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Dealing With The Loss of A Pet - Losing Your Dog

Updated on March 11, 2012
Whitney05 profile image

Whitney has over 10 years of experience in dog training, rescuing and dog healthcare.

Chance, pit bull. Stolen day before Christmas Eve '06.
Chance, pit bull. Stolen day before Christmas Eve '06.

Pets are a large part of the lives of many people today. I, for one, can say that my dogs, reptiles, and small animals, all play a part in my sanity at times. Having pets around will help your own health status. In many cases, it has been found that having a dog will lower your blood pressure. Having something that lives for the moment and doesn't hold grudges is a wonder to us humans who can't fathom the thought of not knowing what is to be or why someone had the nerve to do something.

People, today, spend millions of dollars on their pets in order to take care of them properly. Buying toys, food, bowls, leashes, collars, clothes, and having to pay for vet bills and other unexpected costs, is a large part of owning a pet (some of which are optional such as clothes). Most Americans, today, want nothing but the best they can provide for their pet, and become greatly saddened when something happens to them.

So, dealing with grief over the loss of a pet can be very hard to both adults and children and everyone in between.

Related Emotions

When dealing with the grief of a lost loved one, many emotions can surface. Shock, anger, and depression, are the most common emotions seen. But, many people will put blame on someone for the loss of the pet. They may begin to lash out at friends and family members. Usually, depending on the closeness between the pet parent and the pet, itself, largely determines the range of emotions that can be seen.

Many times the loss of a beloved family dog will create emense sadness and depression amongst the pet parent, whereas with the loss of a pet goldfish, the same emotions may not surface.

Stages of Grief

Grieving for the loss of a pet for any reason (run away, stolen, death) is the same for all cases. The grieving process goes something like:

  • Shock and denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining (with God to bring back the pet)
  • Depression
  • Acceptance and recovery

Not everyone will experience all five stages of grief or experience the stages equally. In general, most people will actually flip back and forth between stages before they are able to fully recover from the loss of the pet.

Rocky and Roxy. Rocky died '06. Roxy died 08.27.07
Rocky and Roxy. Rocky died '06. Roxy died 08.27.07


There are many ways to help with grief:

  1. Speak to your church members or pastor.
  2. Counseling.
  3. Internet support groups.
  4. Friends and family.
  5. Volunteer at a rescue.
  6. Write down your emotions. Sometimes this will help you get everything you feel out. This is great for those who have a hard time expressing themselves speaking, writing down how you feel will allow you to get everything out.
  7. Have a proper funeral. This is particularly helpful with young children. Have all family participate. Get dressed up, and have a proper funeral/burial for the pet. Have everyone say something nice about the pet or something they will miss.
  8. Sometimes getting another pet will, also, aid in the recovery process. This does NOT replace the deceased pet, but it helps fill the void. This is something that is sort of a last resort. Not to be tried directly after losing a pet.


The loss of a pet can be devastating to anyone. It can be even harder to recover the loss. But, getting the feelings out always helps. It's not the best idea to hold any feelings in. Cry. Scream. Punch pillows. Do what you have to do. Just get out the pent up emotion. Otherwise, it will build and build within you. Find the best way to recover the loss of you pet no matter how big or small. Dog or cat. Hamster or gecko.

Chiko the chinchilla. Passed away 08.31.07
Chiko the chinchilla. Passed away 08.31.07

Personal experience with loss

This year I have suffered many great pet losses. Some of which hurt more than others, but I was saddened none-the-less.

The first, and most severe loss is that of my pit bull puppy named Chance. Chance did not pass away. He did not run away. He was stolen. Chance was, and I believe is, a great dog, who knew no stranger. It has been a very rocky road since his disappearance late December of '06. I experience emotions of shock, anger, depression, and blame. Many nights I blamed myself for not doing anything prior to the incident. I blamed my boyfriend for not trying harder to find him. I played the "What if" game many nights, all of which ended in sleepless tears. After six months of tears, I was improving very slowly. At that point, I realized I needed something serious... I needed another puppy. After bringing MIA home, my life has changed greatly. I still think about Chance. I still have is pictures everywhere. I still love and miss him. And, I still believe I could have done more for him. But, I no longer cry myself to sleep. The void that he left behind, where my heart wanted to give love to him but couldn't, had been filled. No, I have not replaced Chance. I could NEVER replace him, but the hole has been filled.

