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Dogs have long been considered “man’s best friend,” and what greater gift than the love of a cat. The bond between humans and their pets is unique, amazing and rewarding to say the least. Our pets; whether it be a dog, cat, bird, hamster, ferret or any species, have helped us in so many ways and expect so little in return. As humans we become very attached to our animal companions. We develop such an emotional bond to our pets, we live everyday with joy, we laugh often, we play hard and love even harder, we gain so much pleasure from their companionship. Unfortunately, the loss and grief we will feel upon illness or death of our special friend and family member, will be inevitable.

We at Sheridan Animal Hospital hope that our pet memorial and all the information provided will help you in the grieving process.

In-Home Euthanasia

Paws In Your Heart
Lap Of Love

 

Websites for Gifts, Keepsakes, Urns & More

Heart To Heart Sympathy
4 Ever In My Heart
Etched In My Heart
The Comfort Company
Perfect Memorials

 

Grief Support

We know how difficult it is to deal with the loss of a pet. Listed below are a few links to help with the grieving process. These links are courtesy to you and should not be considered endorsements.

Rainbow Bridge Grief Support Center

Empty Leash Pet Loss Support Group

Cornell University Pet Loss

Pet Emergency Fund Logo

 

The Pet Emergency Fund is an animal assistance organization that helps with the cost of emergency veterinary care for owners unable to meet the expense of the services needed. Click on the picture above to learn more about how you can donate in memorial of a loved one.

Books

Adult Books

Goodbye, Friend
Gary Kowalski
Included are ideas for rituals and ceremonies‚ spiritual guidance and readings for solace. Kowalski includes advice on how to take care of yourself after the death of a pet and the importance of honesty when talking with children about this event.

Saying Goodbye to the Pet You Love
Lorri A. Greene, Ph.D.
Written by a psychologist who is a leader in the field of pet bereavement‚ this practical but sympathetic guide validates the survivor’s often misunderstood feelings‚ explains the importance of the human ⁄ animal bond‚ and offers strategies for working through the grieving process. Topics include memorializing the pet‚ recognizing problematic thinking‚ finding support‚ dealing with guilt and explaining the pet’s death to a child. The special needs of the guardians of working animals are addressed‚ as are self-help resources for the elderly.

Pet Loss: A Spiritual Guide
Julia Harris
This book helps readers to understand the many emotional reactions to the loss of a pet‚ assist children in coping with and recovering from their loss; and learn how different spiritual belief systems recognize and counsel pet loss. Practical topics include what happens at a pet cemetery burial‚ cremation or home burial; what legal arrangements are available; how to develop a ceremony to honor the pet; and how to cope with the trauma of a terminally ill or runaway pet.

Three Cats‚ Two Dogs: One Journey Through Multiple Pet Loss
David Congalton
The author talks about how he transformed his anguish over the loss of several pets into a commitment to abused and abandoned animals. This down–to–earth book offers solace and practical suggestions for coping with grief.

Coping with sorrow on the loss of your pet
Moira Allen’s
A wonderful, helpful book filled with information and guidance. Treats a serious subject with sympathetic feelings. An excellent guide allowing us to understand that we are not alone with our grief. Written in a clear, friendly style. It takes a pet owner by the hand and walks him through the stages of bereavement, offering explanations and coping strategies at every step. The message is one of love, common sense, and practical information. The wealth of information given by pet owners makes the book come alive.

Grieving the Loss of Your Pet: How to Survive the Journey
Rebecca Cagle
This book deals compassionately with grieving the loss of your pet. It can happen under different circumstances such as trauma, illness, selling, disappearance or even theft. The phases of grieving are discussed along with struggling with the possibility of euthanasia, helping a friend grieve the loss of an animal as well as teens and children coping with pet loss. It also covers ways to help prevent theft and disappearance. It talks about pets going to Heaven. It covers remembering your pet and the emotions of choosing when to replace your beloved pet with a new one. And it talks about bonding with your new pet after losing your old one.

Children's Books

Dog Heaven and Cat Heaven
Cynthia Rylant

These books will appeal to children from preschool to grade two. The simple‚ colorful illustrations take the child on a journey to Dog Heaven or Cat Heaven‚ places of warmth and happiness. In Dog Heaven‚ there are “fields and fields and fields‚” and in Cat Heaven‚ there are thousands of toys and soft angel laps in which to cuddle up. God is depicted as a kindly older man who benevolently watches over his charges.

