In the wise and accurate words of Anatole France “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened”.
Anybody who has had the honour of being a pet parent knows this quote to be all too true. The loss of a pet has a devastating effect on our lives and leaves a void in our hearts and homes. Pet parents never suffer the loss of “just a pet”, but the loss of a family member, friend and confident.
WHY IS THE LOSS OF A PET SO DIFFICULT?
The loss of a pet, is the loss of unconditional love, comfort and companionship. Our pets provide us with a safe space like no other, a space without judgment nor rejection; where we can say what we want and express how we feel.
We say goodbye to our daily routine of walks and talks; these goodbyes disrupt our schedules, leaving unoccupied spaces in our diary.
When we lose our pets - we lose an all-accepting bond and a daily routine, making the loss of a pet so extremely difficult.
Every loving pet parent wants to provide their pet with a dignified death. Euthanasia isn’t only one of the most excruciating decisions to make as a pet parent, but the most important.
Please remember that your vet knows best in regards to your pet’s physical state and will never take your pet away from your family if it’s not the right time - never be afraid to call and consult your pet’s vet.
WHEN TO EUTHANISE
Again - I strongly recommend checking with your vet on a regular basis towards the end. Even though we know our pets’ characters - our vet might pick up on something we’ve missed. We would never want to prolong our pet’s suffering due to being unaware.
If your pet is weak, but still eating, moving or barking, it might not be time to euthanise. However when they stop eating, become lethargic or lose control over bodily functions; and there are no signs of your pet getting better - it’s time to make that harrowing call.
When your pet’s final hour has arrived, comforting them in their last moments is the ultimate sign of love. Talk to them, brush them, hug them, love them and be there for them one last time.
There is no denying that seeing the life leave your pet’s eyes is probably one of the most heart breaking experiences one can go through, but as pet parents we take a silent vow to be selfless, and to put our pet’s needs first.
My mother often told me that we must rejoice in the fact that we’ve given them a great life and lots of love. So my advice to you is take comfort in knowing you were a great pet parent and that your pet had a great home and time on earth.
WILL MY OTHER PETS MOURN?
Pets will notice a change in the house. Some pets become distressed and refuse to eat or drink. Give your surviving pets loads of extra love and attention. That overflow of adoration is beneficial for you and your pet. After all it’s a well-known fact that petting animals lowers blood pressure and soothes stress.
THE HEALING PROCESS
Coming home to discover your deceased pet’s food bowls and blankets can be extremely agonising. Pack their possession away systematically, and try to remember a great moment connected to each possession. Another option is to donate your deceased pet’s possessions to animals in need; this way you are doing a good deed in the name of your pet.
Talking to friends or family is a great way to deal with grief. We should never bottle up our feelings and we should never minimize the impact the loss of a pet has in our lives. People who say “it’s just a pet”, aren’t the people you need to confide in; you need to confide in people who love animals and who love you, and who will understand your pain.
WAYS TO REMEMBER YOUR PET
PHOTOS: A great way to celebrate your pet’s life is through photos. Make an album in honour of your pet, to remember the best of times that you shared together.
MEMORIAL: Many feel they want to pay their respects to their pet, and a small gathering with family/ friends is a great way to do that. Saying a few words about the incredible personality your pet had, and the impact that personality had on your life. Have people share funny stories, of what they remember about your pet and bask in the awesomeness.
PLANT A TREE: Not only does it keep one busy, but it acts as a living tribute to your pet’s memory and life on earth. Many people plant trees on their pet’s graves, and I think that’s just magnificent.
WHEN TO ADOPT A NEW PET
Whenever you know you’re emotionally ready, time has gone by and seasons have changed - it’s always a good idea to open our hearts and homes for a new animal in need. Pets seldom outlive their owners, and we’ll find ourselves in a teary state saying another goodbye years down the line, but again, the years of friendship our pets provide us with makes it all worthwhile.
And as this unknown author said “[pets] leave pawprints on our hearts” and for that we’re all forever grateful.