Dear Miriam,

Our dog of 13 years died last November. My wife and I are both devastated. As we have no children, Lassie was like a child to us. She was a beautiful border collie and in her younger days was a great worker on the land with sheep and cattle. A huge light has gone out of our lives.

My wife wants to get a new dog now as she misses having one around the house. The thing is, I am not ready to welcome a replacement for Lassie just yet. I feel I need more time. We both agreed we would get a new dog eventually, only she seems ready for this a lot sooner than I had thought.

I feel silly at times being so distressed about a dog. Is it normal to feel like this after losing a pet? Lassie was gifted to us by my late father. He loved dogs as well and thought we might enjoy having her in our lives. How right he was.

Her kennel lies empty now and all her toys are put into storage as I hadn’t the heart to get rid of them. I know my wife is missing her too and anxious to fill the space left by her death. My fear is I won’t take to a new dog so soon after Lassie leaving us.

We don’t talk to our friends or family about this as we feel they might not understand and may think us silly for not getting on with our lives. Am I right in wanting to delay getting a new dog?

Thank you.


Dear John,

Thank you for your letter and I offer my sympathies to you and your wife on the death of your beloved Lassie. Living with loss is never easy. Know that pet grief is finally being recognised by society and there are some wonderful articles written about it.

The Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) writes about how pets can bring a special presence into your life and that they provide a loving connection and a way to share our deepest emotions without the need for words.

I note that your late father gifted Lassie to you both. It may be that her death triggered further sadness connected to his death

I note that your late father gifted Lassie to you both. It may be that her death triggered further sadness connected to his death. You do not say when he died, but a new loss can trigger unresolved grief issues arising from a previous bereavement. Maybe you need to look into this.

It is said that our grief is as unique as our fingerprint and this would seem to be the case for you and your wife following Lassie’s death. I suggest you have a heart-to-heart with her. Explain how you are feeling. She may hold off for another while when she understands a bit more.

If she still wishes to go ahead and get a new dog, explain to her that it may take you a while before you are able to bond with it or feel at ease with it. You may be surprised though at how quickly you may begin to enjoy having a four-legged friend around the house again.

Why not pay a visit to your local kennels sometime simply to have a walk around and see how you go? Choosing to rescue a dog may be an easier way to introduce one back into your home.

Alternatively, if you really feel the need for more time, it might help your wife to volunteer at the kennels for a while.

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