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When your beloved pet dies

The much loved Timber

The much loved Timber

Yesterday, a friend of mine called me in tears. She had gone to her neighbour’s house to walk his dog. When she opened the door, she found the man leaning over his beloved pet trying desperately to resuscitate him.

Timber, his beautiful companion, had had a stroke. Her neighbour had been giving him CPR for close to a half hour to no avail.

The scene was heartbreaking. It was also confusing. What do you do when a pet dies without the assistance of a vet? What are the next steps?

Pet Memorial Centers.

It used to be that you’d bury your pet in the backyard of the family home. But times have changed and, for many, this isn’t an option.

As such, a simple Google search will come up with a list of Vancouver’s pet memorial centers. “Until We Meet Again” is one that I’m familiar with and have recommended. They have the compassion and promptness bereaved pet owners need.

That said, once the practicalities have been dealt with, the real challenge begins – the healing process.

The right to grieve.

Pets are family members that go far too soon. It can be devastating. Not everyone understands that, but rest assured – countless pet owners do.

The level of grief depends on a number of factors from the circumstances of their death, as well as their role in your life. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief you’ll feel.

It’s all relative and it’s all normal.

Everyone grieves differently. Some people grieve in stages that include any number of emotions: anger, denial, depression, and guilt.

For others, grief comes in cycles and waves of highs and lows. These are often more intense at the beginning and mercifully shorter and less intense over time.

Still, even years after a loss, a sight, sound, or anniversary can trigger memories that leave you stricken, at least momentarily.

There’s no timetable and no schedule that you need to follow.

Fostering a pet.

No one can replace a pet and everyone has their own way of coping. Some take comfort in filling the void with a new loved one. Others need time. Still others open their homes and hearts to foster pets.

All to say – grieve in whatever way comes naturally for you.

Personal anecdotes on grief.

I had a friend who vacuumed her entire apartment, including blankets and clothes, trying to rid the surroundings of her cat’s fur. She couldn’t bear to see it. Her pain was too great.

Yet, when her next pet died, she found herself picking up all the stray hairs and keeping them in a special case.

I knew someone else who would sleep in her dog’s bed and wail for hours at a time. Her husband was shocked by her behaviour, and yet, it worked for her.

Do what works for you too.

Grief is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of depth, emotion and friendship. Never be ashamed of it or try to keep it from surfacing.

Real healing requires that you face your grief and deal with it actively. Bottling it up just keeps it within. Expressing it lets it out and allows you to move through it.

If you have a story to share or suggestions that can provide comfort, please feel free to leave your comment below.

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