Thankful for Dog Love in Times of Loss


Just a super-short post today: My family is mourning the sudden loss of my sister’s husband, Dean. Yes, this is the family with three noisy little dogs, who have been Otto’s go-to dog-sitters since they moved to my town about five years ago. Otto loved and is going to miss his time on the sofa with Dean, enjoying hours of TV-watching and distracted petting.

Our hearts break for Dean’s loss, but our grief is nothing compared to my sister’s. She and Dean were a match, 28 years married (no kids) and still passionate about each other.

While all three of her dogs are barky and I find two of them to be whiny and neurotic, always clinging to my sister’s skirts, at the moment, I am just so thankful for their clinginess. She needs all the love (and even the distraction of barking) that they have to offer right now. She reports that they are all very lost, looking for their Dad, and in their confusion, are spending all their time underfoot or, when in bed, under the covers with her. She can’t even roll over without moving their little bodies first; they all want to be touching her right now.

I never anticipated saying this, but at the moment I am grateful that they are so demanding. They BARK when they want food and BARK for play and BARK to go for a walk. These demands will help my sister get out of bed and get outside. I hope she will eat when she feeds them. That’s enough to expect for now.

I spent days at the hospital with Dean and was with him when he passed. When I got home, I needed (and a week later, continue to need) to spend long moments with my face buried in Otto’s grass-scented, scruffy mane, feeling his tail gently wagging. And when yet another kind comment on Dean’s death announcement online makes me start crying again, Woody always seems to notice and gets up to shove his nose under my elbow, insistent with concern.

I don’t know what any of us would do without dog love.


  1. So very sorry for your loss. Dogs are so comforting, don’t know how I would’ve gotten through all the loss and illness in my life without my various dogs..Hugs to you and all the dogs in your life. Especially Otto, my most special dog looked just like him. xo

  2. I am so sorry for you families loss of such a loving man. Yes dogs are loving and perceptive and they really do love us more than they love themselves. I’m glad you and your sister have them to tend to you during this time. You and your family are in my prayers for comfort and peace.

  3. I’m so sorry for the loss of your brother in law. Glad you and your sister have your dogs to help you get through this. Our dogs helped me and my daughter go through the loss of husband and father many years ago so I know they are a great comfort (and distraction) for your family.

  4. I’m so very sorry for your loss. I don’t know what I’d do without the love and connection of our dogs. They have saved me in times of grief, and continue to do so, daily. My heart goes out to you and your sister.

  5. Nancy, so very sorry for your loss. Am glad your sister has you and her dogs to comfort her. Dogs are the greatest in life’s difficult situations large and small and surely support us as we support them.

  6. So very sorry for your loss. I pray that God gives your sister and your whole family the strength needed at this most difficult time. Dogs are the best companions in the best of times and the worst of times. Unsurpassed love, understanding and compassion. She is lucky to have three little loves and a caring family who share her pain and help her heal.

  7. The loss of a loved one is so incredibly difficult. I am so very grateful for Brody as he helps me navigate this time of illness and loss in my own life. Much love and compassion to you and your family during this very difficult time. 🤗🤗

  8. I am so very sorry for your loss. There are no words that would offer you comfort right now so I’m not going to try. They say time heals. From my own experience I would tell you that the pain never goes away but time allows you to find coping mechanisms which help you move forward with your loved one in your heart and memory bank. God bless you and your family as you face the difficult days ahead 💔

  9. Our dogs truly know our souls and feel our loss, just as we know and feel theirs.
    No one better to help us through such hard times and hopefully better times to come.
    A big supportive hug to you and your family, furry ones included.

  10. You are so right about your sister having her dog pack to help her through this terrible time. My husband died rather suddenly close to 2 years ago after 49 years together. We also had no kids and only our dog. As expected, I was devastated and somewhat lost but if I hadn’t had my dog Brix by my side, I would have been a basket case. After everyone left, she was all I had and was crucial in keeping me moving and sane. She still is my number one go to and I worry about her well-being and the what if’s when she will eventually leave me (she is 7 years old with some knee problems that I am dealing with) I hope for many more years with her. For the time being, I just appreciate that I have her around and am grateful for her presence and and constant companionship.

  11. There Is nothing to compare with the love and comfort of our dear dogs in time of loss. When my husband died, I am certain that I would never gotten out of bed if not for them. They have sustained and comforted me through much grief and loss.

