My Dog Died

My labrador used to let me paint her fingernails when she was sleeping and for weeks she would look incredibly sophisticated. She woke me up every morning by whacking open the door with her face and then nosing my hair until I assured her I was alive and able to feed her. Sometimes she burped and then barked at the smell.

She had a tiny fold behind her ears that we said she kept love letters in. My dad Photoshopped her, flying like a reindeer, into our Christmas cards. Watching her chew grapes was hilarious. She liked lying under the piano when my mom played and was the only audience member she could ever perform for without nerves locking up her fingers. She hated mushrooms and the smell of sponges. I once watched her poop out an entire human sock.

When we talked to her, she would raise up her ears so that they would be perfect triangles next to her velveteen head. She looked like she was straining to understand, like she was so close to understanding English, if we could just slow down a little and only use the words she knew. She abhorred the treadmill and people hugging. When she violently kicked off all the couch pillows to make room for herself she always had a look of satisfaction on her face as she clicked her mouth together in order situate her tongue right in her mouth. I’m pretty sure The Simpsons was her favorite show.

I’m not really handling the whole thing well.

The thing is, I knew it was going to be bad. I knew from the moment that sand started clogging the gears of her wiggly hips that it was coming, and it would be unimaginably horrible. But I didn’t know I was going to be two thousand miles from home, that a goodbye months before would be goodbye forever. I didn’t know the physical falling feeling that kept happening in my palms and stomach would reappear for months whenever I saw a dog.

Part of it is just the actual pain of her somehow just evaporating, but it’s mixed with a heavy dose of guilt for feeling destroyed by the loss of a pet. Most of the sick sadness is just missing the way I could press my ear to her belly and hear the gargling of digesting Alpo. It’s regular, losing a labrador sadness.

The other kind of sadness is something I can’t really explain well. I didn’t know her dying would somehow be the first concrete evidence that time is something real and completely uncontrollable. I didn’t understand that her chasing a tennis ball up to heaven would also mean staring 11 years right in the face and confirming in a deeper way that, yes, everything ends.

Because when you get puppy, a squirmy brown puppy who smells like puppy chow and falls asleep in your fourth grade arms, you don’t think about the day she’ll die and you’ll be alone in a foreign country unsure of absolutely everything. You don’t think about how one day the hair between the puppy’s paw pads will gray and cancer will spread like mold on bread in her spleen. All you can think about is how the future with the puppy is unlimited and free, how nothing has a time limit and her tail will wag forever.

My labrador used to sit with me when I had the flu, even when no one else would come near me. Dogs can’t get sick from humans and vice versa, which makes sense for a lot of reasons. As I puked and coughed and sneezed she would just gaze at me with her big, honey colored eyes. For hours she sat patiently, clicked her mouth together and sniffed the bottom of her paws. In my fever-induced confusion I used curl up to her and wonder how she could stand just sitting with miserable me, why she didn’t have anything better to do.

But my sweet labrador didn’t live in the messed up world where there’s always something better to do. She didn’t mind just laying with her sick friend while the rest of the world spun around her. She didn’t know there were time limits. I think it’s better that way. TC mark

image – Spec-ta-cles


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  • Sweeny79


  • H Pepper

    This is beautiful. Thank you.

  • Nic

    I can’t stop crying. I lost my labrador 2 months ago and I miss her terribly. I miss the way her forehead wrinkles when I talk to her, and how she lies down immediately after I scratch her back. I still cant go near any labrador without trembling for fear I may break down. And soon I’ll be leaving behind my two other dogs for grad school. And my greatest fear is that I’ll lose them before I get back. And it isnt impossible since they’re both over 10.

  • Belle

    This makes me cry. I lost my husky 2 years ago. I still think about her all the time.

  • Andrew Rowland

    Labs are such a great breed of dog. It makes it so hard to lose one because even though you know they’re in a lot of pain, they still act so damn happy!

  • Lailane Caspe


  • Guest

    This made me cry so much, my greyhound died last Christmas holiday. She’d had cancer in her leg and early in the morning the leg fractured. We couldn’t take her to the vets until later in the evening. She was in so much pain, and I sat with her all day with her head in my lap . I miss her every day.

