This page has been created to offer you the information, comfort and support that you need to better understand the grief that accompanies the loss of your pet. Please know that our staff is always available to talk with you about the process and emotions involved with putting a beloved pet to sleep. We are always here for you during this difficult time with a shoulder to cry on, an ear for listening to you, and we have numerous books available for both adults and children to help cope. We hope you enjoy these poems and advice on this important subject.
“Good Bye Old Friend”
A Loving Tribute to a Special Dog
Loving Memories: The Grieving Process
Grief Management in Children
Pet Loss Resources
Suggestions for Coping with Pet Loss
A Pet's Prayer
Where To Bury Your Dog
The old dog lay quietly on the soft, white blanket looking up with trusting eyes at his master of thirteen years. The once proud and strong Dalmatian was now feeble and mostly deaf. The limbs that once trotted powerfully up the driveway to guide arriving cars to the house, now shook uncontrollably. The intelligent and gentle eyes that looked out from the sleek head were now mostly filled with confusion and great pain.
The old dog’s master and friend held up the syringe filled with the clear, pink solution and looked at his long-time companion. "I'm going to miss you old friend," he whispered. He placed a hand on top of the broad soft head and gently stroked the great dog’s velvet ears. The tail thumped weakly in response. Then with a precision that comes with long years of experience, he inserted the needle expertly into the old dog’s vein and slowly depressed the plunger. A sob caught in his throat as he watched his friend crumple into the folds of the blanket. He sat and watched the chest rise and fall as he murmured gently to the dying dog. As his old protector and companion took his last breath, he placed his stethoscope to the now silent chest and listened for a moment. Then he folded a portion of the blanket over the lifeless body.
He let the other dogs in so that they might understand the new status of the household. No one knows what a dog really thinks and feels, but he felt that doing this was important. Two of the dogs ran around as if nothing new had transpired. But the smallest of them all, the one that had grown up with the old Dalmatian, lay down quietly next to the inert body and rested his tiny muzzle on the great dog’s paw.
Silently he dug a grave in the wet ground, his tears mingling freely with the rain. He had picked this final resting spot carefully, placing it between two other old friends, a beloved dog and cat that the old Dalmatian had spent many happy years with.
It had not been an easy decision. He had counseled and empathized with many of his clients who had wrestled with the same choice. He himself had agonized over it for a long time. But he finally knew that he needed to help his friend escape the constant pain that all of his veterinary training and years of experience could not erase.
As the last shovelful of dirt was placed over the grave, he felt deeply saddened that he'd never again gaze upon the soft, wise eyes, but knew in his heart that his old friend was finally at peace.
The act of grieving is often complicated by feelings that perhaps we should not be "over-reacting" to the death of "just" a pet. Many friends and family members don’t understand what the pet has meant to us in life and don’t empathize with these very real and deep feelings. If you are having trouble coping, would like more information about the grief process, or are considering euthanasia, please call. We’re here to help you.
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. Pets see us through marriages, divorces, and the birth of children. Pets endure separation and welcome us back as if we've been away forever. They are the best pals we have for accepting us as we are.
But one day, that constant will become one of our losses. And 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, the trick is to take the time.
There are many stages of grief, and none of them are absolute. Time frames vary from person to person. Generally, the stages include:
Ideally these stages are supposed to progress from stages one through five in predictable fashion. But often this just doesn't happen. Many don't go through all of the stages, and almost everyone will be thrown back into and out of these stages before the healing truly begins. 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 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. Some pet owners, when going through the anger stage of grief will blame their veterinarian for their loss. Talk this over with your pet's caregiver; it may help you come to terms with that part of your loss.
Church or Synagogue
If you have a relationship with a pastor or rabbi, don't forget that they may be there for you. For many people, religion is a framework of life. Don't think that they would not want to hear that you lost your pet.
Seeking professional help is absolutely all right and very common. Grief and depression are just as real over the loss of a pet as they are over the loss of a person. Some professionals offer pet loss support groups. At a group like this you will be with other people in the same situation as you who understand your grief and can share your experiences.
Friends and Family
Don't overlook this resource. Many of them have been with you in your grief from the time of decision or the receipt of the terrible news. And most have known your pet as long as you have. It may be difficult to accept help, but if someone offers, think about accepting it.
Remember, with time your pain will lessen and the wounds of despair will heal. You will never forget your beloved pet; the many happy memories will always be with you.
The death of a cherished pet creates a sense of loss for adults and produces a predictable chain of emotions. The stages of grief are typically denial, sadness, depression, guilt, anger, and relief or recovery. However, the effects on children vary widely depending upon the child's age and maturity level. The basis for their reaction is their ability to understand death.
Two and Three Year Olds
Children who are two or three years old typically have no understanding of death. They often consider it a form of sleep. They should be told that their pet has died and will not return. Common reactions to this include temporary loss of speech and generalized distress. The two or three year old should be reassured that the pet's failure to return is unrelated to anything the child may have said or done. Typically, a child in this age range will readily accept another pet in place of the dead one.
