Pet loss and self-forgiveness

In past blogs, we’ve talked about how guilt is a major factor in pet loss grief and how guilt and regret can be hard to distinguish. Today, we want to go a step further and talk about self-forgiveness and why it’s so important when you’re grieving for a pet.

Our sense of responsibility towards our pets

People often compare the sense of responsibility they feel towards their pets with the responsibility of caring for a young child. Neither animal nor infant can tell us what they need and they are entirely dependent on us for food, shelter, safety and love.

As pet carers, we have the responsibility of advocating for our pets based on our instincts and knowledge at the given moment in time. The pet cannot give us their perspective.

What if we get something wrong? The emotional toll of a pet dying because of something we did or didn’t do is huge.

Sometimes we make tragic mistakes

Sadly, there are times when we make tragic mistakes in relation to our pets.

Perhaps we accidentally leave the garden gate open or pop inside for a wee while the dog plays near an open pond. Maybe we reverse out of the drive without seeing our cat asleep under the car or leave the dog’s collar on while they are playing unsupervised.

These small things can happen a thousand times over with no consequences but it can take just one moment, one unfortunate colliding of events, to turn your world upside down.

Of course, the truth of life is that accidents happen. We can’t plan for every possible outcome. If we could, our A&E departments would be practically empty. But the guilt can be overwhelming when you know that something you do or didn’t do directly resulted in a beloved pet dying or going missing.

Sometimes we miss a sign or make the ‘wrong’ decision

Another responsibility we have as a pet carer is to make decisions about our pet’s healthcare without being able to talk to the animal about their symptoms.

We have to decide when to contact a vet, what treatment plan to follow, whose opinion to trust, what symptoms to worry about and so much more.

As many of us know too well, there are times when our action or inaction can result in a pet’s death.

Again, the guilt is tough to manage.

Sometimes we do what we believe is right

Euthanasia is another factor in pet loss guilt. We talked in a past blog about many of the feelings pet carers experience after having a pet ‘put to sleep’.

You may be struggling to forgive yourself for having chosen euthanasia. You may believe you left it too late or acted too soon. Or perhaps you believe your pet was scared or felt betrayed at the end of their life.

Even with the knowledge that you acted in your pet’s best interest, coming to terms with actively consenting to end your pet’s life can be hard to process.

Why self-forgiveness is so important

What can you do when you know that you personally had some part to play – however unintentionally – in your pet’s passing?

As humans, we often have the desire to blame someone for tragic events, but what do we do when the person we want to blame is ourselves?

A lot of research has been done around this topic, although most of it relates to human bereavement or when a person goes missing.

However, there are a growing number of psychology professionals who recognise that pet loss can be just as devastating and result in just the same feelings.

The overriding research finding is that self-forgiveness is essential if you are to ever find some kind of peace about your role in your pet’s death. People who are able to practice self-forgiveness and self-compassion are associated with lower levels of emotional distress and are less likely to experience PTSD, complicated grief or depression.

But how do you practice self-forgiveness and what does it even really mean?

What forgiveness is and what it isn’t

Before we look at some tips for practicing self-forgiveness, it might be helpful to look at what forgiveness is as well as what it isn’t.

Research from Enright and North (1998) defined forgiveness as:

“A willingness to abandon one’s right to resentment, negative judgement and indifferent behaviour to one who unjustly injured us, while fostering the undeserved qualities of compassion, generosity and even love towards him or her”.

In other words, forgiveness is not about pretending that a mistake didn’t happen or glossing it over but, instead, choosing to show compassion towards the person who made the mistake rather than judging or blaming them.

In the case of self-forgiveness, you give the compassion to yourself. But how?

10 tips to help you practice self-forgiveness

The tips below come from a mixture of bereavement counsellors and individuals who have suffered a bereavement where their actions either directly or indirectly led to their loved one’s death.

1.      Embrace your guilt

Guilt is a distressing emotion, both for you and for the people around you. It can fester inside of you. People may tell you not to feel guilty, often because it’s an uncomfortable emotion to confront. But the truth is that this advice doesn’t really help. Fairly or unfairly, you do feel guilt.

Embracing your guilt isn’t about wallowing in it or letting it overtake you. This tip is about sitting with your feelings, as unpleasant as they may be. If you did something that contributed to losing your pet, it is helpful to acknowledge this and bring it out into the open by talking about it.

