Grieving the Loss of a Pet

by Curt Remington

Two days ago, Gunner, my eleven-year-old long-haired German Shepherd, laid his head on my leg and looked into my eyes as I gently rubbed his ears and listened to his heavy, steady breathing. My wife and daughter sat alongside and stroked his soft fur, while a veterinarian calmly talked to Gunner and injected a lethal mixture into his leg. Within a few minutes, Gunner’s steady breathing suddenly stopped. My wife and daughter cried, while I closed my eyes and psychically tuned into his spirit. Immediately, I saw an image of him running and jumping, with a renewed sense of energy and freedom.

Gunner, a long-haired German Shepherd

Gunner, resting from a game of fetch


Energy is something Gunner had been lacking, and it had been many months since he was able to jump. He’d lost his hearing, some of his sight, control of his bowels and most of the strength in his rear legs. On the other hand, he could still walk and even play a little fetch in the local park. Deciding when or if to end your dog’s life can be a very personal and difficult decision. As hard as it was, it seemed like an appropriate time to me, and I’m confident that Gunner thought so too.

Curt & Gunner in mountains

Curt & Gunner in mountains


I’ll get more to the end of the story later, but the beginning is probably a better place to start. For us, life with Gunner started when we brought him home at six weeks of age. As a puppy he overflowed with energy and enthusiasm, eagerly chasing a stick, a squirrel or our kids on their sleds. As he grew, Gunner’s love for his family and his desire to be good dog became apparent. Unlike our prior dog who would try and see what he could get away with, sneaking onto the couch late at night or off into the woods when he could, Gunner really wanted to be good, as if it was his moral responsibility. As Shepherds are known to do, he learned to communicate very well. We spoke to him in full sentences and knew that he understood much of what was said.

Mary & Gunner viewing Mt Shuksan

Mary & Gunner near Mt Shuksan


In the house, he was my constant shadow, laying by my desk as I worked, then following me to the kitchen for a snack. When he wasn’t nearby, I found myself looking around, wondering where he was or what was wrong. I truly enjoyed his company. When work got too stressful, a walk in the woods with Gunner would quickly renew me and him too.

His favorite times were our countless adventures, camping, playing on beaches and hiking in the mountains. Occasionally, he’d even swim along behind on a kayak outing. Like me, his favorite places included high mountain overlooks with panoramic views. I used to wonder if he was looking for wildlife or if he really just enjoyed the view as much as I did. On the trail, Gunner greeted fellow hikers enthusiastically, with a wet nose and a swishing tail. He loved people, and they seemed to love him. He got all of the compliments. Almost always, the hikers would stop to tell us what a beautiful dog Gunner was. One exception may have been the woman that screamed, thinking he was a bear charging down the trail.

As he reached the age of 10, we started noticing weakness in his gait and by the end of a five-mile hike, his rear legs barely had enough strength to finish. More symptoms started appearing which we eventually concluded were Degenerative Myelopathy, a common disease in German Shepherds that is similar to the debilitating human ailment Muscular Sclerosis.

German Shepherd crossing a creek

Gunner with his pack, plunging into a creek crossing


His exercise got limited to short walks in the neighborhood or a quick round of playing fetch at the nearby park. He got left behind during our hikes in the mountains. He undoubtedly missed going, and we missed having him along. But it was more important to us that he avoid aggravating his condition or injuring himself. His symptoms also included dragging his back feet, sometimes bloodying them on rocks or on asphalt. Along with his physical disabilities, he started losing his enthusiasm for life.

Heather, one of our daughters, had wanted a small dog for years. We knew that his eventual passing would leave a big gap in the family, so we considered buying a puppy. We thought that Gunner might enjoy the company too, and we’d have a new trail companion. While surfing the internet, I noticed a Mini-Australian Shepherd name Riva for sale nearby. My intuition and some psychic reading told me that she would make a great family dog.

Riva did turn out to be a joyful, loving puppy, but Gunner didn’t seem too enthusiastic about her. In fact he got downright grumpy, growling at her regularly. She did get a lot of attention, and being so fast and mobile, she would jump in front of him or try to herd him, pushing him into furniture as he tried to get around. About the same time, Gunner started soiling the house more and acting less friendly towards us. We found ourselves getting increasingly irritated with him. How could he not like this adorable puppy? What a grump.

