A Lost Pet: A Time for Family Bonding

Many of you know that we lost our dog Nigel (aka The Sock Monster), whom we loved deeply, on Saturday in a freak accident right outside our front yard. It was such a shock to us, and it’s the second time in the last 4 years that something like that has happened suddenly.

The thing is, there is nothing we can point to as far as negligence on our part. There’s nothing about which to say, “If we hadn’t done _________, he would still be here.” In a way, that’s good. We don’t blame ourselves… or anyone really for his loss. But in a way, it’s bad, because it is completely senseless, and hard to wrap our minds around.

Judd and I were completely distraught that first day. I cried so hard, my eyes were about swollen shut. But the first thing we worried about is telling the kids. After we lost our dog four years ago, and got Nigel, they kept asking if Nigel was going to die too. We were careful not to promise things that we couldn’t control. We just said that we hoped he would be with us for a long, long time, and it was ultimately up to God. We took all the precautions, got a radio invisible fence, trained him not to chase cars, brought him inside a lot. But we just can’t control everything.

So how did we guide the kids through their grief, while we ourselves were grieving?

1. We admitted that we were sad, and weren’t afraid to cry with the kids. We held each other and cried for a long time that morning. It’s good for kids to see their parents feeling and dealing with grief, not stuffing it in to “be strong for the kids.” However, we remembered this verse and were careful to season our sadness with Hope from the Lord.

1Thess 4:13-14 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

I believe that all of God’s creation is eternal, and will be present in its glorified state in Heaven. So our message to the kids is, “We are so very sad and will miss Nigel very much. But we know that Jesus is with him in spirit right now, and we will see him again!”

2. We prayed with the children. Our prayers poured out our hearts, asking God to give us peace and guide us through our sadness. We also told God how much we loved Nigel, and that we knew He was taking care of him now.

Samuel 22:7 In my distress I called to the LORD; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears.

3. We communicated that God allowed this to happen and knows how we are feeling, but did not cause Nigel to be killed. The sovereignty of God is tough to understand, even for an adult. I wanted the kids to be secure that God is with them, and that He has a plan for everything. But I also don’t believe that He causes tragedy. From what I understand, He allows tragedy so that HE will be glorified in His mercy and restoration. I don’t know if the kids got the whole picture, but maybe they will look back later and the message will sink in.
4. Let them achieve a form of closure that is meaningful to them. My creative six year old immediately got out the watercolors and painted pictures of Nigel. My introspective daughter (8yo) wrote notes to him, and wanted to bury them next to Nigel, along with his bone. The whole family went out to the site and had a little prayer ceremony, cried again together, and it was amazingly helpful for all of us.

My husband and I still think we hear him walking through the house or barking outside sometimes; our minds playing tricks on us. My daughters, every now and then, will say, “I really miss Nigel,” to which I say, “Me too, sweetie.” and hug them tight. But I feel like this weekend together was really healing for us. It built trust between my husband, me and the kids, and brought us closer to the Lord. He truly showed His Mercy and Grace in the face of tragedy.

We love you, Nigel!

Now, my husband wants to get another dog very soon. I’m just not sure I can handle training another puppy right now, or being afraid to lose him. What do you think? Is it best to go ahead and get another dog to fill the space Nigel left in our family?

Subscribe to Real Life
Follow Sarah on Twitter

About Sarah Pinnix

I'm a mom, blogger, vlogger, libertarian. I love Jesus, and my husband, too. Social Media Strategist for a Non-Profit (All statements here are solely my own)


  1. Sarah, I am so saddened to hear of your loss. I cried reading this…
    I don't know what to tell you about getting a new dog… I did have a pediatrician tell me that animals are very healing to grieving children when we lost our dog several years ago. If you want to get a dog, but don't have time for training and want a well-socialized animal, I highly recommend Avery Humane Society and the New Leash on Life Program, which gives you a professionally trained pet and gives prisoners in Avery County a second chance to learn empathy, love, and life skills. In fact, would you like for me to write a column about it for the MomSquad? Let me know. I think it might be a good option for you when you decide you are ready to open your home to a new pet. http://www.averyhumane.org – choose the option for trained dogs on the left hand menu.
    Amy Forrester