2.      Be specific about what you need to forgive yourself for

Guilt has a way of growing and becoming quite generalised. Left unchecked, it can start to colour the way that you see yourself.

A crucial part of being able to forgive yourself is being specific about why you feel guilty. For example, if you left your garden gate open and your dog ran out into the road, the thing you have to forgive yourself for is forgetting to shut the gate.

You didn’t wish your dog harm and you didn’t leave the gate open intentionally. What you did was make a human mistake.

3.      Think about your intention/motives

It’s important that you look at your intention or motives in the events leading up to your pet’s death.

  • What did you know?
  • Why did you make the decisions you did at the time?
  • Did you intend to cause harm?
  • Did you do the best you could do with the information you had?

The chances are that you didn’t do anything at all with malice or an intention to harm in your mind.

You may have decided to wait to see the vet, for example, because you didn’t want to stress your pet out unnecessarily in the middle of the night. You may have delayed looking for your cat because they had a history of disappearing for days at a time. You may have left the door open because you were distracted.

4.      Let go of feelings of shame

Sometimes, when we know we made a mistake with devastating consequences, our feelings of guilt can morph into shame.

Shame is defined as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour”. It’s an emotion often rooted in the knowledge that you knew what you were doing was wrong at the time of doing it.

However, as we’ve seen above, it’s unlikely that you deliberately made a wrong decision about your pet. You did the best you could with the knowledge you had at the time.

Shame is a problematic emotion because it tends to lend itself to black and white thinking. Instead of recognising, “I did a bad thing or I made a bad decision”, shame leads you to believe, “I am a bad person”.

Self-forgiveness is about being kinder to yourself. You’re not a bad person. You did not intend any harm to your pet.

It’s okay to feel guilty. Guilt can help you identify mistakes and learn from them. Taking responsibility for your actions and their consequences is an important part of self-growth. Researchers say that feelings of remorse, repentance and a sense of being humbled are all a healthy way to respond to guilt in grief and to eventually integrate these feelings.

Where guilt is unhealthy and unhelpful is when it crosses into self-recrimination.

5.      Show yourself the same compassion you would show to a loved one

Sometimes, we hold ourselves to impossibly high standards. If a loved one had been through the same loss as you as a result of the same decisions/actions, what would you say to them?

What would it take for you to forgive them?

It’s likely that you would be far more compassionate to someone else than you’re being to yourself. You would probably look at the big picture and consider all the ways your loved one made their pet’s life a happy one.

Every time your critical inner voice starts berating you, try to stop it and reword what you’re saying with the words you would use towards a loved one in the same situation. How would you talk to your child, a parent, your partner or a best friend? Show yourself the same kindness.

6.      Guilt isn’t always rational

When a pet dies, it’s often as a result of unlikely circumstances coming together. This could be a cat running into the road at the exact moment a car was passing or a dog running into a randomly placed stick in the woods. Perhaps your pet managed to get trapped somewhere or caught by their collar.

While you may have taken the dog for the walk or put the collar round their neck, there is no way you could ever have predicted how events would collide and unfold. If only clairvoyance could be part of the pet keeping package!

Of course, just because guilt isn’t always rational or deserved doesn’t mean that you won’t feel it.

Again, it can be helpful to think back to your intentions and motives here.

You took your dog for a walk because you wanted to give them enrichment and exercise. You gave your cat a collar so people would know how to contact you if your furry friend ever strayed too far from home. You let your cat out because you wanted them to have a fulfilled, interesting life.

These are all good, loving decisions.

7.      Pay forward making amends

The real kicker when a pet dies is that we can never make amends to them for our role in their passing. If you want your pet’s forgiveness, this knowledge can be hard to accept.

One option is to make amends in another way, paying it forward in your pet’s honour.

For example, you could volunteer at your local animal shelter or make a donation to an animal charity. If your pet died in tragic circumstances that could affect other people, you could start an awareness raising campaign.

8.      Talk to your pet

Many grief counsellors advise bereaved people to talk to their lost loved one.

One way to do this is a variation of the popular therapeutic exercise known as ‘The Empty Chair’. In part one of this exercise, you imagine that your pet is sitting in an empty chair opposite you and you tell them all the things you’re feeling, including your guilt.

In part two of the exercise, you swap to the empty chair and talk back as though your pet is able to answer you. As you no doubt knew your pet to be loving towards you, the words you imagine for them are likely to be more loving and compassionate than you would otherwise choose to be towards yourself.

