Last week we said goodbye to our 9 year old dog – Oreo. My husband and I had got him before we were married and he truly was our first baby. Dog people will get this, the rest of you may have to bear with me. The grief has been devastating. Knowing we would be a mess, we booked the appointment on a Friday night so my husband didn’t have to go to work the next day. As a consultant, I was able to manage my schedule. However, the first day my husband and kids left the house after the appointment – I felt this overwhelming sense of emptiness. We have been in this house for 7 years and this is the first time I have truly been alone. Between missing our beloved pet and our 4 year old asking when we can get a new puppy, the last few days have been emotional to say the least.

Truth be told, I do not have a lot of experience with death. I have said goodbye to both sets of grandparents, but that would be expected for most people my age. I have watched my husband grieve the passing of both his parents, but both were elderly and not unexpected passings. This pain, this grief – even for him – is comparable. Our dog was part of our family. He was part of our lives – every. single. day.

As an HR Consultant, I have written bereavement policies for several organizations. Not once have I ever recommended pets be included in these policies. In many companies, I would likely be laughed right out of the boardroom. However, who are we, as a company, to dictate who and how people grieve.

Even for human bereavement, most companies will give you a specific number of days like 3 days for a grandparent, 5 days for a spouse or child. Five days to grieve the death of your child – can you imagine? Will a person always need three days to grieve the loss of their grandparent?

Everyone is different and most people will simply take what is outlined in the policy, regardless if it’s too much or too little. What if we allow people to take the time they need. Trust your employees to come back when they are ready. Let it be their choice and let them choose which loss is the most difficult. Maybe it’s their best friend or maybe it’s their dog. Who are we to determine who and how long our employees should grieve?

Sarah Mullins is the founder of uptreeHR, a Halifax based human resource consulting firm that is passionate about helping business owners manage their people, set clear expectations and increase performance. We truly believe you can treat your employees well, create an amazing culture and not break the bank.

To book a complimentary 30 minute consult with Sarah, click here.


  1. I first remember when you got Oreo!! What a cutie, I am also griving my puppies who were my life, being an empty nester and having a SO that worked away in Vancouver, they were my best friends! We spent every night together and hikes and swimming and going to the cottage. And yes they slept with me Mine didn’t die they were taken from me a moved to Vancouver when My ex and I split up, he was a bully and knew how devastated I would be! I also am grieving their loss and cry every time I see a picture or think I hear them running or barking, it sucks ! You are right only dog people would understand the impact these darn pets have on us, I don’t know how many times my fri da would invite me out for dinner or a movie during the week and I would be like no sorry I have to get home to walk the dogs and play Family isn’t just blood that is for sure and you will never have someone love you as much as a dog ❤️

  2. Thanks so much for your kind words Carolanne. I am grateful to be in a position to help evolve workplace policies that focus on what is right rather than what is standard.

  3. Sarah,
    I am sure you know how much of an animal lover I am and we had a few convos in the day about Isis & Oreo.
    I am saddened to hear of this unexpected loss & concur 150% -“who should be told how long their grieving process should be, why does a third party; sometimes without empathy, get to determine this?!”
    I commend you for being forthcoming with this in hopes to implement a revised structure of the OLD bereavement policy & show companies this is the new NOW & it is REAL LIFE… our animals/pets are part of our families… my two are my CHILDREN!! I am looking to adopt a rescue as my third
    It is unfortunate that in a lot of cases, until it happens to someone they cannot possibly realize or engage in the comfort of another or provide the right guidance. It should not have to get to that point… the world has changed and our views as a whole in this regard are 100% better – people believe and advocate for the rights of ALL ANIMALS and bereavement should be no excuse either!!
    Again, so sorry for your loss & just remember one thing… he is in a great place, eating lots of treats, playing with doggie friends & if there was pain… it is gone

  4. Thanks for all the heartfelt emails regarding this post. Its been so comforting!

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