My pet is growing older how do I cope with pet loss and the inevitable

My pet is growing older. How do I cope with pet loss and the inevitable?

My pet is growing older how do I cope with pet loss and the inevitable

One of the indisputable facts of life that everyone has to come to terms with is that time waits for no one. Yes, time does not wait for you or me or Fluffy. The same thing can be said when it comes to dealing with terminal illness and death. This is always a very sensitive subject as it is very close to the heart. However, as a grieving pet parent, I have come to understand and learn that sharing my own experiences and lessons with grief and loss has helped give comfort and validation to many. I was honored when Hindy reached out to me and asked if I wanted to share my own experience and tips to deal with grief.

Yep. I’m a grieving pet parent too. After suffering with thyroid cancer, my furry best friend Dusty earned her angel wings at the age of 13 ½ years old. It was the hardest experience to live through but I made it. How do I manage? I take it one day at a time. One of the most common questions I encounter since she passed is “My pet is growing older. How do I cope with pet loss and the inevitable?” Can you relate? Do you ask yourself the same question? Well, today I’ll share what I have learned and give you tips that have helped me greatly in the process.

My pet is growing older how do I cope with pet loss and the inevitable

I know death is inevitable. What do I do?

Whether your pet has a terminal illness or just aging gracefully, that time will come when they will get their angel wings. However, just because we understand the science that we as humans will outlive our pets, does not make it any easier to deal with. So, what do you do when you know the inevitable is going to happen? Here are my tips!

  1. Document everything!

Record and snap pictures of all the good days. Take video AND photos of your pets while they are alive and here with you. So, when that day finally comes, these images will serve as ever lasting memories of good days with your pets. Seeing memories of them looking well and vibrant will make all the difference when it comes to reflecting back on your time together.

  1. Spend quality time together.

Knowing you have limited time left means spend every available moment with your furry family member while you can. As I mentioned, time waits for no man, so cherish the minutes while they are here. For example, sitting on the couch watching TV together or sitting in the park on a bench taking in the fresh air, is all you need. It is not what you do together, but rather bonding and just being in each other’s presence that is important. Enjoy each other’s company. You won’t regret it.

  1. Check off that bucket list!

With that quality time, if your pet is able to get around comfortably, there is no better time than the present to accomplish those bucket list items. Has your pet never been to the beach? Get in the car and take a road trip. Never been to a pet friendly hotel? Pack your bags. Did you consider a family photo shoot with your dog using a pet photographer? Book that appointment. Or how about a spa day? Let’s go.

Pamper your pooch with a once in a lifetime memory to make them feel good. Don’t forget your camera or video to capture these moments too!

  1. Consider making final arrangements in advance.

This is awkward and difficult because who really wants to think about this? I can tell you from experience that pre- paying for final expenses in advance did help me a little bit because when you are saying goodbye to your best friend in their last moments, the last thing on your mind is paying an invoice and selecting cremation and urns. So, I encourage any pet parent to consider making final arrangements with your vet or pet crematorium in advance.

Speaking of which, with respects to final arrangements, you do not necessarily have to take your dog to the vet. Depending on your circumstances, you can arrange for in home euthanasia. Some pet parents find this alternative to be much less stressful for all involved. Your furry family member can rest in peace in the comfort of their own home surrounded by loved ones.

This is just another option to consider that you may not have otherwise thought about.

  1. How will I know when to say goodbye?

When the time comes you’ll know. I can’t even explain it, but it’s instinctual. Your pet will give you signs and clues that the quality of life they are living just isn’t what you want for them. 

Honestly, think of the bigger picture. Think of their ability to function day in and day out. Ask yourself, are they able to use the bathroom regularly? Are they drinking and eating? How is their energy level? How is their mood? Think about all the collective factors of quality of life, not just the number of extra days you can get with them. What would you want if you were in their shoes?

And even if you don’t know what to do, you can consult with your veterinarian to help you get clarity to help make that final decision, all factors considered. Essentially, do what is best for the pet. Make them as comfortable as possible. Choose quality of life over quantity of life.

how do I cope with pet loss and the inevitable

When your pet finally gets their wings…

When your pet does finally pass on, you have to adjust to a whole new way of living. You are forced to cope and deal with the realities of life after your furry family member is no longer here.

What have I learned? I can tell you that dealing with grief has many unexpected challenges.

Facing the harsh realities of the real world

  1. Understand that although you were anticipating this to happen, it’s still a shock.
  2. You’ll come to realize that although you knew a lot about grief, there are some things that will surprise you. Here are 12 Things I’d wish I’d known about grief.
  3. Understand there are 5 levels of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. You will experience a roller coaster of emotions.

One minute you’ll be cool, calm and collected and the next a blubbering mess. And that’s okay. It’s all part of the process of grieving.

  1. You’ll feel guilt! This one is huge. As a pet parent you continually ask yourself questions like,
  • “Did I do everything I possibly could have to help my pet?”
  • “What if I tried another treatment?”
  • “How could this happen?”
  • “Maybe if I did things differently…”

What you’ll realize is that all the “what ifs” will not bring back your pet. Also, remember that in life we do the best we can with the current knowledge we have at the time, so don’t continue to beat yourself up over your decision. Learn to accept and forgive yourself. 

Your furry family member knows and felt how much you loved them while they were here with you. There is no debating about the love between you both. So, know and understand, our pets are not holding a grudge against us for they are at peace, so you should not beat yourself up either.

  1. Your pets are gone in the physical, but their energy, spirit and love remains with you.

What do I mean? You may disagree, however in my personal experience, I’ve had odd happenings occur after the death of my pet. Some things science cannot explain.

For instance, I’d find myself going to work and feeling cool breezes on my neck for no apparent reason in a heated room. At home, I’d be on my laptop and in the corner of my eye see a fluffy tail around the corner. Or while lying in bed fast asleep, I’d feel the bed mattress sink as if there were paws sinking in mattress springs. These are all happenings I experienced after the death of my pet.

Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar? Just know that you may or may not experience things that science cannot quite explain. I’d like to think that’s our pet’s way of getting our attention and letting us know they are with us in spirit. Love never really dies.

  1. Not everyone will be kind and empathetic.

The bond between a pet and a parent is more than just a human animal bond. Our pets are family to us. And like family, the bond runs deep. They share our most precious moments and memories, secrets and more, so when they pass on its devastating.

Understand, that while you grieve not everyone will be empathetic and sympathize with you. Also, what you may come to realize is that the most insensitive comments and reactions, may come from the people closest to you!

I’d love to tell you everyone will be respectful and empathetic to you, but quite frankly people will say the darndest things. If it sounds unbelievable, then you must read 5 Things NOT to say to a grieving pet parent! You would be shocked at some of things people may say. Often times the comments can be insensitive and heartless, such as “It’s just a dog. You get another right?” Or “He wasn’t going to live forever.” Sounds unfathomable right? I wish I could tell you no one would ever say such things, but it does happen, so brace yourself for the unexpected.

  1. Your daily routine will never be the same.

The passing of your pet means so much more than just somebody out of the house, it also means a life altering change to your daily routine, family dynamic and lifestyle. Realize that you now need to create a new normal for yourself and your family (including other pet siblings).

Understand that you are not the only ones grieving in the household. Our pets grieve too. And just like humans, pets show us their grief in different ways. Death of a pet impacts the whole family, including our other pets, so take that into consideration.

Banding together and being a support system for each other is essential to help start the healing process.

  1. Grief can impact you mentally and physically.

Grief and depression often times go hand in hand, however did you also know that a broken heart can result from such emotional pain? Have you heard of broken heart syndrome? It is a physical condition backed by science, that explains human heartbreak as a result of such loss, like death of a pet, can give us symptoms identical to severe anxiety and a heart attack.

The emotional pain we feel not only impacts our mind and emotions but also transfers to the body in the physical. With this in mind, it’s so important to take care of yourself.

Now, this leads me to a few tips I’ve used to take actionable steps to cope with the grief.

my pet is growing older how do I cope with pet loss

Tips to cope with grief and find healing

  1. Explore all your resources

When you are experiencing pet loss, make no limit to the amount of resources to use. Try everything including watching videos on You Tube, visiting pet loss blogs, searching for online grief support counseling, therapists, talk to friends and family and even journal or pray. Use all your resources to get you through. Here are just a few:

Professional Bereavement Counseling and support

https://aplb.org/

Rainbow Bridge Pet loss & grief support community

https://www.rainbowsbridge.com/

Brent Atwater – Pet medium and communicator

https://www.youtube.com/user/BrentAtwater

  1. PLEASE Remember the good times.

See this is where that documentation I mentioned before comes in handy. Re-watch video clips and photos to help remember the good times spent with your pet. One of the most difficult things about coping with grief is replaying the last moments when your pet fell ill and was dying. Change the narrative in your head.

