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Sudden Death Pining

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I doubt doing anything different in the hours, days or weeks before Mags left would have made any difference to the eventual outcome, although it may have changed the scenery and while death is never a pleasant experience for those left behind it sounds like in your arms in your home was the best it could have got for him. The self-blame and guilt is part of the process though, they're almost inevitable I think.

My dog was my partner and best friend, we worked together and were rarely apart. His death was sudden and unexpected and a huge blow. I realised after a couple of weeks I was expected to be over it, so I put on a brave face and got on with life without him. I didn't talk about him to anyone but I used to howl and cry in private the last stretch home from work every single day. One day I realised three months had passed and I probably didn't need to cry any more, I decided that if there was any kind of afterlife then what I felt he would feel too and I owed it to him to laugh and feel happiness.

It's been more than a decade now and even if he'd lived to a ripe old age, he would still have passed long ago.

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Guilt is often a part of the grief process. It seems as though when one we love dearly dies, human beings set about busily to find things to feel guilty about. I know I do and have, over and over. But I have come to realize that, while the guilt feelings are real and are there, they are not necessarily reasonable. They are simply a part of the process that we have to go through when we experience acute grief. It sucks. But that is how it often is.

I have known extreme grief a few times in my life. I know what it is like. I know that some people will say the dumbest things to you and you cannot imagine why they said such a thing. People will tell you get over it, or move on, and it is annoying to say the least. But I try to remember that people who do this mean well; they don't know what to say and so they say something that is not necessarily helpful.

There really is no such thing as getting over it or moving on. Life continues, but you are not the same person you were before. You learn to live as the person you are now, but it takes time. You feel as though you have a huge empty painful all-consuming black hole inside you that will always be there. And it will, but in my experience what happens is that I grow around that hole the way a tree over the years grows around something that got lodged in its branches.

It doesn't get better, but it does get different. With luck and some determination, you can keep your heart open and eventually be able to give your love to another.

I have felt as you do: I don't deserve another dog because this one died. I don't deserve ever to have another life partner because I should have prevented the death of my beloved. But the truth as I see it now is that we cannot ever know this - that we failed. We cannot know that there would have been any way to save the one we loved.  And so we can only remember the love we shared and be grateful that the one we loved knew he or she was loved the best we could love. Ultimately that is what matters.

Or, so I have come to think.

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^^^ This. It hurts so very, very badly, and it leaves you changed. How could it not?

The reality is that a lot of us humans fall in love with much shorter-lived beings. We give our hearts to them for years, as they give theirs to us. We don't care that we will likely outlive our beloved companions. And when we lose them, the pain lasts a long time. 

It does fade, almost imperceptibly it seems. A few months on, we realize we just had a sweet memory of that beloved critter and it made us smile. Tears might come quickly after that smile, but it's still a good sign that we're healing.

A lot of humans, maybe most, feel the extreme grief that D'Elle speaks of at least a time or two in their lives. Again, how could we not? It's perhaps the most sucky part of the human experience, I've got to admit. 

I've had grief counseling for myself, I've helped others who have lost loved ones, and I expect to continue losing these precious, precious beings  that I love with my whole heart until the day I am the one who leaves. And others will grieve at losing me. 

Think about your wonderful Mags. Let yourself mourn. Come here and tell us more stories about him. Write down your memories. Make up poems and stories about him. It's all part of continuing to live. Be kind to yourself.

Ruth & Gibbs

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Thanks DGS for posting what you have here. I lost my beloved girl just 3 weeks ago after having her  for 14 years. She was a rescue dog also. Most everything you have said reminds me so much of my Hershey and our relationship. I have had a hard time reading your post or even talking about my girl as you have. The hurt has been so deep. I dearly loved her. I had Hershey cremated and she will be buried with me when I die.

I am so sorry for your loss. God bless you both.

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I'm so glad others are finding value in my posting.  I was hesitant to write anything because I thought it could be perceived as self-serving or indulgent rather than the therapeutic value it was intended.  I'm grateful that I pushed through my hesitations as I have received such valuable advice.  Thanks everyone.