Pebbles, Rocky, and Roxy, three hamsters which have died this year. Their death, although sad and upsetting, did not affect me as did the loss of Chance, but by their loss, I have found ways to show that affection to my other small animals.

Chong and Chiko, two chinchillas. Now, both with different stories- Chong I found dead one morning without any signs of illness, and Chiko I found near death and tried to nurse him back to health (after seeing a vet of course), and found him dead the following morning. He died in between my hourly wake-ups. As Chong and I had our differences, his death saddened and worried me greatly, but in comparison Chiko and I had been very close. I had, had him since he was six weeks old. I could not help but shed many tears upon his death. Much less when the vet told me that he did not see anything visibly wrong with his body, that he had great fat tissues, skin color and coat. I knew I had taken care of him the best I could.


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      steve burtis 4 years ago

      i ha ve a 10 or so old german/retriver mix he been my baby for a long time now.bear has problems w his hips now,taking meds for this wkend he injured his front leg bad.he been cryn for the last two days and nights. plus hes eyes are not very good anymore.he is cryn as im typing this breaks my heart !! yes ive cried about it and just dont know what to do....... im taking him to the vet in highland 1st thing in the morning.they may say we can fix the prob or say to put him down.thats my BEST FRIEND CRYN IN THE BACK GROUND!!!! what to do??? steve

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      Diane 5 years ago

      Ive been overcome with grief since my Lucy Latte went missing at a local park. It's nearly a month now and a psychic tells me she's dead. Lucy was so full of life and like many dog owners I thought of her as a.child. There have been supportive people as well as those dolts who say things like: she was killed by a wild animal. That I should have not let her off leash even in an off leash area. Some days I want to join Lucy and die. The pain is overwhelming bi hope she didn't suffer. Oh Lucy I love you more than anything.

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      debbie 5 years ago

      It was good to read your stories. My beautiful 2 year old tabby cat was stolen from my garden, i heard it, her pick up cry, but didn't realise till the next day what i had heard. I went through ever kind of emotion, and still do, it is something that never leaves you. see her face in my mind, still wonder if she is dead or alive, whether she suffered, how scared she must have been, i will never be the same until i know what happened to her. my little baby, so young, so cute, so gentle and harmless. It is so cruel when someone steals your lovely companion. I read on the animal search just how many cats go missing in my town, something is going on. why are they being taken, i ask myself everyday.I prey for newsand i hope she is still alive my RUBYxxxxxx

      To see you again, hold you would be a wish come true.


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      Amy 5 years ago

      My dog is 14 she has been throwing up alot and i am 13 my mom said that i am taking her to the vet and if the doctor said that she was not doing well that we would have to put her down so the next day i had to go to school and after school i had a baseball game but when i was at school my mom went to the vet and put her down so when she picked me up from school i said is amy ok (our dog) she said she is not suffering anymore and is in a better place running around and playing so i started crying right at school and then i had to go to baseball game and play it was so hard but i did it for amy

      Amy im being strong i Love u with all my heart you could'nt have been a better dog you showed me love since i have grown up i hope u have made many friends and i will always love u and never forget you i wish I could have been there to pet you and talk to you and love you I LOVE YOU AMY

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      Nora-mom of Gizmo 5 years ago

      I am so thankful to have found this site as it has been comforting to know there are so many of you that love your babies with so much compassion and only want to do the right thing for their best friend. My heart breaks for each of you. I think there is a special place in Heaven for the moms and dads who have given their best friend such a great and loving life.

