When it’s time to say good-bye …
Puppy Love with Kate Whitney
By; PuppyGirl Kate Whitney – November, 2010
I want to apologize for this month’s column…it’s not a happy or funny column, it’s actually kind of sad. The topic I’m going to touch upon is dealt with very differently by each individual person. I hope that you might be able to take something away from it that will help you if you ever deal with losing a pet.
Over the past few years, I’ve had many people tell me about how they had to put down their dog, or say goodbye to their beloved cat. Having been there before, I know exactly the feelings that people go through when this happens. I can truly empathize. For those of us who consider our pets more than “just a dog or cat” losing a pet can be like losing a family member or a best friend.
If you are an animal owner, at some time or another you are going to be faced with one of the hardest things in life; the death of your pet. It’s a shame that animals have shorter life spans than we do, I would honestly love to grow old with my dogs, Dash and Honey. But I know that this is not a reality. I think about where I will be in life when it is time to say goodbye to them. This fact is inevitable.
It pains me, even brings tears to my eyes while writing this. But it’s reality. I’ve had to put dogs and cats to sleep in the past. To cope, I would spend days on the couch, crying and feeling my heart – literally – ache. I’ve honestly weighed the pros and cons about having and not having pets. I’d think “is this pain really worth it?”
The answer always came back, yes. Animals come into our lives, and only stay for a short time, because they are here to teach us things; about the world, about life, and about ourselves. No matter how you look at it, our pets teach us things every day. Take a moment to step back each day and make sure you recognize this. Watch your dog’s excitement as you put on his leash and collar. What’s he so excited about…he’s only going outside.
Or watch how happy your dog is in the car; sticking her nose out the window, feeling the breeze on her face and smelling all the sweet smells of the world. These little things remind us to enjoy the simple things in life. Yes, we get excited when we get a new car or get a raise at work. But don’t forget that there are other things to be happy about too. Not everything to be happy about revolves around money or something new.
When the decision has been made that the best and only option left is to put a pet to sleep, the next few days, weeks, and months may seem to be a blur. Everyone will handle this situation differently. Some will hold in their emotions and continue on their daily routine, quietly dealing with their feelings internally. Others will need to take time off from work or social activities to stay home and grieve. There is no “right” way to cope. When you research “coping” online, it will tell you that there are many different reactions that might come along with it. First there is denial and isolation. In the beginning of dealing with the loss of a pet, people may deny the reality of the situation and not accept the fact that their pet is really gone.
The next step is guilt. Many people feel like they may have been able to save their pet “if only” or “I should have/could have done more”.
Eventually, for most of us, comes acceptance. The time it takes for someone to accept their pet is gone will vary for different people. There is no “right” amount of time. So take whatever time you need. People need to remember that when you finally accept your pet is gone, this doesn’t mean that you can no longer grieve the loss of your pet or that you forget about your pet. It just means that you accept it is gone, and you can once again go on with your life.
So you might want to know how you can grieve for your pet. First and foremost be patient. Some people are surprised at how deeply they are affected when they lose a pet. Take your time and don’t let anyone tell you the correct way or how long you should grieve. This experience is individual and private. Also, make sure that when you are grieving you don’t neglect yourself.
It’s easy to get into a slump and feel like you don’t care about anything, but remember to take care of yourself by eating right, sleeping, and exercising. Getting out for a quick walk or hitting the gym can take your mind off your loss. For those of you who might want to seek help from others, I have often times seen advertisements for free pet loss workshops in the newspaper. So keep your eyes open or search online for similar topic groups. These things can be a big help when dealing with this sort of thing.
Some people keep their dog’s bed and food/water bowls out in the same place they have always been. Others prefer to put these things away because the site of these items is just too much to take. If you decide to cremate, sprinkle the ashes at one of your pet’s favorite spots, or maybe even one of your favorite places. Some people may bury their animal in their yard. I’ve personally done both. My cat, Mittens, is buried in the yard under the apple tree. My dog growing up, Sabina, is buried in the back yard. My cat Kitty, who I had from when I was 6 years old through college, was cremated and is sitting on my desk in a box in the corner. Whichever way you decide, is once again, a personal decision.
Okay…so you’ve done your grieving and taken your time getting over your loss. Many people want to know, when is the right time to get another pet? Again, this is a very personal decision and everyone will be different. Some people want to get another pet soon after they put their old one down. Other people say they can never get another pet. Others may be ready a few months or years down the road. The main thing to remember is that you are getting a new pet because you want to have a new relationship with an animal and not because you are trying to replace your old pet.
You will never replace a pet. Instead of hoping to find something “similar” to your old pet, be excited about creating a new relationship. Try to get a dog that is different looking from the previous one, and never name the new dog the same name as the previous one. This should be a fresh and new beginning for both of you…a happy time! I’m sure by now all my readers know how important it is to adopt a pet, rather than buying from a breeder or pet store (puppy mill). So search Petfinder.com and go to local shelters and rescues. Don’t be in a rush. Take your time and when the right animal comes along, you will know it.
Again, I’m sorry to have written about such a sad topic, but unfortunately, this topic is a reality when you are a pet owner. The most important thing is to remember what a great life you gave your dog or cat. However many years they were with you, they were your best friends and cherished every moment with you. Remembering your pet might always be painful, but try to recognize the special memories your pet brought into your life.
Your pet is now free from any pain and discomfort they may have been feeling. Most of all, realize that it is ok to be sad and to grieve. You are not alone with these feelings, most of us have been there before, so don’t be afraid to reach out. Time will heal and once again you will be able to smile when you think of your old friend.
You can email The Valley Patriot’s PupyGirl Kate Whitney at firstname.lastname@example.org