Make the choice to not relive those heart wrenching moments but relive the happy times. Revisit the old photos in your keepsake box. Watch old video clips of your pet running around the yard without a care in the world.

Having these positive memories to reflect on makes a world of difference for your mood and your mind. Instead of crying sad tears, you’ll be crying happy tears because you’ll be reminded of the good quality of life you gave your pet while they were here with you.

  1. Find a way to memorialize and honor your pet.

Find a way to keep the memory of your pet alive. Are you looking for an idea? I’ll share a few ways you can honor the memory of your pet right now.  

  • Are you a fan of jewelry? You can get a custom-made jewelry piece made in your pet’s image such as a pendant necklace or a keychain.
  • Are you into gardening or have a large yard? Consider planting a tree in your pet’s memory.
  • Do you have kids that lost a best furry family member? Get a custom-made plushy toy made in your pet’s image.
  • Do you have tons of photos of your pet? Create a keepsake photo album or keepsake box of photos and trinkets to have on hand.
  • Not the DIY type? How about send a monetary donation to a local pet charity in memory of your pet?

These are just a few options you may want to consider.

  1. Take time to grieve and find a support system.

Take adequate time to grieve and cry. Don’t try to be a super hero and hold all your emotions inside. It’s healthy and normal to cry, get angry and express your emotions when grieving. Truth be told, there is no time limit on grief.

We as bereaved pet parents just learn to live with grief as the days pass. Will it get easier over time? Yes. Will the pain disappear?… Let me ask you this, “Will the love you had for your pet disappear?” No.

Having a support system is so important. Don’t hesitate to speak about your emotions and pain to other family members and other pet parents. Chances are they  have also been in the same situation and can relate to your experience.

Also, explore online communities for support. A great resource for support is this blog, Facebook pet loss support groups or communities like Rainbowbridge.com focused on helping bereaved pet parents find healing. 

  1. Figure out what to do with their belongings and toys.

Whether you want to keep or donate your pet’s belongings is up to you. There are plenty of local shelters always looking for supplies like old towels, toys and blankets, water dishes for homeless pets in need.

Honestly, putting the items away or donating items is helping you to move in a forward direction with the healing process, not erasing their memory.

  1. Remember to take care of you.

Seek out professional help if you have trouble functioning with your day to day routine, feel suicidal or otherwise depressed and overwhelmed to the point that you cannot effectively go about your day.

Be honest with your family or closest friends about your grief. A solid support system is meant to help you work through your grief and give you the tools to do so as well.

Secondly, the physical toll grief has on the body is real. Before I mentioned broken heart syndrome which in some cases can feel like a heart attack. So, it’s important we pay attention to our bodies and consult with our physician if changes occur.

  1. Find positive means of coping.

Exercise

Get out the house and exercise. Fresh air will do you good to help clear your lungs and your head. Walking, even just a casual stroll for 15 minutes, will get your blood moving and endorphins pumping.

Eat healthy

Eat clean and get plenty of water for proper hydration. It’s amazing what healthy fresh foods like greens, fruits and vegetables can do to help stabilize your mood over high sugary foods and junk which gives you a high and then crash after an hour. The better your diet, the more stable your mood will be. This will only help you to be on the track to healing faster.

Try new hobbies

Tap into your creative side. This could mean journaling in a notebook or using adult coloring books or taking a pottery or paint class on your own. Take this time to try new things. Take a day trip to a new place you’ve never been before or buy tickets to a concert to see your favorite artist. Have lunch at a restaurant you’ve been meaning to try and bring a friend.

The point is to consciously take your mind to a positive space and get out of the house and keep moving in a productive capacity.

  1. Live life to the fullest and serve others.

What do I mean by this? Live life as your pet would want you to in order to honor them.

Infuse your life with positivity and joy. Turn your pain into purpose and consider volunteering or fostering too. Do something productive and positive with your time. Get involved in activities that bring you joy but also help others. When you give, you receive a sense of purpose and fulfillment. This is a great way to help cope and find healing in the process.

Remember to have gratitude, even in difficult times like these because although we have pain, experiences such as these only make us so much stronger. Essentially, what you will come to learn is to have gratitude for the love shared, humility in knowing life is short and joy in knowing although your time together was short, you wouldn’t change it for the world. Never take life for granted.

  1. Last but not least, take it one day at a time.

Many ask, “How long before I start to feel normal again?” Honestly, I cannot answer that for you. Only time will tell. Grief has no time limit and everyone is different. Don’t compare your pain to others and also don’t feel the need to rush your healing process.

Everyone deals with grief in their own way, loves in their own way and heals on their own time. I hope sharing these tips and life lessons really resonates with you and helps provide comfort to you when you need it most.

Talking about grief and pet loss is never easy but a topic that impacts all of us at one point or another. Know you are not alone in your pain, I have lived this experience and continue to daily.

With time and these helpful tools, you will learn that you are so much stronger than you realize and that healing doesn’t mean forgetting your furry family member, it means honoring them by making the choice to put one foot in front of the other and move in a forward direction.

Our furry friends lived on this Earth to fill our lives with joy, laughter and love and I’m sure, even on the other side, they would still want that for our lives now and forever.

 

 *****************************************************************

Kamira Gayle Impurrfect LifeKamira Gayle is the creator and author of Impurrfectlife.com a blog dedicated to helping bereaved pet parents find comfort, joy and healing after pet loss through inspiration and art!

 

the love of my life my senior dog Red

Life After Red

the love of my life my senior dog Red

You never know how you’re going to grieve, or what you’ll find the hardest to cope with, until that time when you say goodbye.

I knew Red’s time with me was drawing to a close, and I used to think about what life would be like without her.

Having spent almost every moment of the past 9 years with her (except for when I was on vacation), I couldn’t imagine a life that didn’t include her. She was around 8 when I brought her home, and being blind she did require some extra care. Of course as she got older and her health issues started she became my entire focus, and every day revolved around her.

I also have another dog named Jack, so between his long walks, feeding both (Red multiple times a day), making sure she ate on those days she wasn’t interested, and keeping her comfortable as she snuggled next to me on the couch, my writing was done in the quiet moments in between.

Naturally I knew I would be heartbroken and devastated. I knew I wouldn’t be sorry to see the pee pads off the floor, and I assumed I would be churning out articles like a machine with all the free hours (yes hours!!) I would have.

And then she died…. broken heart

I am heartbroken and devastated, and as predicted I’m thrilled to not see pee pads covering every square inch of my carpet, but the rest of it is a surprise.

I’m lost.

Every day consisted of a routine 100% dedicated to Red’s care, and now I have all the time in the world and I don’t know how to fill it. It’s been almost 2 weeks so I’m slowly starting to write again, and popping into my FB group to my senior dog Red eating a chew stickcomment, lend support, welcome new members, but it’s a struggle.

I’ve lost my muse and the inspiration behind my articles. I feel like a phony, writing about senior dogs and their care when I don’t have one anymore. The experiences are still there, my desire to help is still strong but the passion has faded. I’m sure when I welcome my next old dog into my home it will return, but for now I’m just going through the motions.

The kindness of strangers

The support and genuine outpouring of emotion from fellow bloggers and group members has been overwhelming, and I don’t seem to have the perfect words to express my gratitude. Take note – this is all from people I’ve never met.

Where is the kindness from people I know?

Life After RedRemember when I said you don’t know how you’ll handle things until they happen? I’m experiencing rage, something I never could have predicted. Don’t worry not the dangerous kind where I’ll do something stupid, but a slow simmering disgust and bitterness at every single person I know who has not bothered to say “I’m sorry.”

 

It makes me feel like Red didn’t matter. Boy did she matter.

What’s interesting is, most aren’t people I call friends so I’m surprised I care so much. Having said that they certainly are at the very least acquaintances, people I’ve known for years who I chat with when I see, which is almost daily. So yes I absolutely expect it. Not a word!

I don’t care if they’re uncomfortable, I care even less if their “reason” is because they don’t want to upset me. I lost Red, I couldn’t be more upset. A simple “I’m sorry” is all it takes…but nothing.

Of course death is a very uncomfortable subject and no one knows what to say, but I can’t imagine chatting with someone I know who suffered a loss and pretending nothing happened. I’d feel like crap.   

I’m as uncomfortable as the next, but the first thing I say is “I’m so sorry” and then I say “I know there’s nothing I can say that will help.” It breaks the ice, it eliminates the awkwardness, and most of all I’ve offered some comfort to someone who is grieving.