      It has been 9 days since I made the agonizing and heartbreaking decision to put my little Chihuahua to sleep. He almost died 2 1/2 years ago from his intestines leaking fluids into his tummy. His albumin blood level was 0.02. Normal is 2.5 to 3.5. He was very close to death as 0.00 is death. He was in ICU on fluids and plasma transfusions and when he came home had been on a low fat intestinal prescription diet as well as daily prednisone and blood tests every 60 days. He was in ICU twice in a week before he died and received fluids and 5 plasma transfusions. He went into ICU for the final time on his 9th birthday. I visited him that night and he was doing fantastic. I took him a chicken jerky for his birthday present and he devoured it happily. The vet said he could come home the next day at noon. At 10:20 the next morning she called and said could I come right now as he was in respiratory distress and she had put him in an oxygen chamber. When I got there they put me in a room and brought him in. The chamber was all glass but I couldn't open it up or he wouldn't be able to breathe. He was gasping for breaths and looked so tiny and frail. He was a tiny thing anyway at 3 lbs. 4 ounces. Somehow he mustered enough energy to stand up and wag his tail for me. Then he collapsed but got up the second time and wagged his tail. I think he thought I had come to take him home. The vet came in with the paperwork and the shot and explained gently what would happen. She placed him on my lap and I stroked his dying tiny body and told him what a good boy he was and how much I loved him. She was listening to his heart with her stethoscope and about 20 seconds later told me he was gone. He didn't struggle or move at all on my lap and he died quickly and very peacefully. She had tears in her eyes and hugged me. I am very thankful I didn't have to agonize over putting him to sleep. It was the last act of love and kindness I could do for him and I am at peace that he never again has to suffer. I know in my heart I will see him again on the other side one day soon. My husband and son are on the other side and I prayed to them to take good care of him and make him feel safe and loved. When I got out to my car and turned it on to go home without him a song came on the radio that has always reminded me of my husband. To me it was his way of telling me that Gizmo was safe and happy and not to worry about him.

      Even though I knew it was the right thing to do I am filled with deep sadness and cry all the time from missing him. I received a sympathy card from the vet's office and everyone that knew him there told me how much they will miss him and that he was a favorite there, always wagging his tail for each of them no matter how sick he was. It was very comforting and I will cherish that card forever. I am very sorry for the agony each of you are going through or have gone through. Just know your best friend is depending on you to make the most difficult decision of your life. And although there will be many pain filled days and nights you will be at peace knowing you gave your baby one final gift of love. Blessings to all.

      Thank you for loving me baby boy. You were the best of the best and you now live in my heart. I will never forget you or stop loving you.


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      Sam 5 years ago

      I had two cats as a child,first it was Jack,I had had him since I was 4 and I was 10 when my parents took him to the vet's and he didn't return,he had died in his sleep,later that afternoon my parents brought home a 6 month old kitten named Ally and I loved her very much but just before Christmas she got sick and we gave her the prescribed meds for two weeks before she was put down,I am glad I am not alone in this world

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      5 years ago

      I am full of pain right now. We lost our family rottweiler to osteosarcoma so suddenly. I feel especially guilty because I did not stay with Rocky when he was put down. I now know that I made a selfish decision and I am torn up. I should have been there with him. Rocky, I will always love you. God, forgive me.

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      5 years ago

      i've known my dog hasn't been that well for a while, she had cancer, which she fought and won, she doesn't see much at all, neither does she hear or smell. she's old, and all those are elderly signs. she's a dachshund, 15,5 years old. but now these two latest weeks she's gotten so much worse really fast. my family thinks she had a stroke or something because she cannot walk straight, just in circles, and she leans to one side. she doesn't eat or drink, she only sleeps. she's not what she used to be and now we've taken the decision that it's cruel to keep her because it's hard to deal with the loss of a family member.

      i haven't been around home much lately, and i get guilt feelings for not being there for her these last days, but i can't stand the thought of her never being around ever again. she has always been there for me, through sickness or sadness and always trough the good times. we share so much together and now i'm on my own. i can't see a way to get past this. i've grown up with her, she's like a sister and a baby to me, and to loose that is not in my world.

      i do believe she knows how much we truly love her, and i will always remember her. she has a special place in my heart that will always belong to her. i'm going to miss her so much. when that moment comes when the vet is going to put her to sleep comes i don't know how i will be able to stand by her. there is no other option, i want to be there with her the last time in her life, but i don't want to accept her leaving. i'm sitting here crying my eyes out right now. she is really the very best friend i will ever have.

