With the heaviest of hearts, we said goodbye to our Zoe this week.

Our family is swimming through the grief as best we can, trying to support each other without pulling anyone underwater.

When we told the kids the news, 9-year-old Doodlebug burst into tears, sought refuge in my lap, then went to her room to draw an elaborate picture of Zoe and Winston soaring through the stars as Angel Dogs.

7-year-old Rascal leaned over and tucked his head into my neck, saying nothing. Several minutes later he got up, went outside, rigged up a punching bag and attacked it with two oversized toy swords. Again and again and again.

Smiley, our 3-year-old, kept repeating, “But Mama, we have a dog. Our family has a dog.” It was as if this impossible piece of bad news just did not fit the drawings that hang from our kitchen magnet board. Our family has a dog.

Hubs put dinner in the oven, offered wine and chocolate, and held me as I shook. He promised me, over and over that Zoe felt loved every day of her life.

Me, I just cried. And when nobody was around, I wailed. Five days later I still don’t have a grip on the pain or the tears.

My everyday routines are brutalizing me. I wake at my usual 5am, before everyone else, and gingerly step out of bed so I don’t land on the sleeping dog beside me. But she’s not there, of course. So I start my run, which is typically my source of sanctuary and relief, already gasping for air.

As I pack up the kids before school, I realize we are actually early because we are no longer juggling the dog chores with everything else. Have you fed her? Did you get all her meds? Has she gone outside yet? Is she back in? Somebody lock the back door. Kids! Don’t let her bolt out the front! Instead, we leave for school with time and tears to spare.

In the afternoon, as I work from my home office, I glance up every hour to see if she needs to go out. She is an old dog with a tempermental bladder…She always needs to go out. Not now, not today.

And later, during the chaos that is our evening dinnertime, I carry a steaming pot of pasta from stove to sink, and instinctively glance down to make sure Zoe is not underfoot. She is constantly underfoot, waiting for a crumb to drop. But of course it’s not her, just grief that I’m tripping over now.

And then, the house falls quiet. Before I go to bed, I peek in on each sleeping child and turn to let the dog out once more before setting the alarm. I wince, then tiptoe right across the spot beside my bed where my Zoe has slept for more than 13 years.

And as I lie there, praying for sleep, I realize that I’m ending my day exactly like I started it: aching and tearful and feeling every inch of the tremendous hole in my heart.


  1. Beautiful, Liz and I’m sorry for your loss. We lost our girl Lucy of 12 years three weeks ago and I’m right there with you. It’s all those phantom “rememberings” that make it so hard, in part. That, and missing them…. Hope you start feeling better soon. xo

  2. I am very sorry for your loss. My heart aches. Those eyes.

    As a vet I am part of this whole equation too often. Great pets. Great people. Terrible grief. As a dog owner who still hasn’t gotten another dog two years after our old girl left us, I can identify with all the missing parts of the day. Our dog was 16. There was a lot of routine. And then it was gone. Bigs hugs.

  3. I remember this pain as if it were yesterday, not 12 years ago. The hole in our home goes unfilled. The hole in my heart has healed but there’s simply no way I can do this again.

    Deepest sympathies to you and your family.

  4. Oh how this brings tears to my very own eyes! You’ve captured exactly the moments those of us that have also been through this have felt. I feel your pain & am thinking of you.

  5. My heart really is heavy for you. We lost of first dog, 15 yr. old Schuster when Mr. O was 1 month old and I cried and cried and cried for days then weeks, but it turned from a full waterfall into teary eyes as the months went on. Six months to the day we lost our second dog, 17 yr. old Simon and I wept over and over all over again. If felt so unfair and sad. Here we are three years later and we finally don’t look for them or hear them at the back door anymore. It’s amazing how the ritual of our everyday life has to rearranged/recreated to help with the void. There is nothing like a dog companion. My hope is that you will remember all those wonderful times she had with you and you had with her. I remember you telling me the story of when you were in labor with Doodlebug and while hubs was getting the suitcase, etc. you were in the backyard throwing a tennis ball to keep her occupied because you knew she would miss that in her daily routine while you were gone. Now that is a loyal loving dog owner. My heart sends you big hugs!

  6. I found my way here via Ann. I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. I have had pets for most of my life, and the loss is always so much more than those without these kinds of friends understand. Be well.

  7. I’m so very sorry for your loss. I know all too well that ache left by dogs gone from us. I think it’s especially hard when you’ve lost both and have an “empty” house. Plus, I know how all previous losses pile onto the new one. Wail away. Goodness knows I would. Heck, I still do … and we only had a close call this month.

    • You are so right about the compounding losses and pain. Last January was pretty unbearable…and losing Zoe has opened up all those wounds that hadn’t even healed entirely.

      Hugs to you, my friend.

  8. Last year, I lost my mother. And then less than a month later we lost our cat of 11 years. My children were devastated by both, but in some ways, the cat was so much harder because he was a daily, hourly, minute to minute part of our lives. For my little one, she still talks about him and says that when she grows up she will be an angel and make him better so he can come home.
    Losing a beloved pet in soul-crushing.
    You wrote that perfectly here.
    I am so sorry for you and your family, because nothing can replace the love that a family pet brings.

