For the love of a pet
`Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.’
~ Anatole France
Having a pet is the most beautiful, nourishing and enriching experience you could ever hope to have. There is such a purity, depth and level of unconditional love we experience with our pets. So having to say goodbye is simply heartbreaking.
Only a pet owner and animal lover can understand the level of grief one has to confront when we lose our faithful companions. If we are in the position to euthanize our pet, how and when do we make the decision to say goodbye?
I have just recently had to say goodbye to my dearest, most loyal, loving friend. It was simply heartbreaking. My 14 year old Burmese, Coco, was my ever faithful, intelligent, beautiful, regal companion. Coco developed sudden onset geriatric diabetes. We were unable to stabilize him and over a period of 6 weeks trying simply everything, (vets, specialists, naturopath, reiki), I had to confront the inevitable and euthanize my dearest, devoted friend.
He enjoyed 14 wonderful years of total pampering and being the centre of our universe and was so dearly loved but it didn’t stop my pain, confusion and distress about making the decision to euthanize him.
So when do we say goodbye?
For me it happened very suddenly in the end. I had no notion on the day I would actually be saying my last farewell. It was a Thursday and he was lethargic and ill. I had taken him to the vet, specialist vet, then back to my local vet. The vet and I made the decision together. He was in pain and not happy. I couldn’t bear to see him suffer. Nothing could prepare me for his passing but he looked very peaceful and accepting.
On reflection now, this is my advice and the advice of my vet and dear friends who have lost their pets on how to arrive at the decision to say goodbye.
If you are given the gift of time, prepare for your pets death while your pet is still alive.
Firstly focus on what is best for your pet. Assess what their quality of life is like and if there is a likelihood they may recover or reach a plateau of wellness that is comfortable for them.
Ask the vet for their opinion on your pet’s future possible health but ultimately you are the best judge of your pet’s daily habits. If your pet is still interested, engaged, affectionate, eating, drinking and sleeping well, it may not be time, however if your pet is listless, mostly sleeping, not eating or vomiting up food, is dis-interested in his surroundings, it is probably time. You are the only one who can make this decision.
Intense grief over the loss of your pet is normal. Don’t let others dictate your feelings. You may feel anger, denial, guilt or depression. Sit with your feelings, its ok to feel it out.
You can decide if you want your pet euthanized at home or at the Vet. Most vets will come to your home, if this is your wish.
Many of my animal loving friends have all said they wished they had transitioned a pet sooner. It seems that for most of us, being ready, may be slightly out of alignment with what is best for your pet.
Ask your pet. May sound strange but I use to do this thing with Coco, I would look so deeply into his big green eyes – the other night we had a moment and I felt he was telling me he was getting ready to go. Don’t underestimate the psychic thread between you and your pet.
Usually, if your pet is elderly, unwell or has been suffering from a disease, they will be at peace with the process and are usually very peaceful as they transition.
You can’t control every outcome. When the time is right, your pet will probably be doing a great job at transitioning from life to death. It is usually the pet owner who suffers mixed feelings of guilt, frustration, failure and inadequacy.
Animals have the innate ability to beautifully manage their own energy. When the transition happens, it is not a matter of us hovering or doing, rather just being and sitting quietly with your pet.
When the time is right, ask your family or close friends if they want to be present for the transition. Sit and comfort your pet. Let them know how much you love them and tell them they are safe and you are with them. When Coco passed I just kept looking into his beautiful eyes, drowning in the green and kept telling him how blessed and lucky we were to have journeyed with him.
It was peaceful, it was beautiful and he was calm and looked just so regal and magnificent. I held him for some time after he passed them gave him to the Vet.
Know that even though they have gone physically, your pet is still with you. It may come as an image or feeling but if the connection was really strong, you will feel them.
Nothing can prepare you for your grief and everyone is different. The pain I feel comes in waves and at times it feels like a gripping pain in my heart. I cry often and hard but I let this happen – don’t suppress your feelings, let it flow.
I had to remove everything from the house as soon as we got home from his transition. His bed, bowls, food, toys, it was too painful for me to be reminded of him in the midst of grief.
Know that `this too shall pass’…. As painful as it is, the grief will subside in time. I miss him so much every day. I miss his smell, his touch and his cuddles but I feel so blessed to have been given the gift of 14 years with this magnificent creature.
Always, always in my heart.