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      Christian 5 years ago

      A letter to my dear dog, Rocco. More than a companion. More than a friend.

      Dear Rocco,

      I am writing this to tell you how much I love you. I would like the world to know that the life you lived here on earth will always be remembered. Your memories and love will live in my heart for as long as Iive. 

      Last Saturday is one of the saddest days of my whole adult life. I made a decision that I would never want to make. It's a day that I never wanted to arrive. I am so very sorry that I had to let you go but I know that it is what you would have wanted me to do. Your quality of life is of most important to me. To not let you suffer is the final act of love I can give you here on Earth. You battled cancer for ten months with all your strength, without having to complain about how difficult the treatments could be. There's not a single day that you showed any signs of giving up --- even during the toughest of days. Not even on your last day here with me. You were fighting tough my boy! To call you a trooper would be an understatement. Not bad for a twelve year old Boxer with a tail. My heart cries as I write this letter to you because I am very very proud of you my sweetheart. So very proud of you. Today, I seek comfort in the fact that you are now in peace and no longer in pain.

      Thank you for showing me what unconditional love really meant. Thank you for sharing your life with me. Thank you for the pure love, joy, and happiness you brought everywhere with you. Thank you for teaching me how to be patient, loyal, and live in the present. Our daily walks will always be cherished, together with countless hours of tender moments at home. You made our house a home. You made the last nine and a half years of my  life a life of reason and not just of existence. For all of these my dear Rocco, I will never forget you. I will always cherish you. I will always love you. 

      I grieve for losing you as I know life will never be  the same without you. If I had my way, I would not change a thing. I'll continue our life the way it was. Our life at home is not perfect but it was perfectly imperfect. Your sisters and daddy all miss you too, Rocco. We all had the same wish. We all wish you were still here. We are all broken-hearted that you are gone.  We're very sad but we're all moving on -- with your memories in our hearts.

      As days go by I know that the pain will ease. I will move on with my life as I always have. I will cry less and will feel less sorrow. Please know that it is not because I  have forgotten about you nor I love you much less. It is because I'm a little happier, knowing that  in each passing day I get just a bit older, and I get just a bit closer to my own time to crossover. I look forward to seeing you again when that day comes, and so in heaven we'll be together again. We'll walk and run as much as we can, we'll play and sleep as much as we want, and we'll wake up not fearing that death will eventually keep us apart. For in heaven there is no death, only eternal life in every breath.

      I will end this letter now my dear Rocco. I hope that you enjoyed your life here on Earth with me. I hope that I have lived up to be a good Daddy to you, that you do not regret picking us as your family.  You're one hell of a great dog and I could not have asked for more. You are God's gift to us.  I heard somewhere once that all dogs are angels sent down here from heaven. I did not take it seriously then but I sure do now. You are back with God again my dear doggie, my dear Rocco, my dear angel.

      Daddy loves you. Wait for me. I'll be there soon.



