Posts Tagged ‘death and pets’

What last joyful thing did you do with your dog before saying goodbye?

November 5, 2012 32 comments


A while back I saw this email posted on Life With Dogs. It was a request from a woman with a 15-year-old Border Collie.

She wrote

“…we have a 15-year-old Border Collie that is trained in herding but due to health issues hasn’t been able to herd in a very long time. His health is declining quickly and we would love to have him chase a few sheep around for one last time.”

I couldn’t help but be moved by her plea and hoped and prayed that someone would be able to answer her request.

Well, as it turns out, someone did. Thanks to my friend Sue over at Talking Dogs, I was able to see one very happy dog herd sheep for the last time (you can watch the video here).

It brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t help it. What dog owner wouldn’t want the same for their dog? That one last chance to give their dog an opportunity to do what they loved?

It brought back some memories of the things I have done to give my dogs the very same experience of joy. That one last hurrah.

My Sheltie, Alicia, was 15 when we said goodbye, but I remember taking her on short walks all the way up to the very end. She couldn’t go very far, and often I would end up carrying her home, but I just loved seeing her wagging tail when I brought out her leash. It was worth it. On our last day together, I made sure to buy her a cheeseburger because I she loved them so. She ended up getting sick in my brand new car, but I didn’t care. I had given her something she loved. One last time.

When it was time to say goodby to my senior dog, Aspen, I made sure that I left the window down so she could stick her nose out. She loved to sit in the backseat and sniff the air as we drove from place to place. Besides going to the dog park, it was one of her most favorite things to do. I was not going to deny her that joy in those last moments. I still remember looking in my rear view mirror and seeing the tip of her nose poking out the window. I remember smiling through my tears in that moment.

It’s only natural to want the best for our dogs, even as the end nears. We want them to experience some amount of joy in their last moments with us. I suspect it’s as much for us as it is for them.

So what things have you done to give your dogs that one last chance to enjoy what they loved most? What was your dog’s last hurrah moment? I’d love to hear your stories.

When a dog dies…

March 21, 2010 4 comments


Today my family said goodbye to my brother’s dog, Remy. Remy was a Chow-Lab mix, and even though he was 15 years old, it still broke our hearts when my brother called us today to say that Remy was not doing well and it was time to say goodbye.

One of the hardest things that we, as pet owners, have to face is saying goodbye to our furry best friends. In some cases, losing a pet can be even harder than losing a family member. That’s because our pets are our companions, confidants, comedians, and best friends. They are with us more than most family members and see us through the good times and the bad.

Given the loss of Remy today, I thought it might be appropriate to post some information about the Five Stages of Grief.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross first introduced the Five Stages of Grief in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying. Although the five stages were designed to help people through the process of grief and tragedy in their own lives, I think they apply to our beloved pets as well.

The Five Stages of Grief are as follows:

1. Denial – “My dog is fine.”; “I’m just being silly. My dog is not showing signs of being sick.” ; “My vet must be wrong, my dog looks fine to me.” – For many pet owners, admitting that our dog is sick or is the near the end of life is too hard to deal with so we pretend that everything is okay. They’re just having a few accidents in the house or they ate two days ago, so they might eat again tomorrow.

2. Anger – “Why my dog? It’s not fair!”; “It’s all my fault. If I had only brought her to the veterinarian sooner, she would be okay.” “I should never have done left him alone.” – Often in the second stage (anger) we look for someone to blame, whether that be our veterinarian, a family member or ourselves. We may even look towards other external sources: dog food companies, boarding facilities, etc.

3. Bargaining – “If I just try this new procedure, I’m sure my dog will be okay.”; “If I just wait a few days/weeks/months, my dog will be better.”; “I might make a decision too soon when my dog could recover.”; “I’ll do anything for just a few more years with my buddy.” – In the third stage, we hope that we can somehow postpone or delay death. Sometimes we even negotiate with God in hopes that we can spend a few more precious days with our friend.

4. Depression – “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I don’t want to do anything now that my best friend is gone.”; “I don’t want to even look at another dog right now. They would just remind me of my loss.” – In the fourth stage, we may find it difficult to eat, sleep, or concentrate and we may not want to be around other people. Our grief overcomes us and we mourn. One of the most difficult things for pet owners to deal with is seeing their pet everywhere they used to be – a favorite rug or chair, playing ball in the yard, searching the kitchen floor for scraps, etc.. This is often the most difficult stage because what was once a possibility is now a reality.

5. Acceptance – “I miss my dog, but I can move on.”; “My dog had a really great life in the time he/she was here.”; “I had some wonderful times with my dog.” – In the fifth stage, we begin to accept that our furry friend has died and focus on the wonderful times we had with him/her. For pet owners who’s pet has been sick for a long time, there can even be a bit of relief – not that our beloved pet is gone, but that the care-taking and stress involved with caring for our sick pet is finally over. (Owners should not feel guilt or shame over this relief. It is okay to be relieved that the stress and worry is gone.) There will still be times when we experience deep sadness, anger, or guilt at our loss – I still shed a tear now and then for my pets – but we start to look forward rather than backwards and we may even consider looking for a new pet.

The Healing Process:
One of the best ways to begin to heal from our loss is to express our love for our pet in other ways. For me, the loss of my dog Alicia led to me to volunteer at an animal shelter, where I could help other dogs and cats. For one of my clients, it involved creating a shelf dedicated to her beloved dog. For others, it may be creating a picture book or planting a tree. Whatever the thing may be, consider doing something that honors your pet. It can go a long way towards the healing process.

Remy – We miss you buddy!

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