Is It OK for a Christian to Grieve the Loss of a Pet?

A reader recently wrote our ministry: “I am a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. We are scheduled to put our sweet dog to sleep. This is my first time losing a dog. I am wrestling with the sadness. Your blogs and perspectives on animals in Heaven have helped immensely. Thank you.”

We’ve received many notes from readers over the years, who recently lost or are anticipating the loss of their animals, and are grateful for the perspectives I shared about pets—especially after the deaths of our Dalmatian Moses and our Golden Retriever Maggie.

Animals aren’t nearly as valuable as people, of course, but God is their maker and has touched many lives through them. We are called to care for them as stewards of the earth: “The righteous care for the needs of their animals” (Proverbs 12:10). A lot of people may not understand grief about a dog, but I certainly do. I also know my dog Gracie has been a great comfort to me as I have grieved over Nanci.

We needn’t be embarrassed, or feel guilty, that we grieve the loss of our pets or want to see them again. If we believe God is their Creator, that He loves us and them, and that He intends to restore His creatures from the bondage they’ve experienced because of our sin, then we have biblical grounds for not only wanting but also expecting that we may be with them again on the New Earth. (See chapter 40 of my book Heaven, Will Animals, Including Our Pets, Live Again?)

Years ago when I was asked during an interview, “Is it wrong for us to grieve the loss of our pets?” this was my response.

Here are some other notes from readers we’ve received. I hope they are an encouragement to those who are grieving a pet and need to be assured that our Heavenly Father understands our sadness and offers us His comfort: “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18). “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).

“I just finished reading your words about Maggie. I cried often as I let missing my cat rise up from its hiding place. I know that cats aren't as ‘connected’ to us humans the way dogs are, but for me, it was close. Your article on Maggie was truly one of the most poignant I've ever read. Thank you.”

“Thanks for this. We just had to put our 13-year-old dog down yesterday, and this is amazing to read today.”

“I read this through tears, having experienced the amazing love of a Golden Retriever. Randy, several years ago I interviewed you at an event. It was a treasured honor. One of the sessions I asked you about our pets going to a somewhat lighthearted way. You gave a very encouraging answer based on Scripture. …Now, reading this, I see how the Lord is blessing us with these amazing friends...and understands the grief we feel as they depart. We haven’t replaced our dog (five years gone) because of my international travel schedule. But I'm sure that will happen sooner rather than later. I miss the companionship and the lessons learned from these special ambassadors of the Lord.”

“I read your blog essay about Maggie just before dinner tonight, and was so touched. I read the paragraph to my wife about Maggie [being upset, putting her legs up on the couch beside you as you were praying for and grieving at Nanci’s cancer]. I teared up before the end of the first sentence and choked through the second. It took a while to finish reading. We once had a ‘Maggie,’ too. She was beautiful like Maggie and happy danced with amazing pirouettes when she heard, ‘Walk? Wanna go for a walk?’ It has been 25 years since I carried her into the vet’s office and (I’m tearing up again) held her as she slipped away. I know it’s cliche to say not a day goes by that I don’t miss her, but it’s the truth. Sometimes when I’m reading I long for her to come to me and rest her head on my leg. Sometimes I’d tease her by letting my hands hang limp by my side as she leaned on my leg waiting to be petted. When no petting was forthcoming, she’d flip one of my hands up onto her head and I’d let it slide off. Second and third verses were the same as the first. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore (she knew that would happen), and I would kneel down and hug and rub her, both of us bonded in pure delight and love.”

“We lost our sweet beagle two weeks ago. The day she began to decline was the day Randy’s blog about saying goodbye to Maggie posted. The timing was a gift of God, because I had a gut feeling we were looking at our own goodbye. God was preparing me for what was to come. Thank you for writing that lovely tribute to your precious pet. It was a huge help for me. We fought for another couple of weeks. She rallied and we had hope, but then a more rapid decline ensued. Such a hard thing to do! But that blog was a comfort.”

“I just wanted to say thank you again to Randy for his article on saying goodbye (for now) to Maggie. Our precious chocolate Labrador (so similar in nature to Maggie) is in her last days following a recent diagnosis of very aggressive cancer. She belonged to our beloved daughter who went to Heaven seven years ago, aged just 25. She has been a beautiful living link to our daughter and our therapy dog through grief. We are devastated to lose her, but the thought of seeing her again and even better than that, of her being reunited with our daughter, who loved her so much, will make the separation somewhat more bearable. Thank you, Randy, for all that you share.”

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries