I'm sad to say, that those who have never felt the connection and the love that comes from having a dog (or any animal in that case) will say things like, "its only a dog" or "dont worry, just get another one". This is not the case at all. I believe that time does not necessarily heal grief, but merely lengthens the periods of time between the moments in which grief is felt.
Unfortunately, very few animals will pass away peacefully in their sleep. This means that the very hard decision of euthanasia falls into your hands as you have a voice, your pet does not. Many people are torn on this decision as their own needs sometimes take over. You want to hold on so tightly to your pet as you can't imagine life without them, you wonder how you'll tell your children, you'll think that maybe things will get better and his or her health will improve. Yet, we must put our own feelings aside and do what is best for our furry family members. Are they in pain? Have they lost their quality of life? Is chemotherapy the best course of action?
The loss of one's pet is unfortunately an inevitable event that all owners will face during the course of their lives. No one is ever prepared for it. To heal, we must pass through the 5 stages of grief.
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.
These can happen in any order or simultaneously. Some of us may chose not to deal with our grief, by 'brushing it under the carpet' or pretending were ok on the outside but unfortunately, by doing this, the grief manifests within us, leading to possible health issues such as;
-Alcohol or substance abuse
-Low energy levels
-PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Have you considered Counselling? Counselling isn't to 'fix' you. It's to help assist you in healing yourself. Counsellors are there to listen and to help you confront your grief or the impending decision at hand. They are not there to offer any advice on what course of action they feel you should be taking regarding euthanising your pet. This decision must be made by you. I cover the subject of Euthanasia in my 'Health & Advice' section.
Do you have young children who you don't know how to approach the subject of their pets death with or just simply cannot bring yourself to do so? By trying to sugar coat the truth of the situation isn't protecting their feelings as you may think, it may be making things worse. Telling your 5 year old son that his beloved Rabbit ran away to a new home may leave him thinking that maybe he had done something wrong or that his Rabbit didn't like him, adding insult to injury. The subject of Death isn't a nice one, but if handled correctly, it could bring closure on an unpleasant situation.
A good book to use to help younger children understand the death of a pet is called 'I miss my pet' and is written by an experienced psychotherapist and counsellor.
Our beautiful German Sheppard Casper was one of a kind. He was a Therapy Pet, great with my disabled Brother and an all round top notch dog! We'd had him from a pup and he was simply incredible. When he reached 10 years old, he started to go off his food. He would only eat very small amounts and only if you hand fed him. He was still happy out on his walks, but as an owner you just know when your pets aren't ok. We took him to the Vets to be checked. As soon as the Vet touched his stomach, Casper turned and gave him an almighty snap teamed up with a very loud growl. He was in pain. The Vet said that there was a big lump in his stomach. We decided to book him in for an operation to see the extent of the damage.
I'll always remember sitting in the Vets watching them take my beloved Casper away to assess how far the Cancer in his body had spread. I clung on to every hope that they'd gotten it wrong, that they could fix him and he'd be back home in a couple of days. I sat in that waiting room full of people crying my eyes out and for some reason, I felt embarrassed. Why? Because I was crying over my dog and I thought people were thinking I was stupid. Let me tell you now, they didn't. Everyone it that room had a face full of sympathy. NEVER FEEL EMBARRASSED. Later on that day, Mum recieved a phone call from the Vet. The Cancer was aggressive and had spread throughout Casper's body targetting his major organs. My Mum at that point made the heartbreaking decision to let him go peacefully whilst he was still under. We did not want to put him through Chemotherapy. The Cancer was going to kill him either way, we didn't want him on that much medication for the short amount of remaining time he'd have with us. We did it for him. I know my Mum has regret for the decision to let them operate. If she had the choice again I know she would have had him put down at home surrounded by his family. Not on an operationg table. I know she'd only allowed them to operate because of me. I had the slightest bit of hope that he'd be ok, and I clung to that. That was hard for her but it gave me the closure that he couldn't be saved, we'd done everything we could. After that, I didn't care who saw me cry. I let it out, I grieved, I got angry. I let my emotions take their course. I lost my Dad to Cancer was I was 11 years old and I bottled that up for 16 years. When that cork of emotion blew, let me tell you it was not pretty. This is a hard story to share with you all and I'm crying as I type, but I need you to understand what grief does to you if it's not dealt with properly. Speak to someone, anyone. Friends, Family, Counsellors. DON'T BOTTLE IT UP. A while after Casper passed away, the most beautiful thing happened. Me, my Mum and my Brother all saw Casper in our dreams. I could feel him on my bed. He had come to say goodbye, he was telling us he was ok. It was the strangest thing. None of us ever saw him again after that, but we know he's at peace. That was our closure.
Whatever your beliefs or religion, know that eventually you can find peace in Death.
"Should I ever turn frail or weak,
Should my pain keep me from sleep.
Will you do that which should be done?
Because this-the final battle-cannot be won.
You'll be unhappy, I understand,
Though don't let that halt your hand.
On that day, excluding all the rest,
Our friendship and love must pass the test.
We've had many very happy years,
Don't let me suffer so.
If the right time comes,
Allow me to go.
Let me go to where I'd love to mend,
But remain here, until my end.
Hold me close and talk to me,
Until my eyes cannot see.
In time, I'm sure, you'll agree,
Please, do this kindness for me.
My tail has waved,
But now from pain I'm saved.
Do not grieve: it should be you,
That decides, this act, to do.
We were so close-us two-for years,
Don't hold in your heart, any tears."
Fell asleep February 2013
'Forever missed, never forgotten'