NW Montana:  I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved Hershey and am glad that you found some solace in that which I have written.  Being that it was difficult for you to read tells me you share a lot of those feelings I had for Mags with your BC Hershey.  By the way, I love the name Hershey!  A name like that evokes visions of a dog popular with children.  One that is playful, engaging and endearing.  I hope that was the case with your precious Hershey.

Jami74:  My veterinarian niece resonates what you state that Mags could have been brought into an unfamiliar environment, with unfamiliar faces adding a level of trauma to his already difficult situation.  She said that he would have been put on oxygen for a while to help his breathing but the conclusion would have most likely been the same.  I struggle to see the positive aspects of how he passed in my arms sometimes.  It was such a lonely, isolating experience that I'm not sure anyone else would understand.  I have never felt as vulnerable and helpless as I did in that moment.  I am so sorry for your loss too.  The daily crying and howling you describe sounds so heartfelt.  I think losing a younger pet, like you did, would be more difficult.  Your story helps me appreciate the extended time that Mags had on this earth.  I am glad that you were finally able to come to terms with the loss by looking at it the way you did.  The concept of after life and sentient beings sharing basic emotional needs is powerful.  Kudos to you for seeing things in that way.

D'elle:  I had a conversation with my best friend this weekend that went, unfortunately, similar to what you describe.  He had a much more pragmatic approach to dog's lives and the emotional impact they have with people.  I felt very defensive of my sadness and I didn't like it.  I don't feel like I should have to defend my feelings.  I agree that I will never be the same person I was before Mags' passing.  It was too traumatic and sudden and unexplained.  Though others may not feel as deeply as I I am not going to curtail or bypass this horrible process of healing as this is my reality and not anyone else's.  We earn our scars in life and like your analogy of a tree's branches growing around an impediment we have to keep living.  I come from a family where emotions are not acknowledged or accepted.  For me to display such sadness would be ridiculed and criticized.  So, I have learned to keep emotions in check to prevent this from happening.  Ultimately, as you state, the love we give and receive is all we have.  I believe Mags felt that from me as I told him every day that I loved him and that he was 'the best Border Collie in the world'.  I am so glad I was able tell him those things now.  Though I wish I could have been prepared to do it for the 'last time'.  I'm certain some of that love got through and positively influenced his life.  A tail wag from merely winking at him across the room tells me there was a connection.  His desire to push his cheek next to mine in the middle of the night or the way he would prop his chin on the couch cushion and stare at me lovingly both told me I meant something to him. 

Ruth and Gibbs:  Thank you for encouraging me to continue sharing.  Granting that permission to mourn and miss Mags helps me accept that which I'm going through.  Some of my deepest crying has come from the best memories of Mags.  His obstinate personality and sweet goofiness created many of those recollections that are now movies in my mind.  Sometimes they run on a loop and are hard to end.  I don't want to forget them and wish I could relive them, just one more time, if only for a moment of that happiness.  It feels like a drug withdrawal.  My body aches so much to be in a place and time with my buddy that's now only in my mind.  It's very bittersweet. 

The healing continues...

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DSG, I am so glad that you found your way here, and that you're getting support from others in person. Sometimes not, and I've learned who to share these kind of feelings with, and who to just politely say, "Oh, I'm fine, thanks" when they ask.

Of the 4 dogs I've had previous to Gibbs, each death was it's own piece of hell. Whether I knew it was coming, (once) or the illness showed up suddenly, the pain has been the same. Horrendous.

There's just not an easy way to let go of something you love that deeply. It sucks, the pain goes on for a long while. And then, one day, you wake up and your first thought is not of this loss, but of what you need to get at the grocery store, or of the sunlight streaming in your window, or something that isn't about loss or death. Slowly, you become more accepting, and more grateful for the time you had them. You never forget them, though. And that's as it should be.

Ruth & GIbbs

PS - you made my eyes leak whilst re-reading some of your posts. Dang.