My two so called friends who I met because they’re neighbours…the silence from them is deafening. Yes they offered condolences when I saw them, but that was it. Yes they both know I like to be alone, but how about a text? my senior dog Red out for a strollNo awkward encounters, just a kind gesture. I intellectually know I matter to them, but that’s nowhere near enough for me to ever have anything to do with them again. They know how much I loved Red, but if that isn’t enough they certainly saw my support for them when they had surgeries. I’m afraid them telling me I can talk to them when I’m ready isn’t enough, not by a long shot.

Do you know two of the people I’m talking about are nurses, one a health care worker? Isn’t their behaviour even more outrageous!

My vet’s office was no better

My vet is amazing, and I know for a fact Red would not have been with me all these years without him. I also know they dropped the ball. I don’t know if Red’s ashes arrived yesterday when I called to find out where she was, or were sitting there a day or two. Ashes come in you call, that’s it.

You send a condolence card within a day or two, and take a minute to make it sound heartfelt.

My previous vet would send a handwritten card, signed by him, the next day. You can’t imagine how much that always meant.

The card I received from this practice would have been okay (barely) for someone they’ve only seen a handful of times…but us! I couldn’t even count the amount of time we spent there and how well they knew both of us, yet not a message from the vet or anything remotely personal.

my senior dog Red and I in El TorcalWhen I picked up Red’s ashes yesterday I brought the card along. I spoke to one of the staff (Helen) who knows me a long time (as they all do) and calmly expressed my opinion about the lack of effort or anything heartfelt. She told me it was their “standard” response, but she also agreed we deserved better. I told her not to bother asking them to send me another because it would have no meaning.

Let me back up a bit.

When I first walked in yesterday Helen gave me such a warm and genuine hug. She loved Red, as they all did, but wasn’t there when it happened, so it was the first time she had seen me. That hug showed me compassion and that Red and I mattered. She told me she had wanted to call the next day, but the staff told her not to because I was too upset.  

I know they were trying to be considerate of my feelings, I just wish they had realised how much her gesture would have meant.  

Am I being too hard on people?

I suppose some may think I am but I don’t care, I will not make excuses for anyone in this situation. Even if the attitude is “she was just a dog” it’s about the person grieving, me in this case and what I need, not about them and how uncomfortable they are.

Is it possible to know what will make someone feel better in this situation? I would say the answer is no, but that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate knowing you cared enough to offer some form of comfort. How about a card slipped through the mailbox? Some flowers left on a doorstep? A text letting them know you’re thinking about them?   

A lesson to be learned

I now know the greatest lesson Red was here to teach us is compassion.

Not just by people seeing the worth of a senior dog, how much joy she brought me, or the way I cared for her. I my senior dog Red in Spainnow clearly see it will be to teach people to reach out to anyone who is grieving. I don’t suggest knocking on peoples’ doors, goodness knows I wouldn’t answer, but offer your condolences. It won’t take away their pain, but I can assure you they won’t be any more upset by it then they already are. What it will do is show them who they lost mattered in this world, and so do they.

My final words

No amount of comfort can mend my heart, but boy do the messages of support make me feel like Red and I matter.

I can’t imagine ever looking at any of those people with anything other than the disgust I currently feel and I’m okay with that, although it makes me sad to be in that position.

Thank you Red for teaching all of us a very important and painful lesson about compassion.

You did good in this world!

Red in her stroller in Spain

Saying Goodbye to My Sweet Girl Red

Red enjoying the sun in Spain

One week ago today, on May 18, 2018 at just after 11:00am UK time, I said goodbye to my sweet girl Red.

This is not easy for me to write, especially because I never discuss my feelings, but it’s spilling out of me and I can’t stop it.

What inspired me? While there have been some lovely condolences expressed by my incredible Facebook group members, one I saw this morning really hit me and the words started flowing.

Saying Goodbye to my Sweet Girl Red

Her name is Paula Busch (Paula I hope you don’t mind me mentioning you), and even though she has said goodbye to her much loved dog Ramsey she still stays in the group to help. There was something about the way she asked how I was doing that opened the floodgates…so rather than just replying “fine thank you” I realised this post needed to be written, and for people to know the impact Red had on my life and others.

How am I doing? Not well. I’m heartbroken, I hear Red coming down the hallway and pushing against the hallway door to come and see me. I find myself just about to tell my husband to not bang the door because Red is sleeping, and I’m still surprised when I don’t see her bed on the floor next to mine.

I’m having a very hard time checking in with the group at the moment, but I’m forcing myself to offer a bit of advice when I can. You’ve all done such a great job of keeping things going the past week, I’m so grateful, but I also feel responsible for things as well.

I managed to write a couple of articles, but that’s only because they were mostly written and just needed “tweaking” but I’ve lost my enthusiasm for my much loved website.

I’ve lost my muse and feel like a phony both with my website and my group. Yes the years of experience I have caring for senior dogs is with me, but I feel like “who am I” when I don’t share my life with an old dog at the moment. Jack isn’t at the “senior” category yet!

Sightseeing with her dad and brother

In the past when I was living in Florida and lost one of my “oldies” I would go back to the shelter where I volunteered and bring home another one. Although I’m no longer there, sadly there is no shortage of old dogs that need homes, yet I can’t offer mine just yet.

I loved Red more than words can ever express, yet I would be lying and deceiving you by saying it was all a bed of roses and nothing but a love fest. For most of the 9 years we spent together it was, but when I realised she had dementia 2 ½ years ago, that’s when the really challenging and stressful times began. When her dementia progressed and her selegeline was no longer helping like it had been (that was about a year ago), the stress was pretty much constant.

She was blind when I adopted her, obese with a heart murmur, and over the years she developed many health issues but they were all managed thanks to my wonderful vet Lubo. It was the dementia, and more recently the chronic pancreatitis that make things extremely difficult at times.

I had no problem making her the centre of my universe, and having my life revolve around her. I adopt old dogs and with that comes the responsibility, and of course the joy of caring for them…whatever that means.

The financial strain was enormous as well. She was on a lot of medication, and some of it was crazy expensive even buying online.

The worry she might have another seizure, the panic she would need emergency care in the middle of the night with no hospital near me and no car to travel, and the dread when she needed a vet and mine was not working that day absolutely took its toll.

I still feel the same worry and stress, I guess they’re residual!

Snoozing with her foster puppy

I have been able to take the pee pads off the floor and now I walk into my home and I see just carpet…a high price to pay. I admit I’d rather see pee pads than a stain on my carpet, but they were always messy and made me feel disorganised.

I knew the day was coming when I would have to say goodbye, and I was sure it would end up being a quality of life decision because of dementia. The type of decision I’ve only had to make once before and haunted me for months. Did I wait too long? Should I have waited a bit longer? Every day in the last few months I would think about it. Red was never in pain and I always knew as much as she had my heart, I would never allow her to linger because I didn’t want it broken.

I prayed for a bad test result one day, because then I knew my decision would be “easier” to make. There it is, black and white, nothing else to be done and then last Thursday I got that bad test result. I was shocked, devastated and relieved knowing it was pretty much made for me. I could have said goodbye that day but I would have felt like I rushed something, and that kind of decision can tear you up inside and haunt you if you aren’t sure.

When I took her home and she didn’t eat I made the call for the next day. Did she eat later? Of course she did. Did she eat that Friday morning? Of course she did. I brought her to the vet anyway and we had a conversation.

I could have waited a few days but why? I couldn’t reverse the test result, she was still so skinny and barely eating, how would postponing my heartbreak help her?

First place in the dog show

I have devoted the last 9 years of my life to caring for and loving her. Did she stop me from taking vacations? Not when my pet sitter was around. Did we take lots of day trips together? Absolutely. Was she a very well traveled dog? You bet. She came from Florida, flew for a couple of short visits with me to Toronto, and made quite a few trips between our places in Florida and England. Did she bring me incredible joy? No question about it, and now I am paying for it with incredible sadness.

It is because of her I started my website, and because of my experiences with her and those who came before her, I created my group as a way to help others who may not have the support and access to information they need.

In the aftermath

I’m lost. I always thought when I didn’t have Red to care for, all the extra hours would be spent writing even more articles and helping even more. Sadly I now have all those extra hours, but I struggle to have the strength to fill them. I wander aimlessly, turn the tv on during the day (something I never, ever, ever do until the evening) and get through the day.

I’m hurt. I understand it’s probably a generational thing, public displays of emotion, every thought bared on social media, and condolences offered. Okay but don’t I deserve more from a family member who did nothing more than respond to my notice with a sad emoji?

enjoying a walk in the park

My 2 “friends” who like to tell me how important I am and that we’re like the 3 musketeers have disgusted me. One of them replied to that same notice on FB with a “so sorry babe you were a great mum” but how about a private message? She knows I turn inwards in grief, but how about a text to tell me she’s thinking of me or here for me? She’s my neighbour so I see her around, and she knows I don’t want to talk about but how about some flowers?

