It’s a question I faced exactly a year ago today when I said goodbye to Daisy
Daisy had been by my side for nine years, and although she was a senior dog, losing her came as a shock.
You might have read her story already. She was diagnosed with Canine Dementia last January and I wrote about How to cope if your dog has dementia.
She responded well to medication and, perhaps naively, I thought we would have a few more years together.
Daisy was 13 but was so spritely. Even the day after the dementia diagnosis she pulled her lead out of my hand and went running off in a field of sheep.
I spent the day covered in sheep poo and I kid you not she was laughing at me!
Daisy just before she went off chasing the sheep
Playing with a rugby ball days after the dementia diagnosis
Fast forward just a few weeks and she went rapidly downhill
It was when she could no longer see her favourite ball we knew something more was going on.
We took her to the vets and early tests showed signs of a brain tumour.
In the short space of time we had to digest the news and try to work out what to do next, Daisy continued to deteriorate.
I spoke to two vets and the outlook was bleak. Surgery wasn’t an option and around the corner was a seizure or haemorrhage which could have been fatal.
It all happened so quickly and as each day passed, the fiesty Daisy faded away.
The vets said she wasn’t in pain as she was on medication but she was so frightened and confused.
On April 17th we cuddled her and said goodbye. I didn’t want a horrible ending. I wanted it to be peaceful and for her not to suffer.
You can’t help but question your decision. Not so much at the time, as I was too scared of something horrible happening and I wanted to keep her safe.
Afterwards you think, ‘Was it too soon?’ ‘Did I do the right thing?’ And stupidly, ‘What will people think?’
Because when you create a pet blog, and put yourself out there, you have to share the bad as well as the good.
Daisy with her Scruffts rosette
On holiday in Whitby
And in the two weeks after Daisy died, I did worry about explaining myself
I know putting animals to sleep isn’t something that sits right with everyone.
Some owners believe we should let our dogs live their lives out as we do as humans, and that’s something I completely respect.
But I felt like I wanted to protect Daisy from whatever her ending might have been.
You can read more in this post - Saying Goodbye to our gorgeous girl Daisy
I’m writing this post because other bloggers and influencers will have to face this day, and I guess I wanted to use my experience to help in any way I can.
The Dogsofinstagram hashtag had 141 million posts and the @dogsofinstagram account 4.4 million followers at the time of writing (April 2019).
There are thousands of pet bloggers around the world and sadly, our dogs don’t live as long as we do.
Trying our best to be instagram-able!
On another holiday in Derbyshire!
Losing them and having to deal with this publicly is a reality
I’m not an expert but I can share how it was for me.
I didn’t expect to lose Daisy so soon. If I had known, I never would have started the blog less than a year earlier in May 2017.
I was fortunate as I write about other animals and people meaning I was still able to create content.
It’s heartbreaking losing your pet and I’m so so thankful to everyone who reads my posts and follows and supports me.
Writing what happened two weeks after she crossed the Rainbow Bridge, then the social media posts linking to the blog and clicking ‘post’, ‘tweet’ and ‘share,’ I was a mess.
I switched my phone off for an hour and walked round the park crying - by then this was a regular occurrence.
It sounds dramatic but I was dreading what would happen when I turned it back on.
I needn’t have worried. The comments, e mails, private messages, cards, flowers that followed totally blew me away.
Daisy is always watching over us
Our first event for the blog - Battersea Muddy Dog Challenge
When you launch a blog, you kind of know people read it
But a lot of the time you sit in your house tapping away and doesn't register that what you write means anything to anyone.
I don’t mean that to sound self-deprecating as I’ve done some things I’m proud of.
Feedback in comments, social media posts and e mails is always welcome. But when I posted about Daisy, it was on a totally different scale.
The personal messages about the bond we shared, how writing about her dementia had made other owners realise their dog had the same thing, how funny she was, how she reminded people of dogs they had lost, was just lovely.
Friends sent me photos of them on adventures with Daisy and her with their dogs, her as a young dog, an old dog.
Daisy and Sparky, my friend Suzanne's terrier
Daisy with my friend Sharon's dog, posh Stan!
Colleagues put up with endless sobbing
Even the grumpiest photographer I know reminded me of when we did a feature about dog Reiki and Daisy did a poo on the floor.
In true Jeremy Beadle style, the day Daisy was put to sleep, it was announced that the Queen’s last Corgi Willow had passed away too.
As a journalist writing mostly about pets, an e mail dropped in my inbox asking if I could write about the emotions she might be feeling.
I took the commission and spoke to bereavement counsellor Shona McLean - feeling slightly guilty that she was giving more advice to me on how to cope than Her Majesty.
In the two weeks between losing Daisy and publicly sharing what had happened, I did think about stopping the blog.
When I started, it was never to be an influencer and I don’t consider myself, Daisy or Patch to be one, I just write about things that interest me or that I think people will find helpful.
But I really feel for people whose pet is an influencer and who might build a blog or social media account around them and their name.
Because when they’re gone, what do you do?
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Chloe had 180,000 followers on Instagram
She'd worked with Google, cleaning brand Swiffer and, at the time of her tragic death, her face was on billboards for the Pixel phone.
She’d been at Blue Pearl animal hospital in New York following routine surgery and staff mis-calibrated an oxygen machine. They admitted her death was a, “medical error that shouldn’t have happened.”
I can’t begin to imagine how Loni must have coped in the aftermath, not just with losing a dog but the utter devastation because she should never have died.
Remarkably, she launched a campaign, #petsarefamilynotproperty, setting out to bring changes in the law for dogs to be have more legal protection.
Currently, in America, they’re treated as ‘property,’ and owners are entitled to the ‘economic value,’ or how much it would cost to buy a similar animal as compensation.
You can sign the petition here Pets are family not property petition
Any pet owner knows they are part of the family and you can’t just buy another like you would a mobile phone - you can’t put a price on your pet.
Daisy and her brother Tommy who she lived with before me
Daisy and her old friend Lottie
You can never replace them
But if you’ve loved and lost a dog, there will be a huge void in your life and in time you may feel ready to love another dog.
The dog you lost will always be in your heart and no-one can take away the memories, but giving your love to another dog is a lovely way to honour their memory.
With Patch, he didn’t come from a shelter like Daisy, but he needed a home and we adopted him in August, four months after losing her.
I felt guilty bringing him into her home, seeing him sniff where she once lay, him snuggling down in her super comfy crate.
He must have wondered where the dog he could smell was and for the first few days he wore her old pink harness while we waited for his to arrive.
Patch in Daisy's harness
Each time walking a familiar place, it felt strange him following in Daisy’s paw prints
Going back to Lymm, where I’d spent nine years with Daisy, I dreaded running into people who’d last seen me there with her.
Of course I adored Patch from the moment I clapped eyes on him and my love for him grows every day.
Sometimes I think he might be even more indulged than Daisy because losing her made me realise how precious our dogs are.
If you have a blog or a social media famous pet and you’re thinking about what happens when it’s their time, the message I want to share with you is that you will be ok.
Yes, there will be constant reminders that you wouldn't have as a regular dog owner, but it's because your special pet didn't just take your heart, they touched the hearts of many others too.
Be kind to yourself, and whatever you decide to do, whether it’s continue, stop, or change to incorporate a new pet, the community you have built will support you.
And if you’re struggling, there are pet bereavement counsellors you can speak to, and the Blue Cross offer e mail and phone support here.