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On ‎7‎/‎30‎/‎2018 at 9:23 AM, DSG said:

I'm so glad others are finding value in my posting.  I was hesitant to write anything because I thought it could be perceived as self-serving or indulgent rather than the therapeutic value it was intended.  I'm grateful that I pushed through my hesitations as I have received such valuable advice.  Thanks everyone.

I definitely understand your hesitation. The internet is a dangerous place to be when we're hurting because when we reach out people could build us up just as easily as they tear us down--we're kind of at their mercy. And when you're falling apart from grief the last thing you need is people who wanna hurt you even more. I'm glad you were able to receive caring.

And I'm joining you on the grief wagon because I just lost someone dear to me the other day (a human, not a dog.) And they didn't die, they left by choice. Yay me.

I feel left with still so much love to give but now no idea what to do with it. So I'm just trying to reach out to others and try to brighten their days a little bit.  

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  • 2 months later...

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story. I too lost my pup 6 months ago at 14 years old. Its the hardest and most painful experience, I cried for weeks uncontrollably. I still do today when I talk about it. I wish I could say the feelings go away, it gets easier but the feelings will always be there. I sounds to me like he was very fortunate to have you, just think about the great years you all had together and know he is watching over you and always will. Im sorry for your loss, I hope you feel better soon. 

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DSG, thank you so much for this thread. Rereading it has helped me a lot regarding my dog before current one that died 5 years ago today., at 5 years of age. She was killed by a car on the dirt roads at the woods, where we had been hundreds of times and that I felt was a safe place. She was very well trained and would come running to walk at heel whenever she heard a car coming, far before I noticed it. And then that day it all went horribly wrong.

I'm currently nursing a depression, with a couple of psichiatric meds and weekly psicoanalithical sessions. Looking back, it's clear it started 5 years ago, but it was so insidious that I didn't realize it was a depression until after the first psichiatric consultation, which I started by saying "I feel like shit, physically and emotionaly, but it's not a depression, I'm quite sure of it. I had one a long time ago and this is completely diferent". Doctor kept saying, "oh, but it is, they come in diferent flavours".

Anyway, I talked with the therapist about the two big losses on my life, my father's and Sara, my dog, and she commented that I hadn't gotten over either. I was puzzled, as in what should one do to get over these kind of things, I have no idea if I did the right things or not...

This thread has helped me realize that I didn't really share my overwelming pain, guilt etc. I'm not very good at sharing emotions. Although I was lucky to have family and friends that understood my pain, I did try to lighten things up so as not to overburden others. They where quite worried about me as it was. But I think my next session with the terapist will be all about remembering Sara and why I loved her so much. And for that I thank you.

My father will have to wait a bit longer, that's an ever bigger thing.

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On 7/28/2018 at 4:27 PM, DSG said:

I thought I would give an update as all of you have been so compassionate and helpful with your replies.  I know that it takes effort to reply to this post and I appreciate the fact that so many have done so.

As Starry777 conveyed, I have been in and out of the healing process.  I feel like I had made great strides but sometimes the impact of the loss hits me right between the eyes and knocks me down emotionally.  I feel particularly bad because I think I should have recognized the severity of his situation though he remained stoic until the very end.  I find myself reliving the horrible end of his life and trying to understand why I didn't know it was as bad as it was.  I find no solace.  I hadn't had him to the vet for a routine checkup in 3 years as he was 'healthy as a horse' from all accounts.  He ate both of his meals the day before as he always had.  His stool was normal, he was engaged and participating his normal activities, etc., etc. etc.......  Now I'm starting to feel like I killed him because I took his health for granted.  I have a niece, whom is a vet that tells me it's not quite that simple or straightforward.  She say's he could have just passed because his poor little heart just gave out.  I'm having a hard time accepting that.  I feel like he was suffering from a cancer or heart worm condition that could have been prevented.  Has anyone else felt this kind of guilt before? 

