The End of a Pet’s Life

This is a subject that no one wants to talk about really, because we know we may lose our beautiful furry friend one day. The thought of it is sometimes overwhelming. But having knowledge in palliative and hospice care makes the situation a little easier. I also want to point out resources are available to help you through the process. If a friend or relative is not a pet lover, they simply don’t understand the grief associated with this loss. A part of your heart is gone, and it is extremely painful to lose these family members.

I have found in my many losses that when a pet passes away, we not only grieve for them, but it brings up other losses we may have experienced in life as well. A pet is the one stable in your life. They are honest, understanding, and good listeners. They make the best nurses when you are sick, protect you, and they just get you like no one else can. Their keen sense of instincts and intelligence is unmeserable in our world, because we base intelligence on our language, not theirs.

I have taken seminars in palliative and hospice care and it is an area of interest to me. It helps me help pet owners through the process. One of the things I have learned is that pets don’t fear death like we do. They don’t worry about the future, they don’t live in the past. They are present just for today. Animal communicators have told me that towards the end when they are suffering they just want to get out of their body.

Another remarkable thing I learned that made me take the focus off of my grief is that this time is not about you. It is about providing the best care to make your pet more comfortable until the end. A positive attitude from you not only makes the pet feel better and less worried, but it will make you feel better as well. Being proactive during this process is positive for all involved. You can fall apart later, but you don’t want your pet to be burdened with your grief, crying etc. during their last days. They are worried about leaving you, how you will deal with it. Being upset only upsets them more.

Is your pet suffering or are you suffering? That is something we need to figure out before we rush to put our pets to sleep. What one perceives sometimes as their pet suffering is really their own suffering. Again, we must constantly check ourselves during this process. I have taken a few cats to be euthanized when I knew they were in pain and there was nothing left to do. I have also kept my pets comfortable at home until the end, and even kept their body for 72 hours before cremation. It sounds morbid when reading this, but I can’t tell you the difference in the level of grief I felt coming home and adjusting to the fact they were gone , versus in one swift moment they were gone. The after affects of the event were quite different in both cases. It also gives other pets you have in the house to adjust as well. Believe me, they understand a lot more than what we will ever realize. What they don’t understand is their friend is here one minute and disappears the next.

All of what I have shared is from my own personal experiences. Each person must make that decision for themselves and every circumstance is different as well. People always ask me, “When do you know it is the right time?” My answer is always the same. If you are even questioning it, it’s probably not the right time. You will know. You just will. Trust your instincts because no one knows your pet like you do, and no one can make that decision for you.

Finally……having a celebration, a service, a memorial for your pet brings so much peace to your heart to honor this beloved friend. I have done this several times and the feeling after is remarkable. Create a scrapbook, a plaque for your garden, save some ashes in a locket just to name a few in which you can feel your pet is still with you. You can also donate to a local shelter in honor of your beloved. I wish you the best on this journey when the time has come to make these decisions. 

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