Waiting to Adopt After a Pet Dies
I have just lost Bruno, my dog of almost 13 years, to testicular cancer. Bruno died at home in the arms of my 14- and 18-year-old children. We loved (and still love) our Bruno so much, and can't stop crying. The house is so empty without him. People keep saying that we should get another puppy, but I can't help but feel that I would be betraying my Bruno. Am I being selfish by not wanting to give a loving home to another dog? I am going out of my mind with grief. Please advise.
Tracy, I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your beloved dog, Bruno. Your conflicting feelings about when to get a new dog are ones that are shared by many bereaved owners. Most adults allow themselves at least a month to grieve fully before they feel ready to invest in a new relationship. When children and adolescents are involved, the issue is a bit more complicated. I believe that your children need to be assured that they can have another dog to love sooner, rather than later.
You do not want to send the message that any loss is forever, or that the dog, who loved you and wished you well, would want you to be deprived of the benefits of having another dog. People may think that way, but we have no evidence that dogs do. By memorializing the existence of your dog, you will remind your children that their relationship with Bruno was unique and will not be diminished as they embrace a new dog.
You have the opportunity now to be a model to your children of the appropriate response to grief, which is that the family grieves together and takes into account each member's needs. It may be that your children want a new dog as evidence that you are okay.
Before you settle on a particular dog, please make a visit to your local humane shelter. Your response to the adoptable dogs there will give you some indication as to whether you are ready for a new canine family member.