Gunner looking disapprovingly at Riva

Gunner looking disapprovingly at Riva


My wife Mary decided to do some clairvoyant reading on the situation. She telepathically talked to Gunner whom expressed his resentment, pointing out that Riva’s a puppy, and she should know her place. She prances around and gets so much attention even when she’s doing stuff that’s wrong, stuff that Gunner wouldn’t do. Mary assured him that we would try to be more fair.

After talking to Gunner, Mary contacted one of our spirit guides. He told Mary that we needed to be as gentle and kind toward Gunner as we can be, and he added, “wouldn’t you be cranky?”  Gunner was losing use of his hearing, eyesight, legs and bowels. He also assured us that Gunner’s soiling the house was out of his control, and was not a form of retribution for the new puppy.

Both Mary and I looked at our behavior and concluded that we could show more love and understanding. We encouraged our kids to do the same and to give Gunner more attention. We made sure that he got as much exercise as he could handle, mostly on soft ground. During my meditations, I would psychically communicate with him, reliving some of our adventures and sending him lots of love.

Gunner enjoying a mountain view

Gunner enjoying a mountain view


Before long, Gunner started getting along better with the growing puppy, and he became more accepting of his own deteriorating condition. I became very aware again of what a big-hearted brave dog he is, as he struggled up a flight of stairs or tolerated Riva herding him into the side of a chair. He even accepted being left behind on hikes into the mountains, although I know he longed to go. With increasing frequency, his legs would just give out, or they would become tangled. He would wait patiently while I untangled his rear legs and pulled him back up onto his feet. I saw that although he became accepting, and maybe even started to like Riva a little, he just wasn’t having much fun anymore. A lot of what he was going through must have been downright miserable. We decided to discuss with him the eventual ending of his life. He telepathically said that he was tired of his old body, but that he loved his family and would continue to stay around for us, if that’s what we wanted. He emphasized that he would be fine with whatever we decided. He always placed his family at the very top of his priorities.

We continued to enjoy his company for a number of months, while his condition slowly worsened. As his quality of life went further downhill, it made less sense to me for him to suffer anymore. We went back and forth, struggling to decide on the best choice for Gunner, since he left it up to us to decide. Finally, we just picked a date and scheduled a time for the veterinarian to come to our house.

German Shepherd & Mini-Australian Shepherd

Gunner & Riva laying around


As the date approached, Mary and I both psychically checked in with Gunner to see how he felt about it. We both got a clear message that he felt excited about being free of his body. Apparently, Gunner knew where he was going, so he didn’t have the same fears most people have about dying. Mary saw images of Gunner visiting his mother and of him chasing a butterfly across a meadow. He also told her that we’ve been a great family, and thank you for all the adventures. He assured us that he would still be around his family in-spirit some of the time and that Riva would know when he is around, so watch for signs.

A few days before the scheduled date, the family gathered together for a day in Gunner’s honor, spending time at the beach playing, sitting around a campfire and giving him lots of attention and treats.

Before his appointed time, I meditated and communicated with Gunner again. What I felt was an incredible sensation of love from and for him, my bighearted companion.

So, when his breathing stopped and I saw his spirit jumping with new enthusiasm, I felt a sense of joy for him along with my sense of loss over the passing of a wonderful dog and friend.

12 thoughts on “Letting Gunner Go

  1. Judy M. Watts

    Dear Curt, Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story. I send you and your family love, these times of loosing someone close is hard. I am grateful that you and your family were able to have the communication you had with Gunner, if we could all take time to listen and hear a loved one communicate with us, whether it be a pet/companion or a relative or human friend. It seems there is a tendancy to not hear need to learn how to take the time to open our hearts and hear.

    Much love to you and yours…Judy

  2. Mira

    Hi Curt,

    I miss Gunner, too. It was always a pleasure to see him around the neighborhood. It’s hard to lose a faithful friend. Thanks for sharing his story.

