Paying Tribute After the Loss of a Beloved Pet

Posted by Pia

Hi Fellow Animals Lovers!

It's only my second week blogging and I already feel so very welcome! Your warm wishes and stories about your own adopted animals are truly heartening. I see many of you writing are 4-legged friends yourselves. I can't help wondering if it isn't quite challenging to type with paws...

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Brooke is a 2 1/2-year-old bulldog mix. She loves life, is house-trained and great with dogs, cats and kids!
Posh Pets Rescue, New York City: Contact Linda 917-319-4304;

Many of you mentioned recently losing a beloved furry or feathered companion. I know personally that these losses can feel unbearable. We owe a great debt to our animal friends. They enrich our lives in immeasurable ways. So naturally when a beloved animal dies, I believe rituals to say goodbye are critically important.

Families who have recently lost a pet often ask me what the "proper protocol" is regarding when to get another animal. While there is no "proper protocol," I do not recommend getting an animal if you do not have the mental or physical resources to properly care for one. I do believe, however, that one of the best ways to honor an animal companion who has passed is to help another who is in need. The are many way s to do this, and it is a  fitting way to express your gratitude. It allows the life lost to impact another life in a positive way.

The ways you can help can take many forms and are healing for everyone involved. Tending to another animal -- perhaps someone's loyal family pet who was recently relinquished to a shelter due to financial strain, or an orphaned kitten who might need extra care -- can help you to pro-actively counter the feelings of helplessness that accompany grief. Animals need us to be present. They call us out of our grief, and in turn provide great comfort as we see them flourish in our care.

Local rescue groups need help in myriad ways, so you can cater your skills and time availability accordingly. Sponsoring or raising funds for a local rescue group to save an animal whose time is up at their municipal shelter is one way to help. Some groups will let you choose the animal you wish to save. Sponsoring an animal already at a sanctuary is also an option.

Fostering an animal for a local rescue group is a terrific option. It provides the critical time needed to connect the dots between an animal in need and an adoptive home. It also allows those grieving to be in the healing presence of an animal.

To find a local shelter and have them contact you with ways to help, visit, choose a shelter and sign up to volunteer. You'll be glad you did!.

And finally, adopting an animal in need of a loving home is always a great way to pay tribute. With one cherished life having passed and another life left grieving, adoption effectively allows one plus one to equal three -- the third being the adopted animal now saved by the love generated between the other two lives. Visit Martha's Pet Adoption Center to search for an adoptable pet near you.

If you opt to adopt soon after your pet has passed, I definitely do not recommend trying to find an exact replica of the animal who died. This sets the new animal up for unfair comparisons and impedes healthy grieving. But adopting an animal who can be valued, appreciated and loved in his or her own right is healthy all around. After all, what is more life affirming than actually saving a life?

It wouldn't be the first time we thought we were saving them -- but it's really these precious animals who are saving us!

In loving memory of the loyal companions we have lost, and in recognition of the animals who need us now,

Dr. Pia Salk

PS I've included a gallery of sweeties in need of a helping hand through foster, adoption or donations. Contact groups directly to inquire. It is always possible this pet has been placed by the time you see them here – which is great!- So be sure to inquire about others you can help if that happens!

Comments (9)

  • Hi Dr. Pia,

    We would take them all if we could, I know each life is precious and worth saving.
    Great advice you have posted here I am sure it will help so many people who are sitting on the fence about getting another companion or might not be sure if they know just how to go about getting a companion that will go hand in hand with the lifestyle of their human companions.

    My Mama thought she would never get another companion when her Chow Chow Chao-li passed away but then she found out how badly I was being treated and she saved me now we are the best of friends and I have been with her nearly 14 years!

    If you have an open heart you will love again~ I hope all these companions listed here find good homes with open hearts.

    Have a fab week ahead.

    Until next time

    Mrs. Bosley Chow Chow

  • I love the BeMyHero website- and am working with my mom to help out at a local rescue center. My mom said I may be able to have a new friend live with us while they look for a new permanent home- so exciting. I wonder what they will look like, I wonder if they'll like my toys, I wonder if they'll be really gassy like me..... I just can't wait!