This can be a powerful way of offering self-forgiveness.

9.      See your mistake as part of the human experience

As human beings, we are all destined to make mistakes in life, some large and some small. And with each mistake we make, we face a choice. We can choose to stay stuck, reliving the moment of the mistake even though we are powerless to undo it, or we can learn as much as possible from the mistake and choose to use that knowledge on the rest of our journey through life.

If you said or did something that resulted in your pet’s death – or your inaction played a part – what can you learn from this? What will you do differently knowing what you know now? How could your experience help others? Could it make you a better pet carer in the future or make you more compassionate in some way?

10.  Actively choose self-forgiveness

Above all, self-forgiveness has to be an active choice. Every time, you fall into the pattern of self-condemnation, you will need to actively decide to interrupt your internal voice with more compassionate thoughts. At first, this will require a lot of conscious effort on your part but it should become more natural with time.

Conclusion

Self-forgiveness is not about claiming you don’t hurt or denying the part you played in your pet’s passing. Instead, it’s about choosing not to place blame and recognising that you never had bad intentions.

With time, self-forgiveness will hopefully enable you to remember your entire relationship with your pet rather than just the circumstances surrounding their passing from your life together.

Until that time, know that you’re not alone.

Very best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support

25 thoughts on “Pet loss and self-forgiveness

  1. Sophie Tickle

    Thank you for this article, from the bottom of my heart. It’s been about 3 or so years since my beloved cat was tragically attacked and died from the injury she sustained. I feel a lot of guilt for not being as involved in her life – I lived in a different city and she lived with my mum. But my mum wasn’t very hands on so it was more my responsibility to make sure any odd behaviour etc was dealt with. Basically a neighbours cat, a male Bengal, attacked her one evening and she died after the vet had to put her to sleep as her injury was too bad to fix. When I visited her there were signs she was not at ease ie. staying away from the house, appearing on edge somewhat. And I knew of this cat that was large but I was unaware when I saw it that it was a Bengal – I wasn’t familiar with those types of cats, I just thought it was larger than usual cats. When I analyse everything ie. my cat urinating inside etc and not coming home every night (this is what my mum told me) it makes sense she was in a lot of fear …I made sure a cat flap was installed and thought that would help. I’ve reported the Bengal, spoken to the oweners of it after the attack happened, but it didn’t go anywhere. Bengals are legal and that’s that apparently and the vet couldn’t prove it was a Bengal that did it even though it was. It happened outside our back door and the garden has tall fences around it. It was the Bengal without a shadow of a doubt. The point is, I know self blame won’t change anything but my sense of responsibility and failing her is so so strong at times. Reading your article and articles like yours does help me to try and remember that I never expected her death to come about as a result of not paying closer attention to the signs of distress that is hindsight I know were there. I loved her, her temperament was absolutely wonderful, so sweet, patient, loving, and I hope that the other parts of her life made up for the last part of her life – I’m not sure if it was days or months, when she felt the panic and pain that she did.
    Thank you for reading this long post and again for your contribution to the bereaved owners of beloved pets.

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  2. Pamela Campbell

    I witnessed my wee man Tilly, my cat 11 yrs old .Been hit by a car in front of me ,tilly pulled his head away but car didnt bother swerve ,got the white side of his face ,He was still alive at the vets ,vet said severe head trauma prognosis wasnt gud I made hardest decision of my life to send him to rainbow bridge and I held him told him I loved him and I waz sorry I failed him, he had 1 tear run from his wee eye . I feel so guilty as i had seen him cross the rd ,something he never done , i told Tilly to get over home ,normally lets me lift him. But he playfully run from me into the path of a speeding car, it never even stopped.

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  3. Greiver

    Yesterday they killed my dog because I sidnt pick him up from the pound on time, It was my fault. I didnt know they were going to kill him, but I shouod have been there for him. I feel as if I will never firgive myself. He was my 10 year old sons dog. He had him since he was only 3 years old. How could I ever make peace with this. I let my dog and sok down.

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    1. Jenny

      I am so sorry for your tragedy. You didn’t kill your dog, the evil pound did. You had no idea they were going to do that, and they should not have!! Maybe you can start an awareness campaign and pressure the pound to become a no-kill shelter, like they do in all civilized places. What they are doing is very very wrong, this is not your fault.

