The loss of a dog can cause real grief, similar to the grief we feel when a human passes away. When someone we know loses a dog, it can be difficult to find the right words to express sympathy and offer condolences.
Use phrases such as “I’m sorry for your loss” and “If you need anything, let me know.” Offer a listening ear. Be sympathetic and let the dog owner talk. Steer the conversation towards good memories of the dog. If needed, volunteer to help with memorial services or the burial.
When expressing sympathy for the loss of a pet, there are hundreds of phrases and variations of those phrases that can be used. These are all great for saying or writing to a dog owner, but they’re mostly starting points. Tweak the phrases to fit the dog owner and their situation. Be genuine and show you truly care. Here are twenty-one phrases to use when consoling a dog owner whose pet has passed on:
1. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
This phrase is the most simple, and perhaps the most important. If you don’t know where to start when comforting a dog owner, this phrase is the best one to use. “I’m sorry for your loss” can convey your sympathy well when you can’t find other words.
2. “What can I do to help you during this trying time?”
This question can follow just about any phrase. It lets the dog owner know that they can ask you for help.
The dog owner may never take you up on the offer, either because they don’t need help or don’t want to ask. Offering specific ways you can help can be useful to the owner. Ask if they would like to go for a walk. Being outside can bring back memories of a beloved dog. Drop off extra treats or food. Offer help with memorial or burial services.
3. “Tell me about (insert pet’s name here).”
Make sure you use the dog’s name when using this phrase. Asking about the pet can help the owner recall good memories. Listening to an owner talk about their pet shows the owner you care.
People often steer clear of talking about a deceased pet because they don’t want to make the owner sadder. The opposite is true. The owner is already thinking about their pet; you won’t make them sadder. Talking about their pet will only bring them comfort and happy memories. Just don’t ask them to talk about how their pet died. Stick to good memories and positive things about their dog.
4. “Thinking about you and (pet’s name). If there is anything you need, just let me know.”
This phrase is great for writing in a text message, email, or card. It’s short, sweet, and to the point, which is best for a sympathy message that isn’t personal. Offering to help with anything the owner needs can be comforting, even if they never ask anything from you.
5. “(Pet’s name) could not have had a better life or a more loving owner than you. They were incredibly blessed.”
Using this phrase can help the dog owner recall good memories and their love for their dog. While grieving, memories of love and happy times can be very beneficial to the dog owner. Emphasize how good the owner was to their dog. Offer examples of how the owner showed their love to their dog in special ways.
6. “Do you want to talk? I know you must be hurting.”
These phrases together can help you express empathy. The dog owner may want to talk about their dog, their life, or their death. Acknowledging that the owner is likely hurting and grieving helps the owner know you are willing to listen and provide support.
7. “(Pet’s name) will always be by your side, watching over you.”
This phrase is good to use with any dog owner, but especially a dog owner whose dog provided a service for them. The death of a service dog or emotional support dog can bring another level of grief to the owner who relied on their service. Knowing their dog is at their side, even in death, can be a comforting thought.
8. “A loyal companion and a best friend. May their memories bring you comfort in this time of loss.”
A phrase like this one is especially poetic, and perfect for writing in a sympathy card. Dog owners can look back at the card and take comfort in the way you wrote about their pet. Reminding dog owners to recall good memories of their pet is helpful.
9. “Take as long as you need and remember that friends and family are all here for you.”
The phrase “Take as long as you need” is best used when expressing condolences to someone like an employee. Using this phrase can help them feel less pressure to return to their normal functions when doing so feels impossible. Reminding them that family and friends are available shows you are a friend, not just a boss.
10. “Remember all the good times you had with (pet’s name). There were so many good times that can’t be forgotten, just like (pet’s name).”
Telling a dog owner that their pet won’t be forgotten can be very comforting. Oftentimes pet owners feel their pet will be forgotten and the impact the pet had on their lives won’t be important. Assure the dog owner that their dog created many good memories and won’t be forgotten.
11. “I can’t imagine how you feel right now.”
Using this phrase shows you understand the impact of the dog’s passing in the owner’s life. More importantly, don’t use this phrase’s opposite: “I know exactly how you feel.” People, pets, and situations are all different. Showing you don’t understand how the owner feels is often better than showing you do.
12. “Wishing you comfort and peace during this difficult time.”
The words “comfort” and “peace” are important in writing a sympathy message. Reminding the dog owner that comfort and peace are possible during their grief brings hope.
