When A Pet Dies

Soon after learning my dog was seriously ill and unlikely to recover, I had a dream.

Georgia and I were walking. She was on a leash that kept getting longer as the weave of its nylon fabric unravelled, until it was hanging between us by only a thread. I woke up before the last remaining thread of that leash broke.

Anyone who has lost a pet they’ve welcomed into their home and heart has an idea what the days after Georgia’s death were like. Her actual leash, intact, is still hanging in the closet, as if she might, by some miracle, come back.

I know she won’t be back.

If the loss of a pet is a child’s first encounter of death, they might not know that. They might not know that the turmoil of feelings they’re experiencing is normal. And parents, themselves grieving, might find it challenging to help their kids navigate what they’re going through.

Cover images for "Angus is Here" by Hadley Dyer and Paul Covello, and "Rodney was a Tortoise" by Nan Forler and Yong Ling Kang

Angus Is Here by Hadley Dyer and Paul Covello captures beautifully the moments when the young narrator misses their dog most intensely, the feeling of betrayal when the missing becomes less intense, and the importance of sharing stories about the family’s beloved Angus.

Rodney Was A Tortoise by Nan Forler and Yong Ling Kang touchingly captures the closeness between Bernadette and her pal Rodney, the disbelief when told he has died, the sense of ‘how can everyone go on like normal when this huge awful thing has happened?’ and how much sharing memories with someone who cares helps.

Both books use direct language: Angus has died. Rodney is dead. In both books, the heaviness of the subject of death is eased with light touches of humour. The honesty and poignancy of both books moved me to tears, in a good way.

If a pet in your family or classroom has died, or you know a child whose pet has recently died, I highly recommend Rodney Was A Tortoise and Angus Is Here as books that can facilitate conversation about what they (and you) may be going through, and offer assurance that their pet will not be forgotten and that missing them will hurt less in time.

In case you’re wondering, a month after my partner and I said goodbye to our beloved Georgia, we can share stories about her now without crying — most of the time.

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Kathy Stinson is the author of the classic Red Is Best and the award-winning The Man with the Violin. Her wide range of titles includes picture books, non-fiction, young adult fiction, historical fiction, horror, biography, series books, and short stories. She has met with her readers in every province and territory of Canada, in the United States, Britain, Liberia, and Korea. She lives in a small town in Ontario.

Kathy Stinson


  1. Margaret Tannock on February 21, 2024 at 10:36 am

    Hi Kathy,
    Just saw your sad post.
    Our wonderful pets are such a part of our everyday life and their loss is heartbreaking.
    A year ago that we said goodbye to our beloved Ben.
    I think Ben and Georgia did walk together once at Rockwood.
    Wishing you many happy memories and hope all is well with you.

    • Kathy on February 21, 2024 at 4:15 pm

      I believe Georgia and Ben walked together near your home in Georgetown too, when she was so young she was still afraid of stairs. I’m sorry to know that Ben is also gone now.
      Thank you, Margaret, for your good wishes.

  2. Janet Barclay on February 21, 2024 at 1:21 pm

    Dog Breath by Carolyn Beck and illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan is another good picture book about losing a pet. I don’t think I had a dog when I read it, but I remember feeling a little devastated as I realized what had happened.

    • Kathy on February 21, 2024 at 4:18 pm

      You’re right. That’s another excellent book about what our pets mean to us and why it’s so hard when we lose them. Also good for helping kids understand they’re not alone with their feelings of sadness when their pet dies.

  3. Nan Forler on February 21, 2024 at 11:57 pm

    Much love to you as you mourn the sweet life of Georgia. Thank you for mentioning Rodney Was a Tortoise as a way to work through grief. I like to imagine Rodney bringing comfort to someone missing a dear pet. ❤️

    • Kathy on February 22, 2024 at 6:30 am

      Thank you, Nan.
      I’m willing to bet Rodney is bringing comfort to someone every day!
      Write on!

  4. Anne on April 30, 2024 at 10:34 am

    Thank you Kathy for the titles of books to help children with the loss of a pet. Finnegan the cat died a year ago and is missed by the whole family including 6 year old Winnie. I expect when I send the books, the grownups will read them too.

    Best wishes

    • Kathy on April 30, 2024 at 2:17 pm

      Great, Anne. I think those books will have something to offer Winnie and the grownups in her life.

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