A Dog’s View of Life and Death

DSC00024Where did they go? When will they come back? Will they feed me or will Cindy? Someone will. There is always someone.

She fed me early and left. Lots of people were in the house, but not him. Where are they? It scares me when I can’t keep an eye on them. She was jumpy like something was chasing her. She’s been like that for days. Where is he?

I want her to take me for a long walk in the woods. He doesn’t go for many walks now. He doesn’t play with me. When I bounce in front of him and wag my tail, he turns away. When the wood stove is hot, he lies next to it and uses me for a pillow. This makes me quiet and sleepy. I love being needed.

DSC00007-1He has a new smell, a sick smell. Do they know I know? I can smell death before it comes.

Death is not scary. Sometimes it’s a huge relief. Peace. Breathe out. Let the suffering go. It’s okay. How can I tell her it’s okay? All I can do is keep an eye on her.

I hope they don’t forget me. They haven’t so far. She’ll be back. She’ll talk to me in a squeaky voice and feed me. Or maybe Cindy will come with my friend Sky. Cindy’s voice is full of bubbles and promises. I’ll jump in the backseat of her car with Sky, and she’ll drive us to their house with a huge backyard and a big cookie jar.


Sky and Cindy Stillman

I’m lonely without my people. While I wait, I snooze and listen. Chickadees, cardinals, and rabbits keep me company. I heard a kestrel cry overhead and a car drove by on the road. It wasn’t her.

I’m patient. I’ve had to be the last few years. When they’re gone a long time, he comes home with that strange smell and quiet voice. Sometimes I stay with Cindy and don’t know when they’re coming back. A few days ago, Mom came home and he wasn’t with her. Where will I sleep tonight?

Daisy and Sky

Daisy and Sky

What’s that? I hear her car in the driveway. The door shuts. She walks around the side of the house, quiet and slow. He isn’t with her. I decide against my Labrador wiggle.

“Hi, Daisy Girl,” she says as she squats next to me, pulls me close, and scratches my ears. I lean into her and sigh.

“It’s just you and me now, Daisy Girl,” she whispers. “Let’s go for a walk before it gets dark.”


Daisy died in the spring of 2012. She was my companion in grief after Vic’s death in 2008. For another post about Daisy, see Goodbye My Miss Daisy. Has a pet helped you in times of sorrow? I’m glad to know about Tara, a grief therapy dog at Schoedinger Funeral Services in Columbus, Ohio. If you’re grieving the loss of a pet, find support and inspiration at Marty Tousley’s Grief Healing resources.

  1. Well that sure brought a torrent of tears–well done, Elaine. Daisy was one special creature. A wonderful companion. The innocence and wisdom of dogs… so particular.
    My son and I often talk about our Felix, our golden retriever who also died in 2012, and how he took care of us, laughed at us, knew us.

    And his particular appreciation of the ribbons on the floor after Christmas presents were opened. He thought the whole ritual of present -opening was just for him to get himself nicely decorated. He certainly enjoyed sporting the green and red as much as we
    loved our gifts.

    • Kirsten, I have a wonderful photo of Daisy, Willow (pup I got in 2009), and my son and his wife Liz’s three dogs–that makes five–in their Christmas outfits. Liz bought them green and red clown collars with lots of sparkles. Any indignity to amuse the people, especially if they’re sad. Daisy always had a slightly worried look after those two years of illness and then another long period where her Mom cried all the time. Must be hard carrying all that family feeling.

  2. I have never read a story from a pet’s point of view before this one, Elaine. Most effective technique. Poignant, touching.

    When our family dog Me Too died, I found it difficult for months to walk down the pet aisle in the grocery store.

    • Marian, most of us think we know what our pets are thinking. Who knows what’s really going on in there, but there is a strong sense of empathy and understanding. I know that pet aisle feeling. How we do love and miss them. Thanks for your encouraging words.

  3. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to mention Suki, the dog I inherited from my daughter when she died. We’d originally bought Suki as a “life saver” when my daughter was sick and depressed. And now Suki is my life saver. She wakes me up in the morning with dog kisses and rolls over for a belly-rub each time I come home. It’s pretty much just me and Suki now. We walk all over Ithaca several times a week as a team.

    • Hi Robin and Suki. Willow was my rescue friend. She came to live with us 15 months after Vic died and made Daisy and me happy. Daisy was showing her age by then, but she perked up around the puppy and they played and snuggled. I had company of two for a few years, but in the first year or more after Vic died, Daisy and I walked two or three times a day and often went to the lake. I’m glad you have Suki.

  4. as always….thank you. Deeply moving.

    • Thank you, Jayne. How we love our dogs and project our feelings and wisdom on them. Daisy taught me about surrender when she died. She was ready and relaxed.

