Posts Tagged ‘Death of a pet’

Maggie. In Memorium.

April 3, 2013 Leave a comment

I found out earlier this week that one of my very first pet sitting clients, Maggie, had crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. Even though Maggie was an older dog, it still hit me pretty hard. Maggie was one of those dogs who just seemed like she would live forever. She had a zest for life like no other dog I have ever met. She lived life with gusto.

Jasper loved her. Daisy loved her. And, I loved her. So did her family. It was hard not to love Maggie. She made me smile whenever she stayed with me. I used to laugh when her mom would say Maggie was starting to slow down. That was never the case when Maggie stayed at Casa del Mel. She saw her stay as a vacation and she made sure she made the most of it too. I smile now just thinking of how much fun she had here. She was a bright light in every day.

So instead of being sad that she is gone, I thought I would celebrate Maggie’s life, and her love of life, by sharing a few pictures of her during her stay here.

We will miss you Maggie. More than you know.

A happy Maggie. Playing ball was her favorite thing to do.

A happy Maggie. Playing ball was her favorite thing to do.

Maggie assumed all cars were SUVs. When I opened the trunk to put the water jugs in, she jumped inside. Silly girl.

Maggie assumed all cars were SUVs. When I opened the trunk to put the water jugs in, she jumped inside. Silly girl.

Daisy and Maggie

Daisy and Maggie

Maggie loved going to the dog park.

Maggie loved going to the dog park.

Maggie running at the dog park

Maggie running at the dog park


Maggie and Jasper shared a love of sticks and tennis balls

Waiting to go into the dog park

Waiting to go into the dog park

Maggie loved water

Maggie loved water

Maggie loved playing ball

Maggie loved playing ball



Saying Goodbye to Simba

June 10, 2012 20 comments

Simba and his sister soon after he was adopted

I am sure many of you can relate to the loss of a dog that is not your own – a friend’s dog or perhaps a relative’s beloved companion.  This past weekend I received some sad news. A longtime doggie friend, Simba, passed away. Simba was not mine, but he was still very, very special to me. He was the first shelter dog I ever helped to find a new home.

Simba ended up at our shelter (the now defunct Minnesota Valley Humane Society) after being surrendered by his family. He had grown up with kids and was lucky enough to have someone there with him all day since his former mom was a stay-at-home-mom. I can’t recall anymore exactly why he was surrendered, but I believe he was the victim of a divorce (or maybe they just didn’t have time for him anymore).

I adored him from the very first moment I saw him in our impound area. He was handsome and stoic and a typical Golden Retriever in almost every way. He was a dog that most families dream of having when they think about getting a dog. Gentle and sweet, he was happy to have any and all of your attention. I was determined to find him a good home.

Luckily, I happened to know a family that was looking for a dog at that time AND they were looking for a Golden Retriever. I also happened to know that this family would give him the loving home he so deserved.  So after a brief introduction, Simba was adopted by this loving family and brought home to live out his life in a place of love. As it so happens, this family also employed my sister, so as a result, I was able to see Simba quite often.

Not long after he was adopted, Simba’s family discovered he had tested positive for heartworm. Instead of returning him to the shelter, as many have done before when a dog is diagnosed with an illness, Simba was treated and given special care in his new home until he was healthy. What a lucky dog to have found a family willing and able to make the commitment to help him.

Simba was lucky in other ways too. He got to live on a lake surrounded by woods filled with chipmunks and squirrels and deer, and other wild animals. He could wade in the lake in the morning and nap under the trees in the afternoon. He could chase chipmunks and squirrels to his heart’s desire – doesn’t every dog dream of such a life?

Simba had several sisters, and a brother, to play with. He was gentle playmate but also strong. He could play tug-of-war with a rope bone like no other – I think he won more rounds than he lost. When his little brother Cosmo was a puppy, he would often chase Simba and grab at his ears with his sharp little teeth. The most Simba did in response was whine. He never took action to stop Cosmo from biting him. He never bit back.

He was also great with kids. Simba loved to play with the two boys in the family, and as one of the boys grew older, he would often run with him. He went on walks with his new family often over the years he lived with them.

He was a lover by nature. He greeted everyone he met with a wagging tail. He loved all the boys’ friends and was more than happy to play with them or just sit and take in the loving attention they gave him. I heard that at the end, the younger boy even moved his bed to the floor so Simba could lie on it with him.  Could a dog ask for more?