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  4. Sad Cat Dad

    Firstly, I’m so sorry to everyone else that has shared. Times like this are never easy. I’m grieving the loss of my dear kitty. I can’t seem to find the words to describe the situation. She passed a few days ago. I knew she was dying but I wanted her to die at home because she seemed to fragile to even take to a vet. I’m worried that i may have caused unnecessary suffering by not having her put down. I know it’s irrational but it is really fresh. I miss her dearly.

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  5. Karen

    Thanks for this article. I know it’s a couple years old but I’m just finding it, as I see many others have. In 2004 my 4-year-old dog died after a weekend of being sick. She probably could have been saved if I’d taken her to the vet sooner. After all this time I think I’ve learned to cope with it, but there are days when I experience pangs of guilt as if it had just happened yesterday. My heart aches.

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    1. Jenny

      I am so sorry for your loss. You clearly loved your baby dearly, and you did the best you could at the time with the knowledge you had. We all can look back and see that we would’ve done things differently, hindsight is 2020 as they say, and we have all accidentally hurt others due to lack of our knowledge. I hope you can forgive yourself. You sound like an amazing person.

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  6. Jason

    Very helpful article. Thank you. I’ve been pretty relentless to myself, torn up with grief this week. My nearly 19-year-old cat was euthanized four days ago after I let her out on my balcony and she slipped her way through the railing and fell two stories. She used to always go out there but with her vision declining this past year I stopped doing so as much. While working from home I noticed her relaxed by the balcony door looking out the glass and figured I’d open up the door and let her get some air. Checked on her a few minutes later and saw her walking around out there. Should have brought her in then. Checked a few minutes later and she was nowhere to be found. Looked over the railing and to my horror she was laying at the bottom. Raced down there. She was conscious but still. In shock, I suspect. I put her in her carrier and raced to the vet. She apparently had a broken leg and internal bleeding. I’ll never forget she suddenly perked up and popped her head up and looked me in the eyes right as they started euthanasia. I so badly wanted to tell them to wait when I saw that but kept quiet. I talked to her and pet her on the head as her head lowered and eyes dilated a few seconds later. I’d give anything to redo that day. Shouldn’t have let her out there with her vision as bad as it was. At least not without better securing the area. Was planning on letting her go in a few months but didn’t want it to end like this.

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    1. Lisa

      Oh my gosh. As I read your post I am so heartbroken for you. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve been searching the Internet for a story similar to mine and I felt like I was the only who had this type of story.

      My husband and I are fortunate enough to be able to take in/adopt disabled, senior, hospice dogs and cats. We have (had) eight, all at some varying stage of life. We were so lucky enough to be able to adopt a 13year-old Yorkie who had lymphoma and was in Renal failure. He was our type of guy. And let me say this, we have had many amazing pets, and have had to make hard decisions by knowing when the time comes to help of our fur babies across the bridge. From the minute we adopted Pip, I knew it would be especially difficult when when it was his time. He was like no other. During the nine months we had him he became blind, but he owned it brilliantly! Overall he was in good enough health still that he didn’t present sick at all. We previously adopted a senior three legged Chihuahua injured in the California wildfires. She has been my girl from day one. She is sassy. Pip immediately Bonded with her and I- then it became the three of us all the time. 24/7. I work from home it was always able to be with them. Two weeks ago my husband went on a business trip and I was up late cleaning. I laid down exhausted. Pip and Chloe snuggled by my side with all the others strewn all over the bedroom sleeping. 3 1/2 hours later I woke up to something that didn’t feeling right. I searched the bed – pip wasn’t there. He’s never gotten off of my bed. I searched the upstairs. I thought I would just find him roaming around. I got to the stairs and I just knew. There he was at the bottom. I rushed down there and his body was still warm. I don’t have any idea how long he laid there, without me. I think the fall broke his neck or caused a stroke. He was so still, So much different than his happy loving, goofy “normal” self. I could tell he was gone.

      I’m so angry with myself. How can someone who loves and cares about her fur babies not think about putting a gate up? I have three other blind animals. How can I let this happen!!? How can I be so irresponsible? I don’t know how to forgive myself. When I brought him home, I promised him he would not die alone. Not only did he die alone, I imagine he died scared. He had never walked around the upstairs by himself, he must have been so confused. I let him down. I failed him in the biggest sense of the word. I didn’t protect him.