When she had surgery or broke her nose in a fall recently, how many times did I check on her?

My other “friend” was away for 10 days, but news travels fast where I live so I assume she knows, certainly the first friend I mentioned would have told her. Let’s say she didn’t know – she’s been home 4 days and no text to say hello. If she did know it’s even more upsetting. When her mother died did I not express my condolences to her right away? When she had surgery recently was I not checking on her every day, asking her husband how she was doing? Did I not prepare a basket for her so she wouldn’t be bored during the day?

I have been called self-absorbed and I agree to a certain extent that is true. I’m not always the most thoughtful person, but I certainly have been to them.

Nothing can excuse what they’ve done, or haven’t done, and although I may be friendly when I see them, our coffee mornings and get togethers are over since I can never ever see them in the same light. As comfortable as a topic this is for all of us, there is no excuse for not even sending a simple “so sorry thinking of you” text.

Snoozing with her foster puppy

My plan

I’m slowly starting to get back to my website and my writing, and I will do my best to spend more time in the group.

Today has been a really bad day, I’ve been crying most of the morning, even during my acupuncture session!! It’s expected of course, but Red’s ashes will be back with me soon enough and I will take hers and Saffy’s and put them in a memorial urn necklace I have, to carry them with me always.

I will adopt another senior dog, quite possibly from Serbia. My husband and I would like to go away January and February (if we can figure out what to do with Jack) so ideally it wouldn’t be until March. Having said that there’s no way I can wait that long to care for someone else that needs me. We’re going away in 2 weeks for a few days and perhaps I’ll foster some kittens that need to be bottle fed.

I wasn’t blessed with this level of compassion and not always have an outlet in which to express it.

I have no idea if this made sense or not but I wanted this to be straight from the heart as the words flowed.

 

I love you Red more than words can ever express. My heart is broken, I know in time it will mend, but I will never forget you and the joy you brought to my life, and by extension the good you did in this world.

dog memorial jewelry

Dog Memorial jewelry

dog memorial jewelry

I think dog memorial jewelry is a beautiful way to honour the memory of a much loved companion. The other day I was doing a search for something unrelated, and came across a necklace with a beautiful inscription “A piece of my heart lives in heaven.” I was inspired to tell my story about how a piece of jewelry helped me.  

If you are interested in recommendations for other ways to pay tribute, here are several pet memorial ideas.

A tribute to Calypso

Many years ago while living in Israel I was walking home from work one day, and when I looked down I noticed a tiny little kitten in the middle of some garbage. Without a second, or even first thought I picked her up and brought her home. She was so cute and so tiny she easily fit into my hand. Let’s not even talk about how swollen half her face was.

Long story short I named her Calypso (okay not me I’m terrible at naming animals, it was my roommate at the time) and she was the love of my life for 17 years. I was particularly in love with her because she had been so pathetic when I found her (yes I love the underdog!), was feral, hissed at everybody, petrified of everything and only came to me.

She was the first animal I ever had to say goodbye to and her loss was devastating. It’s been 12 years yet I remember it like it was yesterday. I even remember what I wore! Did I mention it was also my birthday!

I stayed home from work for two days and did nothing but lay in bed and cry. I would have been home longer but my husband and I had planned a trip, and he strongly recommended I drag myself onto the plane. We were only gone 3 days, but I was miserable the entire time.  

One day while out exploring, we passed a watch counter and the name on one of the straps was Calypso. I felt like someone knocked me down, I mean what are the chances of that! Then I saw the name again later on and while it made me cry, I considered it a sign. I decided I need to put her name on something, but wasn’t quite sure on what.

While I was in Toronto during one of my visits I found a silver bracelet on the street with a heart dangling from it. I couldn’t find the owner so I kept it. Yes I felt guilty but it didn’t make sense to throw it out. Anyway, I decided to engrave her name on that heart and I wore it on a chain for years. You wouldn’t believe how much better it made feel, knowing I had her close to me. I had her cremains in an urn, but it wasn’t the same.

Ashes keepsake

A few years ago my beautiful Saffy was killed by an incompetent vet. I cry too much when I talk about her, but you can read her story here. Her death devastated me, and still does, and although I have her cremains as well I believe having her close to me will help, so I bought a beautiful keepsake necklace that holds a small amount of ashes.

Which brings me to this post

Too many people I know have been saying goodbye to their dogs recently. They have spent weeks, months and even years of their lives caring for their elderly sick companions, and now that they’re gone they are grief stricken.

I realise a piece of jewelry won’t magically fix anything, but I believe finding a way to pay tribute to that pet does help…and so does wearing a message of love. At least it did for me.

Dog remembrance jewelry

Whether you’re looking for a way to memorialize your beloved pet, or you know someone who would be helped by such a thoughtful gift, you’re bound to find the perfect item.

Urn necklaces


Dog memorial bracelets


Pet memorial keychains


 

 

I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.

 

*There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase anything I make a few pennies…literally. That money helps me help homeless animals through donations and fostering, as well as keeping this blog running. 

 

end of life care

End of Life Care – A Veterinarian’s Perspective

end of life care

I have been practicing veterinary medicine for over three decades.  The advancements in diagnostic testing and treatment options that I have seen developed for companion animals has truly been amazing.  Unfortunately we often still will reach a point where further intervention does not benefit the pet and at that time, it becomes the veterinarian’s job to counsel the family as to their options and prevent suffering of their patient.  This is definitely one of the most challenging aspects facing the veterinary health care team.

Putting a pet to sleep is not the hardest part of the job

Our practice treats a large number of aging dogs and cats with a variety of chronic, debilitating conditions and our goal is to preserve the quality of our patients’ lives, prevent painful conditions, and help the family make the End of Life Care a Veterinarian's Perspectivedifficult decisions that lie ahead.  While people often say, “Putting a pet to sleep must be the hardest part of the job”, I disagree and tell them that since we only perform euthanasia when it is appropriate, it is much easier than the journey that gets us to that final visit.  Whether it is in our office, or as an in home visit, euthanasia is a procedure that allows us to fulfill our obligation to our patients to keep them free of pain and suffering.

The decision does not come easily for families and I am often asked, “How will we know when it is time?”  As a younger veterinarian, I often passed the buck on this one and would tell owners that they will know when it is time.  However, as I have gained experience in palliative and hospice care, I do not think that this is the situation and owners often need guidance.

The four stages of “end of life” care

Our practice of end of life care is based on four stages. 

Stage One

The first is to encourage owners to pursue an accurate diagnosis.  This is important because many chronic diseases are not terminal in the short run.  Finding out exactly what type of illness we are dealing with is important so that we can offer a realistic prognosis and develop the best treatment plan. Some illnesses lend themselves to successful intervention which can lead to a cure or at least a meaningful extension of a quality life for some period of time.  Others have a guarded prognosis for any humane existence beyond the immediate future.

Stage Two

Old age in itself is not a disease and once a specific diagnosis and prognosis are established, the veterinarian and family need to have a frank discussion about their particular situation.  Armed with facts, the road forward can be End of life care a veterinarians perspectiveestablished.  If curative treatment is not a realistic option, owners can opt for palliative care.  Many animals that enter our palliative care program are not currently critically ill or dying. Their disease, although serious, has not progressed to the point that they cannot continue with their daily routines, although often at a somewhat reduced level. Our goal is to maintain or improve quality of life for both the pets and their family. The most common conditions that we treat with palliatively include chronic kidney disease, severe arthritis, neurologic conditions, heart disease, and cancer. The emphasis is on control of pain, maintaining body condition through exercise and nutrition, and slowing the progression of the disease process.

Stage Three

Once we are not able to provide palliation of the clinical signs of the disease process, we move into the third stage, hospice care.  Our hospice patients are terminally ill, and rapidly losing the ability to lead a quality life.  While end of life care for senior dogshospice care can technically be provided on an inpatient basis, we do not currently provide that for our patients.  Our hospice patients are cared for at home, by their families, with the guidance of our veterinary professional staff.  Home visits by doctors and licensed technicians help design a hospice program that prevents pain and suffering as long as possible.  It is imperative that our staff and the family work as a team, during this intensely stressful period. While we sense the desperation of our clients as they try to find a way to prolong the life of their beloved pet, we encourage our clients to be realistic about their pet’s condition and discourage prolonging life beyond the point that is humane.

Stage Four

When we reach that point, we come to the final phase of our end of life care, euthanasia.  This is a discussion that is started at the beginning of hospice care so owners are prepared.  Veterinarians have taken an oath to prevent end of life care from a veterinarians perspectiveanimal suffering and we often are required to offer an objective evaluation as to the condition of a pet. Our doctors and staff have a deep sense of compassion and have all had to make that difficult decision when it became apparent that our own dogs or cats were terminal and suffering.  Humane euthanasia, either in our office or in our client’s home is never an easy decision, but rather, one that after introspection is the kindest thing that we can do for our pets.  While we hope that they will pass quietly in their sleep, this is often not the case and prolonged suffering is a cruel end to a long life for a beloved companion.

