Grieving One’s Soulmate Dog

dogs grief guest blogger michelle b. slater pet loss Jun 14, 2024
Animal Hospice Group - Michelle B. Slater, Grieving One’s Soulmate Dog, Holding Puppy Brady

Grieving One’s Soulmate Dog

By Michelle B. Slater, Ph.D.
Guest Blogger |

Having grieved my own beloved animal companion—a charismatic and profound German shepherd named Brady—I would like to share the wisdom I learned as I mourned his loss with readers who are feeling bereft as well.

In Soulmate Dog, I write through my grief to make the point for readers that it’s just as debilitating and incomprehensible to be left with the losses of our beloved animals as it is to grieve the losses of other humans. What I would like to share is that love doesn’t end with death, that the traces of one’s profound love for a non-human animal remain, and that such love is worthy of the grieving process.

In 2016, after Brady had lived nine quality years by my side, he died in my arms at home late in the night.

We had gone through an arduous medical journey along the way when Brady contracted a life-threatening case of Leptospirosis when he was five years old, but he made a valiant recovery. When he was a puppy, I told him that I would go to the moon for him if I had to, and I metaphorically did as I stayed by his side through endless visits to veterinarians and a two-month stay at the emergency hospital.

But at the end of his life, as I witnessed his life force energy ebbing while his kidney values were simultaneously rising, I hoped that he would choose his own time and place to die. I hoped that he wouldn’t have to be gently assisted at the hospital, but that he would be able to depart on his own terms. Of course, I realized that one doesn’t get to choose, but that was my ideal wish.

In those last weeks, we savored walks in the woods near our home in Connecticut, and we spent the days outside as I gardened and he watched me. Brady slept with his head on my shoulder, and I gently stroked his fur, grateful for every night that we could spend together.

At that time, I was also administering liters per day of subcutaneous fluids, which had been part of our quotidian routine for the three years since he had been released from the emergency hospital for acute renal failure.

In the last days, our trusted veterinarian in Pound Ridge, New York, Dr. Kadditz, established a plan with me that if Brady didn’t pass away on his own accord, then we should assist him on a certain Monday morning.

I spent that last weekend nurturing Brady, and then on Sunday in the night, he woke me to place his paws around my neck, place his nose in my mouth, and depart. He shook gently, and his spent body stopped breathing. His great spirit remained.

Sobbing, focused on my loss, I departed with a backpack for Patagonia the following morning. I knew grief well, having lost my mother when I was a child, so I wanted to look at it in the eyes, spend time with it, feel it, allow it to come through my pen onto paper, to come out through my legs as my hiking boots hit the mountainous ground. I didn’t want to chase it away, ignore it, claim that it wasn’t worthy of my attention.

I grieved the loss of my soulmate dog over the next days, weeks, and months. I walked it out in the Andes, I cried alone in my tent.

I journaled along the way, writing out my messy grief: “Every time I think about Brady I whimper. I do it out loud without thinking. All of the signs here say ‘no pets allowed’ and I get that German shepherds and pumas don’t mix, but Brady would love hiking here. Besides, he was not a pet. ‘Pet’ sounds so condescending, and it couldn’t begin to account for him.”

Birthday boy, Brady, and Michelle relaxing on the floor

Grief is not linear, it comes out in doses.

Another day I wrote about my heart. “There is already a crater in my heart. I feel him shimmering and leaping in the woods next to me as I hike. He is free.”

I would sob as I wrote, and then I would hike some more, hiking it out, writing it out, crying it out. For, a love that deep meets a grief that is equally as deep, equally as powerful.

When I returned home, grief accompanied me, as did the love that continued to beat in my heart as if my heart had been amplified by the traces of Brady’s love. I installed him in my heart, and when grief came rising up, I reminded myself that soulmate love transcends death; it is a forever love.


Photo caption: Michelle B. Slater with dog Brady on Camel's Hump Mountain in the state of Vermont, USA.

Meet the guest blogger, Michelle B. Slater

Dr. Michelle B. Slater is a scholar of comparative literature and president of the Mayapple Center for the Arts and Humanities, an educational nonprofit where artists and scholars come to teach and collaborate. Michelle holds a Ph.D. in French Literature from Johns Hopkins. She is the author of Starving to Heal in Siberia: My Radical Recovery from Late-Stage Lyme Disease and How it Could Help Others, Soulmate Dog, and the forthcoming novel The Lunatic. She has also published articles on animal studies.

Her website is: and she may be found on Instagram as @michellebslater.



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