      I don’t know how to move forward and continue to be the woman that has always believed that rescuing the unwanted or sick was the one thing i did unselfishly. What I could personally to contribute. I have so much grief and guilt and shame. . My heart is broken for my little buddy. I hope he hears my apologies.

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    2. Jenny

      I am so sorry for your pain. Tragic accidents happen, you were absolutely trying to make her happy, and had no idea that an accident was about to occur. (I had a similar scenario happen.)
      You were checking on her almost constantly, this shows how much you cared for her. You were right there for her at the end, and she probably perked up because the medicine they first gave her relaxed her (this happened with an elderly cat when we euthanized her, they gave her Valium at first and she actually jumped up and started walking around when she had not been able to at all, but it was just the Valium making her feel relaxed.) she knew you loved her and we’re right there with her. I hope you can feel comfort at some point.

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  7. Camille Sinclair

    See this post carries all the way to 2022. I’m so glad I found this as I’ve been devastated. My mom died 8 months ago and all kinds of things are coming up around pets I’ve had and felt I wasn’t what I am now to my pets. One of my pets, I accidently killed, she climbed under a recliner whose back liner was out. when I pushed it back I killed her and had music on so didn’t hear her. I was sedated for 3 days. That dog was everything to me. I came home one night to find my brother spanking my Chow Chow for pooping on the carpet. I made him stop but I’ll never forget how he looked at me. I’d bought him for my husband but my husband was not as good to him as I would have liked and I was working long hours. I eventually rehomed him to a loving couple. There are others but I won’t go into the situation. suffice to say I never intentionally hurt an animal and am a MUCH better pet mommy now. I have 2 cats and a dog(Chihuahua) whom I adore. Maybe too much, but I don’t care they are my babies. My goal is to adopt at least 5 more dogs from shelters and have them live on 5 acres with me. There are coyotes, bears, and cougars where I live so I’ll have to safeguard my home. I’ll spare no expense to do so. Animals are better than humans in my opinion. Thanks for listening. I’m going to practice self-forgiveness and have a lot of work to do. These tools will help me. Blessings to all.

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  8. Leesha

    I accidently ran my poor Bella over yesterday. I got my son in his carseat and she must’ve slipped out the door without me realizing cos I had my son in my arms and the diaper bag..I backed out and I felt it all. I didn’t realize what I ran over at first and I knew it felt different than anything I’ve ever felt while driving before. Never did i expect to see my dog. I’ve had her for 13 years. She’s seen me through my teen years into marriage and two children. How could I have not noticed she got out?! The guilt is…I cant even describe it. Ive never felt guilt like this before. This article definitely helped me. I feel im going to be rereading it a lot. Its probably what is going to get me through this.

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    1. Jenny

      Oh my goodness, you were juggling so many things, terrible accidents can happen, I hope you’re able to forgive yourself, you’re obviously an incredible loving person!

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  9. Edo Solomon

    Thank you very much for this important article.
    Sending my love to everyone who googled this topic and found this page.
    Iv’e been grieving for 2 years already for the death of my 14 yo beagle-lab. There was a chain of mistakes made by me at the end. It was not just a momentary natural and forgivable lack of attention as many described here but ongoing errors, one after the other, all made by me.
    In April 2020 Sam started to have a cough. A few partial coughs like something is stuck and then – 4th or 5th was a complete cough like whatever was stuck got clear.
    I took him to the vet. After describing the problem and without looking closely at a my dog, the vet said he needs to have an x-ray under anesthesia and a blood test. I told our vet that before causing any discomfort or risk (from anesthesia) to my old dog I wish he would rule out the possibility that a syrup or some other easy treatment can’t cure him. The vet said that the only procedure that is relevant is the one he suggested.
    So I took my dog to get a second opinion.
    I went to the vet who was the tutor of my current vet, over 10 years ago. I explained how I wanted to cause my dog the least discomfort possible. He said that x-ray should be done but no need for anesthesia or blood test. I agreed. After check up he prescribed steroids. It was working, the cough stopped. But 2 and a half months under the medication and Sam was losing muscle mass rapidly. Shocked by his appearance I stopped giving him the steroids immidietly(!!) Soon after he stopped eating. I went to the vet and he ran a blood test, my boy’s liver was in bad condition and the options were to do a complex treatment which would require a daily visit to the clinic and somewhat unpleasant treatment or to euhanize him. I asked the vet what he would do if it was his own dog and he said the second option would be best. I agreed.
    I felt almost nothing when he was receiving the lethal injections. I made myself so prepared for his passing away that it felt like I was watching the event from a distance and not actually involved.
    When I arrived home, I realized what a thing I did. I’m devastated since then. I have flashbacks of those final days and the dreadful mistakes I made.
    1. Not allowing him to have a proper diagnose.
    2. Not being aware about the importance of a blood test at senior age.
    3. Giving him steroids without googling and checking properly all the side effects and risks.
    4. Stopping the medication suddenly (!) Without consulting the vet.
    5. Putting him to sleep.
    I don’t know how I will ever forgive myself.