Four, Five, and Six Year Olds
Children in this age range have some understanding of death, but in a way that relates to a continued existence. The pet may be considered to be living underground while continuing to eat, breathe, and play. Alternatively, it may be considered asleep. A return to life may be expected if the child views death as temporary. These children often feel that any anger they had for the pet may be responsible for its death. This view should be refuted because they may also translate this belief to the death of family members in the past. Some children also see death as contagious and begin to fear that their own death (or that of others) is imminent. They should be reassured that their death is not likely. Manifestations of grief often take the form of disturbances in bladder and bowel control, eating, and sleeping. This is best managed by parent-child discussions that allow the child to express feelings and concerns. Several brief discussions are generally more productive than one or two prolonged sessions.
Seven, Eight, and Nine Year Olds
The irreversibility of death becomes real to these children. They usually do not personalize death, thinking it cannot happen to themselves. However, some children may develop concerns about death of their parents. They may become very curious about death and its implications. Parents should be ready to respond frankly and honestly to questions that may arise. Several manifestations of grief may occur in these children, including the development of school problems, learning problems, antisocial behavior, hypochondriacal concerns, or aggression. Additionally, withdrawal, over attentiveness, or clinging behavior may be seen. Based on grief reactions to loss of parents or siblings, it is likely that the symptoms may not occur immediately but several weeks or months later.
Ten and Eleven Year Olds
Children in this age range generally understand death as natural, inevitable, and universal. Consequently, these children often react to death in a manner very similar to adults.
Although this age group also reacts similarly to adults, many adolescents may exhibit various forms of denial. This usually takes the form of a lack of emotional display. Consequently, these young people may be experiencing sincere grief without any outward manifestations.
Helpful Reading – All are available at the clinic at no charge.
The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, By Judith Viorst
A Special Place for Charlee, By Debby Morehead
I'll Always Love You, by Hans Wilhelm
When Your Pet Dies: How to Cope With Your Feelings, by Jamie Quackenbush, MSW and Denise Graveline
A Final Act of Caring: Ending the Life of an Animal Friend, By Mary & Herb Montgomery
Good-bye My Friend, by Mary & Herb Montgomery
Take care of your body. The body is the container of the mind, which is now feeling intense emotion. Nurturing it in the following ways will ease your grieving process.
Nutrition: eat healthy meals even if your appetite is reduced.
Sleep: be sure to get at least 5-8 hours daily, no more, no less.
Exercise: even walking will help your mood in this difficult time.
Talk to people who can empathize with your grief. Consistent interaction and sharing with those you feel comfortable around will be most beneficial.
Maintain structure in your life by continuing to do the activities you did before the loss, with the exception of those you did with or for your pet. Do not allow this major disruption to snowball into every aspect of your life. Structure will help you regain your bearings.
Perform a ritual when you feel the time is right. Some have funerals at a pet cemetery or memorials with friends and family. Others may create a small shrine for a brief time.
Allow yourself to feel sadness and loss. Grief is a normal response to a normal occurrence, yet each person goes through it differently. If you feel as though you cannot recover, or it you have thoughts of self-harm, contact a mental health professional immediately.
The above was written by Dr. Matt Zimmerman, a licensed psychologist practicing in Pembroke Pines, FL. He provides grief counseling and facilitates a Pet Loss and Grieving Support Group at the Broward County Humane Society.
Treat me kindly, my beloved master, for no heart in all the world is more grateful for kindness than the loving heart of me.
Do not break my spirit with a stick, for though I should lick your hand between the blows, your patience and understanding will more quickly teach me the things you would have me do.
Speak to me often, for your voice is the world's sweetest music, as you must know by the fierce wagging of my tail when your footstep falls upon my waiting ear.
When it is cold and wet, please take me inside, for I am now a domesticated animal, no longer used to bitter elements. And I ask no greater glory than the privilege of sitting at your feet beside the hearth. Though had you no home, I would rather follow you through ice and snow than rest upon the softest pillow in the warmest home in all the land, for you are my god and I am your devoted worshiper.
Keep my pan filled with fresh water, for although I should not reproach you were it dry, I cannot tell you when I suffer thirst. Feed me clean food, that I may stay well, to romp and play and do your bidding, to walk by your side, and stand ready, willing and able to protect you with my life should your life be in danger.
And, beloved master, should the great Master see fit to deprive me of my health or sight, do not turn me away from you. Rather, hold me gently in your arms as skilled hands grant me the merciful boon of eternal rest and I will leave you knowing the last breath I drew, my fate was ever safest in your hands.
Written by Beth Norman Harris
There are various places in which a dog may be buried.
Beneath a cherry tree, or an apple tree or any flowering shrub is an excellent place to bury a good dog. Beneath such trees, such shrubs, he slept in the drowsy summer or gnawed at a flavorful bone, or lifted his head to challenge some strange intruders. These are good places in life or death. Yet, it is a small matter. For if the dog be well remembered, if sometimes he leaps in through your dreams actual as in life eyes kindling, laughing, begging, it matters not at all where the dog sleeps. On a hill where the wind is unrebuked and the trees are roaring, or beside a stream he knew in puppyhood, or somewhere in the flatness of a pasture land where most exhilarating cattle graze. It is all one to the dog, and all one to you, and nothing is gained and nothing is lost – if memory lives.
But there is one best place to bury a dog. If you bury him in this spot he will come to you when you call, come to you over the grim, dim frontiers of death, and down the well-remembered path and to your side again. And though call a dozen living dogs to heel they shall not growl at him, nor resent his coming, for he belongs there. People may scoff at you who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his football, who hear no whimper, people who may never really have had a dog. Smile at them, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and that is well worth the knowing. The best place to bury a dog is in the heart of his master.