People have referred to me as a 'Dog Whisperer' because of my ability to connect and relate to a wide variety of breeds with a myriad of emotional conditions.  Now I'm starting to feel like I'm like the cobbler who's own children don't have shoes.  Was I ignorant to Mag's physical health?  It all hurts.  I'm in and out of acute pain.  I feel like I should NEVER have a dog again as I was a horrible owner.  Has anyone else had these types of feelings?  If so, what did you do to come to terms with them?  Any input would be appreciated.

My Golden, Annie, live so long and I thought Mags would certainly outlive her.  Maybe I'm hung up on the 'one up-manship' thinking I've carried.  I just don't know..... 

This is a picture of her when she was within the last year of her life at Split Rock Lighthouse in the Arrowhead of Minnesota.

Thanks for listening to my continued babble. 

2003-07-00 - Annie Split Rock Lighthouse.jpg

Not sure it will help, but I feel even without the vet check ups there was nothing you could have done to prevent what happened. What you described to me sounded like kidney failure. I think he was just old and it was his time to say goodbye.

I'm so sorry for your loss :( but where one leaves your life, it opens a door for another dog that wouldnt have a chance without your love..just like you showed him after annie died.

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I am so moved by others that have reached out to tell their stories, tribulations and journeys.  When I originally posted this thread, I dare say, it was for purely selfish reasons while I struggled to deal with the immense emotions of overcoming such great loss.  As time has gone by and I read other's stories I realize that not only as my posting helped me but it appears to have helped others.  What a great unintentional victory!  Had I known the impact or ripple it caused in helping others come to terms with some of their losses, I would have not waited nearly a week to have written it. 

This forum group, in my opinion, is a special place for people that are keenly aware of the extraordinary animals we are so fortunate to share our lives with.  Border Collies are not a typical dog.  For those who have bonded and grown with these animals know things which other dog owners don't.  I have been amazed and astounded daily by the incredible drive these dogs have in wanting to bond and please and love. 

Since my last posting things have changed quite a bit in my life in the canine area.  I decided that I would devote some of my time to volunteering for two dog rescue groups:  One for Border Collies and another for Golden Retrievers.  It seemed like a good way to be involved with and care for dogs while I healed and gained acceptance of my loss.  I have met some great people and their dogs, got to help transporting and babysitting and learn more about the HUGE world of dogs.  The Golden rescue I volunteer for adopts dogs from Turkey!  I had no idea.  Apparently there are several hundred homeless dogs in that country abandoned by their owners.  Some are fortunate enough to be rescued and brought to the US and put in forever homes.  It's been very rewarding to see how the process works and the positive effects it has upon all involved. 

Additionally, I have brought a new Border Collie into my home that was surrendered from a farm.  You can read my story at my posting where I debated getting involved with another dog so soon after the loss of Mags:  

Needless to say the story has turned out MUCH better than I ever thought was possible.  This dog is fantastic!  I know it's cliche but I really thought I would never find another dog that I could share my heart with again.  Within 3 short weeks this dog has turned around 180 degrees from a distant, worrisome and confused dog to become an incredibly warm hearted and bonded buddy!  I have no hesitations in saying that he will be with me till one of us departs this life.  I share my story on this thread because I want to give others that may feel like I did some hope and inspiration of what could be possible.  Three months ago I didn't want to even think about another dog.  Now, I wonder how I could have ever felt that way!  I guess our hearts have much more capacity than we may even know. 

Roan (new BC)  doesn't replace Mags.  He is just another chapter in my life that includes room for Mags and Annie and Roan!  Watching some of the many similar mannerisms of Mags in Roan has been one of the many gifts I have received.  And yet, Roan has so many of his own characteristics that make him completely different than Mags;  The best of both worlds.  Additionally, his personality, as calm and intentional as it is, also reminds me constantly of my Golden Retriever Annie.  It's been a great collaboration of each of these dogs combined.  Pretty amazing stuff. 

Anyway, I work daily on assessing and training Roan to consider his potential as a Therapy Dog.  He has an acute ability to quickly win people over and allow them to touch and pet him without hesitation.  His healing coat also draws people in with it's fine, soft thickness.  On top of that he has a friendly approachable presence that seems to melt hearts.  It's all good!


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