I don’t think any runner truly anticipates the heartfelt grief they experience when they lose their dog. Besides being a great companion, your dog was a fellow road warrior, a faithful partner that kept a challenging pace while always staying on guard to protect you from strangers on the path, or even the occasional squirrel or blowing leaf. With a heavy heart, you can hardly imagine getting back out to run alone. Here are some suggestions to get you back in stride.
Take All the Time You Need
Overcoming grief doesn’t happen in a day, especially if you had to make the decision to put your dog to sleep. The sadness may linger for weeks, months or even a year. But know that your grief will subside in time, and don’t try to suppress it. That will limit your ability to move on. However, put away the doggie bed, toys and pictures of your dog. If it upsets you, don’t run the same routes you used to run with your dog. Sometimes such reminders make it harder to move on.
Don’t Stop Moving
While you are grieving, it’s important to continue exercising. Moderate exercise stimulates those great endorphins that make you feel better. Take it as an opportunity to find some new running routes, or to run routes you avoided because they were unsuitable for your dog. Join up with a local running groups for awhile. The companionship should help. Just know that staying active will benefit you emotionally and physically.
A New Road Dog to Add to the Pack
No one can ever tell you the best time to bring home a new road dog, but eventually you will probably want to fill the void. Treat the new dog as just that—a new dog. It’s best not to get a dog that looks like your old one, or to name it the same. It’s not fair to either of you. But when you are ready, do some research on your next road dog. Almost all dogs love to run, but some are better suited for distance and some for speed. Some dogs have great discipline; they can run the trails off-leash without taking off after every rabbit they see. Take into consideration the weather where you live. You may love huskies, but they don’t do well in the Arizona heat.
Several articles on the internet discuss breeds of dogs that are good for jogging/running. (Try Runner’s World Magazine “A Breed Apart.”)
If you find you need more help coping with your loss, seek support from family and friends who will take the time to listen. If you have trouble finding someone close to you who understands the extent of your grief, seek help from a professional counselor or psychologist.
For more information, visit The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, Inc.