When a beloved pet dies
By Joanne Richard, Special to Postmedia Network
First posted: Sunday, August 13, 2017 07:00 AM EDT
There’s no getting over Rover.
Losing a pet is devastating – our beloved Mugsy was euthanized a month ago. We cried like babies, overwhelmed with grief, despondent that our 12-year-old red poodle wasn’t coming home ever again.
Mugsy wasn’t your ordinary dog, and our hearts are broken. Other pet owners can empathize –“your own pet is never ‘just a dog,’” says Dr. Frank McAndrew, psychology professor at Knox College and blogger in http://pyschologytoday.com
. He had his dog Murphy put down in January.
Our affections are never objective when it comes to pets. Losing a dog can be harder than losing a relative or friend. “We have more contact with our pets than with most other human and our relationships with dogs can be even more satisfying than our human relationships,” says McAndrew. “They are a companion who does not judge us as well as an integral part of our daily routine.”
We’re lost without them and grieve the end of the unconditional positive feedback, the emotional comfort. There’s little in terms of societal rituals to help get us through the grief. “Recognize that your feelings are normal and that there is nothing to be embarrassed about,” adds McAndrew.
Brian Kilcommons has grieved the loss of six dogs over his lifetime, and although each death has been agonizing, living without a dog is a no go. He’s on another short, intense and joyful journey with his bull mastiff Sam and tiny terrier, Victoria.
“Every death has been emotionally crushing – it’s involuntary heart surgery. It feels like someone has reached down your throat and ripped out your heart,” says Kilcommons, premier dog behaviourist, author and trainer at http://greatpets.com
Animals rescue us. Chronic loneliness is a modern-day epidemic. It’s considered a bigger health risk than obesity or smoking – loneliness kills. Human were not designed to be solitary creatures; we crave connection and research concludes that pets can compensate for the absence of human companionship. Animals boost oxytocin levels, stimulating bonding and relaxation and easing stress.
Richard Waxman calls them four-legged healers. The first person who says, “It was only a dog, you can get another one,” run the other way!
The loss of a dog is so intense because the life span of a dog is a relatively short period of time in a human’s life, says Waxman, who runs a pet bereavement support group at Paws & Hearts Welcome
Many people feel guilty because they grieve their pet’s loss so very much, sometimes even more than a human loss. “Most friends and relatives don’t share the intimacy that we share with our four-legged companions that’s why losing them is so unbearable,” says Waxman.
Prepare for feelings of abandonment, the closing of a chapter, that nagging question, “did I do enough to take care of my dog or cat at the end? Should I really have euthanized when I did?”
If you had to euthanize your pet don't give yourself the guilt trip, stresses Waxman. “If the vet and your dog or cat told you it was time, then you did them a world of good to let them slip gently away. The word euthanize means 'good death,' and as rotten as it is to say good-bye, sometimes it has to be done.”
Coping with loss
Pets have become substitutes for children and even spouses, says pet grief counselor Brien Thurston, of Pet Loss Canada | mourning is a journey as well as an experience
. “The death of this pet reinforces the loss of a person and exaggerates the loss.”
Here’s help to deal with the loss:
Do not rush the grieving process, nor allow any other person to try and make you “get over it,” says Thurston. “Even the government legislates how long we can grieve by allowing a list of times away from work according to family/other ties. There are no recognitions for animals.”
Invite those who may understand and share your grief to discuss it with you, he says. Avoid those who have no positive experiences with pets since they will have very different emotions and disinterests.
Celebrate the fact that your dog or cat had an amazing life with you, adds Richard Waxman, of Paws & Hearts Welcome
Keep talking to your departed dog or cat - they are at the Rainbow Bridge (http://rainbowsbridge.com
) and they can hear you, says Waxman.
Cry as much as you need to and get it out.
Do not rush out and immediately get a new pet, stresses Dr. Frank McAndrew. Until you have fully grieved and come to terms with the loss of the old pet, it will not be fair to the new one.
Do allow another pet into your life eventually, adds McAndres. “Some people are so grief-stricken that they never want to go through it again, but for pet lovers the rewards will always outweigh the loss.”
Dog owners vs. non-dog owners
Dog owners are happier in life and work than those who don’t have a dog, according to http://OnePoll.com:
80% of people who have a dog are happy or very happy with their life in general
70% of those without dogs claim to be happy or very happy
86% of people with a dog say having a dog reduces stress
63% of dog owners report being content with their work life
Only 44% of non-dog owners were satisfied at work
When a beloved pet dies | Life | Toronto Sun