Remembering Ruby: For Families Living Beyond the Loss of a Pet
Melissa Wells
The loss of a beloved pet can be devastating to a child. This is the true story about a boy‚ his dog‚ and the close relationship that develops between them. When Ruby becomes terminally ill‚ the boy and his family must cope with their feelings along the way, and live beyond the loss. By finding ways to remember Ruby‚ they make it through‚ together.

Saying Goodbye to Lulu
Corrine Demas
A young girl and her lovable dog‚ Lulu‚ are the best of friends. They play games together‚ explore their neighborhood‚ and even cuddle up to read bedtime stories each night. Lulu is the best dog a girl could ever hope for‚ but when she grows older and gradually becomes weak‚ the little girl must face the sad possibility of losing her dear friend‚ and inevitably‚ cope with the death of her canine companion. Over time the little girl discovers that the sweet memory of her beloved Lulu will live on forever in her heart.

Pet Loss: A Thoughtful Guide for Adults and Children
Herbert A. Nieburg
The death of a pet can cause enormous feelings of sorrow, guilt, and loneliness for children and adults alike, whether the end comes through old age, illness, sudden death, or euthanasia. Yet pet owners are often inhibited in their very real grief, even if the animal was considered a full-fledged family member, a child’s favored playmate, or an elderly person’s faithful companion. In Pet Loss, the authors acknowledge and encourage such grief, and assert that pet owners must learn to cope with the death of an animal as they would with any significant loss–by expressing their feelings and coming to terms with their grief. At once a practical guide and an emotional support, Pet Loss offers unique advice for owners faced with an animal’s passing, from the difficult decision to put a pet to sleep to dealing with a veterinarian or making funeral or cremation arrangements.

Grieving

Everyone grieves differently, for some, grief comes in stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the loss of a loved one, human or animal. These are not stops along some arbitrary timeline, and not everyone experiences them. We all grieve differently, but we all grieve. However we grieve, it takes time, and it cannot be forced or rushed. There is no time frame for this process, everyone needs to be allowed to heal at their own pace. For some, this may be weeks, and others years. Though we never fully “get over” the loss of a pet; even years later, after hearing a certain sound, seeing a certain sight, a special place, a photo or even a special day may spark memories that trigger a sense of grief or loss. But as time goes by, these memories should also trigger a sense of happiness for the love you once shared. Remember there is no right way or wrong way to grieve.

Aside from sorrow and loss, you may feel these other emotions:

  • Guilt – Among the most common and difficult of feelings – instead of remembering all the good times we shared, all the love and quality of life we have given, we focus on the times we were too tired to take that extra walk, the time we went on vacation and didn’t take them, the time we yelled at them because dinner was missing from the kitchen counter or the time our finances could not cover that potentially life–saving surgery. The most difficult decision, to euthanize, is the final act of kindness we can provide our pet when there is no other humane option. We cannot let this guilt overcome us, it is pointless to take on such burden for an accident or illness that claimed our pet’s life, and it will only make it more difficult to resolve our grief.
  • Denial – It’s hard to imagine that our pet will not be there to greet us when we get home, to curl up next to us when we are watching a movie or going to bed. Denial makes it hard to accept that our pet is really gone and hard for others to move on in fear of being “disloyal”.
  • Anger – With the illness that killed our pet, the driver of the passing car, the person who left the door open or the veterinarian who “failed” to save the life of your pet. There may be times where this is justified but it is rarely a healthy outcome, especially when carried to extremes. This anger will distract us from what is important, the healing process.
  • Depression – A normal feeling of grief, it leaves us powerless to cope with our feelings. In extreme cases depression will rob us of motivation and energy, causing us to drown in our own sorrow. This will cause the healing process to move at a slower rate or halt it altogether.

We must give ourselves time to grieve

Grief is a final expression of our love, the last gift we have to offer our beloved pet. We should not let ourselves believe that we are trying to “get over our pet” but that we are learning how to “get through” or “deal with” the grief we are feeling. How we deal with this process is a personal decision. The most important step is to be honest with ourselves. Do not hide the pain or sadness we may be feeling, we have the right to grieve. We have the right to scream, cry, pound on the floor or talk it out, whatever may help us the most, keeping these feelings “bottled up” will only hinder the grieving process. Talk about the good times with friends, family or a support group. Some find it helpful to write poems, letters or tell stories about their pets. These can be shared on your pet’s memorial page. For some, keeping a diary about your feelings helps in many ways.

