our homes, like ramps.

Why, then, are so many animals in pain? The reasons are largely cultural. Some veterinarians, particularly older ones, have been taught that animals don’t feel pain (the same convenient skepticism under which the animal research juggernaut labors). Few vets specialize in palliative care, and treating pain effectively takes a tenacity that harried and underpaid vets may find difficult to muster on a daily basis. And pet owners can be inattentive, even lazy.

To be sure, animal pain can be tricky to recognize and treat. Cats and rabbits are notorious for their so-called stoicism, but dogs, too, may not display pain in ways we easily see. As with humans, responses to pain vary. Effective pain management often requires trial and error with various types of drugs, as well as the use of non-drug therapies like weight management, controlled exercise, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture and nutritional supplements.

Pain must be understood broadly, as it is in human medicine, to include psychological suffering. Ody’s physical ailments were mostly caused by neurological decline. The fact that he wasn’t obviously in physical pain made the decision to euthanize a difficult one, because I was left to make an imperfect judgment about his overall well-being.

Quality-of-life assessments have long been used within human end-of-life care, and similar tools for assessing our animals are increasingly available, well-refined and imminently useful. One nice example is the veterinarian Alice Villalobos’s “Pawspice” program, which directs pet owners to assess their pet on a 1-to-10 scale on seven measures — hurt, hunger, hydration, hygiene, happiness, mobility and “more good days than bad” — with the lowest number being the worst. During Ody’s final decline, I would force myself to think through this assessment. It was hard to be honest. Ody’s score just kept getting lower. But the exercise at least offered a measure of objective

One of the most troublesome moral challenges involves money. We could say that money shouldn’t matter when an animal’s life is in the balance, but this is neither realistic nor fair to pet owners. We might feel a justified repugnance toward the financially well-positioned pet owner who refuses to cough up the money for an antibiotic or inexpensive pain medicine. But the question of money can be gut-wrenching, as when prolonged care for an ill animal is balanced against college education for a child. Luckily, basic palliative care is not particularly expensive, and the emerging field of animal hospice will allow more owners to give respite to their dying animals without going broke.

AT animal hospice, the therapeutic agenda is not abandoned, but its goals shift, sometimes subtly, from cure to compassionate care and comfort. We put aside the desire to fix — the stem-cell treatments, joint replacements, X-rays and biopsies, and the other marvels of modern veterinary medicine — and focus instead on managing pain and allowing death to unfold in its own time. When things get really ugly, we retain the option — still largely unavailable for our human loved ones — of a gentle release.

Unfortunately, the love we feel for our animals can inure us to their suffering. We may wait for our animal to “tell us she is ready,” but our love can make it hard to hear her cries. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing Ody, so I sugarcoated his suffering. I focused on caregiving, feeling vindicated when he showed his typical interest in hot dogs and processed cheese. When, prodded by my husband, I finally called the euthanasia vet, I asked her to come the following day. I need one more day with Ody, to say goodbye, I thought. After realizing that this extra day was for me, not for Ody, I called back, and when I was able to control my voice, I asked her to come as soon as she could.

When the vet arrived at our house that night to perform the procedure, Ody was crouched under the piano, peering out at the family and friends gathered to say farewell. Normally he was drawn to people, but not this night. I watched him turn and stumble off. I followed him onto the flagstone patio, where he stood still, his back legs with their awkward bent. It was a bitterly cold night. I sat next to him and wrapped my arms around his chest and buried my face in the soft red fur of his neck. I didn’t want this moment to end. A few minutes later, my husband opened the door and called, “The vet’s ready.” I sat for another long moment with Ody and then got up and moved toward the door, beckoning him after me. He stood still, looking into the dark. I got behind him and gently touched his back, urging him on.

Jessica Pierce is a bioethicist and the author of “The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the End of Their Lives.”
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on September 23, 2012, on page SR10 of the New York edition with the headline: Deciding When a Pet Has Suffered Enough.

Related Link:
One Sick Dog, One Steep Bill

Is it ethical to spend $25,000 at the vet? Is it O.K. to have a pet if you can’t afford such treatments?