  • Hello Dr. Pia Salk, Kirby here.
    After mommy and daddy lost their beloved black Chow Chow, they didn’t think that they could go through the heartbreak of loosing another pet. That was until they looked into my eyes and saw just how much I wanted to be with them. They took me in and I have never looked back. It’s been seven years now, and the love we have for one another grows each day. I’m so lucky to have someone who opened their hearts and let me in.
    Catch you later, Kirby.

  • Hi Dr. Pia: My name is Gracyn and my parents adopted me from the TriBeagle Rescue of North Carolina. Momma said she saw my picture, along with my brothers and sisters and she fell in love with me. Momma said she had lost all three of her senior pets in 2004 all within 8 months. It broke her heart and spirit. Even now, if she thinks too much about them or trys to work on their memory book, she will cry. I try my best to make her feel happy again. Now, she rarely looks at the picture albums anymore, but I know she keeps each and every one of her furbabys in her heart and she and daddy love me greatly. Mom and dad have had me with them for 5 years now. I was just 7 weeks old when they brought me home and they spent a fortune the next day at PetSmart for me. I love living here with them and they love me very much. Well, see ya later. Love Gracyn.

  • Hi Dr.Pia,
    true about using your paws to type, but mommie delia is of great help! mommie wants to talk today...
    Delia here, having to voice my feelings on this subject...what is "healthy grieving"??? I had mentioned a while back at the loss of my two Arabian 29 year old horses six months apart to the day. That is such a long time to have had an animal, almost half my life! what I can't get rid of in my mind and heart is how I lost Ibn, I have so much guilt behind his death and can't stop the feelings. He was more then a horse, he was my friend...oh dear here come the tears and point is how long will this last? I have not been to the barn since 4/08 because I can not travel the route or see the barn...all his things are there except for the halter and blanket he wore at the Vet. I want to look at other horses, I want to ride, but it just hurts too bad and want the pain to I normal?
    Now God sent Kitty in my life to distract me, but all I worry about is "what if I loose her?"

  • Oh, Dr Pia, I've hung on to your every word today - soaking in 'medicine' to soothe the void in my soul that losing my Edgar has left, as well as absorbing very useful information to assist me in moving forward.

    I DO believe that adopting a new family member does help the heart to heal during the grieving process. In the 1960's, we/I lost a beloved Boxer to cancer. I, as a little girl, cried - I was about four or five years old. My father cried (sobbed, actually, as I remember it), out in our garage. My mother came home from that veterinary appointment on a rainy day with sunglasses on, from having to leave our sick girl behind - forever! In fastforwarding several weeks, my parents traveled to the next state (Boxers were NOT popular back then, as they are today) and after a couple visits brought home a beautiful but shy brindle beauty, who latched on to my mother immediately, knowing she was grieving and hurting within. She was a faithful and gentle-spirited companion all thru her life. She helped ALL of us get over losing my very first childhood pet.

    My ideal is to look for an adult/mature kittiekittie needing a mommie who loves to give lots of kisses and hugs and (funny enough!) conversations, too! He/she will become an important part of my every day, and we'll talk, and play, and have fun, andddd...

    Rest in peace, sweet Edgar.


  • Hi Dr. Salk,
    I am Lynn, Basil's mom. Basil is very sick today and cannot blog. He was released from the hospital last night after a 2 day stay. He has an immune disorder and sometimes it is difficult for him. Tasha is his black lab mix sister and is helping us with him, but all please hold him in your prayers. Tasha says to tell you she is an adoptee and hopes that many will see the friends for adoption and help out. She is almost 11 and been with us since she was 6. Take care all--Lynn for Basil

  • Hi All,
    Mom blogged earlier, and I think I am well enough just to say hello and that I think Dr. Salk and her helping getting many adopted is great. Better get back to resting.
    Love & licks,

  • Hi Girl Friends, First of all, my best wishes to Basil. I hope you are feeling better. How are you girls doing? Did you go to Maine with Martha? Sure hope so. Now to Dr. Pia- how are you doing? I love all that you are doing to help all of those animals that need new homes. I know exactly how they feel and I want them to know how lucky they are because the future will be wonderful if you find a great home like I did. Love to all, Dudley Do Right xoxoxo xo

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