Today’s Dying Matters Week topic is Grieving for a Pet.

Guest blogger, Claire Smyth talks about her experiences of pet loss.

I have experienced pet loss twice in my life not counting numerous goldfish and tropical fish over the years.

The first was the loss of our much-loved family cat, Casper.

Casper died at the grand old age of 22 when I was 25 years of age.

I don’t remember a time during my childhood without Casper in my life. Despite his old age, his death still came as a huge shock to us.

I remember being surprised at how upset my Dad was.

I was never 100% sure my Dad actually liked Casper, he was generally shouting at him for being on the furniture, up the stairs or for bringing home mice. 

(Yes, he brought them in to our house usually alive!)

But despite the loss of both of his parents, I had never seen my Dad visibly upset. Yet, we all cried in the vet’s surgery that sad day.

The second experience is much more recent and still very raw.

Just 11 months ago we lost our crazy, handsome, mischievous Labrador, D’Arcy at 11 years of age.

Even with two young children in our house, it is very, very quiet without him.

On becoming homeowners and getting married, one of the things my then new husband and I were most excited about was getting a dog.

We both agreed we wanted a Labrador.

And in March 2007, we brought home our puppy.

Nobody quite prepared us for how much hard work owning a dog actually was. Especially one with separation issues and who never did what he was told.

But despite, the destroyed furniture, ruined shoes, endless apologies to people he jumped on, we loved him with all our hearts.

He died very unexpectedly after a short illness and an operation. 

We definitely were not prepared for how deeply we would feel his loss.

I miss being greeted by him when I get home, I miss coming down the stairs to him. I miss the routine of walking him and feeding him.

I just miss him being there.

I miss him so much I’m not sure I could ever replace him.

Or if I would want to put us through the loss of another pet in the future but it is early days I suppose.

In researching this post I discovered that Northern Ireland has the highest rate of dog ownership in the UK.

One in three households in Northern Ireland owns a dog.

I also thought about people, whose pet is their main companion and how they feel on losing a pet.

Also, how people who have to give up their pets due to ill health or change of circumstances feel.

I’m sure non-pet owners find it strange to see people so upset over the loss of a ‘mere’ animal.

But I know that I felt the loss of my pets as deeply as I have felt any human loss in my life.

Our pets love us unconditionally, they’re there for everything that life has to throw at us, the up and the downs. They help us create cherished memories.

D’Arcy made us a family and he will never be forgotten.

If you’ve experienced the loss of a pet why not check out this useful information from Cats Protection.


Will to Give is a unique network of charities working together to encourage people in Northern Ireland to leave a charitable gift in their Will.

For more information about how you can leave a gift in your Will click here.

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