On Jan. 4, 11 years and 26 days after I walked out of an animal shelter in New Jersey with a little white and brown dog attached to the end of a brand-new leash, she died. On this day, an undiagnosed tumor pressed down on Emily’s brain and told her that she needed to escape, which made her usually soft, cuddly and often napping body go wild, endangering herself and me. The humane thing to do was put her down.

I don’t think anything could have prepared me for that moment, or the searing grief that followed. But if I could go back in time to console myself, I would tell myself these six things:

Most people will say the wrong thing. They will talk about dogs they knew and loved and put down, too, or, if they haven’t walked through this long, lonely tunnel yet, about how they can’t possibly imagine losing their very alive pet, which reminds you that yours is dead. They will also ask how old she was, and when you say 15, they will say, “Well, it was a good long life,” as if the ending of it would be less painful because of how long you were together.

They may tell you other dog death stories, too, like the one about the dog who was so excited to be home from vacation that he bolted out of the car and was immediately run over while the whole family watched — stories that imply it could have been worse. They will shove shelter listings for other Jack Russell terriers at you, as if another dog could slip into that perfect little spot left by your beloved one-of-a-kind pet.

Guilt overwhelms. I still tell myself that I killed Emily, despite the veterinarian telling me, after her body had been taken away, while I gripped both a counter and a vet tech to keep from collapsing, that all four of her paws had been bloodied as she had clawed at the floor, the door and the ground during her manic and desperate attempt to get away from my home. There is guilt, too, over the relief of no longer having to take care of a dog who was on multiple medications and who had arthritis, two defective heart valves and pulmonary hypertension.

You will become unmoored. I adopted Emily soon after I became a freelance writer, and I wrote three books with her by my side. She was the metronome to my life. With her gone, I floated through a space she no longer occupied but haunted with every little white hair found on my blankets, on the floor, in my shoes. Once, in the first week following her death, I came up from the basement and looked at the spot where she would usually be waiting. I called for her with the foolish notion that she’d appear at the top of the stairs. But of course, no: just another sledgehammer reminder that she was really gone.

Grief is exhausting. Last fall, I ran two marathons and an ultramarathon. After Emily died, I couldn’t drag myself through three miles, not to mention find the energy to get out of bed, put on clothes that were not my pajamas and shower at regular intervals. I pushed off assignments because the idea of putting my fingers to the keyboard was inconceivable when Emily wasn’t sleeping on her bed in the corner of my office. These were wretched, grief-stained days, surrounded by a deafening silence.

It will get better. You won’t want to hear it, or believe it, because the pain is so suffocating. It does ease, though, almost without you noticing it.

But still, it slaps back. This may happen at predictable moments, such as when you decide to sell her crate, and sometimes not. Soon after Emily died, I got on a plane and went to Florida to bake out the pain with all-day poolside sessions punctuated by midday drinks. It worked, somewhat, but on my last night there, my face cracked open at the World of Disney store when I saw a mug with the character Stitch that said “brave” on one side and “loyal” on the other. Only the cashier noticed that I paid with tears and snot running down my face. I then ran out of the store to stare at a lake.

These days, I get up, I brush my teeth, I write, I run. I smile now and laugh sometimes. The pain still catches me, though, and I can now more clearly see why: I loved that dog, and in giving a scared, abused, imperfect Emily a home, she loved me back, and together our lives both bloomed. The loss of that joy is why the pain is so acute — and why, at some point in the maybe not so distant future, I’ll go back to that animal shelter with a brand-new leash, and do it all over again.

Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2014 7:00 am Associated Press |

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Because Julie Mack’s golden retriever was her best friend, roommate, playmate and travel partner, the euthanized passing of the nearly 12-year-old Clancy was excruciatingly painful. As Clancy’s head rested in her lap, Mack said a tearful goodbye in the privacy of a Fort Wayne veterinarian’s emergency room. Shortly after Clancy’s cremation, Mack’s friends gathered for a brief memorial service.

