First, you fall in love.

Then you decide to adopt that adorable cat, dog, parrot, rabbit. So you set off together, learning to adapt to each other’s expectations. Life is fun. Life is fuller. Your pet cheers you up in ways you never imagined possible. You catch yourself speaking in funny voices. You both grow older together. 

And then one sad day, you must face that your beloved pet is in decline, and the end may be near. Part of the trauma is that it’s also a reflection of your own mortality — if they’re aging, then so are you, and it can be tough to look in that mirror.

Sometimes it happens fast, and your pet dies a good death, requiring no tough decisions on your part. But for most of us, the dreaded discussions with the vet come next, and so many decisions. 

So what’s a conscientious pet guardian to do when the end looms? The hard truth is, implicit in the agreement to adopt and care for any pet is also the agreement to allow them to die with as little suffering as possible — even if it increases your own.

My wife and I had to face that a few months back with the death of our beloved white Labrador, Luna. She wasn’t the first dog I’ve had to put down, but she was the most difficult one for sure. Even after 13 wonderful years, you always want just one more good day, one more walk in the sun, one more cuddle on the floor. 

Luna had a long, gradual decline, but I still wasn’t prepared for the impact, though I had 18 months to face her death. She was the sweetest, most loving dog with both people and animals, and she walked with a big grin, butt wiggling and tail wagging. People constantly commented they’d never seen such a happy dog.

Her decline was more troublesome because of the quarantines, so we found a vet who came to our house. She was able to give an extra few months of Luna love by changing her diet and medications. But when the time finally came to say goodbye, the vet came to our house again, and Luna died peacefully in my lap. There have been 10 or so dogs and a few cats who have brightened my life, but Luna was my heart dog.

My profound grief was compounded with guilt and second-guessing. Guilt for choosing to end her life, guilt for wondering if we should have made the decision sooner, and guilt for grieving a dog when on that same day, 1,230 people died of COVID-19. 

As a mental health counselor, grief counselor and medical hypnotherapist, I have many techniques to manage my thoughts and emotions, and these tools helped me get on with life, even though the pain in my heart is still strong and the void I feel is very real.

These are some things you can try if you’re dealing with grief:

  • Allow yourself to ride the emotional roller coaster without judgment.
  • Be gentle with yourself and welcome the kindness of others.
  • Accept the process. Over time, your memories will bring more smiles than tears.
  • Never confuse acceptance with forgetting. You’ll come to accept death, but that doesn’t mean you’ll forget.
  • Practice self-hypnosis, meditation and other mindfulness-based techniques to find peace in your mind, heart and soul.
  • Allow for the possibility to love another pet again.

“Grief is like glitter. You can throw a handful of glitter into the air, but when you try to clean it up, you’ll never get it all. Even long after the event, you will find glitter tucked into corners. It will always be there somewhere.” ~ Author unknown

Although I swore we wouldn’t get another dog, a tiny mixed breed rescue pup popped into our lives, and we’re now welcoming her into our home, though she won’t take Luna’s place in my heart. Luna taught me to be a better version of myself, and I hope I’ll always be praying, “God, let me be the person who Luna thinks I am.”

Roger Moore is a certified counselor and registered hypnotherapist with Palm Desert Hypnosis and can be reached at [email protected] or (760) 219.8079. For more information, visit All sessions are online telehealth.

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Comments (2)

  • Silver Martin

    I think that article about the death of a old dog and giving a home to a homeless,
    dog , is something I myself have been thru 9 times in my life and will , however love the new one
    it’s a different kind of love, not better or stronger, just for today.

    • Lauren Elizabeth Del Sarto

      Couldn’t agree more, Silver. They so often rescue us!
      Thank you for reading Desert Health ~

      Lauren Del Sarto


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