    • I want to hug you because I have been exactly there. Last year we lost our 4yo Lab, 10 days before my mom passed away. Overwhelming doesn’t begin to describe that kind of pain, but you’re right, it’s a different type of void when it’s someone who lived right under your roof and shared every piece of your home life.

      Hugs, Liz

  9. Soul-crushing indeed. I am so sorry. I have a young dog now, a couple of years after losing a most beloved friend whom I still think of as “the best dog ever.” Even though my boy Jasper overwhelms me at times with his energy, I actually think about the fact that one day I will lose him , too. It is the way of things when you love a dog. They leave us with hearts breaking. So every day that he is with me, every day that he is young and healthy and energetic, I love him as he is and fully in this day.

  10. I am so very sorry for your loss. She was a beautiful girl. It is easy to see from your pictures that she had a long and well-lived/loved life with with you and your family. I hope you come to find peace in knowing that.

  11. I lost my Snickers, 13 yrs old, adopted and woeboegone from a shelter and I still see how she would move from one side of the drive to the other, to sniff both trees before finding a place to do her business. I knew that morning when I woke that I had to end her suffering. I cried and had to leave work after making the appointment for noon. I cried as I held her and waited for the appointment. The last picture I have of her is in the car outside the vet’s office and it looks like she is smiling. I am glad to have know that animal soul. I am sorry for your loss.

  12. What a beautiful and heart breaking tribute. We had a loss in our extended dog family this week that brought all the ones I’ve loved and lost back to me. In the end of it all I could write was let’s sit with each other in the spaces we can not change. Well, my post said it better than I can in a comment. Maybe reading it would help you know you’re not alone in your grief. If you’d like to see it it’s here: http://www.lessonsfrom4legs.com/2012/02/23/the-ones-weve-loved-and-lost/

    I’m sorry for your loss. You have a beautiful blog.

  13. As I read this, I’m thinking about our 9yo lab who looks incredibly like Zoe. He’s slowing down. I know pets must go long before we’re ready for them to go. And like you, he came before kids. He’s been here their entire lives.

    I’m sorry for your loss, truly.

  14. okay you totally had me in tears with your raw, honest pain and sadness. I have a 10 year-old-lab who is not only an old soul, but the dearest canine companion I have had or ever will have. She reads me better than I read myself. I am already mourning the thought that she will not always be with me. I so get your grief and I so send a large, warm hug. The good news is that the depth of your grief reminds you just how deeply you can also love. sending love!!

  15. Oh, Liz. This post made me cry. I know that love and it’s so very, very tender and unlike any other. I know your sweet friend had the best life a dog could ever have, but it still hurts like hell.

    I’m so very, truly sorry for your loss.

    Love and hugs,


  16. I am so sorry for your loss Liz. There is something so shockingly tragic about losing a pet. It’s simply horrible. Telling the kids only amplifys the challenges.

    We lost our dog last month and it really tore me up. Here’s my post about it. the challenges with breaking how ingrained they are in to our routines, and how much it hurts are so much like I felt. http://www.themommytherapy.com/2012/01/goodbye-indiana.html

    I hope you all move through this and find peace soon. It’s been almost two months for me now and I still miss my dog immensely, but the tears have stopped, at least they aren’t coming daily anymore. Take care!

  17. What a beautiful and poignant post…Zoe was a gorgeous girl and so clearly loved. I am so terribly sorry for your loss and for the tremendous hole in your hearts. They say that time heals broken hearts but I have always found that time seems to slow down to a trickle during times of grief.
    Sending lots of healing thoughts your way,
    Sue and the gang at Dream Valley Ranch

  18. Reading this post, and grieving with you, I’m reminded to be patient with our 11 yer old border collie. Marleys constantly underfoot and always in the way. I love her dearly and know her life isn’t what is was pre baby.

  19. What a beautiful post. We lost Ella our black lab when she was 18 just weeks before the birth of our oldest daughter. The vet who had treated her for most of her life came out to the house to ease her suffering and after she had gone he and I stood, tears streaming down our faces, helpless with grief in the face of what had just happened.

    Seven years on I still step over her and click my fingers if I accidentally drop food on the floor.

  20. I’m so sorry. I too have lost my deeply loved dog. And in the days that have passed, it feels as though the world is on mute and I am left without speech. Sometimes the pain feels much bigger than my body. It’s bloody brutal. I wish us both peace in the months ahead.

  21. Your writing is always so pristine and heartfelt- something you cannot easily replicate. As I am coming off of the high that is Steve Jobs biography, I want to leave you with this: “I’m fifty-fifty on believing in God. For most of my life, I’ve felt that there must be more to our existence than meets the eye… But on the other hand, perhaps it’s like an on-off switch. Click! And you’re gone. Maybe that’s why I never liked to put on-off switches on Apple devices.”

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