How soon is too soon to get another dog? Unfortunately I have experience in this area. But most dog owners do. And the amount of time I’ve waited varied. Here’s why.
Why I once waited a week to get another dog
Our longtime companion, Angel, died April 8. And we definitely needed a little time to rest and grieve. The last couple of weeks she was alive were pretty exhausting, and I didn’t exactly realize it until after she was gone. It wasn’t her fault. She was low maintenance into advanced age, and her body didn’t start failing her until she was 16.
Caring for a loved one in failing health wears you out, and when it’s over, you need to rest. How long you need to rest depends on how tired you are.
Initially we planned to wait a couple of months to get another dog. A couple months seemed to make sense. That would be enough time to get an electronic invisible fence installed, and do other things we just couldn’t afford to do for Angel when she was young. Two months seemed about right, until it didn’t.
About two days after she died, our oldest son asked when we might get another dog. And he asked again the next day.
“You know if we go to the Humane Society today, we’d come home with a dog, right?”
“And if I asked you if you wanted to get in the car and go, you’d say let’s go, right?”
Then I found out we’d all been looking at the Humane Society web site and eyeing the same dog. It took another day for everything to come together, but she came home with us less than a week later. The house felt empty without a dog.
Why I’ve waited several years to get a dog
I had a dog growing up. His name was Shadow, and he was a neat dog. He was a Cocker Spaniel/Irish Setter mix, was always gentle with me and with my friends, and was unusually smart. He lived to age 12, which is average for a dog his size. But I always thought he could have lived longer. When he was about 8, we moved to a brand new neighborhood in suburban St. Louis. And most of the neighbors were wonderful. Unfortunately, one of our next door neighbors messed with Shadow. She started messing with him when he was about 10, and he aged more in his last two years than he had in the previous five.
That situation was different. It wouldn’t have been right to get another dog when your psycho neighbor would kill that one too.
Life caught up with her eventually. Within a year or two she divorced and moved away. I don’t remember which was first, and it doesn’t matter anyway. At that point she became someone else’s problem. Sometime after that, we did get another dog, though I was in college, so I wasn’t fully in the picture at that point.
Samson, or Sammy, died a year or two after I moved out on my own for good, and he stayed with my mom, not with me. I talked about getting a dog of my own for years before I did. My life situation just wasn’t stable enough for me to be able to give a dog a good life. The timing when we got Angel was about right.
You’ll know when it’s time to get a new dog
I think what I’m saying is you’ll know when the time is right. I’ve gone to two pretty different extremes, but my situation was pretty different too. When I had situations beyond my control that kept me from giving a dog a good life, I didn’t do it. In my most recent situation, when the dependency was on every family member being ready and that came together in a matter of days, then we waited an incredibly short time.
It’s not a replacement
I talked with a wise neighbor who’s owned several dogs over her lifetime, and most of them lived to advanced ages like Angel did. She told me dogs never replace each other. They’ll have similarities, but each of them will also have their own personalities. And it’s not about replacing a dog the same way you’d replace an inanimate object. When I told her the story of Holly, our current dog, she smiled. “She needed a home, and your family needed someone to love,” she said.
And I don’t think it’s disrespectful to Angel at all. I still miss her sometimes, just like I miss Shadow sometimes, even though that was 30 years ago. And Sammy and I were never best friends, but sometimes I miss him too. Holly’s story is completely different from Angel, and even though she looks like a shrunk-down Angel, she has a very different personality than Angel did. Angel wouldn’t want us to feel alone, and I think she would be happy for another dog to have what she had now.
There’s no right or wrong way to grieve, except not to grieve. If getting another dog helps you to move on, and you can provide the dog with a safe and stable home, it’s OK.