Make sure to eat, we may not feel hungry but grief will burn a lot of energy and we need to stay healthy. We can eat something that will make us feel good, if we are not up for a full meal then we should at least nibble. Eat now, whether you want to or not. These feelings of grief will be much harder to deal with if we are physically unable to cope as well as emotionally.

Avoid making snap decisions, in other words do not do anything that you can’t undo. Right now we may not want to see our pet’s toys but don’t throw them away just yet. Put them in a box and hide them away in the closet for now. After a few weeks or months we may want them back. They can be donated to a shelter in your pet’s name, given to a friend’s pet as a special gift from their special friend, or used to put at a memorial site you may want to create. We do not want to regret any decisions made in haste for this will only add to our grief.

The last moments of our pet’s lives can be a powerful image to overcome, whether witnessed or not. These images may overwhelm our positive memories. We need to work on remembering our beloved pets as they were and the happy times we once shared.

Grief is normal, but can consume us. It is very tempting to “give in” or “let it take over”. Before we allow this to happen we should think about how we are feeling today and is this how we want to feel next week, next month or even next year. We can’t control grief but we can decide whether or not the grief will control us.

Making the decision to euthanize

Your pet’s doctor is the best person to evaluate their health honestly and without bias. We as pet owners would be the best judge of our pet’s quality of life on a day to day basis. Both of these factors combined into one will hopefully ease the pain of the decision that may need to be made.

The decision to euthanize can leave a feeling of bitterness and guilt, even when our pet is suffering this decision is not easily made. We, as humans will always tend to second guess our decision, even after the most compelling evidence that this was the most humane decision. We tend to place self-blame, should we have waited another day, did we wait too long, or maybe there was more we should have done. We feel as though we are the one deciding to end our pet’s life, when in reality it is the illness or event which has taken the life of our pet, we are merely deciding if we need to end the suffering in a dignified, painless and humanely loving manner.

A commonly asked question, to stay or not to stay for the euthanasia. This is a personal preference, there is no right or wrong answer. Some find it more difficult to accept the pet is really gone if not witnessed and find comfort and relief in knowing their pet has passed peacefully and without pain.  Others find it too difficult to view such an emotionally traumatic event and wish to remember their pet as they were. We must ask ourselves whether we will be able to handle being there or not, uncontrolled emotions and tears (though natural) are likely to upset our pets. Decide what will be the least traumatic for you and your pet, discuss your concerns with your veterinarian.

Some people just can’t bring themselves to bring their pet to the veterinarian office for euthanasia, whether it be because the pet is physically unable to make it in, or if it is more of an emotional decision. Whatever the reason may be, if performing the euthanasia at your own home is the option you would like to pursue then there is a service that will accommodate such a request. Visit Pawsinyourheart.com or Lapoflove.com to find a veterinarian in our area.

Helping our pets grieve

Our pets observe any and every change that is made in our households. Just as we can form strong bonds with our pets, they as well can form these same strong bonds with each other. These companions will experience loss or sadness just as we do after a pet has passed and sometimes even during their final days of illness. Our pets also pick up on our sorrow and sadness, so maintaining our surviving pets’ daily routine is very important at this time. Giving our surviving pet(s) some extra exercise or play time, a few extra hugs and kisses, in general a little extra attention will not only help our pet(s) through the grieving process but will also help us with our grieving as well.

The decision to get a new pet, not to get a new pet, or when to get a new pet is a personal one. Generally, we should give ourselves time to finish grieving over the pet we lost before attempting to create a new relationship with another pet. If our emotions are high and still filled with grief we may resent a new pet for trying to “take the place of our old one” and we may also have feelings of being “disloyal”.

With enough time, the healing process will reach the stage of acceptance. It is then when we will be able to express our feelings in a healthy and productive manner. It is then when we will fully be ready to open our heart and home to another.

When inviting a new pet into our home it may be wise to avoid getting a “look alike” and try to avoid giving your new pet the same name or nickname as your old one. We need to resist any temptation of comparing our new pet to our old one. Every pet has their own unique personality and we need to allow our new addition to develop his or her own.

We also need to consider any of our remaining pets before we open our home to another. Are they ready, have we given them enough time to grieve? Remember, our pets grieve too. Our pet may feel sad and lonely without his companion, but that doesn’t mean a new pet will help. Bringing another pet into our home before our pet is ready can cause much disruption. We should keep an eye on our remaining pets following another pet’s death. Look for slight changes in personality, activity level and appetite. Make sure they are not showing any signs of illness or aggression. If we are pretty confident that they are back to their normal selves, only then should we consider adding a new pet into our home.