13. “You made the right decision.”
Often, a dog owner must decide to put their dog to sleep. Mixed emotions come with putting a dog to sleep, including guilt and doubt. If a dog owner had a difficult time choosing to put their dog to sleep, this phrase can be comforting.
14. “(Pet’s name) was so loved and will be so missed.”
Use this phrase when you knew the dog that has passed on. This phrase can reassure dog owners that their dog was loved by everybody. Sometimes pet owners can feel their pet was only loved by them, and therefore only the owner feels grief. Remind the owner that you miss their pet as well.
15. “A companion is gone but their memory lives on.”
Write this phrase in a sympathy card. The rhyming words can be a comforting idea for the dog owner. Having written words from friends that the owner can reflect on in times of sadness is helpful.
16. “Our beloved pets teach us more than we could have expected and love us more than we could have hoped.”
Write this phrase in a sympathy card, too. The poetic structure of the phrase is perfect for writing.
17. “(Pet’s name) was one-of-a-kind, and we were blessed to have had him/her in our lives.”
Let the owner know that their dog was one-of-a-kind. Some owners may feel their dog may seem like any other dog to most people. Show the owner that you saw how special their pet was and acknowledge the role it had in your life and theirs. After using this phrase, talk about the pet and the good memories.
18. “No one could have loved their dog more than you did.”
This phrase can be used in any situation, but it is especially good for owners who had to choose to put their pet to sleep. The emotions of putting a dog to sleep can make an owner question if they loved their dog enough. Reassure the owner that they loved their dog more than anybody and always did what was best for their dog.
19. “We can never keep them long enough! You are in our thoughts and prayers.”
Use this phrase if you have lost a dog yourself. It’s a good replacement for “I know exactly how you feel.” It reminds the owner that you have been through a similar experience without belittling their own experience. “We can never keep them long enough” also reminds a dog owner that all dogs pass away, and many people will have empathy.
20. “I know it’s not easy losing a best friend.”
Calling a dog a “best friend” can show the owner that you understand the depth of their grief. Sometimes pet owners can feel that people don’t understand how much their pet meant to them. Use this phrase to show you understand.
21. “Losing such an important part of the family is never easy. I’m thinking about you. Don’t hesitate to call me if you’d like to talk.”
Like calling a dog a “best friend,” acknowledging the dog’s important role in the family can be comforting to the owner. Letting them know you’re available to talk can also be comforting.
Sometimes quotes are the best way to express condolences. Here are some examples:
“A person who has never owned a dog has missed a wonderful part of life.” -Bob Barker
“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” -Agnes Sligh Turnbull
“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” -Roger Caras
What to Say to a Child
Children often have a difficult time understanding the death of a pet. Sometimes parents tell children their dog has gone away to live on a farm, especially if the dog had a difficult passing. Be sure you are on the same page as the parents. These phrases will work for consoling any child, whether they know their dog has passed away or not:
“You were a good friend to (pet’s name).”
“When you feel sad, remember all the happy times you had together.”
“It’s ok to be sad.”
What NOT to Say
“(Pet’s name) is in a better place now.” The owner might not think the best place for their dog is doggy Heaven. They might think the best place for their dog is right here with them, not in the next life. A good alternative might be: “I’m sure your dog is happy in Heaven, waiting to see you again someday.”
“At least…” Don’t try to point out the positive things in a situation. The owner will feel you are trying to force them to be grateful or find a silver lining. Let the owner grieve and let them know their grief is ok. A good alternative is reminding the owner of their happy memories with their pet.
Comforting a Grieving Friend
The phrases listed above can be used for comforting an owner of any type of pet. Many of them will even work for comforting someone whose family member or friend has passed away. Not everybody handles grief in the same way, but friends can always respond to another friend’s grief with kindness and compassion.
This video from MarieTV demonstrates how to comfort someone dealing with any type of grief. The main points are showing you support and love the person who is grieving.
Marie offers tips for helping a grieving person, four of which are particularly applicable to the loss of a pet.
- Keep checking in. Continue to ask the person how they are doing and how you can help them.
- Say “I am so sorry, how can I help?” This is the best phrase for showing compassion. It’s simple, direct, and can be used for any situation.
- Send snail mail. Write a sympathy card and mail it. In this digital age, a handwritten card means a lot.
- Offer specific help. Think of ways to help your friend that are specific to their needs.