So, while euthanasia is often the final service that a veterinarian can provide for his or her patients, it is not the hardest part of the job.  The road to this point is much more difficult as we often have to bear witness to human anguish and animal suffering.  Our team’s goal is minimize both, empathizing with both the family and the patient, and providing a humane alternative for end of life care.

 

 

Dr Keith Niesenbaum and Bella

Dr. Keith Niesenbaum received his veterinary degree from The University of Pennsylvania in 1984 and practiced as an associate veterinarian for 5 years before starting Animal Bedside Care, a veterinary house call practice on Long Island, NY.  The practice grew and he has owned several animal hospitals and a boarding kennel in the intervening years.

He currently owns and practices at Crawford Dog and Cat Hospital in Garden City Park, New York. The practice emphasizes low stress, fear free visits and incorporates house calls as part of its regular service menu. Doctor Niesenbaum has special interests in wellness care and the early detection and prevention of diseases, especially in older pets.

Outside of practice, is often seen riding his bike or running with his dog, Bella who has recently become a bit of a Facebook video sensation

 

how to care for yourself while caring for a sick dog

How to Care For Yourself While Caring For a Sick Dog

how to care for yourself while caring for a sick dog

Since starting my Facebook group Senior Dog Care Club, I’ve had the pleasure, and honour, to meet an amazing group of parents taking incredible care of their senior dogs.    

At the same time I’ve read lots of accounts of those who are caring for very sick dogs and these members are stressed, anxious, sad, confused, heartbroken, sleep deprived… Some find themselves yelling at their dogs, then living with the guilt afterwards. I can relate as I too am caring for a sick dog, and I too have been so stressed at How to Care For Yourself While Caring For a Sick Dogtimes I had nowhere to turn. Hey I’ve also been guilty of yelling at Red and feeling like crap about it. I also have to remind myself I’m human, and that I better learn to take care of me as well.

I know the group has been a refuge, a place to vent and talk to others who can relate, since many, myself included, have nowhere else to turn for the comfort and understanding we need. You can’t know how moved I am to be able to offer this to so many…but I know sometimes even that isn’t enough.

So while we’re devoting most, if not all of our days to caring for our dogs, who’s caring for us?

Let me mention that although I talk about dogs, the advice you’ll find in this article will help no matter who you’re caring for…and that includes humans!!

How I cope

According to my husband, not very well!! At times that has been true, especially before I knew Red had dementia, but generally I disagree. Never mind that, let’s backtrack a bit.

Red, the love of my life, was around 8 when we adopted her and has shared my home for 8 ½ years and my heart for about 9 ½. I first met her while volunteering at a shelter in Florida. I was living with family at the time while looking for a house, and they had enough dogs and cats I couldn’t ask to add to their brood!! I had to love Red mostly from afar, except for once a week when I went to volunteer.

Anyway, just over two years ago I noticed she would wander a lot and not settle. She had kidney issues at the time (of course she still does), and was having trouble concentrating her urine so she would pee a lot. I assumed she was uncomfortable because of her kidneys, and of course took her to the vet more than once for answers. Tests kept coming back fine and my vet couldn’t find anything wrong with her, but knowing her as well as I do I knew there was something.

In the meantime I was becoming beyond stressed. Although Red is blind she gets around really well, and rarely bumped into anything even when in a strange environment…until then. I couldn’t get her to settle, she would wander for, literally, hours and I would keep hearing her banging her head. It was heart breaking and I felt so helpless.

Sometimes you don’t realise how stressed you are until one tiny thing tips you over the edge. I work from home so I’m with my dogs all the time, with barely a break. Anyway it got so bad there were times I would have to leave the house, it didn’t matter where I went. Sometimes I would grab my headphones, plug my music in my ears and power walk along the beach, other times I would leave my husband in charge when he was home on a Saturday and go shopping for a few hours. I’ll tell you what it did me a world of good. So did listening to guided meditations, even if they were a short 5 or 10 minutes.

But you know the one thing that was the most helpful above all else? Figuring out what was wrong.

Dementia

One day the word “dementia” popped into my head, and I realised that was the problem. I only adopt old dogs with health issues and I don’t typically have them too long before they pass, so I’ve never had to deal with that disease before. Somebody was obviously trying to help me by planting that thought. Thank you!! When I called my vet to tell him about my “ha ha” moment (as my husband calls it) he said it made sense.

He’s a truly amazing vet but why he didn’t think about it I don’t know. Anyway with a box of Selgian in hand (the UK drug with selegeline) I saw an improvement in Red in only a matter of days.

We were on the road to a calmer life…until now.

Her dementia is getting a bit worse but still under control. She’s had several bouts of pancreatitis, one so severe we almost lost her in November, and before that she had a few seizures over the course of about a year.

I bring this up to let you know how much I can relate to what you’re going through.

I don’t recommend these tips lightly

You may think it’s easy for me to say “think about yourself” – “get a pet sitter so you can take a break” – “go on a short vacation” etc… but trust me it isn’t. Go on a vacation? Ha, I have to force myself.

The thing is just because some of these tips are hard or feel impossible, doesn’t mean they aren’t exactly what you need!

Will all of them be right for you? Of course not. Will they all be doable? No they won’t, but there are so many you’re bound to find something you’ll be comfortable with.

Taking care of yourself means taking better care of them

A cliché to be sure, but the absolute truth. When you’re a nervous wreck you’re not at your best, and your dog needs you at your best. When I’m stressed I still do everything for Red, but it’s easier and feels better when I’m relaxed and calm.

Do something before you’re burnt out…unless you already are!

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say, the majority of us wait until we’re tearing our hair out before we start looking for ways to calm down. Sometimes we feel like we’re handling things, and the next minute we’re in a heap on the floor, crying with our dogs in our arms. Sound familiar?

Here are my tips and please give some of them a try!!

Focus on what you can control, forget about what you can’t

This one is rich coming from me since I’m a control freak, but given some thought it does make sense.

Fact – Your beloved dog is sick and that is not in your control

Fact – there are lots of things you can control –

  • Ensure he has a great vet you trust
  • Research treatments (your vet doesn’t know everything!)
  • Get second opinions
  • Join FB groups where members are dealing with the same issues
  • Keep your dog comfortable
  • Make sure he’s still part of the family
  • Accept it could be awhile before he’s feeling better
  • Prepare yourself mentally that some days will be harder than others
  • Line up some help so you can take breaks
  • Make a list of the ideas below that appeal to you and start implementing them

See how much is in your hands?  

Look for the lesson or the silver lining

What good could possibly come out of this sad experience you ask? I know it’s tough to see any silver lining in all this, or believe there are lessons that can be learned…but perhaps there is and there are!

  • Can you help others going through this same experience?
  • Have you become aware of how much more compassionate you have become?
  • Has it made you appreciate your own life more?
  • Do you see how deeply and completely you can love another being?
  • What about your experiences with the veterinary care your dog is getting? Do you have a great vet or has this helped you figure out what you need in a health care provider?
  • Has your pup’s illness forced you to slow down, relax, re-organise your priorities?
  • Perhaps you’ve found a new calling – veterinary nurse, anticipatory pet loss support volunteer or counsellor

Deep breathing exercises

For years I heard how deep breathing exercises can relieve stress, but I never believed it. Until I tried it and it worked! It’s super easy and you can do it anywhere, anytime, even sitting in a parked car. Don’t wait until you’re meditate while caring for a sick dogstressed to do it.

Take a deep breath in, hold for 5 seconds, let it out slowly and repeat. Do it a few times in a row, several times a day. Simple!

The not so simple part, at the beginning, will be keeping your mind focused on your breathing, and not letting it wander to the very things you’re trying to calm down about. It’s a challenge for sure, but with practice you’ll be able to block out most, if not all, stray thoughts that keep popping into your head.

Guided meditation

Search Youtube for “guided meditation” where you’ll find plenty to choose from. If you’re impatient, don’t think it’s for you, or there’s no time to spare, try it anyway. While some are an hour or longer, plenty are just a couple of minutes so start with those and see how it goes.  

I only listen to ones that are guided because my mind very easily wanders, so having a voice to focus on helps.

Don’t worry if you didn’t hear one word because you were too busy thinking about Fido, it’s normal. It can take a lot of practice to focus on the voice but that’s okay, even if you manage to do it for just a few seconds consider that a victory and try again later. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how relaxing a short session can be, and how invigorated you will feel afterwards. Don’t give up too quickly because you’ll be missing out on a free and easy way to relax.

