What must A pet dog walker Do When A Client’s pet dog Dies?

You’re grieving while helping your clients grieve

As a pet dog walker, I’ve naturally had several clients’ dogs and cats die from old age over the years.

Part of loving dogs is losing dogs, and the a lot more I allow into my life, the a lot more I will lose.

Losing a client’s pet dog is nothing close to losing my own dog, but it is still a loss.

When I spend time walking a dog, running a dog, even sharing a bed with a pet dog at times, I form a bond.

I get to know each of these dogs, nearly as though they are my own. I know how they like to be scratched and talked to. Which toys they love, which dogs they are or aren’t friends with in the neighborhood.

I know exactly how lots of minutes into the walk and at which corner they’re going to poop. ? I see how they embrace the rain or the snow or the mud puddles. I see pure happiness every single time I open the door and pick up a leash.

And likewise, I do often find myself allowed into the personal lives of the pet dog owners, too, as I’m there caring for the family pets while my clients go through life’s challenges – bringing home a new baby, marriages, deployments, family illnesses, the loss of a spouse.

I did not realize I would become a part of the support system, but I often am.

What to do when a client’s pet dog passes away

Sometimes the death is sudden, and I don’t get to say goodbye. I will get an email that goes something like, “Hershey was hit by a car today” or “Sunny got really sick and we made a decision to put her down.”

Those are the hardest for me.

And sometimes, a lot more often, the pet is just really old. I always hope for a lot more time, but there’s never really enough.

And there are some cases, a few, where the pet dog is put down due to aggression, and I can only imagine how hard that decision need to be. and even lonelier for the owners as people question why?

And still other pets, some far too young, are sick with something like cancer and it is often a long decline over several weeks or months or even longer.

The walks might get shorter or slower. Sometimes, we begin skipping the walks all together and instead head out for a quick potty break and then kick back together on the floor.

Sometimes, my clients ask me, “Is it time? must I put her down?”

And I don’t tell them what I would do.

Because it’s their pet dog and they know best and frankly my opinion doesn’t matter.

I’ve learned, as a pet dog walker, not to give my opinion but to listen. and not to share my own stories, my own sadnesses, because this is not about me but about them.

Five things a pet dog walker can do when a pet dog dies

When the time comes when I get the call or the text or the email, “Simon is no longer with us,” I try to do these few things.

I am not perfect, and I’m sure I don’t always do or say the ideal things. everyone grieves differently, after all. All I can do is try.

So when a pet dog passes on, I try to do these things:

1. I reply to the message and say how sorry I am to hear the news, but I keep it brief.

2. I send a card, often flowers, often pictures I’ve taken over the years, either printed out or digital copies.

3. I offer a hug, if it seems appropriate.

4. I listen, if the client seems to want to talk. I do not push it if they do not.

5. I offer to continue the normal walks if they have another dog. and I also give the option of taking a break for as long as they need. a lot of want to continue the normal routine – for the sake of the remaining pet dog – even if the death occurred that very morning.

As pet dog walkers, we are not trained to do these things, and there is not exactly a “right” way to manage a client’s loss. (See my post on what to do when a friend loses a dog.)

If you are a pet dog walker, pet dog runner or pet sitter, I’m interested in how you manage these losses. I feel like we get closer to these dogs than other professionals. We form different bonds than they might form with a vet, a groomer, a trainer.

I know I learn to celebrate the time I do have with each dog, because I know it’s never long enough.

I might cry a little with each loss or just feel sad, but I’m also thankful I got to make a difference in each dog or cat’s life, even a small difference.

As they do the same for me.

How do you manage these losses, if you’re a pet dog walker?

If you’ve ever hired a pet dog walker, what’s something she did for you when your pet died?

In memory of all the dogs and cats I’ve loved, now gone.

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