How do I know when it’s the right time to say goodbye?

We all know that along with the joys of pet ownership also eventually lead to the loss of a beloved pet. If your dog or cat is starting to become very withdrawn, stops eating, drinking and stops relating to your presence or loses bladder and defecting control, it is certainly time to have a heart-to-heart with your veterinarian. Even if it may not end up being the time, it will help you to prepare for the tough questions and decisions that come down the road. If you decide to have your pet humanely euthanized, many vets are willing to conduct the procedure at your home, which can be less stressful for the pet and the family.

No one understands how I’m feeling, am I the only one?

The most important thing to know is that there is no absolute pattern for grief. Your own reactions will depend on a variety of factors, your personality, upbringing, the situation in your life at the time and cultural or religious beliefs. Your reactions may be different from those of another pet owner, or even from those of other members of your household or your friends.

You may come find that even those closest to you don’t seem to understand your grief. It's always a good idea to keep in mind that many individuals have simply never had a close relationship with an animal of any kind. So be aware of the differences between your experiences and those of others who seem insensitive to your loss, grief can be a very uncomfortable and unfamiliar thing for many. A good idea is to seek others who have had similar relationships with pets. Turning to the Internet is not a bad idea; here are some great forums to try out:

http://rainbowsbridge.com/grief_support_center/grief_support_home.htm
http://www.petlossmessageboard.com/

How do I tell my children?

Some parents and caregivers choose the option of not telling their children that their pet has died. This stems from the belief that they are sparing them some of the loss and sadness. It is not uncommon to make up stories that they gave the pet away or that the pet ran away. While this may be a useful tactic for some families, it could also have an effect on trust, and ironically causes some children more pain in the long run. Some children, for example, will unfairly blame themselves for their pet “running away.” If you need help as you consider how to speak to your children about pet loss, we recommend this website:http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/when_a_pet_dies.

What do I do with my pet’s body?

There are several options for you when considering what to do with your pet’s remains after death. It is often recommended to think about these choices early, if you have the opportunity, with old age or progressive illness.

Two factors to consider are where you live and on how much you wish to spend.
Most individuals will relinquish the body to their veterinarian for group or private cremation. A licensed veterinary cremation company will collect your pet's body from your veterinarian's office. If you have selected group cremation, your pet will be cremated with a group of other animals. If you have selected private cremation your pet's ashes will be returned to you in an urn.

If you live in an area that has a pet cemetery, a burial may be the option for you. It is usually illegal to bury your deceased animal in public land; however, you can check with your local bylaw to see about the possibility of burying within your own yard (or friend’s yard. Please do remember that if you take this option, please bury your deceased pet as soon as possible otherwise putrefaction will set in. If the ground doesn’t allow it due to the season, it’s a good idea to see if your vet could store the body for you until it is possible.

Burial and cremation are all very good options. Another option some owners choose is to donate their pet’s remains to a nearby veterinary school so that research may help other animals.

Taxidermy is the most discouraged option as the results are often disappointing and provide further grief to the mourner.

When grief consumes us, where can I seek support?

Mourners can greatly benefit by the empathy, caring and understanding of supportive others. We encourage you to be selective about where you turn to for help, as some individuals may not take pet loss as serious as it is.

It is important to remember that it is rare for a mourner to ever achieve complete resolution or closure to a profound loss or bond. One might be left with psychological repercussions or with incompletely healed wounds. We hope that one day you will be left with only pleasant memories, but for some this goal may be unrealistic.

If those in your immediate circle cannot cope with your loss, please seek professional help. Again, it takes courage and strength to ask for support. Here is a link to online aid: http://www.petlosshelp.org.

When is it right to adopt another pet?

After the loss of a beloved pet, deciding when, or if, to adopt another can be a very sensitive issue. For many individuals, the thought of ‘replacing’ can feel disloyal and just reinforce the magnitude of the loss. For others, the idea of perhaps saving a new life can be honorary to the deceased pet as well as comforting to the individual. There is no doubt that we all grieve in different ways so the truth is that there is no right or wrong time period to follow. One should always consider and respect that even when the time is right, there might be an adjustment period of comparison with the new pet.

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