Saying goodbye to your pet when they come to the end of their life is one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. It is an emotional and difficult time. Last month in Melbourne there was an inaugural memorial service at Alison Monkhouse funeral parlor honouring the memories of many lost pets. Whilst I was unable to attend, by all reports it was a very touching and special day for people to remember and cherish their bygone furry friends.
Losing a young pet is heartbreaking, but when you lose an old pet the stresses of young puppy and kitten-hood are usually long forgotten. The shoes that were chewed, the messes that were cleaned up and that destroyed sofa are all but distant memories. In-between there are usually some blissful years where you can anticipate everything your pet needs and your pet understands you completely. For the many owners whose pets make it to older age, there may be a number of months of nursing ailments and caring for your pet. You have both shared a journey and grown together. The bond keeps getting stronger at each step.
Then comes time to say goodbye. It is a personal journey for all pet owners, but it is never easy. If you need to make the decision for your pet it is even harder. As Vet and Author Barbara Fougere wrote – ‘Death is final. But it can be so beautiful and so releasing. It is important to recognise an animal’s right to die, by not keeping them alive for your own sake, especially if their Quality of Life is compromised.’
Whilst difficult, euthanasia can be your final act of kindness for your pet. As a homevisit vet many pet owners entrust me to help them say good-bye in the comfort of their home. Whilst it is always sad, I feel privileged that owners let me into their lives to help them make the final journey with their pet, as it is often a time of raw emotion.
People remember and honor their pets in different ways. Many owners will bury their pet under their favourite bush. I’ve recently seen a beautifully decorated burial shroud that everyone wrote parting words and drew pictures on. This was a really nice way for the kids of the family to say goodbye.
Many owners will have their pets remains cremated and will either find a nice urn for the ashes or scatter them at the local park or beach. I know of one owner who took their pet’s ashes to the Ganges River in India. Many owners will keep their pet’s collar, take a trimming of fur, or make a paw print to remember them by.
Saying goodbye with a few words like a funeral celebration can help some owners with the grieving process. I’ve also read some beautiful poems that have been written to honor a pet’s life. Some owners organise a personalised pet memorial service with a qualified celebrant such as ‘Paws and Reflect’. Other owners just try to let go.
Whilst you and your pet may have to part ways, your pet’s memory will be with you forever, and you will be forever richer for it. With the passing of time the hurt of loss will fade and you will be able to laugh, and sometimes shed a happy tear, at that chewed shoe and ruined sofa.