Planning New Adventures When Your Dog is Dying

Planning new adventures when your dog is dying is not an easy thing to do. You are grieving so many losses in regards to your relationship with your dog.

Not only is your dog ill but also the things that you two can do together are changing. Even though your dog is still with you right now, your daily routines have and will continue to change.

My goal is to help you find deeper enrichment with your dog during this special time. We are going to talk about planning some new adventures that you and your dog can share together. These activities don’t have to be grandiose like climbing a mountain. They can be as simple as lying on the couch with your dog and taking a nap together. 

We will concentrate on special activities that you two can do together and that, of course, will depend on your dog’s health level at this time. Through these activities you will create new memories for the times that you two share during this special time. And through creating new adventures, you also give yourself the opportunity to reflect and love your dog in different ways, which, in turn, helps your grieving process.

The Importance of Quality When Planning New Adventures When Your Dog is Dying

Before we get into the how, what, and when of your new activity plan, I would like to talk about quality.

When healing your pet grief, a way to be truly effective and transformational is to spend the rest of your activity time focused on your dog. 

What this means is, for example, if you are going out for ice cream cones, don’t talk on your cell phone. Instead, spend quality time with your dog to enjoy every single lick of your ice cream together. If you are relaxing on the couch, instead of reading your email on your device, take a deep breath, touch your dog, and send loving energy to him or her.

Honestly, after your dog has died, you will think back to all the quality times that you gave your dog special attention. And any feelings of guilt may not even exist. Why? Because you participated fully with your dog while he or she was still in your life, and you were not distracted.

The Reminiscence List

The first thing that I ask my clients when we are working on this part of the healing pet grief journey is “What are the things that you like to do most with your dog?” Basically, I have them write out lists. 

Your list can be any number of things that you love to do with your dog and what your dog likes to do. Include everything, don’t edit or wonder if your dog can still do them at this point. I also gave you some examples later in this article of some things you can include in this list.

The healing part of planning new adventures when your dog is dying is that it gives you a chance to document and reminisce about your relationship. You will probably discover things that you forgot that you did together but really enjoyed doing. You will remember some of your dog’s toys, places, people, and other dogs that were part of both of your lives.

I will warn you that reminiscing about your adventures will bring up grief. Remember that it is okay and extremely healthy to feel pet grief. 

Just keep in mind that what you are going through is normal and unique to your relationship with your dog. Going over these adventures will help you in many aspects of your grieving journey.

Here is an example of some of the things that a client included on her Reminiscence List.

Reminiscence List to Help Planning New Adventures

  • Hiking the mountain 20 minutes from our home
  • Going to obedience classes
  • Hanging out with our friends
  • Picking out new collars
  • Sleeping in bed together
  • Doing errands together on Saturday morning
  • Playing in the first snow of the season
  • Sleeping on the couch together every Sunday afternoon
  • All our quiet times together
  • That time we spent a week at dog adventure camp

The New List

Now, make a new list that includes the things that you and your dog can do together, even if your dog only has a very short time left.

Include one or two things that you both enjoy and can do together when planning new adventures. It might be as small as a scratch behind the ears. Know that that is okay. What you do with your dog is not about quantity at this stage; it is about the quality of the activity.

When making this second list, don’t delete any of the activities that you wrote down in your first list. Keep the first list in a special place to save for later memories.

Include any activities from your Reminiscence List that you and your dog can still do together on your new list of “Activities We Can Do”  Begin to go through this new list, making notes on which ones are your favorites.

Here is an example of my clients’s new list of “Activities We Can Do”—

  • Quiet times together
  • Snuggling on the coach on Sunday afternoon
  • Sleep in bed together

The Plan

Finally, make a plan. My clients find that the key to success when creating new adventures and healing their pet grief is to create daily and weekly schedules to do particular activities. 

Depending on your schedule, you may only be able to allocate five minutes per day or up to five hours on certain days. For example, you could do something special like a five-minute body scratch where you are totally focused on your dog. Or maybe you have time and your dog has the ability for a five-hour exploration of some place new. The point is to plan ahead and actively decide how much time and exactly when each day you will devote to being fully present with your dog.

These suggestions may help . . .

Schedule a walk on the beach and make sure you put it in your calendar. Take or watch some obedience classes as long as your pal is still is able to participate, keep that activity and schedule it in. If your dog is infirm yet one of your favorite activities together is to lie on the floor and cuddle, schedule that in as well.

You might be feeling that it is weird or unnecessary to schedule favorite activities when planning new adventures when your dog is dying. Please trust this process and understand why scheduling is important. With all the chaos that might be happening in your world right now, activities have a way of being forgotten. They get buried under the normal emotions associated with the grieving process—pain, stress, sadness, and confusion.

Take your time . . .

My clients who have taken the time to make their activity plans found that they not only had more enriching and quality time with their dogs, but their guilt was virtually non-existent after their dogs died.

To understand how important these lists and the plan are in supporting you in your grief journey, please spend some time reflecting on the three Healing Steps at the end of this article. 

Give yourself the time to do this activity just as Marcia did. I promise you it will be an invaluable tool for your journey of healing pet loss grief.

When Planning New Adventures When Your Dog is Dying . . . Remember

  • Become aware of all the adventures that you and your dog shared together by creating an activity list, the Reminiscence List.
  • Then create a new list of new adventures and memories that you can share together during this special time.
  • Make a schedule to ensure that you allocate the time each day to doing these activities with your dog. Also, you know that the new activities can be very simple because the main point is quality, not quantity, and meeting your dog where he or she is actually at in terms of health.

Healing Steps

1. After creating your first list, the Reminiscence List, which includes all the activities that you and your dog have enjoyed together, what feelings of grief are you experiencing?

2. After creating your second list, the “Activities We Can Do” list, which includes the activities that you can do now, what feelings of grief are you now experiencing?

3. When you create your daily/weekly/monthly activity plan, how do your grief feelings change? How do your pet grief feelings change after you have done some of these activities?

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About the Author: Tony Ramos

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