Coping with the loss of a dog

Read time: 4 minutes

Memories of dog days

Coping with the loss of a dog is one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. It’s impossible to prepare for. In fact I don’t think there is a rule book on how to prepare, but the biggest bit of advice I can give is to embrace the loss and not to try and cover up your emotions or feelings. Be like your dog and be in the moment.

I was most scared of losing the support that Ella gave me. When she would no longer be around to give me the confidence she brought to my life. But what I have gone on to realise is that Ella is still in fact very much with me, she is embedded into my heart, some say a paw print on your heart. And so although she is not physically here, she is forever with me and that brings me so much comfort.

Coping with the loss of a dog called Ella, James Middleton's black cocker spaniel

Coping with the loss of a dog

Coping with the loss of a dog is something that nobody is ever truly prepared for. For those who have never had a dog, it might be difficult to understand. However, those who have loved a dog know the truth: a dog is not just a pet; it is a member of the family. A best friend, a loyal companion, a teacher and a therapist.

Many people over the years have reached out to me about the pain of losing a dog. For most, the loss of a dog is, in almost every way, comparable to the loss of a human loved one. I still remember the pain I felt from losing Tilly, our first family dog, back in 2017. It is a deep, aching chasm.

James Middleton holding his beloved dog Ella, who he recently had to cope with the loss of

Losing Ella

Late last year, Ella’s health deteriorated. She became lethargic, with little appetite. It was extremely out of character. A trip to the vets resulted in the news that no pet parent ever wants to hear – Ella didn’t have long left. 

On her good days we did the things that Ella loved best – woodland walks and spending time with her closest loved ones, including a reunion with her brother. On the not-so-good days, we spent time cuddling together in front of the fire. She got lots of yummy treats and I told her over and over again how much I loved her. More importantly, I thanked her for the comfort she’s always given me. She saved my life when I feared that I couldn’t be saved.

Ella passed away peacefully in my arms. She leaves behind a legacy; through her children, her grandchildren, the lives she’s touched as a therapy dog, and the huge hole in my heart.

James Middleton's cocker spaniel Ella sat next to her granddaughter, a chocolate spaniel puppy called Nala. James Middleton is coping with the loss of Ella


There isn’t much of a rule book on how to cope with the loss of a dog. I have no practical tips on how to prepare you for a phase of your life that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. But what I can tell you is that if love alone could have kept your dog here, they would have lived forever.

When I first got Ella, I knew my role was to care for her. But as it turned out, the care she gave me in return was more than I ever expected. It was, in my eyes, the best deal I’ve ever made.

James Middleton is coping with the loss of his dog, a black cocker spaniel called Ella. Here she stares off camera into the distance

“What I learned about love I learnt from my dog…

“Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride together.
Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
When loved ones come home always run to greet them.
When you want treats, practice obedience.
Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory.
Take naps together and stretch before rising.
Run, romp, and play daily.
Be loyal.
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.
Thrive on the attention and let people touch you.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout…
Run right back and make friends.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk together.
Love each other unconditionally.

This poem really resonated me, and is a constant reminder of the joy Ella and my dogs find in everyday life. I hope it brings some comfort to you, too.

Rest in peace Ella. You will always be remembered and your legacy will live on forever. 

Good girl. 

James x


James' Top Tip

Losing a loved one is never easy, but it’s important to try and take care of yourself. If you need to talk or you feel you’re in crisis, text: 85258 to contact Shout – the UK’s first 24/7 text service, free on all major mobile networks. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help.


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