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    1. Jenny

      I am so sorry that you feel horrible guilt. To be honest, I don’t think you made mistakes. Definitely had your babies best interest in mind and did not put him through the pain of blood testing or risk of anesthesia. It sounds like the steroid treatment was working well, although a side effect can be loss of muscle mass (sometimes there is just no ideal choice, and relieving the cough was more important than preserving muscle I’m sure for your baby). The liver issue was probably unrelated, many elderly dogs developed liver problems. You have to remember that you did all the best choices with the information that you had at the time. You were also able to relieve your baby’s cough, which I’m sure was distressing to him. You probably gave him a longer life and better quality life. I hope you can find peace at some point.

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  10. Victor

    I had to put two dogs down in the same day I could have saved one but financially it was too much I could have put it on a credit card but I chose not to in the last year I had to put down two other dogs all about the same age they were all around 12 years old the guilt from putting the last two down is overwhelming one was in pretty bad shape the other one I could have saved but it was financially bad for me look at her eyes when they took her away is and was unbearable I don’t know if I can ever forgive myself some days it’s so hard to deal with I won’t even go in my backyard because it’s too lonely back there at one time all four used to sleep in my bed I really miss that being alone without my poodle pack I’m just so lost I had my kids their whole life all of them for 12 plus years I just don’t know what to do the house is so lonely without my little friends I don’t know if you ever post this but I think I needed to write it down I have tears running down my face as I’m talking about this all four of my girls were Pound puppies I will cherish every memory of them forever I have no regrets but sometimes the guilt of putting an animal down and having to choose to put one down because of financial hardship it’s just unbearable I don’t know if anybody will ever see this but thank you for letting me get this off my chest

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    1. Jenny

      I am so sorry for your losses! Please forgive yourself, give those beautiful puppies a wonderful life! The last pup would’ve been very lonely as an only dog after being in a large pack, he/she was spared that, and you do have to be able to have enough money to take care of yourself, if you had not made that decision you would not have been able to take care of yourself or the last dog anyway! i’m so sorry that you were in that position, that is so painful. I wonder if some point you will be able to spend some time maybe volunteering at a local shelter? I wish you peace and good memories.

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  11. CMMG

    I’ve read through these comments, but I think I’m really truly guilty. 3 days ago I went out to check my mail & left my 4 month old puppy in the house bc I was driving to the mailbox. It was so hot in my car I figured I’d leave her inside the house bc by the time I got the car cooled down I’d already be back. I was gone 3 min maximum. She was very tiny, 2lbs. I used to take her with me EVERYWHERE. When I came back in she was whining, which she usually didn’t do as long as I was in her sight. I was sorting through the mail & noticed that she had started to go to the bathroom on the floor instead of her potty pad. I took her to her potty pad & was telling her to potty like a good girl on the pad. She knew the routine. She was typically excited to do this bc it always meant a treat. This time she was struggling to stay on the potty pad. I’m so stupid bc I thought if I got her to stay on the potty pad she’d get a treat & be happy. She liked to jump a lot & I told her no, & pushed her back. Her potty pad was in the corner. She fell back & hit her head. I picked her up worried she was injured bc I heard her tiny head hit. She was alive when I picked her up. I swaddled her in her blanket & talked to her with my hand on her chest to feel her heartbeat. Her heartbeat was fine, but suddenly it just stopped. I have told people about this, even professionals. They say they don’t think that a bump on the head would kill her & that it’s not my fault, but I know that it was. I was there & saw it for myself. I loved her so much. She literally went everywhere with me & did everything with me. I feel sick with guilt & grief. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get over it, & I’m not sure that I even deserve to. At night I wake up having severe panic attacks thinking I’m having a heart attack, & honestly I feel I’d deserve it if I did. I can’t do anything at all. All I can think of is her, the sound of her head bumping the wall, & knowing I killed her. I have so much love to give & I gave her all of it, but now… now I’ll never never get another dog, or any pet, so that I can’t make any kind of horrible mistakes that could injure them. Also, it’s a punishment to myself to never allow myself another pet. I feel like that’s the only way I can make up for what I did to my puppy.