Helping our children cope

One of the most difficult parts of losing a pet is telling our children. To them (as to us as well) our pet is more than an animal their family owns, it’s a family member and possibly their best friend. The one they can’t wait to see when they get home from school, the one that provides comfort and companionship when they are feeling upset, ill, hurt, or when things may not be going so well at school. While impossible to shelter our children from the loss of a pet as we would like too, we can help them cope and teach them how to express what they feel without shame or embarrassment. Guide them through a healthy grieving experience, to accept death and to celebrate life and good memories.

We as parents should never try to shield our children from the pain they will feel from losing a pet. Honesty in any circumstance is always the best policy. Never tell them their pet “ran away” or “went on a trip,” never try to replace a small pet with another one that looks the same. These things can leave a child feeling very confused, frightened or betrayed, especially when they do finally learn the truth. We should also stay away from words like “went to sleep” or “put to sleep”. Young kids will tend to take these words quite literally, this can give our children scary misconceptions about other family members going to sleep. It’s ok to use words like “death” or “dying,” we should try to be honest and open, let our children see how we go through the grieving process, show them it’s ok to cry, its ok to kick and scream if they need to. Showing our children how we feel, and talking openly about what has happened will set a good example for them to learn from. It’s comforting to our children to know they are not alone in feeling sad. It’s sometimes a good idea to share funny moments or meaningful stories about the pets you had, remember the good times that were shared.  A child’s maturity level will determine how clear and simple of an explanation you will want to give.

If euthanasia is what we had to decide for the best interest of our pet, we should include and be honest with our children as to why the choice was made and why it was necessary. We should give them a chance to spend some special time with their pet, time to say goodbye in their own way.

We as parents should never try to shield our children from the pain they will feel from losing a pet. Honesty in any circumstance is always the best policy. Never tell them their pet “ran away” or “went on a trip,” never try to replace a small pet with another one that looks the same. These things can leave a child feeling very confused, frightened or betrayed, especially when they do finally learn the truth. We should also stay away from words like “went to sleep” or “put to sleep”. Young kids will tend to take these words quite literally, this can give our children scary misconceptions about other family members going to sleep. It’s ok to use words like “death” or “dying,” we should try to be honest and open, let our children see how we go through the grieving process, show them it’s ok to cry, its ok to kick and scream if they need to. Showing our children how we feel, and talking openly about what has happened will set a good example for them to learn from. It’s comforting to our children to know they are not alone in feeling sad. It’s sometimes a good idea to share funny moments or meaningful stories about the pets you had, remember the good times that were shared.  A child’s maturity level will determine how clear and simple of an explanation you will want to give.

If euthanasia is what we had to decide for the best interest of our pet, we should include and be honest with our children as to why the choice was made and why it was necessary. We should give them a chance to spend some special time with their pet, time to say goodbye in their own way.

Some children may believe that their thoughts can cause things to happen. A child may have wished that a pet would go away or just leave them alone at some time in their life and being young, our children may believe that this could have caused his or her pet’s death. We must explain to our children that thoughts like these are natural, that even grown-ups can have them. This is not what caused our pet to die and explain what exactly the reason was for the pet’s death, whether it be an illness, old age or something more sudden or accidental, our children should know the truth. How much is told depends on the maturity of the child. On the opposite side of the spectrum our children may have feelings of relief that their pet is gone, maybe they were never close to this pet, maybe they just don’t share the love of animals as others do in the family or maybe this was Mom’s dog and never liked anyone else around Mom. Feeling a sense of relief may make a child feel guilty. A child, no matter what they are feeling, should never be blamed for how he or she is feeling. If this is the feeling they are having, we as parents should focus on the reality of how our children’s relationship was with the pet and that it is normal to be having these feelings. If the pet’s death was due to illness, then we should also let our children know that it is ok to perceive our pet’s death as a blessing or freedom from their pain.

Include your child in making a memorial or even hold a memorial service, this can help our children express their feelings openly and help process the loss. Write a poem or short story together and put it on your pet’s memorial page on our website, make sure to include photos that your children have chosen to be posted. Make a scrapbook they can keep and look at as they want or need to.

If your pet is being cremated, a memorial service at home, or a special place may help. Burying the ashes still in the box or mixing the ashes with some wild flower seeds so that when they grow it will always be a tribute to our pet’s life, inform our children that our pet will help make things grow and contribute to another life.

In time our children’s pain will heal, as will ours.