  5. Thank you for such a touching story.

  6. Elaine, this felt so true to me–just what I imagine Daisy’s experience might have been.

    I had no pet to console me at the time of Adrian’s death, but I have lost beloved pets in the past and been helped through difficult times by them also.

    Thank you for the tears.

    • Lynne, lots of projection going on, of course. Daisy never lost that worried brow after Vic became ill. We had a few other rough escapades together, but she was loyal and I counted on her, just as I counted on my dog Amigo when my dad died when I was 14. Thank you for your kind comment, Lynne. I can count on you, too.

  7. Elaine, my dear friend, I love this piece, written from Daisy’s point of view. There is not a doubt in my mind that dogs grieve, too. They are pack animals, after all, and logic tells me that they are quite capable of noticing when a beloved member of their pack is missing. They can pick up the scent of certain diseases with their super-sensitive noses, too. They certainly can and do tune into our energy, so I’m sure they pick up on our grief and feel our sorrow as well. And, bless them, they handle illness, aging and death with such grace, dignity and acceptance, serving as magnificent role models for the rest of us. ♥

    • Thank you, Marty. Daisy often seemed concerned during those years of illness and grief when she didn’t know what would happen next. My tears worried her, but my long absences while Vic was hospitalized in another city were harder. She tolerated all of it in a stoic way, and I’m grateful for her support (and her help raising Willow).

      Thank you for your article on pet loss. I sent the article link to a few people with recent pet loss and plan to share it with the FB Pet Loss Support group.

  8. Elaine, this truly is a creative and beautiful piece of writing. It offers an angle on death and loss that takes us out of cliché and into imagination.

    A voice full of “bubbles and promises.” I can hear it!

    By understating loss, you make us feel it twice.

    • Thank you, Shirley. Yes, projection and imagination. I learned this morning that Cindy of the “bubbles and promises” voice lost her cat on Sunday after it was hit by a car. I called and we shared stories about her rescued cat, Sky, Daisy, and other animals and people we’ve loved. We both valued Daisy’s calm acceptance.

  9. Massive tears are called for when reading this. Beautiful work as always.

    • I hope massive tears are a response you welcome, Leah. I’m a big fan of healing tears myself. Thank you for your encouraging words.

  10. Once again you deliver the goods!! Grabbing another tissue and sharing this on Facebook.

    Oh, Miss Daisy, you were such a good friend to your family. Thanks for loving Elaine after Vic had to leave.


    • Thank you, Kathleen, for your kind words and actions (I make you sound like a good girl scout!). Miss Daisy was a sweetie, but then all my Labs have been sweeties. There was another rescued dog before Willow. It was a terrible experience for Daisy and me. I write about that one in my book, so I won’t spill the story.
      I hope your love is stronger every day. Holding your son in my prayers.
      With love,

  11. Dear Elaine,

    Now, that I’ve had a good, long cry…I can tell that this beautiful post brings back memories of Casey (I still have that sweet girl) and me after Harold died. Thank you for putting ‘her’ feelings here in such simple and beautiful words.

    Heart and Hugs,


    • How old is Casey, Jenna? These family traumas are hard on our dogs. Vic’s illness and my grief put a burden on Daisy who was already an old dog at the time. She was stellar support for me and a great help in raising Willow. How we love our pets and those who become what Marion Woodman called “our soul animals.”
      With love to you and Casey,

  12. Fabulous post Elaine, written from your dog’s point of view, clever! Pets do have an innate ability to sense the tone around their surroundings. They sense change of routine, sadness and sickness. I’m happy you are now with Willow. 🙂

    • A lot of projection going on in this piece, Debby, but we feel we can read my pet’s feelings and they can read ours. For Labradors, first the food, then the walk, and then the love. Daisy was a mama/friend to Willow. I’m grateful for a long line of dogs going back to Amigo, my “therapy” dog when I was a teenager.

  13. Again, your words resonate with many of us who are dog owners/lovers. Having just gotten our first dog three years ago, I witnessed this when my cancer fighting mother came to live with us during her treatment. Our hyperactive, anything but calm dog would walk quietly around her, and sit at her side close enough for her to reach him for petting. Another gift that comes to us during our grief, unconditional love and a soft place to land! Thank you for this perspective-I think it is spot on!!

    • Dogs know what to do and we know how how to receive comfort from them. I’ve lived with family dogs since I was six. I was 14 when my father died. Our dog Amigo stuck close to me that winter just as Daisy stuck close to me after my husband’s death. When my mother had Alzheimer’s, she remembered how to pet the therapy dog when she didn’t interact with people. That connection is ancient. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond with such encouraging words.