“I even had a guy come with bagpipes,” Mack says, nearly five years later. “We had a funeral service here at my (Atwood Lake) cottage. And so I started helping people with (their grief).” When a friend had given her a hand-painted wooden box in which to place Clancy’s remains, the gift touched Mack to the point of paying the gesture forward. And recently, she had just completed painting and varnishing her 30th memorial box – this one for a friend in New York. “I do it just to help people get over that loss,” Mack tells The Journal Gazette.

“I feel like there’s not much for people when they lose a pet.” All that could be changing. Public pet bereavement, a subject once questioned with the gesture of raised eyebrow, is not only accepted, but has become commonplace. Newspapers, including The Journal Gazette and The News-Sentinel, publish pet obituaries that include a photograph. Private services, such as Mack’s, are given. Even established funeral homes are offering their services.

“People today are certainly more attached to and into their pets than they have been in the past,” says Doug McComb of D.O. McComb & Sons. “I think it’s a lot because our society is changing in regard to our family structure. In the past, we had family members who were close to each other – lived in the same communities and so forth, and now we have people going away to college, and their first thought isn’t to go back home anymore. Now their thoughts are about moving on to New York or California or someplace like that. There isn’t that interaction with your family; sometimes pets can serve at least a part of that role as a companion. I think some of the relationships with pets today are deeper than they were in the past. People, when they lose their pet, it’s a significant deal in their life.”

McComb says his company will remove the pet from its home as well as offer the cremation and a specific setting for a private service. “We did have a person in the last year or so, the pet that they had was a company mascot,” McComb says. “The pet went from desk to desk and got patted on the head by the various staff members. Everybody was very attached to the dog. So what he did was he had a reception, and they passed out cookies that looked like dog treats. It wasn’t a funeral; it was a reception and kind of recognition for the people in the office that lost an office companion.”

While Clancy’s remains are in a painted box that sits on one of Mack’s end tables, Julie has another companion in Sam, a romping golden retriever who has filled the void in her cottage, if not her heart. “There are no rules to follow, no guidelines to go by, when you lose your pet,” Mack wrote in a short essay. “A pet becomes more like your family member. Their loss is deeply felt. The only thing that you can do is to take each step toward all of your feelings. Don’t try to run or block them. Honor all of your feelings of grief. It is OK to cry. It is OK to feel the void and very deep loss of your pet. Always remember it is OK to miss them. “And remember that down the road you may open your heart to another heart that just wants to be loved.”

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Last updated: November 24, 2009 9:50 a.m.
Emma Downs
The Journal Gazette


“Pet-sympathy cards have long been available, but are more in-demand these days,” says Terri Todd, of the Anne’s Hallmark store on St. Joe Center Road.

Darby was a typical terrier. High-spirited, mischievous, maybe a little too big for his tiny britches. “Ordinarily,” says owner Mary Morrow, 76. “We called him a terror instead of a terrier.” For 14 years, Darby was Morrow’s companion,  her special friend, she says. But the Welsh Terrier developed cancer in his nose and, one morning, he sneezed and started bleeding to death, Morrow says. “He loved us to death,” she says. “And we returned that. He was the joy of my life. I was so sad. We didn’t get another pet for years after that.” Morrow took Darby to the veterinarian, and the dog was euthanized.

She’d heard about veterinarians sending cards or flowers to clients who’d lost a pet. But Morrow received nothing. “I never heard from them,” she says. “I felt bad about that.” Losing Darby was the impetus for Morrow’s volunteerism at Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control. Five years ago, she joined the other shelter volunteers who write and send sympathy cards to anyone who brings a sick, severely injured or elderly pet (or a pet with advanced aggression) into the shelter to be euthanized. In 2008, the shelter euthanized 407 pets for people unable to afford euthanasia at a veterinary clinic.

“You’d see people bring in a dog or a cat and they’d be so sad,” Morrow says. “The least we can do is send them a card.” Morrow writes the cards herself. Featuring artwork by local artist Lisa Girlach, the message inside the card is simple: “We want you to know we understand how you feel about the loss of your friend,” Morrow says. “These animals are part of people’s lives,” she says. “And for some of the old people, they’re a reason to go on living.” This year, Morrow and Girlach have sent 200 of their cards  for cats, dogs, hamsters and one iguana  to local people.

