Loss of a Pet

Mountain View Kennels

 

Parting With Your Pet: How to Say

Goodbye To Your Best Friend
by Angel Williams

How to deal with the emotional and other issues in euthanizing a pet.

If you’ve ever had a pet, then you know the attachment you develop to them is in no way diminished by the fact that they have four legs instead of two. In fact, the differences between our pets and our family are sometimes what make them more endearing. Although they can’t technically talk to us, they speak volumes. They communicate their needs and their unconditional love from their infancy until the day they die.

A Life Span of Love

Cats generally live longer than dogs, but even they seldom live longer than twenty years, so odds are that at some time in your life you will be the one to say goodbye. In many cases, you are also the one to choose the time of their departure. Unlike the case for humans, it is socially acceptable for people to decide when it would be merciful to put their pets to sleep.

How Do You Know When

When we are in tune with our pet’s behavior, we can usually sense when they are not well. Even the most subtle change in behavior, if it extends past a certain point, should warrant further investigation. Like humans, pets develop diseases, and your vet can evaluate the severity of the condition and recommend a course of action.

It’s Up to You

Sometimes, a vet’s prognosis is less than definitive. Perhaps Your pet has an incurable disease, but it might be possible to extend the pet’s life with expensive treatment that will be a heavy financial burden. Also, knowing that your pet is on “borrowed time” has to be weighed. Even if the doctor assures you that your furry friend is not in pain, the quality of his life is something to consider. Although your vet might have a recommendation about what to do, ultimately the decision is up to you.

Watch, Look, and Listen

If you have decided to take medical steps to make your pet as comfortable as possible, the next decision is whether to leave him with the doctor or to take him home with you. Unless the medical attention he needs is very severe or complicated, most pet owners choose to take their animals home. At that point, with no prior education or experience in nursing, it becomes your responsibility to be observant. Naturally, the most obvious things to monitor are their eating and sleeping.

When It’s Time, You’ll Know

Being in charge of your pet’s destiny is a two-edged sword. The difficult part, of course, is being in charge. The positive side is that you can make the most of the time you have left together and create the most positive closure possible. Most animals don’t like going to the vet, so by simply choosing to bring your friend home, you are providing comfort. The end of their lives can then take place in a familiar environment with the least amount of stress possible. Since most veterinarian clinics are less than homey, it would be less stressful and certainly more convenient for both you and your pet, albeit, a little scary.

Letting Go

You’ve had a strong, compassionate connection with your pet. You love him and he knows it. At the same time, he has a devotion and love for you that sometimes prevents him from letting go, even though it is apparent that the time has come. This is the time for you to be strong and more compassionate than ever. Talk to him. Let him know it’s okay. He is so in tune with your emotions that he will sense your suffering and want to “hold on,” just for you. His loyalty is consistently strong, right to the end. This is where he needs your help the most. It’s your responsibility to release him from that attachment.

You Don’t Have to be Alone

If your little friend should choose to pass on in his or her own time, then you’ve been spared the decision, but if this is not the case, it will be your call, and when the time is right, you will know. At that point, you still have the choice of bringing him back to the doctor. If that’s your choice, most vets will supply a private accommodation so that you can say your farewells, and you are always allowed to be there during the process of putting him to sleep so that you can support him through his transition. However, in many places, depending on where you live, there are alternatives. There are people, kind of like midwives, who will come to your home and put your friend to sleep. The process takes place in your home, at the time you choose, and when it’s over, they carry your pet away.

The Final Resting Place

At this point, the choices are the same as they are for humans. You can either choose to bury your pet or cremate him. One friend of mine, who had her friend put down at home, reports that the experience seemed to be the most humane to her. The woman, who came to her house for the final day, carried her cat off in a warm blanket and took the responsibility of having her cremated. She returned her a few days later in a lovely urn. Another friend chose to bury her cat in a garden. She held a short funeral, where friends could all say something about Carmen.

It’s Natural to Grieve

No matter how the end of their lives takes place, it’s always sad. The pets you have lived with become your best friends and are part of your family. The emotions you feel for them are as true as you would feel for any human. Their loss is something you have to suffer, and that is perfectly normal. As with any separation from anyone you love, it is a difficult time, and only time can ease that pain. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or to deny. Take the time you need to heal your heart. It’s never easy, but talk about it with your friends and family. Most people, especially if they’ve had pets, know what you are going through, and I think you’ll find sympathy and compassion if you’re willing to share your experience with them. 

**********************************************************

Overcoming The Loss of Your Pet
by Laura Lond

If you are like me, your pets are your family members. It is not “just a cat” or “just a dog,” it is a friend you love who loves you back, unconditionally. When they die, the loss can be very painful. What is the best way to cope? How do you tell the children? How soon should you get a new pet?