The more you meditate the calmer you will become and the less easily stressed you will be. The great thing is you can do it any time of day, it doesn’t cost a penny and all you need is a quiet space.

Find a support network

Your best friend who has been there for you during your latest break up or part of every major life event, may not be the source of comfort you’re looking for in this situation.

Not everyone, even other animal lovers, can relate to what you’re going through. That’s not to say they won’t do their best to comfort you, but it may not be enough. Unless they are or have been in the same boat, they just can’t a support network will help when caring for a sick dogrelate and it’s as simple as that.

Find a group of likeminded people you can share your grief, fears and concerns with who won’t judge you, whether that is in person or online. If you prefer a group you can attend in person, a search for support groups in your area is a good place to start.

Some local pet loss groups may also welcome those with seriously ill pets.

Facebook has lots of groups to join (including mine) where you can find an instant community.

What about a chat room? The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement has the Anticipatory Bereavement Chat Room, set up to help people prepare.   

For one on one support find a grief counsellor in your area, and yes there are those who specialise in pet grief.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for why not create it!

Practice mindfulness/being present in the moment

How many times are you walking the dog and talking on the phone? What about vacuuming and thinking about all the things on your “to do” list?

Mindfulness simply means being present in the moment, and it’s a beautiful concept. Imagine living your life only in the here and now, not trying to change the past or predict the future just living in the moment. We’d all be a lot happier, of that I am convinced.

I’ve tried it, felt the difference but never stuck with it because I’m too busy living in the past and future myself but I am going to start “trying” again. As tough as it is to do it is worth practicing for the incredible benefits you will gain.

How do you do it? Every time you notice yourself thinking of the past or worrying about the future, force yourself to think of the “now.” Of course it’s hard, especially if you have a mind like mine which my husband thinks is like a circus. All that means is you have to work harder. It’s about practice.

Here’s an example. I’m tying this article but at the same time I’m thinking of what I have to pack for my upcoming trip, why haven’t I put my makeup on yet and who knows what other chatter. Yet when I remember I should be present in the moment I am conscious of the letters forming across my screen, I am feeling the keys as I press each one, and I see my fingers flying across the keyboard. I don’t know how to explain what a strange sensation it is watching my fingers type these words – surreal in a way but focused on the moment…as I should be.

How does that apply to caring for your sick dog? It is way too easy to let your mind focus on regrets, wondering if you waited too long to take him to the vet, if you missed critical signs, how much time he has left and how heartbroken you’re going to be. By doing that you’re not leaving any room for the present and you’ll be missing spending quality time with your dog, enjoying walks together, feeling good when he eats his meals…

The present is where your dog is living, don’t you want to make every moment with him count?

Ask for help

That’s rich coming from me because I cannot ask for help. My friends have to beg me to ask them for a favour and I hate it!! It’s a very rare occasion when I do, and I have to be really desperate!

Don’t follow my example, especially because it’s super important to have some help in this situation. You cannot do all this alone, even if you have been until now. If you share your home with others remind everyone the dog is a member of the family, so their assistance is needed. They’re not self starters? Delegate specific tasks and get them to commit. Having to check up on them all the time will not help, and you’ll end up doing everything yourself again!

If you are on your own, ask if a friend, family member or trusted neighbour could come in and give you a hand.

Take a break and re-fuel

I know you don’t want to leave your dog alone for a second, and I have no doubt you’re petrified something will happen when you’re out. Okay if he’s that ill I understand you need to be with him, but if that’s not the case you take a break when caring for a sick dogneed to step outside into the world, even if it’s just for a bit.

If there is no way you would leave him alone, find yourself a pet sitter or dog walker who can keep him company. In my experience there’s usually at least one person in a vet practice who does pet sitting on the side, so start there.

  • Treat yourself to a massage or a facial
  • Take a meditation class
  • How about some yoga?
  • A walk in the park or the woods, just you and nature, is extremely healing
  • When is the last time you saw a movie or got dressed up to go to the theatre?
  • Have your friends or family forgotten what you look like? Drop in for a drink and a chat

Think about what energises you and gives you joy, then go and do it.

Wait, taking a break doesn’t have to mean always leaving the house. Take a nap or a bath, read that book you’ve been wanting to or invite someone over for some adult conversation…and don’t talk about the dog!

Forgive yourself and know you’re doing your best

I know this is a real tough one, and I know this from experience. To be honest there are things I haven’t been able to forgive myself for, even after many years. The guilt has lessened but only slightly, yes I have learned but totally forgiven myself? No.

Which is not to say you shouldn’t and can’t! After all, what good is all the guilt doing for me or you?

We all wish we had “known” in advance rather than making mistakes or trusting the wrong vets, but as much as we would like it to be different, life isn’t like that and we just can’t know everything.

We can only do the best we can do with the knowledge and information we have at that time, and you have to keep reminding yourself of that. It’s hard to admit, hard to accept but it’s all there is.

If you can’t stop beating yourself up please speak to a professional – that’s called asking for help, something we already discussed. You will see how healing it can be.

Prioritise

When you’re going through a period of caregiving things are going to change yet life keeps on moving forward, and there are still things that need to get done. Children need help getting ready for school, you have deadlines at work, bills to pay, meals to cook, houses to clean, cars to service and a whole lot more of what makes up this wonderful adventure called “life.”

With the amount of time you’re going to want/need to be there for your dog, you’re going to have to set priorities and decide what things will have to be put on hold, done by someone else or what will no longer get done until…

Use affirmations

An affirmation is basically a phrase or statement you keep saying to yourself. For instance, when the voice in your head says “I am so stressed I can’t cope” guess what? That becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Conversely when you say “I am at peace” you’re going to be pretty darn relaxed.

Here are a few examples of the types of things you should be saying, feel free to create your own affirmations that resonate with you.

  • positive affirmations for help in caring for a sick dog“I am making the remaining time I have with Fido the best it can be”
  • “I am doing my best for Spot”
  • “I am calm and relaxed”

Whatever phrases you come up with just make sure they are positive and in the present tense.

Say them a few times a day, and even if you don’t mean the words at the time, eventually you will. Standing in front of the mirror makes your affirmations even more effective.  

Allow yourself to feel

When I have been stressed caring for Red I thought it was pretty obvious to me, yet it’s interesting how stressed out someone can be without even realising it. Here is a recent example.

Red had quite a serious bout with pancreatitis in November, I even got as far as making “the” appointment because she was not recovering after almost 3 weeks. The day of the appointment she perked up and she’s been fine, until she had another minor bout a couple of weeks ago. She recovered from that very quickly because I caught it right away and had the medication on hand.

I thought I was fine until my husband brought Red home after being at the vet on fluids. When I saw they had left the catheter in her arm I freaked. She had already had two days of fluids and was not going back for a third. They knew I had an appointment with my vet the next morning so I assume that’s why they left it in but I still had a meltdown.

The practice was closed so I couldn’t go back or yell at them, and I didn’t want to pull it out myself. I went to a neighbour who is a nurse and asked for help. Yep I asked and yes it was because I was desperate. She was hesitant to do it because she didn’t know how a dog would react so said no. I looked it up on Youtube and it seemed simple enough, but I didn’t have anyone to help and didn’t want to ask the nurse and pressure her.

Having no one to help me sent me into hysterics. We went home and I sobbed uncontrollably with Red in my arms for 45 minutes. Poor dog was soaking wet!

As pet caregivers we’re often on roller coasters. One day they’re feeling better so we’re up, then they have a bad day and we’re down, then we’re worried what’s going to happen next, we’re exhausted because we haven’t slept in days, anxious, depressed etc…etc…etc…

Expressing your feelings and admitting you’re struggling does not make you a bad pet parent, but it does make you human. Recognising those feelings will go a long way to helping you cope, but it’s also important for you to know where to turn for emotional support. That doesn’t mean you’re not handling things, it just means that support will help keep you mentally and physically healthy so you can do even more for your dog.

There is a section further up about finding a support network so you’ll find some advice there.

Have a good laugh

With everything you have going on, laughing is probably the very last thing you can imagine doing. You’re caring for a sick dog who it seems you love more than life itself, what can there possibly be to smile about?

Please don’t feel guilty for taking the time to enjoy yourself, or for one second think it means you don’t love or care for your dog. You know what it does mean? It means you understand that when you take care of yourself you’ll be a better caregiver. You probably miss having a good laugh, right?

Do you have a friend whose company you enjoy because you always have such fun together? When was the last time you watched a video of your favourite comedian? How about that comedy show you used to love?

Eat, sleep and exercise

In the best of times many of us don’t do a great job when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep or doing enough or any exercise. Add caring for a sick dog to the mix and you’re putting your own health at risk. How’s that going to impact your dog?