“Pet sympathy cards are not a new phenomenon but are gaining in popularity,” says Terri Todd, manager of Anne’s Hallmark on St. Joe Center Road. During the 15 years Todd has worked for Hallmark, pet sympathy cards have always been available, but Todd sees more customers requesting them now. “They’ll think they’re asking for something unusual,” she says. “And they seemed relieved to actually find one.”

“One of the possible reasons for the increased interest in pet sympathy cards is that having empathy for a person who lost a pet, especially if you don’t own one yourself  is a relatively new phenomenon,” says Peggy Bender, community relations and education specialist at Animal Care and Control. “People are still taken by surprise when they receive one,” Bender says. “There are people out there who still see pets as just animals. So a person who loses a pet will feel hesitant to express how much grief they’re going through.”

“Sending a sympathy card is an important acknowledgment of a person’s loss,” says Kathleen Bredemeyer, an employee at Paws and Remember (, a local business that provides loss and grief counseling and provides pet memorial and cremation services. “We’re beginning to understand and recognize how deeply felt the loss of a pet can be,” she says. “They are our best friends and a part of our families. They play a large role in our lives and should be remembered.”

Here is what they had to say:


Oh, how I wish when I die my dog Skippy or my cat Peaches would meet me at the gate and we would go on like we were never apart. Life would be easier to live if after death we could all meet in a glorious place and continue on with the people and pets who passed before us.

Unfortunately, I believe that is not the way it works. When people and animals die, they are kept alive by our fond memories of them and, in the case of people, our genes that our children and grandchildren carry. Sadly for all living things, when we die that is the end.

— Virginia Weaver Sabol, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Erie



Buddhism considers all of life to be evolving toward higher consciousness and sees nonhuman life to be divine, just  as is human life. Animals are seen to be an evolving kingdom of living creatures destined in time to attain perfect enlightenment. Therefore,to harm any living thing is to do injury to the divine. Since animals are considered to be traveling toward enlightenment just as humans are,neither are they to be harmed, discouraged or hampered in their progress.

— Jim Hamilton, Erie Karma Thegsum Choling Tibetan Buddhist Center


I may not be able to prove that animals do or do not have the necessary souls that would bring them to the afterlife,but I will say that the afterlife will be a very lonely and horrible place if our dearest friends and “family” were not there to greet us when we cross over the veil.

— Grollwynn (Christopher Temple), Whispering Lake Grove, ADF


I do not believe that animals go to heaven when they die. The Bible does not teach on whether animals have souls or if they can even go to heaven. The first book in the Bible, Genesis, states both man and animals do have the breath of life (Genesis 1:30,6:17, 7:17 and 7:22).

There is a big difference between humans and animals. The difference is humans are made in God’s likeness and image(Genesis 1:26-27). God also breathed into the nostrils of man thebreath of life (Genesis 2:7). Humans are capable of spirituality, and future heaven is promised to mankind but never animals that die(Philippians 3:20, 1 Peter 1:4). Animals are a part of God’s creative process, and God said that they were good (Genesis 1:25). I also believe that animals will be a part of the future kingdom but it is impossible to say whether they can die and come back to life (Isaiah11:6, 65:25).

— Seth Crowell, Assemblies of God, Erie


I don’t think that much about the afterlife,but it seems to me that without all of those that we have loved (and that includes the animals who add so much to our lives), that it would be incomplete. So, if Morgaine Imelda, Smokey Joe and all the other furry friends aren’t there, I’m not going.

— Mike Mahler, Erie


Of course there are animals in the afterlife. I can’t imagine God denying us one of his greatest creations. Not a day goes by that I am not amazed, amused, entertained and loved by one of God’s creatures. God did not put animals on this Earth just for food or sport. Instead, he put them here for three other reasons.

The first is to enjoy. Who hasn’t admired a beautiful bird in their yard, and look at the millions of people who flock to our forests and parks just to catch a glimpse of an elk, deer or even a bear.