Our pets’ lives are shorter than ours. The moment we get a new kitten or puppy, we are setting ourselves up for the sad day when we will have to say goodbye. Most people don’t think about it, some do, and some even refuse to have any pets for that reason. “You get attached to that dog or cat,” they say, “you live with them all those years, and then they die… And what are you supposed to do?” Those people don’t want to go through the loss, so they rob themselves of the joy of having a pet altogether. I think they are missing out, big time, but in a way, I can understand them: losing your little friend is very hard.

I remember talking to a co-worker who had to euthanize the family dog, a companion of over ten years, if I am not mistaken. The lady could barely go through the office routine, she was overpowered by grief; all she could think of was the dog’s death. She had come to me and shared about what happened, knowing that I was an animal lover myself and I would understand. “Please, don’t tell anyone else,” she had asked. “Some people just don’t get it, and I don’t need them to be making fun.”

She was right: some people “don’t get it,” they can’t understand the bond between a human and a dog or a cat, and therefore tend to look down on those who are devastated “just because of a pet.” I have heard all kinds of cruel things. “They don’t have a life, that’s why they are so crazy about that cat.” “They weep over that dog as if it were human.” “They don’t know what real suffering is, that’s why their cat’s death is the end of the world to them.” It is comments like this that make the pet owner, already hurting enough, feel guilty, silly, or immature, and hide their pain.

It’s okay to grieve

The first thing you need to understand is that it is okay to grieve. You have lost someone you loved, and your sadness and pain are natural. Do not let those who can’t understand it shame you into feeling bad about it. They don’t know how special your pet was to you; only you do. You are not immature or overly sentimental, and you’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. What exactly are they accusing you of? Only of having a bigger heart than theirs.

You will probably go through the same stages of grief people go through when they lose a loved one: denial, anger, depression, and maybe some guilt. “If only I did this or that, he might be still alive…” Do not focus on that. More than likely, you have done all you could for your friend.

Another thing I would advise is that you should not grieve alone. Talk to other pet owners, they will understand you better than anyone else. If you don’t feel like talking to anyone in person, Internet is a great solution: there are many pet-related discussion forums you can go to, including some specifically dedicated to pet loss support. Go there and share your story, tell about all those wonderful special moments your friend had brought to your life. Post a picture of him or her for others to see, if you’d like. You will probably cry as you share it all, and then when you read other pet owners’ replies to your post. Crying is good. Letting the pain out is better than locking it up inside.

Telling the kids

When a family pet dies, breaking the news to the kids is very hard. You have probably seen The 6th Day movie and remember the argument Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character has with his wife about telling or not telling their daughter that their dog had to be euthanized. The husband says that death is a part of life, and their daughter will have to learn about it sooner or later. The wife wants to spare the girl’s feelings and wants the dog cloned. Eventually, she wins the argument.

I am with the husband on this one. I believe honesty is the best policy. You might be tempted to “soften the blow,” so to speak, and tell the child that the kitty “went away,” or something like that. This usually creates expectations of the pet’s return, and more pain later when the child discovers that they had been lied to. Also, it can produce feelings of guilt. The child might think that the pet had left because of them – because they did something wrong.

Younger children do not have understanding of death, when they encounter it they tend to perceive it like some form of sleep. That’s why saying that the pet was “put to sleep” naturally gives them the impression that it is something temporary. I have known parents who would deliberately use the term to avoid explanation of a permanent loss, and then go through long months of beating about the bush when the child kept asking them “where exactly the kitty is sleeping” and “when will it wake up and come home.” You will have to tell the truth sooner or later. My advice is not to prolong the child’s anxiety.

If you believe animals have souls and go to heaven when they die (I do), you can tell that to your children, but make sure they understand that their little friend did not choose to leave them. Also, make sure they do not think that the pet was taken from them because they were bad.

Getting a new pet

Should you get a new pet? And how soon? Only you can answer these questions. Some people cope with the loss better by adopting another pet right away, others need time. Some feel that by getting a new pet they are “betraying” the old one, and therefore refuse to do so.

I don’t think that getting a new pet shows disloyalty to the old one, or that you have easily forgotten and replaced them. Your memories will always stay with you. You did not stop loving your pet the moment they died, and who says you cannot love more than one?

Children can be very sensitive to it as well, they might resent the new pet for trying to take the place of the old one. “I don’t want this new dog, I want my Tommy!” is a common reaction. That is why it is very important to make the decision about taking a new pet together, and explain to the child that you are not “replacing” Tommy. You still love and remember Tommy, and you are getting a new friend to love. Tommy would not feel bad because of it.

It is usually not recommended to get an exact look-alike of your old pet and especially to give them the same name. Do not try to deceive yourself into believing that you have your old companion back, you know it is not possible. This new pet is different, it will behave differently and never live up to your expectations of being just like the old one. Accept your new friend as they are, and love them for it.

I have had many pets, and it does not get any easier when the time comes to part with them. But I think the joy they bring into my life is far greater.