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Lost my dog Honey in house fire


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Hi Everyone, 

This is my first post here and first day that I found this website. 


On January 6th, 2014, I lost my dog in a house fire.  My mother also passed away a week later.  I woke in the middle of the night, I'm not even sure what I heard that woke me, may have been smoke alarms, I just can't recall exactly what I heard.  My dog and I were sleeping on my bed upstairs, my mom, who was not well to begin with, usually slept on the couch.  I ran downstairs, not expecting to find what I found when I went down there so I left my dog upstairs.  When I got downstairs I looked to my left and all I saw was smoke and flames and heard my mom yelling for help from that room but I knew if I went in there I would not make it out.  I called for Honey but I had to run down the hallway and to the back door.  I stood there for a moment thinking what to do.  I yelled for Honey and took the two steps back up into the kitchen but the smoke came right at me and I had to get out.  I was wearing pajamas and socks.  It was January 6th in the middle of a very snowy and cold winter in Michigan.  I ran through our back yard screaming for help.  I ran across the street and banged on my neighbors door for help.  Finally someone came out and said they called 911.  A police officer pulled up and made me get in his car since I had no shoes or coat and it was very cold out.  My mom had managed to get out the front door and fell in the snow bank.  About 15 minutes later I got in the back of the ambulance with her.  She was talking and very alert, but 45% of her body was burnt with 2nd degree burns.  She had COPD and had been in and out of the hospital the whole last year.  I tried recalling phone numbers but who memorizes numbers these days.  My mom held up her hand with her cell phone in it, I couldn't believe it, so I was able to contact some family and meet them at the hospital.  I got a call from the firemen later that they had found my dog but she did not make it.  My mom held her own for a few days then slowly started doing worse and worse.  One week later she passed away.  I feel at peace with that just because she was so ill to begin with and for her to fully recover from this would have been a miracle. 


I love and miss my mom, of course, but I am really struggling with the loss of my dog.  She was my baby, my best friend, the one I went to when I wanted comfort, the one thing I looked forward to every single day.  I was her favorite person, and she was my girl.  I know she knows she was loved.  She always made me so proud, she was so well behaved and I felt honored that she was my dog and chose me to be her favorite.   But somehow through all of this, I feel guilt, that she thought I just left her up there.   One thing I will mention is that about 3 days after the fire I got a call from the fire chief asking if I wanted to see her body.  I started crying saying I don't know if I should, I don't want to remember her like that.  He did tell me that he body wasn't burned, she died of smoke inhalation and I could see her, that she didn't look bad.  I still chose not too, I wanted my last memory of her to be when went to bed the night before and I was scratching her toes and front legs, which she loved.  I did ask him to save her collar and dog tag for me.  When I went to pick it up I was amazed at how good it looked.  Everything in the house was black from the smoke.  Her collar was not, it was clean and it didn't even smell that bad, and it still had her little hairs stuck in it.  I know the firemen did try to get to her because she would have been black like everything else in the house.


I have lost dogs before and always thought I'll never love another dog as much as you.  Then I rescue a new dog and end up loving that one just as much if not more.  I know the best thing I could do to honor Honey is to rescue another dog and love it just as much as her.  I'm just in between places right now and getting things sorted still so I don't know when I will get my own place to own a new dog. 


I guess my main purpose of writing all this is just to try to find some people to chat with that maybe have gone through something similar and to get some ideas on how do you cope with the guilty feeling.  Logically I know I could not have gone back and got her because I would not have made it out alive.  But my heart says, if only... all the time. 


Thank you for reading.

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Hi Siennia,


I am so, so sorry about the terrible fire and your Mom and Honey :(


I haven't experienced what you have, it must have been terrible, but I was struck by something as I was reading your message.


First, let me tell you the only thing that I know that helps guilt: determination.  We feel guilt because we've made a decision about something that vilifies us.  The only way to alleviate guilt is to re-evaluate that decision and come to a different conclusion.  You say that logically you know that you could not have gone back, but this is obviously not the re-evaluation you need to do because it isn't helping.  So I say, leave that one and start looking for others.  For instance, does it make you feel like a bad person?  Do you feel like she suffered intolerably and it was your fault?  Ask yourself questions so you can get to the heart of your guilt so it can express itself fully to you so you can understand it and start working through it.


It's not going to be easy, and might be very painful.  When we are deep in our grief anyway and we approach these feelings that we've put upon ourselves as responsible-for, it can be very difficult.


Having losses in my life has made me re-evaluate what I think about this earth in a spiritual sense - as in, I lost my faith and now I have no clue as to what to believe.  But something that I didn't lose is the understanding that there exists - whether it be for a spiritual reason or a physiological reason - a "state of grace".  I believe that there are times when those of us alive on this planet, animals included, enter into a state of grace.  This is a state where we are placed above the potential for suffering.  When I was reading your message and hearing about the fact that Honey didn't come when called and yet she was not injured in the fire, I immediately thought that perhaps she had entered into that state of grace.


There is also the fact that you could be stuck in a loop of post-trauma-related memory.  When we're experiencing trauma, anything we see, hear, smell, think, can get set up in our brain on an infinite and instant recall.  You have experienced a terrible trauma so that would not surprise me if your added trauma that you couldn't go back for Honey has set up residence and is plaguing you beyond normal guilt.


Please realize, you have been through a terrible trauma - be gentle with yourself as you pick your way through this time.



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