Healthy diet

Who has the time, energy or inclination to cook, especially when you can order take out or visit the local drive thru? If you do plan on sticking with this way of eating, try and choose healthier options.

Maybe you can agree to cook a couple of times a week, make big batches and freeze. I love soup with tons of “stuff” in it so it’s a meal on its own. I make a huge pot and freeze into single serve portions, so when I’m hungry there’s always something to grab.

Smoothies are another great way to improve your diet and they’re super easy to make. I use a nutriBullet so I can throw all kinds of fruits and vegetables in and they taste good. I buy bags of frozen berries, or freeze fresh ones so I always have ingredients on hand.

Sleep

When your dog is wandering all night, unable to settle, it’s tough (or impossible) to get a good night’s sleep, but you absolutely have to find a way. There are too many consequences for you to not take this seriously.   

  • Take naps during the day
  • Can you block off an area for your dog and put pee pads down so you don’t have to get up to take him out?

You know your situation best, can you think of ways you can get enough hours of sleep while ensuring your dog is okay? Don’t just say no right away, give it some serious thought and come up with a plan.

Exercise

I’ll be honest, just writing the word makes me tired! I hate exercising and it’s the last thing I ever want to do, but I have another dog who does need quite a bit of exercise so I am forced to go out! You don’t need to take out a gym a walk in nature helps relax when caring for a sick dogmembership, lift weights, or run marathons.

How about –

  • A nice paced walk of 20 minutes three times a week
  • A yoga or Pilates class
  • Play your favourite music and dance around the house
  • Invite a friend to walk with you

Prefer to stay home? Thank goodness for Youtube! Find a video and get moving, even if it’s short and slow paced it’s something. You may be pleasantly surprised to find, once you start working some form of movement into your day it will become a habit and you’ll actually look forward to it!

It’s probably impossible to believe it now but it’s true!

Say no

We could probably all stand to learn to say no more often, so use this opportunity as a way to start practicing.

This is not to suggest you turn down every invitation or request that comes your way. It is about saying no to what you’re not interested in, and commitments you don’t have time to honour.

How to care for yourself while caring for a sick dog – conclusion

When your dog is sick who can blame you for wanting to spend every waking moment with him? You’re an amazing pet parent and you’re doing a great job.

Having said that being a caregiver is tough, it’s emotionally and physically draining and can take quite a toll. That’s why it’s so important to care for yourself as well, and you’ve seen lots of examples of how to do just that.

It is amazing how rejuvenated you will feel after just 5 minutes of guided meditation, or having a friend over for lunch.

Taking time to re-charge does not mean you don’t love your dog. It means being healthy and happy is what you deserve, and being able to give your best is what your pup deserves!

 

I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.

 

 

what is hospice care for dogs2

What is Hospice Care For Dogs

What is hospice care for dogs

You’re familiar with hospice care as it applies to humans, but what is hospice care for dogs?

“Simply put, hospice care focuses on providing the best quality of life possible for a pet with a terminal disease or condition until the pet dies or is euthanized.” This is a snippet of a longer definition provided by The American Veterinary Medical Association.    

It is an approach to “end of life care” that focuses exclusively on making a dog’s final days or weeks as comfortable and pain free as possible using medications, therapies, diet, and of course the companionship of their humans.  

A quick note

I will be referring to dogs simply because of the focus of my website, but the information in this post will help no matter what type of pet you have.

A painful topic indeed

No matter how much time has passed, I vividly remember how I felt the moment my vet would tell me there was nothing more he could do. It’s devastating because not only do I have to say goodbye, I had to find the strength to what is hospice care for petssay the words that would end the life of a beloved companion.

For all except my one cat TT, the right decision was to put them down immediately. TT had cancer and when the tumour no longer responded to chemo, rather than put him through trying a third, fourth and fifth drug, we decided the kindest thing would be to leave him in peace. He was not in any pain, and had a very good quality of life until one day a couple of months later he had what appeared to be a stroke. We rushed him to the vet and put him to sleep.

When is hospice considered?

Before you make plans for hospice care you must first determine if, ethically, it is the right course of action. I realise how hopeful it sounds but it is not an option in every case, and cannot automatically be justified simply because you are not ready to say goodbye.

Here are a few scenarios where hospice may be an option:

  • When your dog is reaching the end stages of a terminal illness, there’s nothing more that can be done medically but he can still enjoy quality of life.
  • The cost of continuing treatment is so steep, the parents cannot justify it when no cure is expected.
  • The parents wish to stop painful treatments and focus instead on having their dog live out his life in the comfort of his home, surrounded by loved ones.
  • Some time is needed to say a proper goodbye.
  • The chance to avoid making an irreversible decision while standing in the vet’s office still in shock.
  • Perhaps you have a bucket list of things you’d like to do with your dog that you never got around to doing.
  • Would like the chance to take him to the beach one last time, for example.
  • Maybe you need more time together for closure.
  • Other family members may like to spend some time with the dog.   
  • The only option for anyone opposed to euthanasia.

What are the goals of hospice care?

In a nutshell, it is about keeping your dog pain free and comfortable until the time comes when he no longer has a good quality of life, and it’s time to say goodbye.

How long does hospice care last?

If you just needed a few extra days to prepare yourself, there’s your answer. Otherwise, depending on your dog’s condition it can be weeks or even months.

What are some of the benefits?

The benefits can go hand in hand with some of the scenarios I listed above in the section “when is hospice considered.”

In addition…

  • Caring for a dog at home removes the stress of transporting a sick dog back and forth.  
  • An even deeper bond than already exists may develop as a result of such a hands on approach to care. It may even be therapeutic.
  • Your dog can die comfortably at home in familiar surroundings.

This is very important

Hospice is not a substitute for euthanasia, but rather the chance for your dog to remain with you when there is no longer anything that can be done, keeping him comfortable until it is time to say goodbye.

Where does hospice care take place?

In your home.

Is it ethical?

I don’t ask this question in the greater philosophical sense, but rather specifically as it relates to your dog. Just because hospice care is available, it does not mean it is right in every situation.

When faced with the heart wrenching task of having to say goodbye, it can be difficult to separate our not wanting to experience that pain from doing what’s best for our pet.

It is wrong and yes, unethical, to prolong another living being’s suffering in order to delay our own.

Believe me I don’t mean this in any harsh way. I have said goodbye too many times, and as sick as I felt because I couldn’t do anything to save them, the only thing that mattered was they did not suffer. That belief is the only way I was ever able to let them go.

Is hospice care the right choice for you and your family?

The first step would be to have a talk with your vet about your dog’s condition, how far advanced his illness is, is he in pain and of course quality of life.

If your vet does not offer hospice care, you may want to have this same discussion with a veterinarian that does. Not every vet may see it as an option, so best to speak with someone experienced and more qualified to answer. Be is hospice care for dogs the right choicesure to have all your dog’s medical records transferred over before a meeting.

How to find hospice care

If your vet doesn’t offer it, ask if he knows who does. Otherwise an internet search in your area and The International Association For Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC) should help.

I recommend you do some reading about the various services on offer so you’re better informed before you meet the caregivers. Of course they’ll explain everything, I suggest this research because it’s something I would do.

Questions to ask and information to gather

I have compiled a list of questions you may want to ask during your appointment.   

  • How long have you/your practice been offering hospice care?
  • What is the severity of my dog’s illness?
  • Is it/will it be painful as it progresses?
  • Questions to ask about hospice care for dogsCan it be managed well with medication?
  • What kind of pain management is offered?
  • Do you provide alternative therapies such as supplements, remedies, acupuncture…
  • How can I be sure he won’t suffer?
  • Will my dog be doped up and out of it or still “himself?”
  • What kind of care and support can you offer my dog?
  • How flexible are you in terms of what you’re willing to do and what I should be doing?
  • How often will a vet or other team member visit to assess the dog?
  • What happens if I need help out of hours?
  • If you (the vet) is away, is there someone else experienced enough in hospice care to help?
  • How will I know when it’s time to let him go?
  • What kind of commitment is required of me/my family?
  • How long will my dog have before he can no longer be kept comfortable?
  • How much time do you think we have with him?
  • How long is each visit?
  • Will care be available 24/7?
  • Is euthanasia at home an option?
  • Do you offer grief support?

And of course the question most of us ask our trusted vets – what would you do?

Cost

It always comes down to money doesn’t it?

Fees will vary by practice and the services you require. Having a vet or other professional come to your home will always cost more than going to their office.

During your meeting be very clear about costs. They need to spell it out for you, and don’t assume anything. The last thing you want is to be hit with a shocking great bill. What are the costs for the various team members who can you afford the cost of holistic care for dogscome? Must it always be the most senior person or can a more junior, equally competent person perform the same task at a lower rate?