  12. I am so sorry for your sister’s loss of her husband, your loss of a friend and Otto’s loss of a loving companion. My 2 pups know when I’m feeling sad or hurt and they cling tight. It doesn’t take away the grief and sadness, but it does help so much.

  13. Nancy, I am so sorry for your loss. When my husband died, Happy’s demanding needs kept me from sinking into my bead and never emerging. He still gives me a reason, every day, to find joy and bask in sunlight. Dogs are a reminder to us, that life IS good, even when it seems darkest.

  14. I am so sorry to hear of your family’s great loss. May your sister find God’s peace and the strength to continue on, and may all of you find your way through this valley. I hope that your pets and the “barky” pets will all be a source of comfort, even as they are comforted by all the humans around them in their shared loss.

  15. I saw your FB posts about Dean and I’m so sorry.

    “I don’t know what any of us would do without dog love.”

    Me neither.

    I am so glad your sister’s dogs are such a comfort, and so glad yours are too. Take care.

  16. Hi Nancy – thank you for sharing such personal details. I often think, as I find so many dog lovers do, that we are not worthy of dogs’ compassion and trust. Though it’s hard on them too, it’s all a part of being in the pack – and I don’t even know who I would be without mine. Also a childless couple of 19 years married and together an additional 5 before that, we each don’t even know how we would be able to breathe without the other, and I can’t imagine what our dogs would do without their Daddy, just seeing how they are when he comes home a little later than usual from work some nights – sometimes reactive but very clearly expressing that they know what time it is and that things are not right. We weave ourselves into one another’s moments and lives, proving how intrincately a part of eachother we are – and this is to be celebrated as much as it is grieved. I wish you all peace and comfort – and someday again, joy.

  17. so very sorry for your loss – for everyone’s loss! There are never good words but Thich Nhat Hanh comes pretty darn close:

    This body is not me.
    I am not limited by this body.
    I am life without boundaries.
    I have never been born,
    and I have never died.

    Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars,
    manifestations from my wondrous True Mind.

    Since before time, I have been free.
    Birth and death are only doors through which we pass,
    sacred thresholds on our journey.
    Birth and death are a game of hide-and-seek.

    So laugh with me,
    hold my hand,
    let us say good-bye,
    say good-bye, to meet again soon.
    We will meet again tomorrow.
    We will meet at the source every moment.
    We meet each other in all forms of life.

  18. This is a beautiful post and I can relate on multiple levels. My condolences to your family and I pray that you all, canine and human, will comfort each other.

    My husband died in 2019. We’d been married 42 years. He was a strong personality and I miss him every day. Our dog, a Border Collie/Australian Cattle Dog mix, missed his Dad too. Shortly after my husband’s passing I adopted a 4 year old female Australian Shepherd. Her owner/breeder is having health challenges and decided to re-home most of her dogs. The new addition has added some fun and energy to our mourning home and I like to think that she is a bit of a silver lining. My husband used to joke that if anything happened to him, I’d soon be the weird dog lady and would end up with a dozen dogs! So far, it’s only two.

    But yes, absolutely dogs are a blessing and comfort in all stages of our lives and they are such pure and willing partners. What would we do without them?

  19. I’m so sorry for your loss. And I simply can’t begin to imagine how lost your sister must be. I’m so glad she has three little love sponges that will help her get through this awful time and will help her heal. And same goes for you. May God and the dogs provide you and your family with comfort and love during this difficult tie.

  20. Nancy – I am so terribly sad to hear of the loss of your Brother-in-Law. My husband too died suddenly last September with both myself and our Corgi right there with him. We knew he was failing fast but thought we had more time. It’s devastating for all who knew and loved Dean as well, and having to go through notifying everyone is very hard. Perhaps she could ask you or other family members to do part of the notifying to people less close to them, and the different agency’s like Social Security (who is Medicare’s boss and will notify Medicare for you. Even if neither of them were getting SS – it’s one of the first places that needs to know. Actually the funeral home or wherever he went does that notification for you. Thank goodness she has the dogs around her!! Having gone through this recently and still being in probate, if there are any questions I can help with, please don’t hesitate to email me. Even though you are in a different state, so much of the process is the same, and under Covid – so many offices are closed that you do E-filings to the court – with or without the help of Probate attorneys. I’m sorry for how cut and dried this sounds in the face of her (and your) loss. It’s one of the hardest things about death – that so much needs to be done at the worst time of your life. Prayers and love for your sister and her family!!!

