Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How Do You Cope With Grief When Your Beloved Pet Dies?

By Miriam B. Medina

"What A wonderful world it would be, if pets could live forever."
On August 25, 2012, my fourteen year old, beloved Cocker Spaniel "Buddy" had to be put to sleep. He was dying from cancer of the liver, which had metastasized throughout his body and into his lungs, making it difficult for him to breathe. No matter how hungry he was or how much food he devoured, he couldn't stop losing weight. The Vet said that he would only last another two or three weeks. He was constantly whimpering, suffering in pain. The most difficult decision that one must make is to euthanize their pet. Even when you have to take that step, because you love them so dearly, to end their suffering, it still hurts. Their pain may stop, which is a blessing, but yours is just beginning.
For all of us who have pets, whether they be cats, dogs, or any other type of pet, they are tremendously valuable, important parts of our lives. We, as their owners, are also valuable to their lives. We are the center around which they gravitate, the food bowl by which they patiently wait, licking their chops for more love and attention. Our beloved pets give us an inner sense of peace, joy and happiness. Oh how they can make us laugh and smile. They ease our stress. They reward us in so many ways, their presence alone are more important to us than one can possibly imagine. Their adoring love and loyalty is unmatched in a world full of pain and sorrow.

And then they are gone.

Nonetheless, our pets will always leave us with moments and memories, joys that will last a lifetime. Moments that any true pet owner wouldn't trade for anything, in the course of their life. Our pets are irreplaceable, and after all those years of licking, doing tricks for us, lying by our feet, protecting and loving us, they leave us with one final gift, their memories.

Let me tell you a little bit about my beloved Buddy. He was such an extraordinarily sweet and gentle dog, which made me very happy. He would happily slobber all over my face, even after he had licked himself from head to toe. He didn't know any different. I guess it was his way of saying hello, I love you, but yuck, what foul breath he had.

With one slurp, he could turn fresh milk into cottage cheese. He could wilt flowers with one blast of his puppy halitosis. I wonder, sometimes, if he ate his own poop. It didn't matter, I loved him and I felt loved. My grief didn't start the day he died, it started before then, as it does with many pet owners. My worry and pain began as I saw him go from an energetic playful dog, to one slowed down by arthritic pain. That pain started to affect his hips in a very bad way. I felt terrible watching him as he moved along with great difficulty, trying to bounce around as he did as a puppy or bound through the house as he did as a young dog. With age, he wobbled as he walked. It was heart-breaking to watch. His health was failing him, horribly at the end.

Then the moment of decision came, that awful point in time that all pet owners face, sooner or later. I couldn't prolong his suffering, not for my own sake.

The process of Dog Euthanasia
Not only is one tormented by feelings of grief and guilt, but the regret of making such a terrible decision is overwhelming. Although one seems to be doing the animal a great service by relieving the poor beast's suffering, the emptiness and the guilt you feel is terribly unbearable. Am I doing the right thing? Maybe he could bounce back? Maybe the pain isn't that bad...

Then you see him struggle to get to the food bowl or he soils himself because getting up to go outside is too much for him, and you realize, it's time. Maybe it's past time, but that doesn't make it any easier.
Your whole world changes from that moment forward. It's turned upside down. The joy and happiness that you once felt is no longer there, it's replaced by fear, pain and guilt. You become listless and depressed, not knowing what to do with yourself. No matter where you look, there is always something that reminds you of your beloved pet. The house feels emptier, quieter, and lonelier in every way. Where once warm meows, hearty barks and wagging tails existed, there is emptiness now. A big part of you is missing, gone for good. Your pet won't be licking your face or your hands anymore, and you won't be laughing at his funny attention-getting ways.

So you ask yourself, "How do I cope without my best friend?"

Believe it or not, there are ways to cope with your grief, though it's never easy. Meditation can help, so that you become calm and relaxed, allowing you to deal with your grief. It doesn't replace the loss, but it might allow you to come to terms with it. Believe it or not, having a proper funeral, even a wake can help you deal with the loss. It may sound silly, but you'd do the same for a friend or family member, and what better friend or more loving family member will you ever have? Get out of the house too, don't stay shut in with the memories all of the time, compounding the pain. Take a walk; it will help you free your mind. Lastly, if and when you're ready, you can accept the responsibility of finding a new pet, a new friend and partner. This animal will not replace your original pet, no dog will ever be another Buddy, but a new pet will offer you new joys, a whole new outlook, and new memories to share. In the end, after time as you heal, you will remember your pet as what they were, as I remember Buddy, a loyal friend, a big part of my life, and a wondrous family member that made the world a better place, especially my world.

"It is said that the one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master." No author is mentioned. No author needs to be mentioned, because some sayings and some feelings are simply universal. I'll miss you Buddy.

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