  2. More hugs being sent your way Sarah! I know how hard it is to loose a loved pet, when my Sadi died I was not sure about another dog, and it was probably about 4 months before Sampson was found and needed a home and it just felt right. Just like so many things, I think you will see that special dog that is going to ease some of the pain at the right moment and you will know it. Like the mommy-instinct we have. Prayers for continued comfort and peace.


  3. Oh Sarah! I am so sorry for year loss. This breaks my heart as my parents are dealing with a very sick pup right now and are heartbroken. All I can do is pray.
    I do think dogs are helpful for grieving kids… Not as a replacemt but as another animal to love. If you don't want a puppy, why don't you check rescue groups. We got our brittany through a brit rescue where she was fostered and already housetrained. You can get puppies to adults. Just another thought.

    I'm sorry again. I pray for peace for you and your family.


  4. Stacey @ Tree, Root, and Twig says:

    I truly feel your pain here, and am thinking about you and your family!

    Two years ago as we were preparing for a very overwhelming move from Oregon to Texas, our 4yr old kitty literally dropped dead from a heart attack, right in the middle of playing with the kids. It was the most shocking thing I have ever witnessed, and the aftermath of the kids screaming and crying was like something out of a movie. None of it seemed real. Our oldest daughter was especially affected, since this was "her" kitty – she slept with her, waited at the window as she walked home from school, sat outside the bathroom door during every bath and shower. The kitty was like her shadow! We let our daughter stay home from school and grieve in any way she needed – crying, pacing, sleeping. When she asked us if we could cremate the cat so we could bring her ashes to Texas, I didn't even think twice about it. In my mind, I knew my daughter couldn't bear to leave her behind. My daughter still keeps her ashes nearby in her bedroom, and from time to time we talk about how much we miss her. I think the greatest lesson I learned was to follow her lead in her grieving process, to not have any expectations for how long it might take or what it might look like. We haven't gotten another pet since then, but just in the last few weeks we've been talking about getting a puppy. I think it's time to invest our hearts again. 🙂


  5. Muthering Heights says:

    I'm so sorry about this! 🙁


  6. I am so sorry! We lost our dog last winter and I felt so guilty because I was in a hurry and let him out with out watching him. My husband wanted a dog right away too, but I managed to talk him into looking around for a while. We got one about 4 months later. It doesnt necessarily take the hurt away. I have brought up the differences and so forth. Having a pup is hard too.


  7. confessionsofacountrygirl says:

    I am very sorry to hear about your loss. We actually had to put our 19 year old lab mix down the day before Thanksgiving last year…Really hard…Had her 17 of those years. We actually adopted a 5 year old Cocker Spaniel not long before this because we knew we as a family could not handle being "dogless"….Needless to say she couldn't handle being the only dog so now we have 2 rescues.

    I agree with a lot of the other commentors….If your not sure about doing the puppy stage again rescue is the way to go. I think a rescue knows it's getting a second chance at life and gives a little "extra" love.


  8. Sarah and Family,
    I was so saddened to read your post today. I know how hard it must be – our pets are like family, I refer to mine as my "fur child".
    I think the letting go phase is important for now and maybe do check out a rescue when it is time.
    An abandoned dog showed up on our porch – after an exhaustive search, flyers, posters, newspaper to find an owner we kept Zoe and she was so thankful to have a loving home, she was the best, most gentle, loving dog.


  9. I'm so sorry for you. I know that's a hard, hard thing to go through. It's good though that you were able to be real with your kids.


  10. Eren Mckay says:

    Oh Sarah- that's just really sad. I love how you dealt with it all. That was such a balanced way to deal with it all.
    I'm so glad that your kids have such an awesome mom to help them through this all.
    Eren Mckay


Speak Your Mind