Bereaved woman signed off work after dog died likens it to ‘losing a child’

Woman signed off work after dog died: Chocolate Labrador standing in field with tongue out
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A woman who was signed off work after her dog died is on a mission to educate others on just how difficult the death of a pet can be. Wendy O’Grady was signed off work for two weeks after losing her pet dog Zac. She is urging others to be more compassionate to bereaved pet owners, having likened her grief to the pain of losing a child.

Zac was welcomed into the family in 2009 and was a surprise gift from Wendy’s husband Mike. The nine-month old Labrador had been a much-needed source of happiness after her heartbreak of suffering 10 miscarriages in 15 years. 

In 2021, Zac was diagnosed with cancer of the spine. After medication failed to work, the couple were left with the agonizing decision to have him put down. "Losing Zac was just like losing a child,” Wendy explains, "I can't even explain the grief. We were inconsolable. After 12 years, to not see him come to the door when I came home was heart-breaking.”

This was soon followed by even more sad news when Wendy’s relative also became ill in that same week. The understandable grief and strain caused Wendy’s autoimmune condition, Sjogren's syndrome - which affects parts of the body that produce fluids - to flare up. Wendy was off work for two weeks but found it difficult to seek compassion from others about losing Zac. "I think it would have been helpful if they had addressed what Mike and I were going through," she says.

The couple now have a new addition to the family. Puppy Zebedee was gifted by her mother-in-law for their anniversary, bringing joy in their lives.  However, they are still grieving for beloved Zac, and Wendy urges more people to openly talk about losing a pet and how it affects them. "I think people should be more open and just talk about it. We lost a member of our family and I think it should be addressed."

Cynthia Lawrence

Cynthia Lawrence is freelance lifestyle journalist. Starting off her career in national magazines, she moved to digital and e-commerce publications. When she's not reviewing exciting products, she is obsessed with home interiors and her neighbour's cat!