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      Sharon 6 years ago

      Thanks to everyone for sharing their stories. Reading them helps me realize I will get through this since as so many others have. On 6/21/11 I put my Black Lab to sleep. She was almost 14 years old so I know she had a good long life but it didn't make it any easier. I still cry every time I walk in my house and she doesn't greet me. I also cry every time I walk into the backyard and see she isn't sleeping under her favorite tree. Her death was more sudden than I expected as she was fine (at least I thought she was fine) at the beginning of May. After Mother's Day she started getting picky about what she ate and I noticed she was throwing up 2-3 times a week. The Thursday before Memorial Day I took her to the vet and found out she had a tumor in her mouth and lung cancer. I had the tumor removed and had them do blood and urine work on her. The blood work showed the cancer was also in her liver which the vet said was really bad. He said she probably had less than 4 months left. By Father's Day she wasn't eating, wouldn't go for a walk, and didn't want to be petted. I knew she was unhappy and I had to get her back to the vet. When I took her in I found out she had lost 20 pounds and her stomach was filled with fluid (which is why she didn't look like she had lost weight.) The vet said there was nothing he could do to ease her discomfort and she had less than a week left. I loved her too much to let her suffer so I had her put to sleep. I cried so much that night that I had a headache and was physically ill. I miss her every minute of every day and I find myself talking to her all the time. She was the perfect dog for me and I will miss her forever.

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      erajane 6 years ago

      We wish this was not a choice. We wish our pup of 14+ yrs would just go to sleep and not wake up. We know it is time but it is really tearing us up. We have about 5 more days with our dear friend and then we must put him down for his sake. We have enjoyed him since we got him at the pound when he was 5 wks old. We need to celebrate his life and remember all our wonderful memories and not focus on his death. It's going to be a rough road for a while. We love you Rocky! Thank you for all the joy you have brought into our lives. Love, Mom and Dad

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      Valane 6 years ago

      As i read a number of these stories it brings tears to my eyes. We put our 16 year old bichon cocker down today. This was the hardest thing I've had to do. Both of our sons grew up with this great friend and we will miss him dearly. He was in pain and had kidney and liver problems. He was drinking water constantly and took a very long time to settle down. He looked very sad and you could tell he was depressed. We made a conscious decision last week to put him down April 29/11. Time will heal our hearts as we know it was the right decision. He was losing a pound every week and we had not seen his ribs or spine since he was a puppy. He was a fat little fart and liked to get any scrapers the kids would provide over the years. Our cat was from the SPCA and she adopted Max as her father, she would lay on him as a heat resource. She is looking around today to see where he is and knows something is different. We could have been selfish and kept him around for another month or so, but that would have been mean and would have only made us happy for the short term and postponed the inevitable. My wife and two boys are trying to be strong, but I’m being the weepy one as I was the one that would give him a bath when his feet were muddy, picked up the dog poop outside, wiped up the pee on the floor. He always wanted to come outside with me or see what I was doing. We knew this day was coming, but it makes it very hard for me to let go. I know there is only on constant in life, and that is change, but this will take me some time to get over. We have a close friend who is losing her mother to cancer this week and we told her that our pain is probably nothing compared to what you are going through. She says that it is all the same emotional pain and that you have to live through it with love and friendship. We love you Max and trust you are in a better place.

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      Meg 6 years ago

      I just now had to have my 13 year old Beagle, Dottie, put to sleep. She suffered from Cushings Disease and over the past few months, she lost almost half of her body weight and she lost her hearing and just recently, she lost her vision in one eye and the other one was going too. My husband got her as a brand new puppy, about 5 years before we got married. He's in Iraq right now but I was able to talk to him this morning about it. Dottie was so weak this morning and wouldn't eat anything, even chicken, her favorite. I knew it was time to free her from her body, but I can't believe how much this hurts. I was with her when she passed, petting her and talking to her. I wish my husband were home as I know he's going to be distraught and I can't be there to help comfort him. He talked about having her put to sleep before he left a few weeks ago so I wouldn't have to do it by myself but she still had a little pep to her so we just couldn't. I'm glad I had these past few weeks with her......the house is so quiet now and every little noise I hear, I think it's her. I know it won't hurt as much in time but right now, I just can't stop crying. I do know she's in a much better, happier and pain free place now.

      RIP Dottie - we love you!

      Meg (

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      Martin 6 years ago

      Two days ago, we lost our 3 year old Jack Russell Terrier, Kally. She was so full of life, and had the best disposition you could ever want.

