For me it's pretty simple, if anyone in my life says, "Just a dog." and all that blather, they won't have to worry about me anymore, period. HOWEVER, anyone of consequence in my life, knew my dog, and knew how special she really was.
So, I guess I'm lucky. But I have zero tolerance for anyone who discounts the value of a relationship (of any kind) that lasts as long as most of ours with our dogs have.
No one would say, "You're still sad about you're (insert family member here) dying?", yet when it's and animal, somehow that's different.
People like that, aren't worth worrying about.
I consider myself a pretty tough guy, I've been 'downrange', and I've stared my own possible demise in the face several times. Been in spots most people wouldn't believe. And it never took me more than a few days to get on with things, and not worry about whatever it was.
But this dog, we were best buddies. We slept in five star hotels, and gravel lots. We ate steak on the beach, and drank pond water more than once. If she wouldn't go a place in the wild, I 'listened' to her. When she didn't like someone, and this dog loved people, I shined them on (missed alot of trouble that way to be sure). My Red Dog was very special in every way. As were all of your dogs, to you. I never doubt for a second this dog would have thrown herself in a lions mouth, and choked him to death to save me. I could go on and on, but all of you folks get it.
I think maybe my perspective is a bit different because my Red Dog and me worked some land, a herd of goats, and a flock of sheep for almost five years. And she was born to live that life, she was a Red Cloud Kelpie. So I relied on her to take care of a considerable investment, and she did, with almost no training.
When I had to send her on her way, it was the hardest decision I ever had to make. And pity the fool who says, "Just a dog, get over it.". But the people who matter, supported my decision, indeed, I begged everyone to talk me out of it. But all who saw her (and knew her) knew it was right. It hurt like nothing ever, and I've been to the wars.
I have a cattle rancher buddy, and he raises Border Collies as well, and on the day I had to put down my Red Dog, I went over to see him. I had to feel some dogs, you know? This is a tough old guy, one I wouldn't want to be on the bad side of, but he 'gets it'. And he got more than a bit choked up himself, cause he knew my dog, and she loved this dude.
But he says to me, "This is part of the deal, and after 40 years of breeding these dogs, it never gets any easier.". Good old Bill, then he went on to tell me about his last 'Ride along dog', and what happened to him, and he was visibly distraught, and it had been two years. So, we talked a while, and he says, "Boy (which made me chuckle) go on home now, you'll be alright. And you'll love another dog, we always do."
Pity the fool who says, "Just a dog." And then say goodbye to them, or not, cause they aren't worth your time. Not worth worrying about, trust me. Cause to people like us, it's never 'just a dog'. Take heart, we all love dogs, and that ain't nothin' sugar.