As I said, I had the opportunity to visit Simba often. I enjoyed spending time with him just scratching his belly or letting him sleep with his head in my lap. Did he remember me from the shelter? Maybe at first he did, but over time I think he just came to see me as the woman who doted on him. I readily admit he was my favorite. He was special.

That’s why saying goodbye is so hard.

Last night, his adopted mom thanked me for introducing him to their family. I couldn’t help but think I should be thanking them. They gave him a loving home and a life most dogs would love to live. It’s not often that one gets to see an animal be adopted from a shelter and have the pleasure of seeing them live out their lives in a loving home. They gave him everything a dog could ever want. Yes, today I am sad that Simba is gone, but I am also comforted knowing that in the end, he lived a good life in a loving home with a loving family. What more could any dog want?

Godspeed Simba. You were a wonderful friend and you will be missed.

Simba in his golden years (taken last summer)

Love the ones you’re with (while you still have them)

April 11, 2012 21 comments

Last week I wrote about my dog Jasper and the intensity in which he attacks everything in his life.

My friend Amy left the following comment “Buster has a lot of the same energy as Jasper, but now that he’s approaching is 5th birthday, he seems to be settling down a bit. There are more moments of calm between the craziness and, while I thought it was what I wanted, it makes me feel a little sad. It means he’s getting older and I’m not so excited about that.” I couldn’t help but feel a sense of sadness, because I knew what she meant. It won’t be that long before Jasper will be slowing down too. I so love his intensity. I love that he is naughty sometimes. I love that he keeps me on my toes and is always making me think. Slow down? I don’t want to even consider it.


Then later that week, I got word that a family who had been involved in the search for Lady had lost their beloved dog, Xander. They had adopted Xander from Minnesota Sheltie Rescue after his original owner died. Being the big-hearted people they are I have no doubt that Xander was showered with love for the five wonderful years they had him. I couldn’t help but be reminded that my time with Jasper (and Daisy and Lady) is short.

Even at his most exasperating, I know that one day I will be missing Jasper, like Xander is being missed right now.

I know that one day I am going to miss the fact that he has to go back outside 3 minutes after he gets back in because he forgot to go to the bathroom while he was out the first time. I will miss him attacking the outside water dish every time I empty it out to put fresh water in. I will miss him staring at me, waiting for me to throw his ball. I will miss his need to herd me, the cat, Daisy and Lady. I will even miss him chasing runners at the park.

Hearing about Xander and reading Amy’s comment made me realize that I need to appreciate all of my moments with my dogs – the good, the bad and the frustrating. Because, someday, I will miss each and every one of them.

My condolences to the Gilbert family on the loss of their boy. I know it must be heartbreaking to not have him there with them. I just hope they find some comfort in knowing they gave him such a wonderful life. One filled with love and happy memories.

Do pets really tell you when it’s time to say goodbye?

October 9, 2011 292 comments

I recently had a conversation with a friend who said that pets always tell you when it’s time to say goodbye. I had to be completely honest and tell her that I had yet to experience a dog telling me it was time.

It’s true. I have never had a dog or cat tell me when it was time. Not that I doubt that it happens. I’m sure it does. It’s just that I’ve never experienced it myself.

A friend of mine is going through this very same situation right now. Every time she starts to think it’s time to say goodbye, her dog rallies and makes a comeback. There is nothing like a dog rallying back from illness or death to make you doubt yourself and your decision-making process.

I have experienced this very same thing with each of my dogs. Every time I would be ready to say goodbye, they would rally back. The worst is when they are still there in spirit, but their body is failing them. I am always filled with doubt – Is NOW the right time? Is it too early? What if I’m missing something else that is wrong with them and I say goodbye too soon?

Part of me wonders… Am I just too close to the situation to see the signs? Do I refuse to see what they are telling me because I don’t want to see it? It’s definitely a possibility. And yet, when I look back I can honestly say that none of my dogs “told” me that it was time. I always felt like I had to make the decision for them, and each time it devastated me.

So, I want to hear from you. How did you know it was the right time to say goodbye to your pet? Did your pet tell you? And, if so, how did they tell you?


