Mobile Veterinary Practice

Greater Rockford, IL 61107


Pet Lover's Inalienable Rights


For pet parents, the loss of a pet is one filled with much incredible emotion.  One of grief over the loss of a precious pet as well as confusion over how to process the grief for fear of being shamed. 


In all actuality, pet parents want to grieve this loss much like they would grieve any other significant loss in their life.  For in grieving the loss, this allows a pet parent to fully honor the life that was shared.  By hiding, or feeling shame for mourning the death of a pet, a pet parent is not fully given the right to acknowledge the love, the life, and the wonderful times that were shared together with this pet.


A pet lover has rights when it comes to grieving this loss.  Dr. Alan Wolfelt has so eloquently shared what he refers to as a Pet Lover's Inalienable Rights. 


The Pet Lovers Inalieanable Rights are below.  Thank-you to Colleen Ellis and Two Hearts Pet Loss Center for letting me share these with you.


1.  You have the right to grieve the death of a pet.  You loved your pet.  Your pet loved you.  You had a strong and profound relationship.  You have every right to grieve this death.  You need to grieve this death.  You also need to mourn this death (express your grief outside yourself).


When we love and we have a death, we grieve.  It doesn't matter if it was a human being or a precious pet, loss is loss.


2.  You have the right to talk about your grief.  Talking about your grief will help you heal.  Seek out others who will allow you to talk about your grief.  Other pet lovers who have experienced the death of a pet often make good listeners at this time.  If at times you don't feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.


Find those that will support you and honor your story, the story of the life that you shared with your pet.


3.  You have the right to feel a variety of emotions.  Confusion, anger, guilt, and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey after the death of a pet.  Feelings aren't right or wrong; they just are.


            Your feelings are your feelings.  They are ALL right.

4.  You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.  After the death of a pet, your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued.  Respect what your body and mind are telling you.  Get daily rest.  Eat balanced meals.  And don't allow others to push you into doing things you don't feel like doing.


You know yourself and what you physically need.  However, don't hesitate to reach out for help.  Find a support system that will empathize with your loss and will be there to help you with these physical needs as well.


5.  You have the right to experience "griefbursts."  Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you.  This can be frightening, but it is normal and natural.


            For that first year after the loss of a precious pet, there will be the "year of firsts."  That first spring where the dog will not be there for a sunny walk.  That first summer where the pussycat will not find his place on the windowsill to watch the birds.  The first Christmas.  The first Halloween.  Griefbursts will happen.  Allow yourself this time to honor your pet and what they meant to you at these particularly emotional times.


6.  You have the right to make use of ritual.  After a pet dies, you can harness the power of ritual to help you heal.  Plan a ceremony that includes everyone who loved your pet.


            Having a funeral or memorial service for a pet is very acceptable.  After all, for pet parents, we have made use of other rituals throughout the pet's life.  Therefore, take this time to honor your pet with this type of ritual too.  And, as you ask your friends to take part, remind them that it's you that needs to their support during this difficult time.




7.  You have the right to embrace your spirituality.  At times of loss, it is natural to turn to your faith or spirituality.  Engaging your spirituality by attending church or other place of worship, praying, or spending time alone in nature may help you better understand and reconcile your loss.


While many people will have their own opinion on pets and spirituality, this is your time.  Trust your faith and believe in what's important to YOU.


8.  You have the right to search for meaning.  You may find yourself asking, "Why did my pet die? Why this way? Why now?"  Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not.  Ask them anyway.


            This is your time to search.  And, find your own meaning. No one else's.


9.  You have the right to treasure your memories.   Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of a special companion animal.  Instead of ignoring your memories, find ways to capture them and treasure them always.


Treasuring our memories fully allows us to acknowledge the life that we shared together.  Our pets are with us through so many life events.  Treasure these memories and honor this chapter in your own life.


10.  You have the right to move toward your grief and heal.  Reconciling your grief after the death of a pet may not happen quickly.  Remember, grief is best experienced in "doses."  Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you.  Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of a beloved pet changes your life forever.


You will not "get over" this grief.  You will "get through" it and you will do it at your own pace and time.  You have been forever changed because of the love you shared and because of this death, too.