      Sadly during a recent walk she slipped her collar and ran straight out in front of a car and was killed instantly. We don't live on a busy street and if she had slipped her collar 10 seconds earlier she would still be here today.

      Time will heal your pain. But remember, don't go out and get a new dog right away. You will only try to replace your companion and try to mould him/her into your late pet. Every dog has their own unique characteristics. It has been a tough few days, but we had so many positive memories and she had a great life. She was one interesting dog who loved to watch TV! It's a shame she was taken from us far too early.

      Our other dog Tara (Black Lab/Beagle) feels a bit lost without her friend, but, we are giving her lots of love. Remember other dogs feel the loss too!

      We'll get through this and maybe one day we'll get a second dog again.

      RIP Kally

      -Martin (martinwalker1978 at yahoo dot ca)

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      Aaron 6 years ago

      My wife an I just had to put our 6 year old French Bulldog Bentley to rest yesterday. He was always so healthy and vigorous until about a week and a half ago. Trouble eating and drinking, vomiting. After several visits to his vet, and trying tests, food, meds, etc...we were adised to take him to UF Shands Animal Hospital...where an ultrasound revealed terminal stomach cancer. My wife and I do not have children, and Bentley was truly our son. He brought us so much love and family unity...this is the hardest thing ever..the house is so empty. We held him together and felt him take his last breath after we spent the entire day with him in the quiet room at the hospital. He looked so tired, but just wanted to be with us. I feel so angry at God right now for taking away our baby boy...he was so young and was cheated out of half his life. I know that we have to go on, and I need to stay strong for my wife, but our world stands still as everyone else's goes on. This site is great on sharing our grief. I know that his memory will live in us, and everyone's hearts that knew him forever, therefore he will live forever. I hope that everyone that has experienced this loss heals, and that we heal. It is very difficult functioning and going back to work..until someone experiences the unconditional love that an animal brings into your life, they will never understand the loss. Please keep us in your thoughts.

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      robyn 6 years ago

      we put our beloved dog missy to sleep on janurary 17th. we knew it was time,.when she was moaning off and on,sleeping all the time and than the clincher for us was when she stopped eating. no quality of life. it was heartrenching but the vet supported us with the decision to put her down. she was much loved

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      DobieMom 6 years ago

      I am glad I got to read these comments. About an hour ago I had to put my 2 year old Doberman to sleep. About 2 weeks ago we broght him in to the vet because he just wasn't eating. After blood and urine test we found out he was suffering from a liver disease. We gave him all the perscribed meds but he just kept getting worse and worse. He started vomiting blood and tripping over his own feet and not being able to stand with out almost falling over. I haven't been able to stop crying since calling the vet this morning. I didn't expect him to be gone so soon. My heart just breaks thinking I couldn't do anything to save him. He was just a baby.

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      Marilei 6 years ago

      As i write this note i am crying and asking myself if Barbie my beautiful pomeranian needs to be put to sleep? she has been suffering for a heart a lung condition for years; to make it worst she has a huge tumor in her belly (grapefruit size); she is 13 years old; she still wave her tail, walks with difficult and eats well do i really need to put her to sleep?

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      Thibeau 6 years ago

      This is a wonderful piece. It is informative and helpful to people who are dealing with the emotions surrounding the loss of a pet and it is also a very well thought out and structured Hub. My dog passed away two months ago after being my sole companion of 11 years. I found your words and insights relevant and uplifting. Thank you.

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      M. Andrews 6 years ago

      I lost my little Rattie boy, Nicodemus tonite. It was not enough too late, I went to check on him and felt that he was cool to the touch. I picked him up, wrapped him up in a towel and cuddled him. He tried 2 times to get out and then was quiet. I heated up an herbal pillow to try and warm him up. His eyes were looking opaque, I tried to give him water from a syringe and it ran out.. Then, I went to the living room, sat on the couch with him on the warm pillow wrapped in the towel and my arms, and there he breathed his last. I miss him so, he never bit, was calm and gentle. I feel sorry for his brother , Pippen. who is now alone in the cage.

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