  • 0037

    I refuse to accept the learning from this article. My dog will live for as long as I live. This. Can’t. Be. Real. :(

  • guest

    I cried.  My dog is 7 and lately the thought of his inevitable passing within the next several years has haunted me.  I want to make the most of the rest of his time, even though I go to school away from home.


    You’re not supposed to give dogs grapes.

    • sallina

      Grapes and chocolate can be fatal if ingested by a dog.

      • Guest

         well obviously the author’s dog didn’t die from eating grapes so no need to make an unnecessary, obnoxious comment on this poignant essay

      • MONKEY MAN

        go to hell bitch

      • Guest2

        don’t stress out, he was just letting people know. btw he never said that was the cause of death but it might stop someone from feeding their dog with fatal foods and killing them.
        your comment was obnoxious, his wasn’t.

        (i didn’t know about the grapes, thank you)

  • Alli

    Beautiful.  I lost my golden retriever at the end of December…I am also living in another country and refused to believe that when I said goodbye last November it would be the last time.  When I said goodbye to him, he was the only one I cried for.  Your ending was perfect. Thank you for writing this.

  • Nikki Renee

    I love this article. My boyfriend’s dog is dying, and it’s just been an extremely emotional time for all of us. Dogs really give you the kind of unconditional love you always search for. I guess in a sense we can consider dogs to be our soulmates. We lost our family dog in September, which was devastating, and to watch my boyfriend going through the mental anguish of her long illness is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

    Funny how animals who can’t speak always seem to say so much. <3

  • liz

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s a devastating thing to go through. People don’t understand. But we dog owners get it! And we’re thinking of you.

  • tbond

    Such a beautiful piece, but it shattered me. My dog is 8, and means the world to me. I can’t even imagine life without her and she will never die. Never. When she dies I think I might.

  • Paul S

    I love dogs and I will never own one because I know
    it will die before me, which I would not be able to handle.  At least with
    having children, the odds are in your favor of you dieing before your kids.


  • Taylor Pawsey

    Great article. Moving. I wish I didn’t know there was an end just like your Labrador.

  • Alli

    My 13 year old dog died last night – I checked ThoughtCatalog today and this was the first thing I saw.  Thank you for expressing some of my feelings today.  I’m sorry for your loss and happy we both had time with such wonderful pets (friends).

  • Caroline T.

    This was touching, thank you.

  • Stephanie Cafasso

    I feel your pain. I lost my Labrador last year unexpectedly.  He had cancer too.  I was home for winter break and he would follow me around everywhere, sleep on my bed, snuggle with me when I was lonely, eat half of my meals, and just all around be the greatest companion ever.  I went back to school and a few weeks later my mom called me to tell me that he wasn’t doing well anymore.  Just all of a sudden.  I miss him everyday still.  

  • Michael Koh

    I’ll never look at socks the same way again. 

  • AnnamariaPhilippeaux

    I’ve always found such cruel irony in the fact that dogs are our best friends, but we outlive them by so much. My family adopted our first dog only about two years ago, when he was 2 years old, so he is still quite young, but many of my friends that have had their dogs since they were young kids are starting to lose them, and my heart truly goes out to them. I love my dog so dearly and hate imagining life without him, but hopefully it’s a long way off. He’s a happy, healthy pooch, and my family takes great care of him. When he goes, he’ll have had a great life, and I take solace in that.

  • Joshua T. Tracy

    Yeah, my manly self didn’t make it to the end of this article without crying like a baby. I have a year and a half old lab, my baby, and the thought of her not being around forever stings like a bitch. But I’m so grateful to have her, she’s always there for me in her own little way. I’m sure there will be times I will take her for granted, but I’ll try to remember your words as often as I can, and soak up every good-time we have. My heart goes out to you, and your friend frolicking around puppy heaven. 

  • Carlafrac

    I lost my cocker before new year. She was 14 and got old, really old in few months. It wasn’t pleasant to see her weak, struggling to do everything. She barely could walk, since the floor was too slippy for her in that situation. Then one day I arrived from work and she wasn’t there anymore. My mother took her to the vet and sacrificed her without saying anything to us.

  • Nic

    I have 5 dogs (one of them is a caramel labrador) and also I’m guilty of crying everytime I watch Marley&Me. I don’t know how it’s gonna be when they die and I feel like one of them is close to it.

  • Kelley Stieh

    this was absolutely beautiful. thank you for sharing this. 

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