Best dog friends Rugby and Skye
Pet Loss

Holidays, Pet Loss and Grief

Ah, the holidays…a cause for celebrating with good friends and family, but also a difficult time of year for so many. It’s taken me a long time to be able to write this post, but it feels like the right time to finally do it.

Some of you may know that our beloved 9-year-old rescue Afghan hound, Skye Katherine, was diagnosed with bone cancer in her front left shoulder about 6 weeks ago.  We first noticed a slight limp back in early August but chocked it up to a soft tissue injury we hoped would heal with restricted activity. After several weeks of the limp progressing and certainly not healing, we took her to have it x-rayed.

While we didn’t receive a diagnosis that day, we did receive a whole lot of meds to help ease her pain.  Fast forward three weeks later, we struggled to manage her pain and her limp was becoming even more pronounced. Back to the vet who confirmed our greatest fear….bone cancer.

We spent the next day coming to terms of what would be ahead for her…increased pain, poor quality of life…and this wasn’t ever going to get better for her.  We contacted the amazing folks at Hampton Roads Veterinary Hospice and Integrative Medicine to make Skye’s final appointment for in-home euthanasia. I can’t say enough good things about the services they offer, the compassion and professionalism of their veterinary team. I hope to have such a send-off someday.

Skye had a breakfast of ribeye steak, her beloved Cheez-Its for a mid-morning snack, and ice cream complete with whipped cream on top for lunch.  It was a good day for her. It was a devastating day for us.

While we knew we made the difficult, but humane decision for a dog we loved completely, our concern turned to Rugby, our senior poodle and Skye’s best friend.

The two spent 8 years fun-filled together and were the best dog combo I’ve ever had.  She hated to be awakened while sleeping. He thought hurling his 20 pound body at her when she tried to eat his food could dissuade her. Despite these idiosyncrasies, Skye would protect Rug with her life if she perceived her little brother was being threatened. He would often “rescue” her from her less-than-stellar swimming skills, guiding her safely back to shore.

Skye and Rugby traveled together, played together and (ahem) “fiercely guarded” their home together.

Throughout my life, I’ve nearly always had more than one dog in my home. The loss of a pet is something we humans often grieve deeply, because they are “family” to many of us. When a pet loses their lifelong doggy (or kitty, etc.) companion, how do we help them understand and come to terms with their grief?

Do animals grieve?  I believe they do and I’ve seen it play out numerous times.

Rugby didn’t want to say goodbye to his dear friend that day. He ignored her as the veterinary team prepared to depart with her. Perhaps he believed she was just sleeping and he’d get a “grump” from her if he awakened her. Maybe he knew that she was gone and there was nothing more he could do for her.

In the days that followed, we kept him busy with adventurous walks, spoiled him with delicious foods, and he played like a puppy. In his new role as leader, he quickly created some hard and fast rules for our cats. There will be no more laser tag in the living room on his watch. —I’m sure he thinks Skye would approve of this measure.

He seems to look for Skye from time to time. He now hates to be left at home alone, though there’s still a menagerie here to keep him company.  How do we explain to him that she isn’t coming back?

Animals are such wonderful companions because they are our confidantes.

We can tell them anything and they’ll never tell another soul. They don’t mock us, judge us or belittle us. They simply cuddle closer and listen.  How do we return the favor to them in their time of grief?

A celebration of a good dog and a life well-loved

We were enriched by having Skye Katherine in our lives. She chose her friends with great discrimination. She was aloof to most….characteristic of the breed. Also true to the breed, she was indescribably lazy and would sleep until noon if permitted. She was quietly very silly. She was elegant and she knew it. Skye was gentle with foster kittens, our rabbit, and our birds could get away with tormenting her without retaliation. She was a gentle dog.

Skye was always content to play second fiddle to Rugby. He’s more portable, loves to snuggle, and as long as he was my doggy photo model, I mostly left her alone…much to her delight.

This holiday season has been tough for all of us. There’s a 60-pound space in our home and our hearts that’s no longer filled. I’m grateful to all of the doggy friends I’ve spent time with in recent weeks who remind me that every day with a good dog is a gift.

Skye, you were loved and we miss you. We’ll miss your beautiful and kind soul for a very long time.

Hug your kids, your pets and each other. Make the most of your time together.

Happy Holidays to you and those you love,

Barb Hays signature



A big doggy smile Afghan hound on the run A curious look from our dog, Skye