  21. All of us who read your words every week about our dogster angels know how fortunate Dean was to have you with him in his last days here. And know that you will take great care with your sister. You – and both of your dogs – will help her deep grief begin to smile. Support and love to you all.

  22. Dogs watch and they know things. It is likely their close ties to humans and long history with us allows them to be there and know just what to do. We know dogs read our body language and micro facial expressions. You may think they are clingy for themselves but I like to believe they are clingy because that is what Pam needs right now. And yes, they bark when they are hungry but considering the internal canine clock, I suspect they were fed when the family sat down to dinner so hopefully Pam will eat with them. Doggy dinner bells if you will.

    My sister’s husband died suddenly in his sleep a little over a year ago. She has two grown sons living with her but they had adopted a dog just a few months before. It was her husband’s idea. Perhaps coincidence but perhaps serendipity that she would have a dog after he passed. She wasn’t much of a dog person with their three previous dogs. She’s more a guinea pig person. But with this dog, she has taken it to training and has said that after she sells the house and moves to a smaller house she is taking the dog with her. And only the dog. The “boys” will be on their own. I don’t know if she is letting the dog sleep in the bed with her but I wouldn’t be surprised.

    My dogs have always slept with me. That is why when one passes the house is so cold and empty. When Ramses died I adopted Diana pawPrints within a month. I couldn’t take the silence any more. Dogs are wonderful, magical beings. I’m sure Pam’s dogs are stepping up and being what she needs them to be. What might have been clingy before is reassurance and comfort now. What may have been annoying and demanding barking previously is now a reminder to eat and encouragement to move, get outside and walk around a bit.

    I am so grateful for the undeserving love of dogs.

  23. Very sorry for the loss your family is going through. In one moment one marvels with the symbiosis between humans and dogs. “How can they know?” I always respond, “How can they not?”
    Our dogs are family, sometimes closer than family. They can feel the ups and downs, any changes, our moods and so sadly, loss. My father passed away a couple of years ago. He had loved all our dogs. They could do no wrong in his book! My GSD Gracie was the last he would enjoy. She was a rambunctious girl, still young, but knew to dial it down around my father. When we’d visit my parents, Gracie would sit beside my dad and stay there. We had to put her out in the yard when my dad’s helper would come every day. Gracie would get very anxious, whining and putting herself inbetween the helper and my dad.
    When he passed, me and Gracie stayed with my mum to support her. Gracie took up her position beside my mother. She is a ‘presser.’ She will sit you and press to comfort. She just knows what to do.
    I never want to face anything without my dog beside me. I hope I never will.

  24. What a sad story for you all. I have recently benefitted from Eagala Therapy. and you can have an Eagala Learning session with horses. The help has been stunning for all kinds of loss. Military veterans are responding and I have had a lift in my chronic PTSD symptoms rather dramatically. Worth checking into, in my view.
    Unfortuanately, my senior dog Bruiser needs to be “put to sleep” tomorrow, as he has congestive heart failure and a DOUBLE SIZED HEART from loving me so thoroughly. Blessings to each of us as we give and receive love to and from our fur babies.

  25. Letting a spouse and your bother in law go is very painful. Please accept my deepest sympathy for your sister and for you and the family. If I even tear up, Callie knows it and zeros in on me. I can’t imagine being without a dog for comfort.

  26. I had cancer last October but early stages and only two days in hospital.Kind neighbors took “Che” my Havanese wonder dog who acted upon my return as if I’d been gone months. The recovery was 4 months and he would not let me out of his sight. The fellow dog owners came and took him out for walks but had to drag him away. He is the reason I was determined to recover so quickly and he sensed when I was getting better and he let me go into the toilet alone. He was and is the light at the end of the tunnel and I owe him my life in that I could not give into self-pity and had to keep exercising and eating to get strong again. He is five now and I am eighty and if things go as planned he will be fifteen and I will be ninety when we go paw in hand to the next place.

