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Dealing with Pet Loss
Things that will help you get over the Loss of
"Therefore to this dog will I, tenderly not scornfully, render praise
and favor: with my hand upon his head, is my benediction said, therefore and
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning, To Flush, My Dog
What a wonderful responsibility we take on when we bring a pet into our lives.
With the help and guidance from veterinarians, we provide a loving, safe, and
healthy environment for our pets who share everything with us.
Our pets see us through marriages, divorces, and the birth of children.
Pets endure separation and welcome us back as if we'd been away forever. They
are the best pals we have for accepting us as we are.
Pets also help bring us through the losses in our lives. For many of us,
our companions are the anchors. We lose a job, we change residences, and we
lose friends and relatives through death and separation.
The constant is the unwavering love and devotion of a companion animal. One
day, that constant will become one of our losses. Now we will grieve because
we have lost that companion. Where do we turn? When the kind face and
acceptance we used to turn to is gone, where do we go for comfort?
One of the most difficult and important parts of grief and loss is seeking to
understand what has happened and that what you are feeling is all right. Your
sense of loss may encompass your life and that is all right. You have that
right to grieve and you can take as much time as you need. In a busy and
demanding world like ours, the trick is to take the time.
You will probably be faced with well-meaning people who feel you should
spend a certain amount of time feeling bad and then get over it. No one is
able to tell you your time frame for grieving. Only someone who has worked
through grief can tell you about the time it takes to heal. Many stages of
grief have been described, and none of them are absolute.
Generally, the stages are:
Bargaining (often with God)
Ideally, these stages are supposed to progress from stages one through five in
predictable fashion. This just does not happen.
Be gentle with yourself. Many of us do not go through all stages and almost
all of us will be thrown back into and out of these stages before the healing
With resolution comes perhaps not so much the "getting on with
it" as it does the chance to place the memories in a comfortable spot in
You may find yourself very close to resolution when a memory or anniversary
of your pet's passing knocks you back into the anger or denial stage. Not only
is this understandable but it is also a fact of life.
Give yourself time.
If, however, you feel that time is passing too painfully for you or you want
some very special and caring support, there are many sources of support
available to you.
Your relationship with your veterinarian has just been very emotional and
personal. Few people understand your loss like the staff who have cared for
your pet and who have helped you make your decision.
If you have a relationship with a pastor or congregation, don't forget that
they may be there for you. For many people, religion is a framework of life.
Don't think that your church would not want to hear you lost a
This is a wonderful source for reaching out to people whose hearts are like
yours and whose grief is as profound as yours. There will be few places more
accepting of your love for your pet than here. Call your local shelter or
humane society and ask if they have a pet loss support group.
Seeking professional help is absolutely all right and very c ommon. Grief and
depression are just as real over loss of a dog or cat as they are over loss of
For those whose companion animals have a terminal illness, the grief process
has a special consideration. You may find yourself needing help preparing for
the loss. Learning to live and enjoy your best friend is extremely difficult.
This is exactly what hospice work is all about. Check with your local
hospitals and hospice groups for help.
Family and friends
Don't overlook this resource. Many of them have been with you in your grief
from the time of decision or the receipt of terrible news. Some of them may
have been in the room with you when it happened. It is difficult to ask for
help-if someone offers, think about accepting it. Even if it helps move
through just one of the stages of grief, you will know you are not alone.
Pet Loss Support Hotlines:
University of California-Davis
Weekdays, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. PST
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 6-9 p.m. EST
University of Florida-Gainesville 904/392-4700
Weekdays, 7-9 p.m. EST
Michigan State University
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 6:30-9:30 p.m. EST
The Ohio State University
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 6:30-9:30 p.m. CST
Chicago Veterinary Medical Association 708/603-3994
Leave a voice mail anytime. Calls returned collect between 7-9 p.m. CST
Be sure to ask your veterinarian for more information on these or any other
grief support information.
Do Pets go to Heaven?
We asked that question of our readers and here's their replies:
We believe that our pets often come back to us as angels. Angels to protect us
and help care for us.
We also firmly believe that we will someday be re-united with our favorite pets who have crossed over.
It is a law of the universe that love will never pass away.
Our pets give us un-conditional love. That love is always alive.
A physical body may pass from our presence, but the love is eternal. God
set it up that way.
Just as our physical bodies go back to dust, our eternal souls live
forever. It is no different with the pets God gave us to enjoy.
If you've recently experienced the loss of a precious loved one, please
rest assured that your friend is still alive. He or she is just in another
realm, another dimension we have yet to experience.
It's like when ships are sent out to sea.
Some ships return back to their ports. Other ships sail on to other,
unknown ports. We may not physically see them again, but the passengers are
alive and living in a different part of the world.
Someday we too will sail off to ports unknown presently to us. We will
leave behind friends and loved ones, but we will also experience new ports and
lands and gain new friends and experiences. And also re-unite with old friends
that are already there.
Your friend is waiting for you. He or she is well taken care of in the
The Rainbow Bridge Poem
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