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    1. Jenny

      I am so, so sorry that this horrible tragedy happened. I agree with the vets, I don’t think that you had anything to do with this. Sometimes little dogs can just have an irregular heartbeat that can happen at any time and that can happen from excitement or anything… And they can just suddenly die. I think you just happens to be there when this happened, and it was just a bad coincident that her head was bumped just before that. I know you’re not going to believe that because you’re feeling so guilty but these kinds of things absolutely do happen. You’re obviously an incredibly loving person, and I understand being afraid of ever wanting to take care of another dog, but perhaps you can volunteer at a shelter because you have a lot of love to give!

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  12. Maddi M

    My cat, O’Malley had died yesterday from the complications from a really bad upper respiratory infection. He went into hiding after I had tried to help him get his ears free of gunk and earwax. He was scared of me, so he hid. Under the bed, behind the tiki bar, which had a few storage totes. My mother had heard him snoring, which wasn’t a rare thing, but he wasn’t breathing right. My dad scooped him up, put him in a cat carrier and off we went to the vet.
    It was a hopeful visit. The vet gave him all sorts of meds to help him with the infection and his ears. But, about 15 mins after we came home and set him down to sleep.. I noticed his eyes were glazed and he wasn’t breathing. We should have looked for you sooner, and we wouldn’t be grieving.
    O’Malley, you were such a good cat, always cuddling up to me. I will never forget you. I love you.

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  13. Annette

    This is so well written and I desperately need to print it for myself. Is there a way I can do that? I’m not seeing any options to do that. Thank you so very much for writing this.

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  14. Marie

    Thank you so much fo sharing your stories. I feel deeply sorry for all your loses.

    Our beloved cat died in an accident a week ago.

    We did everything for him. At least that how we felt, because we considered his safety and wellbeing daily (when making decisions about buying something new, going somewhere). Catification of our new apartment was in progress, and the cat netting the balcony was scheduled in 2 weeks.

    Few minutes before he died we talk about closing the window because the day was windy, and I was afraid of a sudden air draught. Before I could do it, the air draught came and window closed on him, pushed him thoughr the windowscreen and he fell. And amongst other things you could have done different that day, I can’t forgive myself I didn’t closed that window right away, or called hie to be with us in the other room. He always came when we called him…

    He was an amazing cat. So smart! I’m sure he understood everything we said. He was funny, had all those cute quirks, he made the most peculiar sounds, he loved runnig around our new place (although we called it his place), incredibly gentle and beautiful fluffy cat.

    We miss him so much, we made a mistake, and it cost a life. It was so clear right after it happened,… My husband blames himself and I blame myself. In the past we lost people who were close to us, and what happened with him feels very similar. Our hearts are broken. And the worst part is that whatever we do now, we cannot change what happened.

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    1. Jenny

      What a horrible accident! You are obviously both incredibly loving, thoughtful, and careful pet parents, but sometimes crazy accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. I hope you will be able to forgive yourselves because this sounds like a freak accident, not your fault!

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  15. Maria Bergman

    My Kit was put to sleep just a few days ago because of a paralysis caused by a blood clot. He had heart disease. Saturday morning I found him unable to use his front leg and he was howling so loudly and long like I’ve never heard. Kit could be very fierce if being forced against his will and he absolutely hated the Vet. I gave him some Gabapentin to calm him before putting him in the carrier to take him to the Emergency Hospital. I told the tech and the vet that he could lash out a lot and about the meds I gave. When they were taking care of him he was screaming like I’ve never heard. I was crying it was so bad. They came in to tell me they were trying to put in an IV. I am so grief stricken that I wasn’t proactive and insist they give him more Gabapentin to calm him before causing him so much more stress. And I feel like I’ve failed him so. My poor little guy had to suffer so much at the end like that. I was thinking they must know what they’re doing. I am so upset with myself. When I finally saw him his eyes were rolled back and he was so still. And then they gave him the dose to stop his heart. This is so much not want I wanted for my Kit. I feel like I’ve failed to protect him at the time he needed me most. I don’t know how to get past this.