  14. Oh my. I’ve been worrying about how my 89 year old mom will get along when her beloved Skye follows my dad to heaven but never stopped to think how Skye would feel if mom leaves her just as my dad did 3 years ago! I wish I had a little video of the two of them and their days (and nights) together. Same routines, sensing and becoming a part of each other’s needs, fears, happiness and loneliness in that amazing animal/human connection none of us understand but all find amazing.

    • Suzanne, I hear dogs do well shifting their allegiance, especially if they knew and trust the new person who cares for them. I hope that’s true with Skye. Is it too late to make that video? Dogs are amazing nonjudgmental loving companions. They never tell us to get over it or stop crying. They take us just where we are without explanations, and that’s the biggest gift you can give a grieving person. I’m glad you mom and Skye have each other for now. Thanks for sharing your story and commenting. I feel your love for your mom in your words.

  15. Such a lovely posting, thank you. When my husband died in 2010, I was in a hospital 1 1/2 hours away, having just had a total knee replacement. He had a massive coronary, and our three dogs, two corgi girls, and a rescue shepherd were lying with him, when he was found about 12 hours after his death. For a long time after his death, if they saw me go toward the front door with a suitcase they became very sad and clingy. They remembered, I think, the time I left for the hospital with a suitcase, and then a couple of days later their world, and mine, changed forever. The older rescue shepherd is gone now, but my two corgi girls are my support and such good company!

    • Oh Mary, what a hard experience for you and the dogs. I can’t imagine what you went through in your psychological and physical adjustment and recovery. I’m glad your dogs were with your husband and then with you. I can imagine how they were concerned if they thought you were leaving. I didn’t leave Daisy for a long time. When I took Daisy or my present dog Willow on a trip somewhere, they slept next to my suitcase. I think they knew when the suitcase was moved, I was moving, too, and they didn’t want me to leave without them. Once the suitcase was in the car, they were, too. I’m glad you have your Corgi’s. Thank you for taking time to tell your story and comment on my piece. Best to you.

  16. Elaine, what a wonderful story…. it made me cry, our little ” four legged friends” who never forget us, who greet us, listen to us and walk miles with us.. I have a chocolate brown lab that was my son’ but I have adopted him and he is my best buddy going everywhere with me… he listens when I cry, when I laugh and when I get upset and angry… He loves me unconditionally and if he only knew how much he means to me….. thanks so much for sharing…

    • We dog lovers tick together. I wasn’t sure if readers would be moved by this post or would think I’m an idiot to be projecting so much simple wisdom on a dog. I get how much that dog means to you. I’m grateful to have Willow snoozing on her dog bed next to me as I write. I love the loving temperament of Labs.
      Thank you for reading my post and taking time to send your sweet message. I appreciate it, Jean.

  17. Oh my, Elaine. Instant tears. What is it about our pets? Intuition? That unconditional love? Their utter joy at the mere sight of us?

    I’m glad you had Daisy after Vic’s death. Such a comfort, I am sure. I love this story from her perspective; I so often look at Tucker and wonder what he’s thinking. I feel as though he understands so much.

    I remember coming home from particularly rough visits with my mom and just sitting on the couch sobbing uncontrollably. Inevitably, Tucker would be at my side, looking at me with concerned eyes, as though he was desperate to know what to do to make me feel better. We still share those moments – and he is my saving grace.

    Much love to you…thank you for this beautiful story.

    • Thank you, Ann. Yes, unconditional love and devotion without dismissing our feelings. Daisy went through a lot when Vic was sick and after his death, but she didn’t resent any of it. She taught me a lot. I’m glad you have Tucker. I’ve told you that my mother’s last obvious reaching out to another living being was to a therapy dog. Her hand was placed on the dog’s head, and her fingers burrowed into the dog’s fur and scratched the dog’s head. Love to you, Ann

  18. Through Daisy’s eyes, you let us see how to lean into love when grief visits. Wonderful.

    • Thank you, Jill. You know the solace of loving dogs, too. How many times did I hug Daisy’s neck, lean into her, and let my tears soak her fur? She never flinched.

  19. I waited 6 days to read this because I knew it would be heart-wrenching. It is. But it is also beautiful and a perspective that so many appreciate. Even the comments wrenched my heart.
    Our big blonde German Shepard was taken away a few days after Paul died. His adult children wouldn’t tell me where and I never saw our Jake again. I always think of him, especially on the 4th of July, when he would tuck himself in my lap or under my chair. He slept in our closet every noisy holiday.
    I hope someone is taking good care of our big baby.

    • I hope so, too, Patti. Your story is the sad one (and I’m sure you could write about it effectively), but it seems to be common for adult children to be cruel to their parent’s new partner. I’m sorry it happened to you and Jake. I also hope he has a loving home.
      Why are humans so rough on each other when there is already so much difficulty in life? No need to answer that impossible question.
      Sending you love,

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