By Kreg Atterberry
I remember the day as if it were yesterday. He saw the worry in my face, the absolute fear of knowing that I would soon lose the best companion anyone could ever have. My flat-coated retriever Auggie, gathered what energy he had left and despite the pain, rose to his feet and came over to me. He pressed his forehead into my thigh as he had done so many times before, his tail wagging in giant swoops behind him and it became so obvious what this time meant. The end was very near for him and he had come over to reassure me that “it would all be OK.” It was just another precious gift from an animal who had taught me so much about love.
Almost all pet owners will experience the loss of a pet at least once and often many times during their lives. Whether it is unexpected or you know the day is coming it can be a very sad and painful time. So how does one cope with the loss of a pet? I can share some ideas that can help, but I can’t tell you how to cope.
The best place to start is to just accept the inevitable. You are going to likely outlive your pet. He is going to grow old much too quickly and he is going to be with you a relatively short time. You should plan for that.
From puppy to old age take pictures of your pet. Try to capture some of those favorite expressions, silly moves or absolute devotion you see in your pet. Don’t wait til tomorrow because sometimes tomorrow never comes and you will want to have photos or videos of your pet.
Talk to Your Veterinarian
As your pet gets older you need to talk to your Broken Arrow veterinarian, first to develop a plan for proper senior care and then for hospice or final care. Try and get an idea of how much pain your pet may be experiencing and what you can do to make him most comfortable. Consider seriously your pet’s quality of life. Determine what medical care can still be given and what type of diet your pet can have. It is very important for you to know that you made the best choices for your pet.
Enjoy the Time You Have
Spend as much time as you can comforting and loving your pet. Respect their space because it is the nature of some animals to want to be left alone or they may just be very fearful. Comfort is the key. You will never regret this time, but if you don’t spend it… you will.
Putting your pet “to sleep” or euthanasia is often a tough decision, but one you must consider. It is usually a painless and peaceful process for your pet and in most cases it is the right choice. Ask your vet for an anesthetizing agent so that your pet actually goes to sleep before being put down.
Understand that it’s quite natural to feel devastated by feelings of grief and sadness when a pet dies. Everyone grieves differently and not everyone will understand the pain and grief you are experiencing. Don’t let yourself feel embarrassed, or ashamed about grieving for a pet. For many of us a pet is not “just a dog” or “just a cat.” They are beloved members of the family, best friends, reliable companions and, when they die, you feel a significant, even traumatic loss. If the loss is that significant to you, know that the grief is going to be just as intense.
My friend Auggie passed away a week later. As I left him in one of his favorite places under a japanese maple tree in my parents front yard, I went inside to discuss with my father, who was also a veterinarian, the need to euthanize him the next morning. Auggie, however, left one last gift for me. As I came back outside after making that fateful decision he looked like a dog happily asleep. He had gone to his final resting place.