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March 4, 2017

MY DOG IS GETTING OLD, AND I’M REALLY WORRIED!!!

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Hi Brandon. I really need your help. I have the sweetest, most amazing dog. His name is Pickle. He’s always there when I’m sad or sick, and he’s always happy to see me. He’s been around almost my whole life. But that means he’s really old. I’m starting to get scared that he’s going to die!! What should I do??

I Love Pickle

Hey I Love Pickle,

Oh wow, I’m so sorry to hear this.

But first of all, let’s focus on the positive. Pickle sounds like a very special dog! And you’re so lucky to have had him around for almost your entire life. Dogs can be such amazing companions – there’s a reason they’re called man’s best friend! (And woman’s and girl’s and boy’s, too.)

They can become so important in our lives that they are a part of the family. I almost wrote ‘they’re like a part of the family’ but they really ARE a part of the family. So when a dog dies, it can be huge deal.

But, Pickle is still alive! So instead of getting sad before you have to, make sure you really enjoy all the time you have left with him. And make sure HE enjoys his time left. He’s done a lot for your family. He’s been there when you’ve been sad. He’s protected you from squirrels, mail carriers, plastic bags floating by, and those pesky monsters in your closet. He’s probably cleaned up after you when you’ve left food in your room or even eaten food you slipped him from the dinner table so you didn’t have to eat it.

So, fill whatever time he has left with all the things he loves best. If he’s well enough to go on walks or play fetch, make time for lots of that. Make sure he’s getting the best food and treats. You can even find recipes for wholesome dog treats online. Give him lots of snuggles and attention. Basically, give him a taste of all the love and affection he’s been giving you for all these years.

And who knows—Pickle might have longer to live than you think! Dog life expectancy ranges a whole lot, depending on the breed and other factors.

But, eventually Pickle WILL die. And when the end comes, your family will do what needs to be done. I’ve had dogs that had to get put down. It sounds awful—and it is—but when they get to the end, you can see that they’re in pain, and that keeping them alive any longer is for you, not them. And at that point, you owe it to Pickle to make sure he doesn’t feel any more pain than he has to.

When a dog gets put down, you can be there or not, depending what you and your parents decide. But here’s what you should know: getting put down doesn’t hurt the animal at all. The vet gives them a quick shot, which puts them to sleep first, and then it’s over. It only takes a couple minutes, and you can be there, giving Pickle lots of love along the way.

It’s so hard, but it means your sweet doggy will be at peace.

Once Pickle is gone, be prepared to grieve for a while. You won’t get over it in a couple weeks or even a couple months. You might miss Pickle for years. He was a part of your family for a very long time, and it will be completely normal to miss him when he’s gone.

It might help to have some sort of special ceremony after he’s gone. I’m not talking about a big funeral service, but just your family, or whoever loved Pickle most, gathering today to remember Pickle. You could bury him (or his ashes) with a favorite toy, or his dog bed, or a letter telling him how much he meant to you and thanking him for all he did. You could even plant a tree where he’s buried.

And then, when your family is ready, you’ll consider getting a new dog. It won’t replace Pickle. Nothing could. And you might not be ready for a while. But Pickle would want you to share your love with another dog, and eventually, you will.

How have other readers handled it when a beloved pet died? Did you do something special to say good-bye? And, did you get a new pet?