Emotional support for coping with the loss of your dog
The loss of a pet is upsetting, but losing a guide dog can be devastating. Not only has the owner lost a friend and companion but also their means of getting about independently. A sympathetic, listening ear can make all the difference.
Guide Dogs already offers support to guide dog owners through local Community Teams and our network of service user representatives. Now we’re also working with Blue Cross, who deliver emotional support through a national Pet Bereavement Support Service (PBSS).
Of course, when a guide dog dies, the emotional impact is enormous, but the end of a partnership may also be due to illness, retirement, rehoming or some other cause of separation – and the feelings of grief are often the same.
And it’s not only guide dog owners who are affected. Children with buddy dogs, puppy walkers and other volunteers, staff and their families – in fact anyone who comes into close contact with any of our dogs – may well be grieving when the relationship comes to a close. That’s why the service is open to current and retired guide dog owners, volunteers and staff – and the families of all these groups. PBSS also offers support for children as well as information for parents, teachers and guardians about the effect the loss of a pet can have on a child or young person.
Blue Cross has been providing a professional bereavement service across the whole of the UK since 1994. The service is accredited by the Helplines Partnership and is run by volunteers with full back office support and training. The listeners undergo 14 weeks of training, which includes a module about the special relationship between a service user and an assistance dog. Guide Dogs has worked very closely with the PBSS trainers to ensure the listeners have an in-depth understanding of the guide dog service.
We are now developing the links between PBSS volunteers and their local Guide Dogs Community Teams to foster an even better understanding of the services both have to offer.
I was very impressed. It had been a very traumatic time for me but the listener put me at my ease. I certainly felt better afterwards because I’d had someone to talk to, which counts for a lot.
Guide dog owner
How to cope with the loss of a dog
Treat yourself kindly
Allow yourself plenty of time. Losing your guide dog can be very stressful and drain your energy. Be sure to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally by eating well and resting.
Talk about it
Sharing your thoughts and feelings can help you process what’s happened in a healthy way. If you’re not comfortable talking to people you know, Blue Cross’s Pet Bereavement Support Service is open all year.
It’s likely you’ll have enjoyed plenty of time outside with your dog. Try to ensure you’re still exercising, which can help you feel more energised and lift your mood. Even a gentle walk can make a big difference.
Remember, everyone is different when it comes to dealing with grief. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help if your grief interferes with your daily life, or you feel you’re not coping.