  27. I recently lost my 17 year old poodle, Juliet, to kidney failure. She was a therapy dog for Phoenix Children’s Hospital
    for 10 + years. The same month (April 2021), I lost my 14 year old poodle, Raven, to congestive heart failure.
    My 6 year old poodle, Dove, also a current therapy dog for Phoenix Children’s Hospital grieved Juliet and Raven with
    A friend gifted me a 6 year old poodle, Angel, after Juliet and Raven passed. Angel has helped Dove and I
    through this grieving period . She has lifted our spirits so much. This just goes to show that other canines can
    help humans and other canines through losses as well. Angel is a true angel sent to us from Heaven during
    this tough time.
    We are also so very sorry for you and your sister’s loss. Our prayers are with you both.

  28. So sorry for your loss. My husband died suddenly in his sleep in 2019. I don’t know how I would have gotten through those first few months without my two German Shepherds. They kept me sane and I tried to make sure my female was okay too. She was her daddy’s girl. Is it any wonder that dog spelled backwards is God? I think not.

  29. As hard as the death of a loved one is on us humans, I believe it is twice as hard on our fur babies. If they don’t know their family member passed away, they must think they’ve been abandoned by that person. My family has been told to make sure my dogs see my dead body so they understand that they weren’t abandoned by me but that I died. I sure hope the mortuary that handles me understands and grants my wish.

  30. There are no words that can heal, but may time and happy memories blunt the sharp pangs of grief. We completely need external motivation at times like these; may love of friends, family, and dogs lift you up.

  31. My heart goes out to your sister and to you for your loss. Death is a bitter enemy that cuts to the very core of our being.
    May you find comfort and peace through your faith and prayer. Our Dogs are a gift from God. They bring us solace in ways that can only be understood and appreciated by those who love them and whom they love. Continue burying your face in Otto’s fur and accepting Woody’s care. Dogs seem to know when we need them most.

  32. Many western religions teach us that angels have two wings. I hope that they have 4 paws, too! Our furry friends give so much to us, in both good times and bad. Sending condolences to both you and your sister.

  33. Dear Nancy, may you, your sister, and all who mourn Dean’s loss including all your precious dogs find comfort and peace that can only come from our Lord at times like this. The saying “dog is man’s best friend” is so true as we dog lovers can testify. Our Good Lord gave them to us. In the book of Genesis 2:7 God tells us that He breathed life into Adam. In Genesis 6:17 the animals that entered into the ark also had the breath of life. We who believe in Christ Jesus will certainly be reunited with them in Heaven. They are all playing with each other and waiting for us at the same time. When my loving 13 year old dog passed a few years ago, I sat crying and praying. God gave me a vision of my Toddy as a puppy romping happily in a gorgeous green field with trees. I was assured that she was happy and she will be with me once again as will all of my other faithful companions. God bless you all and peace be with you.

  34. I am so sorry for your loss and for your sister and her fur babies. To loose a loved one is no fun. But I’m glad you have Otto and other love ones to get you through this rough time. I’m also glad your sister has her fur babies to help her through too.
    May God be with yiu.

  35. Nancy. I am so sorry for you and your family of the loss of Dean. May Otto and all other fur babies give you and you sister the comfort and love that is needed at this time. May God be with you all at this time.

  36. Dear Nancy, Condolences on this profound loss. May your sister, you and the rest of your family find comfort with your furry family. May they give you moments of joy to soothe you in the midst of your grief. Much love, Allee

  37. This just heartbreaking, Nancy. Any loss is difficult but when it’s sudden and it’s someone you love’s soulmate, I imagine you feel helpless to really console her. What a true blessing that she has you and her three fur-babies to help get her through this awful time. And so glad that you have Otto and Woody. It’s uncanny how dogs are so connected with us that they just know when we need them during emotionally stressful times. So very true that life would be much harder at times like these without our four-legged friends. Prayers and healing vibes being sent to your sister and to you.

  38. Dear Nancy,

    Like others have said, I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved brother-in-law. I hope all these thoughtful comments help you and your sister along with the dogs who know just what to do.

  39. Dear Nancy,
    I am so terribly sorry to hear of your family’s loss, and my heart breaks for your sister Pam. I wish I had words that would bring any comfort. I’m not sure words exist that could help in this situation. I hope you’ll all be there for each other, as your dogs will be for all of you. May Dean rest in peace and may time and memories ease your pain in the future.