We also learn from animals. Every day, science discovers another way we can learn from these creatures. It may be the study of the traffic patterns of ants or how bird migration corresponds with the weather.

At last there’s love. That unconditional love your pet gives you every day. They don’t care how you look, the money you make or even if your breath is bad. They are there to greet and love you after your long day.

No, I can’t imagine God not including animals in our afterlife. Without them, we would be missing the “life” in afterlife.

— Cheryl Wenslow, Unity in Edinboro


This may be the easiest question I’ve had allday. Just go to Revelation 6:2,4,5 and 8. I take the Bible at facevalue. I’m sure John knew what a horse looked like, so there would be no mistaking it for something else. Also, God made all living things. I believe he can “talk” to all living things, and they have a way to talk to him. To say otherwise puts limits on God. My God has no limites.

— Bob Boyd, Immanuel Baptist Church, Erie


The church has no explicit doctrine about animals in heaven or the afterlife. It’s a matter of theological speculation.

However, concerning “last things” the church teaches about “a new heaven and a new Earth,” that presumably includes animals (Lumen Gentium,48; Catechism 1042-1050). My wife and I have similar discussions about whether or not animals have souls.

According to Aristotle and Aquinas, they do.But they define “soul” very broadly as the “principle of life” or “lifeforce.” Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College and a popular author, speculates that there must be animals in heaven. His opinion can be summarized in this simple syllogism: 1. Heaven is astate of perfect happiness. 2. Animals (including our pets) are part of our happiness. 3. Therefore, animals are part of heaven.

Jesus didn’t say anything about animals in heaven. But I often wonder what happened to the donkey after Jesus’ triumphal entry on Palm Sunday.

— Deacon Dennis Kudlak, Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, Erie


I believe there is a heaven for animals and an afterlife for them.

I act responsibly and lovingly toward all of God’s creatures. Acceptance, love, kindness, generosity — all these qualities can be true of the pets that share our lives.

I bless all animals in my prayers, always acknowledging that they, too, are being divinely cared for and loved by the same God that protects and loves all.

I give thanks for the pets who keep me andothers company. More than just animals, they are beloved family members. These pets never need to be asked for love and acceptance.They are given without question and without thought of return. I give thanks for animal friends and the joy they add to my life.

All creatures proclaim their father’s power andtestify his love. All creatures are miracles and gifts from God, but I believe because I’ve seen the miracle of love. These are the overflowing riches of his grace. There is a heaven for all of God’s creatures. They were here first.

— Rita Trabert, St. Stanislaus Catholic Church, Erie


As Toto was in the land of Oz, so animals will be in heaven.

That’s great news for most people, especially to think that in the place of perfection, there will be no more accidents on the carpet.

Animals don’t have souls like people, so I doubt very much that I’ll see my dog again. But animals will be part of the new creation of God. What was created in perfection the first time will be re-created in perfection the second time.

The prophet Isaiah gives us a glimpse into the next life, where the wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the calf with the lion. Animals are part of God’s eternal created order.

In Revelation 21, we behold the Lamb, a name for Jesus Christ. The time frame there is the eternal state. If animals were not in heaven, no one there would understand what the metaphor means.

Yes, expect to see animals in heaven. You’ll encounter a zoo there like none on Earth.

— Rev. Al Detter, Grace Church, McKean


“The whole creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the sons of God.” Romans 8:19 “The world itself will be freed from its slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.” — Romans 8:21

From these statements in the Bible, we can see that all creation — plants, animals, along with us humans who care for them on this Earth, are waiting for their freedom.

Remember how God told Noah to take the animals into the ark so they would survive the great flood? It was out of his great love for the work of his hands, the innocent animals of which man is the greatest.

Thus, the animals will also be living with us in heaven, as in the garden of paradise, as their creator intended.

Sin entered the world by one man Adam, but by one man, Jesus Christ, we were freed from the curse of sin and corruption. As we will live in the glory of God in his kingdom, so also will the rest of his creation.

