Ask Dog Lady: Overcome fear of outliving pet

Monica Collins

Dear Dog Lady,

I want to get a dog but I don’t think I could stand the heartbreak. I watched helplessly as a friend recently put down her 11-year-old dog Truffle. Truffle was in the advanced stages of bone cancer. My friend was inconsolable after Truffle died. A month later, she’s still a mess whenever she sees a dog.

Before the Truffle tragedy, I had been seriously considering getting a dog. I had decided to adopt from a shelter. After I saw my friend’s extreme grief after Truffle died, I am reconsidering the whole thing. How do I reconcile getting an older dog while knowing I may outlive my pet?


Dear Harry, don’t be wary of letting a dog into your life. Your instinct to adopt a shelter dog is marvelous and affirming. You can’t shy away from it just because you fear the natural course of time. No matter whether you outlast your animal or vice versa, both you and your dog will have a better quality of life.

Your friend who lost Truffle has been through an ordeal that we pet lovers know is the greatest sadness of dog guardians – bidding farewell forever.

But, as Woody Allen once observed in his classic film “Annie Hall”: “The heart is a very resilient muscle.” Your friend will eventually recover. Her pet-loving spirit will be elastic enough to allow another animal into her life. The love she had for Truffle will make that possible. Over time, she will learn how to put her late dog’s memory into a special chamber of her resilient heart and move on.

Don’t be paralyzed by “what if?” Go to that shelter, adopt a dog, and exhale.

Dear Dog Lady,

I've found more than a dozen local dog trainers though the Web and phone book. How can I determine if I've selected the right one? Are there any local reviews, articles, blogs, etc. that I can review?


Dear Stacy, start your research on the Web site of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers – You will read their mission statement: “The APDT offers individual pet dog trainers a respected and concerted voice in the dog world. We continue to promote professional trainers to the veterinary profession and to increase public awareness of dog friendly training techniques.” The site has many articles to read and a search tool so you find trainers in your area by entering a Zip code.

You should also understand the alphabet soup of credentials trailing behind a trainer’s name: CDBC means “certified dog behavior consultant,” CPDT translates as “certified pet dog trainer,” and CAAB is “certified applied animal behaviorist.” (This is the Ph.D. equivalent for dog-training professionals)

There’s also a book, “The Ethical Dog Trainer: A Practical Guide for Canine Professionals” by Jim Barry ($19.95) that you can order from Ostensibly a wonky manual for other trainers, this features lots of good information for the ordinary person who wants to understand the principled, effective approach a trainer should take with the owner and the dog.

Monica Collins offers advice on dogs, life and love. Her Web site is Contact her at