Pet Loss Library

« Return to Pet Loss Library


Who gets custody of the pets?

by Kitty Walker, LMSW-ACP

Dear Kitty,

My boyfriend and I have two Pugs; Angus & Ryker. We adopted them jointly 2 years ago. Recently, my boyfriend and I have not been getting along. I know we won't be staying together much longer. I know there is a good chance that I will never see my Angus or Ryker again. I just don't know how to deal with this, how to say goodbye to my babies, how to go on each day without pouring their food or taking them for walks. How do I leave them? Honestly, I know they will be loved, and in good caring hands. But, how do I accept that those hands won't be mine?

Shari

Dear Shari,

I am very sorry that things are not working out in your relationship, and I hate that it means you will have to say goodbye to the dogs you own jointly.

I guess that first I want to ask if it really has to be that way. I have known couples in a similar circumstance who made allowances for both to continue to see the animals, despite one having "primary custody." Visitation, on a periodic basis, can be a very meaningful endeavor for both human and animal.

If, for whatever reason, that is not possible, you will definitely be in for a grieving process. I am glad that you know that they will be "in good caring hands," as that could otherwise be a source of great anxiety and pain.

I recommend that you have a special time set aside just to say good-bye to them. Perhaps it can be the last thing you do before leaving the household. Engage both of them in some kind of routine activity that you have enjoyed together, such as a walk around the block or a game of Fetch. If you have a habit of being vocal with them, you can tell each of them what they have meant to you, and how sad you are to have to leave them.

After you have done the physical leaving, try to set up some time to talk to someone who understands your bond to them. Take every opportunity to express your feelings of loss, verbally and in writing. The stages of grieving: shock, anger, denial, bargaining, depression, acceptance don't occur in the same order or same intensity with everyone, but the acceptance stage is usually after all the others. In other words, it could take a while to reach.

Be gentle with yourself and allow your grieving to unfold.

My Best,

Kitty


Ask Kitty is a psychotherapist specializing in grief and loss issues which humans encounter when their pets die. She has worked in this area for a number of years, providing counseling to people at this special time of need. She also provides consultation and education to employees of veterinary clinics in her area.

Heartfelt thanks for the excellent care you gave out cat. Your thorough examinations and expert treatment surely saved his life.
— P Family —

I appreciated the excellent care and kindness you had for our pet, through all the years.
— LH —

Thank you so much for the tender loving care you provided out dog and your professionalism and concern for out pet and us.
— MT —

We really appreciated the care you provided to our pet.
— AT —

Thank you so much for taking care of our pet and saving her life.
— AR —

Such a professional and caring pet clinic for emergencies is available it truly a great asset for Tucson.
— C Family —

Thanks to you and your great staff for the loving care you gave.
— Merlyn M —

A heartfelt thank you for your excellent care and treatment for our beloved pet.
— Harold D. —

Many thanks for your compassion and excellent care.
— KS —

Knowing that he was in such good caring and professional hands means so much to me.
— JM —

You are a wonderful group of people and I appreciate all your kindness.
— SW —

The staff is great, I appreciate the friendly and excellent care.
— J —

Pima Pet are the very best and I can’t thank you enough.
— SV —

We would like to thank the staff for their very kind care.
— BW —

I wanted to say thank you for everything and the kindness you showed us.
— CC —

Thanks to all of you for the thoughtful caring care given.
— PC —

Thank you so much for the years for care you have given over the years.
— SH —

Thank you for your professional, thoughtful help and mostly the love you all show for your jobs.
— JV —

The care starts at the front desk and simply follows through everywhere at the clinic.
— MM —