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Writing Condolences for Pets

Last week my friends Patrick and Tim lost a beloved companion: their 14-year-old miniature schnauzer, Victor. If you have experienced the death of a pet, you know that it can be just as sad as the loss of a human being–sometimes more so. (Translation for readers around the globe: more so means “even more than.”)

The deep sadness comes from the loss of companionship, loyalty, and “unconditional love” that a pet gives so enthusiastically. When Patrick and Tim arrive home now, there is no eager-eyed, tail-wagging creature to greet them. The house stands silent and empty.

When an employee, coworker, client, or friend loses a beloved pet, send a note of condolence–just as you do when a loved one dies. I sent Patrick and Tim an email when I heard the sad news, then a sympathy card. Here is the text of the email:

Dear Patrick and Tim,

I just read your message about Victor’s passing. I am so sorry for your loss. In my experience, there is no creature like a dog for unconditional love, enthusiasm, zest for playing, and unending expectation of life’s next treat. I imagine that his place in your home, your daily routines, and–of course, your hearts–will long seem empty.

I will remember Victor’s beautiful bows and his wandering sniffs at picnics. I will also remember how dear he was to you.

Please accept my deep sympathy. I will be thinking of you in your sorrow.

Because I had met Victor many times, I was able to write something about my experience of him. But even if you have never met a vendor’s or customer’s pet, you can write notes like these:

Please accept my sympathy on the death of your dear companion, Isis. I know the big role she played in your life, and I am very sorry that she is no longer with you. I will be thinking of you as you grieve the loss of your beloved cat.

We were so sorry to hear that Sunny died in an accident. From the many photos that have decorated your desktop, we know she was a light in your life, and we realize that you will miss her deeply. Please accept our condolences on your sad and sudden loss and know that we are sharing it with you.

I was saddened to hear the news that Ernie’s life ended last week. Although I didn’t know your dog, I know how much you cared about him, and I know you will miss him deeply after your many years together. Please accept my sincere sympathy on the passing of your dear friend.

I have written a lot about condolence messages since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Southeastern United States 18 months ago. For many examples and tips on expressing sympathy in business relationships, please look here.


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

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