God is love, and he wants the best for all things that he made — all people, trees and plants, cats, dogs and every kind of living creature. The lion will lie down with the lamb. In the kingdom of peace, we will be united with God, and reunited with each other and with our beloved animals.

— Ann M. Filutze, Order of Secular Discalced Carmelites, St. Joseph Community, Erie


The Bible informs us that God created Adam andEve in his image and likeness. All the creatures of the Earth, theheavens and of the sea were made for our use. They were put here forfood, aiding in labor and providing comforting companionship as pets.

I personally feel animals are to be used and fully appreciated during their life span, but afterlife in heaven just isn’t there for them. Having said that, in all truth I’d rather select some pets instead of some of the earthly “human losers” I’ve worked with over the years to share my eternal reward with, that’s for sure.

But it’s God’s call, not mine.

— Leo Swigonski, Holy Family Catholic Church, Erie


As a Neopagan, specifically an ADF Druid, I offer praise to the Three Kindred; the Shining Ones, the Nature Spirits and the Ancestors. As all living animals are part of the Nature Spirits, when their bodies die and they leave this world, I believe those spirits exist as part of the Ancestors.

The Ancestors are not just of my blood (in the case of a family member or pet), they are of spirit, too. There are animals who are now extinct, or those hunted for food (and given the gift of life to others), for those that have gone I offer praise; be it stories, songs, food, to show them I have not forgotten them, that they are appreciated, honored and shown praise.

So, these beings will exist, as spirits, as part of the dead, as a form of the Ancestors.

Personally, as for an afterlife, I concern myself with the here and now. If we make virtuous choices, and do things well now, the next life will be taken care of when we get there.

— Grey (Paul) Whittney, Snow Water Grove, ADF


God said let the Earth bring forth creatures according to their kinds, and God saw it was good (Genesis).

You fall in love with pets and they fill your home with love.

My beloved cat and dogs have been four-legged blessings in my life with their unconditional love for me.

They know when I am happy or sad. They keep my secrets and never betray me.

When my world fell apart, my pet was right at my side, ready to snuggle, listen and with her eyes say, “Mom, things will get better soon!”

Since God created pets to be my very best friends and companions in life, I truly believe with all my heart that God will greet me with my family and friends along with Lady, Flipper,Pumpkin, Bozo, Turkey-Bird and Rosie.

We will all cross the Rainbow Bridge to be together forever once again in heaven.

— Rebecca Bliley, First Presbyterian Church of Waterford


I do believe that there are animals in heaven or the afterlife. Animals have a life of their own and have some of the same characteristics a human has. Some people even consider the pet they have as part of the family.

I know plenty of families that have buried their pets and gave them a ceremony just as they would for humans. Just because animals look different and are from the wild doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings.

God said that he created everyone equally. I believe this goes for animals as well. A big reason why I believe this is because of pain. No one likes the word pain and hates feeling it,and I think that’s how animals feel about it to. They feel pain, just as much as humans do, and it would be wrong to not think animals go to heaven or an afterlife.

— Jeff Slater, Christian


I have always heard about the Rainbow Bridge. It’s the place where all the pets you ever had wait for you in heaven until your happy arrival.

Our relationship with animals has evolved over the years. We used to be the stern master. They were in the doghouse,rain or shine. Gradually, pets moved into our houses, our beds, our hearts.

Animals have lived with me all of my life, each one unique and precious. I’ve felt the sting of being ignored by a cat for being gone too long. But also there’s the ecstatic jumping,barking, wagging doggy reception, too.

Jesus left us with the most important commandment — to love one another. I don’t know about most people, but pets have unconditional love for their humans.

Animals have exquisite minds, big hearts and, yes, souls. Why wouldn’t they go to heaven?

— Sally Messenkopf, First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, Erie



The subject of animals in heaven, spirit and the afterlife is one that is very close to my heart. How could anyone ever doubt that which is unconditional love would not transcend this physical existence?

Every being is a spark of the divine. Look into the eyes of your dog, cat, horse and see and sense that inner being.Feel that endless joy and peace that all of our domestic animals bring into our lives.

