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Another side of pet bereavement: loss through separation and divorce


Those of us going through a separation, or who’ve been through one, know the heartbreak it causes when beloved pets are involved.  Bonds with our pets run deep—we may even consider them as our children—and the grief and guilt associated with such changes is tremendous.  He’ll miss me so much. She’ll think I’ve abandoned her. He wonders when I’m coming home and why I’m not there anymore. 

The problem is a tough one, and there are no ideal solutions.  Here are a few thoughts: 

Establish boundaries. How often can I realistically visit my dog? How much financial responsibility am I in a position to accept? Be clear about what you want within yourself first before trying to talk it over.
Decide whether to ask for more than you want and back off if necessary, or whether to start small and add on.  Discuss your desired arrangement with those affected.  Try to stay calm and remember that situations evolve.
Talk over your concerns with a pet loving friend, a hotline, or a support group.  Isolation breeds grief and guilt.  I'll have more on resources coming up; check back.
Have you ever grieved the loss of a pet due to a relationship breakup or divorce?  Have you ever stayed in a toxic relationship because of a pet?  Have you ever had a pet caught in the middle of a domestic situation?  If you’ve dealt with this issue, leave a note about your experience.  Your pain, fears, suggestions, and solutions can help a fellow pet lover who’s going through something similar.


  • Tracy B Ann 5 years ago

    I think all women who have a child or get a pet need to be clear in their minds that they are the one with the ultimate responsibilty.

    That is the sad reality.

    After living with a man for 4 years we broke up but he comitted to visiting the dogs. He didn't.

    A year later when we got back together, my Dalmatian sat in his lap and cried - just pitiful whining.

    Me? Not so much. It didn't last. There was no doubt in my mind though that I was the primary caregiver.

  • Nancy 5 years ago

    It sounds like your dalmatian was affected hard by your breakup, Tracy. That's the most difficult part; that they're caught in the middle.

    How did your dalmatian react to the subsequent breakup? I've had that kind of back and forth in my own experience, and I tend to think that's almost hardest on them over just a complete absence.

  • Tracy B Ann 5 years ago

    You know, for the most part I think she lived in the moment.

    She only saw him one other time. I was stopping by a friends house and had her in the car becauses she was recovering from a terrible dog attack.

    She had been bitten over 10 times and had surgery and was full of tubes all sticking out of her. She looked like a Frankenstein dog.

    I was just picking something up but I got her out of the car to let her go to the bathroom and I saw my old boyfriend on the porch.

    I told him what had happened and askekd him if he wanted to see her. He shook his head and walked away. My Dalmatian was on so many pain meds she didn't even notice him, thank goodness.

    She lived for 16 years and in that time I was involved with 3 men. They may have come and gone but she stayed.

    I know where my loyalties lie!

  • Tracy B Ann 5 years ago

    A friend of mine just went through a divorce and tried to get "dog support".

    I read somewhere of a judge deciding a custody case over a dog. The law is starting to catch up with these sorts of things.

    I think too, it makes a difference whether you came into the relationship with the dog or you both got it together.