  3. J

    Well-written story about your life with Gunner and his tremendous impact on your family. My family is in a similar circumstance with two elder dogs (full-bred australian shepherds, Addie & Scout) both 10 & 11 years-old. Addie has very similar physical maladies as Gunner having led a very active life when she was young , taking long hikes with my wife and jumping and catching frisbees daily. Today, unfortunately, with me looking for work and my wife working full-time, we don’t do enough with our dogs as we used to, and we feel tremendous guilt about it. I’m not as in tune to my dogs and pets as you are, but I do feel when I look in their eyes that they feel bad we can’t do more with them, but that also I feel a sense of unconditional love they have for us — that they understand, really, that times are
    tough, and forgive us for this, and realize that their role is to be there for us, whatever the circumstances. I’m not looking forward to what you just had to go through, and I know it will be soon. Again, thank you for sharing. Because of your story, I think I’m going to spend a little bit more attention and time with my dogs. Thanks.

  4. Kim Bernhardt

    Beautiful story. Beautiful dog. I have always thought that we, as people, could learn so much from dogs if we would just listen. They are so much more pure at heart than we are– more loyal, more forgiving. I used to think that no one loved their dogs more than I love mine, clearly there are others who do…. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Deborah

    “Thank you so much for sharing this. I have coined a new phrase for “Putting an animal to sleep” it is “Purposeful Transitioning of their Soul” Many animals are grateful for our help when they are no longer able to live a good quality of life. They will hang on as long as they can if they think that is what we want. But there is a time when you just know that they are ready to move on to their next destination. My oldest dog is a 16 year old Spitz. She has a bladder tumor and we did an interview about it approaching her time. I will post it soon. One thing she said was that humans do not need to feel sorry for them. They do know where they are going and they know it is a wonderful place. As with all passing it is the loss we feel here that is the worst. Blessings. “

  6. Diana

    “We had a priceless Black Lab/German Shorthair named Jake. Jake was the runt and so cute!!!! Justin was only two years old when we got Jake. We live on three acres, and Jake would chase and tree squirrels, kill racoons, run the property line keeping other animals out. Jake went boating with us, camping with us, he was our “Best Friend” But especially Justins’ our now 17 year old. The year before he flushed a deer for our neighbor Herb and broke his leg, we had it fixed, and he lasted a year. He started getting cold one day, hid under the porch and I heard his tell thumping, happy. We went and got Justin at school, took him to the vet for his final shot. I had a sobbing breakdown when we buried him, we even had a headstone made for him. “

  7. Jim

    Thanks Curt, for sharing.

    We lost our dear cat last August and now seem to have him back in another kitty. It’s an amazing Universe.

    Be well,

  8. Amy

    Dear Curt and Mary and girls,
    What a beautiful story, almost a biography of Gunner’s life. And you five (six) gave him such a large life. It seems to me a life any dog would be grateful for, including the part where he gets to teach you to be still yet more compassionate. Doesn’t everybody love to teach? I love how you teach. Thank you for this touching and beautiful and reassuring article.

  9. Lynn Clarke

    Hi Curt,
    I’m sure it must be strange to not have Gunner sharing your days. I am glad that you all had the time and love to share together especially knowing he is free.
    All my love to you and yours,
    Lynn Clarke

  10. Jule

    Where’re the kleenex when you need them? This is so touching and so genuine and personal. Thank you thank you. I’m sending it to five people I know right now who will love to read it and find the comfort you provide in your tale of Gunner. Beautiful! Jule

  11. Caren Venables

    What an amazing story? Such a cute dog. Love the photo with the puppy. He actually asking the puppy, are you hungry? lol… But that was him, as he is your guardian angel 24/7. He will come back to you in another dog, much the same as him. No question. Don’t you be guilty of your actions either. It was his time cause he told you so. And now he is healthy puppy like before he got sick. So you can’t ask for better than that in my eyes. God Bless the little bubba. All i can say that he is with you all the time. Having a ball now, he is healed and alive again in spirit. Is there is someone sick in your family thats not well at the moment. Make sure they get checked out properly. He wants you to take time out with your family and rest. It’s called quality time that we all need. Keeps us grounded and balanced to think clearer. Any way nice to meet you on here.
    Caren xo 🙂


    WOW. Touching, and I liked it a lot. Can’t wait to see Riva! Sorry about Gunner, though.

    Yo’ nephew,

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