I believe that dogs and cats live in the original state of connectedness with being. They are here to help us regain that feeling of oneness with our creator. They remain in a state of deep awareness with all energy and life around them.

I also believe that animals can become our spirit guides and guardian angels, and their love truly never dies.They communicate with us telepathically, also with their hearts.

As a medium, I have been honored with their presence and communication many times. All animals bring wisdom, love and peace. Open your heart today and allow that unconditional love into your life.

— Rev. Brenda Beck, Namaste’ Center, Meadville


How to know when it is time to say goodbye?

This decision is the hardest part of owning a pet, our pets and companions have put their trust in us, and we must decide when enough is enough. I believe there are several important questions to ask yourself:

Is the pet still eating and drinking?
Can the pet walk enough to get up and go to the toilet by itself?
Is the pet still happy to see you?
Have you had your pet examined by a vet?
If all reasonable vet care has been given to the pet and there is nothing else you can do to relieve the suffering it may then be time to consider euthanasia.

People find this decision very difficult and spend a lot of time agonizing about it. Usually as the deterioration in the pet’s condition happens slowly and there is no clear reason or time to take the pet down to the vet. It is always good to talk to your vet about the condition of your pet as there maybe simple solutions to your pet’s problems. The vets’ job is to help you make this decision and then support you in this decision. Sometimes economic reasoning must come into the decision making, you could spend a lot more money but this may only extend the life of the pet for a small amount of time. Some people would put themselves into a lot of debt to pay for the treatment of their pets. This always humbles me as a vet that people would go without so much to save their pet. But sometimes people have to be realistic and see that the best solution is euthanasia, this can be quite painful to realize if you had more money you would go ahead with the treatment.

This is a difficult decision to make and you must balance the economic reality to the needs of the pet, your pet would not want you to suffer for it sake. When you know it is time for euthanasia you need to stay focused on that decision and do all the right things to make sure it is a good euthanasia.

By Michael O’Donoghue BVSc  People and Pets



Dr. Alice Villalobos, the veterinarian who started Pawspice, a quality of life program for terminal pets, has published a scoring system for life quality called The HHHHHMM scale.  The letters stand for: Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Happiness, Mobility, and More Good Days than Bad.

Quality of Life Scale: The HHHHHMM Scale
Pet caregivers can use this Quality of Life Scale to determine the success of pawspice care. Score patients using a scale of 1 to 10.
Score Criterion
1-10 HURT – Adequate pain control, including breathing ability, is first and foremost on the scale. Is the pet’s pain successfully managed? Is oxygen necessary?
1-10 HUNGER – Is the pet eating enough? Does hand feeding help? Does the patient require a feeding tube?
1-10 HYDRATION – Is the patient dehydrated? For patients not drinking enough, use subcutaneous fluids once or twice daily to supplement fluid intake.
1-10 HYGIENE – The patient should be brushed and cleaned, particularly after elimination. Avoid pressure scores and keep all wounds clean.
1-10 HAPPINESS – Does the pet express joy and interest? Is the pet responsive to things around him or her (family, toys, etc.)? Is the pet depressed, lonely, anxious, bored or afraid? Can the pet’s bed be close to the family activities and not be isolated?
1-10 MOBILITY – Can the patient get up without assistance? Does the pet need human or mechanical help (e.g., a cart)? Does the pet feel like going for a walk? Is the pet having seizures or stumbling? (Some caregivers feel euthanasia is preferable to amputation, yet an animal who has limited mobility but is still alert and responsive can have a good quality of life as long as caregivers are committed to helping the pet.)
1-10 MORE GOOD DAYS THAN BAD – When bad days outnumber good days, quality of life might be compromised. When a healthy human-animal bond is no longer possible, the caregiver must be made aware the end is near. The decision needs to be made if the pet is suffering. If death comes peacefully and painlessly, that is okay.
*TOTAL *A total over 35 points represents acceptable life quality

Adapted by Villalobos, A.E., Quality of Life Scale Helps Make Final Call, VPN, 09/2004, for Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology Honoring the Human-Animal Bond, by Blackwell Publishing, Table 10.1, released 2006.