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  16. Aster

    I am so sorry for all of your losses, my heart goes out to you and I hope you can find peace from the guilt. My sweet little pug died this week, she was ten years old and I’d had her since I was eleven. She was my mom’s dog originally, she had always wanted a pug and the two of them were inseparable through middle school, high school, until eventually my mom thought Puggy would have a much happier and more exciting life if I took her with me to college, since she was always working and leaving her at home. I adored her and spent every moment I could with her, I got her registered as an Emotional Support Animal so she could live with me and my roommates, she loved meeting new people and was very excited whenever we had company over, and everyone who met her loved her too. I cooked her meals and dressed her up in little clothes, I thought I was such a good pet parent for getting her up-to-date on her vaccines, and was so terrified of something happening to her that I took her to the emergency vet in a panic for a broken toenail. I took her with me on camping trips, to events, to the beach and the dog park, and introduced her to all my friends’ dogs, who she was generally indifferent to. (She preferred people.) I brought her with me apartment hunting and to hotels when I needed to travel for work. Ironically, me leaving her at home while I was at work would have saved her life. I would bring her to work regularly and leave her in my car, always very cautiously leaving the windows down, giving her water to drink as well as rubbing water into her fur to help keep her cool, and checking on her every hour. I knew that it was dangerous to leave a dog in a hot car, but every time I did it she was fine, so I let my guard down. I was running late to work, leaving from a friend’s house, I didn’t want to leave her there because I thought it would be rude to leave my dog unexpectedly at their house, and I had to leave at 5 am and they weren’t awake for me to ask. I left her in the car and took none of the precautions I usually did, including not leaving her water to drink. I checked on her on my break, and didn’t even let her out of her carrier, just made sure she still seemed okay, reached in and petted her little head and told her I’d be back later, didn’t get water, didn’t bring her inside to cool off, nothing. I stood there and ate a snack at my car and then left. truly don’t know what I was thinking. I’ve spent the last week reliving this moment, trying to piece together how I could possibly have been this stupid. I went back inside, and didn’t check on her for over three hours, during the hottest part of the day. When I came back out to my car and opened my passenger door to greet her, I realized with horror that she was lying there limp. Something was clearly wrong. She was still breathing, and I splashed cool water on her, panicked and drove her to the nearest emergency vet as fast as I could. By the time I got there, I knew she was gone. I was devastated. The vet tech and I cried together, I called my mom and told her what happened through sobs. My poor baby. She had so much life left in her. She was perfectly healthy and alert, zooming around like a puppy that very morning. The only sign of her age was her gray hairs. How could I have let this happen to my very best friend, who I loved so deeply? I had planned on getting her health insurance, so I could afford emergency surgery just in case she ever needed it. For as long as I could remember, every time I left her alone, I gave her a little kiss on the forehead and told her I loved her, just in case something terrible happened and that was the last time I saw her. I had even spent nights holding her and crying because I knew she’d have to go someday, and just the thought of it made me unbearably sad. I never imagined it would be so clearly and completely my fault. I pictured her dying of old age, me having to make the difficult decision to let her go because it was the most humane option, holding her in my arms and telling her how much I loved her one last time as she peacefully passed. I am now haunted by the image of her slumped in her carrier, dying alone and scared and in pain because I just couldn’t bother to get her water, or check up on her more frequently, or bring her inside, or leave her at my friend’s house, or drop her off at my mom’s, which was only 20 minutes away from my friend’s house. I couldn’t step away from my minimum wage job that I have grown to hate since this day. She deserved so much more life, and a much happier ending. I feel that this guilt is truly deserved, much more than any of the other stories I’ve read here, and I don’t know how I can move forward with my life knowing I did this to my sweet girl who loved me unconditionally and trusted me to protect her. I failed her, I failed my mom who trusted me to take care of her, I failed all my friends from college who adored her, and I failed myself who loved her more than anything else in the world. I wish I could have at least said goodbye and that I’m so, so, sorry, and that I loved her, but it was too late.
    After seeing my dad repeatedly adopt, neglect, and rehome or accidentally kill pets, particularly dogs, I swore I would be the most loving and attentive pet owner I could, and that if I ever made that horrible mistake, I’d never let myself get another pet again. I feel horrified that I have witnessed a pet die from neglect and still let this happen the way it did. If I had one wish, it would be to go back to the morning of that day and leave my poor Puggy at home.

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