Note: This post has taken on a life of its own since I first posted it back in 2011. I am grateful for those of you have comforted others and helped them to know when was the right time. One reader shared this in the comments section. I have shared it with many a friend who told me later that it was helpful. I encourage you to read it if you are struggling with this question too.

Here is the link to that article:  How to Know When It’s Time to Euthanize Your Pet


It appears the link to the article has been recycled, so I am sharing the words here. I would give full credit to who wrote it, but Yahoo took their name down as well. I hope it will help you as you make the difficult decision to say goodbye. Thank you to Coni for sharing it first.

Remember that pets live in the moment. One of the most wonderful things about animals is how they embrace the present. Every time I walk into my house, my faithful Vizsla throws a one-dog ticker tape parade. The fact that I have entered the house thousands of times before, or that I will leave again in a few hours, means nothing. All that matters to him is the joy that he feels right now.

When our pets are suffering, they don’t reflect on all the great days they have had before, or ponder what the future will bring. All they know is how they feel today. By considering this perspective, we can see the world more clearly through their eyes. And their eyes are what matter.

Ask yourself important questions. Sometimes, articulating or writing down your thoughts can make the right path more apparent. Some questions that help pet owners struggling with this decision include:
• Why do I think it might be time to euthanize?
• What are my fears and concerns about euthanizing?
• Whose interests, besides those of my pet, am I taking into account?
• What are the concerns of the people around me?
• Am I making this decision because it is best for my pet, or because it is best for me because I’m not ready to let go?

Measure their quality of life. This is no more than trying to determine how good or bad our pet’s life is at this moment. Trying to assess this can be difficult, but there are some ways you can try and evaluate it. Let’s take a look at a few of my favorites in the next section.

Is Life a Joy or a Drag?

Our pets may not be able to talk to us and tell us how they are doing, but if we pay close attention, there are many clues that can help us answer that question.

The Rule of “Five Good Things”: Pick the top five things that your pet loves to do. Write them down. When he or she can no longer do three or more of them, quality of life has been impacted to a level where many veterinarians would recommend euthanasia.

Good Days vs. Bad: When pets have “good days and bad days,” it can be difficult to see how their condition is progressing over time. Actually tracking the days when your pet is feeling good as well as the days when he or she is not feeling well can be helpful. A check mark for good days and an X for bad days on your calendar can help you determine when a loved one is having more bad days than good.

HHHHHMM: Doctor Alice Villalobos is a well-known veterinary oncologist. Her “HHHHHMM” Quality of Life Scale is another useful tool. The five H’s and two M’s are: Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Happiness, Hygiene (the ability to keep the pet clean from bodily waste), Mobility and More (as in, more good days than bad). Dr. Villalobos recommends grading each category on a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being poorest quality of life and 10 being best). If the majority of categories are ranked as 5 or above, continuing with supportive care is acceptable.
Pet Hospice Journal: Keeping a journal of your pet’s condition, behavior, appetite, etc., can be extremely valuable in evaluating quality of life over time.

A Tale of Two “Endings”
The reality of having older pets is that we must be vigilant in their care and aware that every day is a gift.
In the case of my long-ago patient, Stone, with whom I first walked this path, I am glad to say that he did not suffer unnecessarily with osteosarcoma. His owner made a good decision, and Stone crossed the rainbow bridge while in the loving arms of his people. He was remembered by them as a strong, loving protector of the children in his family, and I will always remember his owner for having the strength and wisdom I hope we’ll all have when the time comes to say that final goodbye.

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!

Wednesday Winner: Nelli Designs

November 4, 2009 Leave a comment

As a pet sitter, you eventually have to face the loss of some of your favorite pets due to old age or illness. I have been looking for a gift that I an give my clients when their pet passes on. Cards are great, but I wanted something I could give them that would memorialize their pet in a dignified but special way.

LS003422Recently, I found a gift idea that seems to fit exactly what I was looking for. It’s a candle from Nelli Designs. The candle is decorated with a leather dog collar and has a tag hanging from the collar that you can have engraved with the pet’s name and a quote. I purchased three of them and I gave one to one of my clients this past week. She loved it! I plan to give my other two clients theirs this week.

If you are in the pet industry and need that perfect gift for a client who has recently lost a pet, consider sending them a candle from Nelli Designs. I know they will love it and they will be touched by your thoughtfulness.

Today’s Wednesday Winner is Nelli Designs. Check them out!

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