Do the charges vary depending on the time of day? Day of the week?

You may be able to do some of the things on your own, saving money to pay for what you can’t. For example, if your dog needs injections you could be taught how to do it, then use that money for something like acupuncture or another type of therapy that only a professional could perform.

Be honest with yourself about budget and how much you are willing/able to spend.

Who is on a hospice care team?

A veterinarian and trained staff who are experts in palliative care and pain control/management. Depending on the support you’re interested in receiving they could include professionals in massage therapy, acupuncture, homeopathic remedies, Reiki…    

What does hospice provide?

Everyone’s needs are different but help can include:

  • An in-depth explanation of your pet’s medical condition, including what to expect in the last weeks, days and hours
  • A detailed care plan
  • Training on how to provide home medical care – i.e. administer medications, injections, iv fluids
  • Training on recognising changes in behaviour (sleeping patterns and willingness/ability to eat), help in identifying pain levels and when to call for help
  • What kind of care does hospice provideOn call vets for emergencies
  • Personalised diet/supplements
  • In home care
  • Pain relief
  • Changing bandages
  • Taking temperature
  • Keeping your pet clean
  • Euthanasia (in home or at the practice) with an explanation of the process
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, Reiki…

Discuss with your vet how much you are able to do on your own, and what you prefer a team member to do.

What other services does hospice provide for pet parents?

In addition to the help and training I’ve listed above, hospice also offers:

Help in adjusting to the idea of losing a loved one

Extra time to make decisions without feeling rushed, standing in your vet’s office with a waiting room full of people

An opportunity to discuss, in advance, how and where you would like to say goodbye to your dog – what kind of environment you would like to create, who should be there, cremation or burial

Pet loss grief support and counselling

What will be expected of you?

Know in advance it’s a lot of work, and the participation of family members is a critical part of providing your dog with the best care possible. It requires a 100% commitment.

You will be your pet’s caregiver, but how much you do will depend on what you are comfortable doing.  

Even if you’re able to hire others to do most of the caregiving, you will still have to ensure your dog has someone around 24/7. He can take a turn for the worse very quickly so you need to be ready to take action in an emergency.

Other very important things you can offer your dog include:

  • Keeping his environment as stress free as possible
  • Ensuring he is warm enough
  • Surround him with his favourite things whether that’s a blanket, a toy…
  • Do some fun things your dog loves to do and will look forward to. That may even cheer him up
  • The company of his loved ones
  • If a dog has limited mobility there is a chance of bedsores so make sure he’s lying on a soft padded bed
  • Provide traction and avoid mishaps by covering slippery floors with carpeting
  • If he’s able to go for short walks, don’t keep him trapped in the house – a change of scenery and some fresh air may do him good. If he’s having trouble walking use a sling or a stroller. Speak to your vet first to make sure it’s okay
  • You must have an emergency plan in place should your dog take a sudden turn and immediate euthanasia is necessary

When is the right time to let my dog go?

Sometimes the answer is clear cut, other times it isn’t – much like the answer I’m giving you now.

You’ll be spending lots of quality time with your dog and you’ll come to see what his new “normal” is and what isn’t. He will have good days and bad days and you’ll need to know the difference to prevent any suffering. Your vet will help you figure that out. 

Natural death or euthanasia?

I know it’s tough to read this but it’s part of this whole process. Did you want your dog to pass naturally, or will you be making a decision on when to euthanise him?

It’s best to learn what they each entail in order to make a better informed decision.

Euthanasia

Euthanasia is a humane, painless and peaceful way for your pet to pass. Your vet will inject a sedative than a medication that will stop his heart. In all the times I’ve been with my pets they never experienced any pain and passed peacefully in seconds.

It can be performed in the office or your home. Many pet parents choose the home option as it is less stressful for their pet, and he can be surrounded by everything familiar and everyone he loves.

Natural death

For those who for, whatever reason, disagree with euthanasia or prefer to let nature take its course, a natural death is what they will opt for.

You must have a brutally frank conversation with your vet about what “natural death” means. Don’t expect your dog to gently close his eyes and leave this world. That’s what happens as a result of euthanasia not nature.

Allowing your dog to die naturally usually means a lingering and painful death. Yes it can be managed with drugs, but is this really what you want your dog to endure?  

You may be personally against euthanasia, but should your beliefs cause suffering to a living being that cannot speak for himself?

What to do if your dog dies at home

If your dog dies suddenly at home and you can’t get to your vet, you may have to keep your dog in your home until other arrangements can be made.  

The best thing to do is wrap him up and put him in a fridge or freezer. If that’s not an option, putting him on a cement floor, unwrapped, will keep him cool. A last resort would be putting him in the coldest part of the house packed with bags of ice. To prevent your dog from getting wet wrap him in plastic.

Sorry I know how gruesome this sounds, but it’s better to be as prepared as possible should the unexpected happen.

Cremation

Cremation is very common and you have the option of having your dog’s cremains returned to you by opting for a private cremation. Keep his ashes in a beautiful urn or scatter them in a favoured spot. The vet can make the arrangements for you.

Burial

I know many people who have buried their pets in the backyards but of course that would depend on local laws. An alternative would be burial in a pet cemetery, with a service as simple or elaborate as you want.

There is a small cemetery on the grounds of the shelter where I used to volunteer, and one day I saw a service that rivalled one for a human. How beautiful to see that human-animal bond.

Pet loss grief support

Time to take care of you. I know how emotionally exhausting this is so it’s important to grieve. Anything seems preferable to having to “go through the process” but it’s the only healthy way to deal with such a lossGrieve, cry, lay in bed but don’t let the grief consume you. Create a memorial, light a candle, share your stories and know you shared a beautiful and special bond.  

What is hospice care for dogs – conclusion

While it can be an option for terminally ill dogs, it is not for everyone. It also does not mean euthanasia won’t be necessary.

Whatever decision you ultimately make, I hope this post on what is hospice care for dogs, will help you make the right choice for the welfare of your dog.

 

Have you ever provided hospice care for your dog? What did that entail? Would you do it again? Share your experiences in the comment section below or my Facebook page

 

 

 

pet-memorial-headstone2

Pet Memorial Stones

pet memorial stones

Pet memorial stones are a beautiful way to pay tribute to the beloved companions we have lost.

I feel so helpless when it’s time to say goodbye. Everything I could have done was done, and I have to figure out how to adapt without my constant companion. Finding a way to honour the memory helps me cope. It’s the “taking action” that helps with the powerlessness I feel when I can’t save them.

One particular passing has still left me feeling raw, three years later. Immediately after it happened, I lit a virtual memorial candle, and I did feel a bit better. In tribute to another dog we lost I bought a memorial garden plaque, engraved with his name and a message. Again I found it helpful.

Memorial stones

Not only do I love the permanence of a memorial stone, I appreciate their versatility – for use outdoors as grave markers and paving stones, or indoors displayed on a shelf or mantle.

I feel most at peace when surrounded by nature, so a memorial stone in my garden is the perfect tribute.  

They make a wonderfully healing gift

When you think “gift” you probably don’t have a memorial stone on your list, maybe you should! We can feel so alone in our grief, knowing someone has honoured our beloved companion in such a way is a beautiful expression of friendship.

Let’s take a look at a few of the options you have to choose from

Dog Paw Print Devotion Garden Stone

evergreen enterprises pet memorial stones

With the look and colour of stone, this high quality resin memorial is 12” x ½” x 3” and has a lovely sentiment carved right in. Perfect for indoor and out, it holds up well to the elements. A nice added feature is the keyhole in the back, making it suitable for hanging.

Granite Memorial Marker 

granite pet memorial stones

This stunning granite marker comes laser engraved with your pet’s name, the dates you wish and wording of your choice. The engravers can even produce a life like photo. Measuring 6″ x 10″ x 3/8″ it will not fade or crack in extreme weather.

Red Stone Heart Shaped Memorial Stone 

heart shaped pet memorial stones

This heart shaped grave marker, hand cut and shaped from natural stone, comes personalized with your pet’s name deep engraved. Perfect for use as a headstone, grave marker, stepping stone or indoor display.

Paw Shape Pet Memorial Stone 

paw print pet memorial stones

This beautiful paw shaped memorial stone, measuring 8 ¼”H x 8.5”W x 1.5”D, comes etched with a poem and has a 2″ x 3″ photo frame. Suitable for indoor or outdoor use, the stone can stand up on its base for display.

Dog Angel Memorial Marker 

dog angel pet memorial stones

Such an eye catching piece, this stunning tribute to a lost angel comes with a touching message.  

Dog Collar Garden Stone

dog collar pet memorial stones

This garden stone is not a design you typically see. Sturdy enough to stand up to harsh winters, yet delicate enough to display in your home, the ability to personalise this, on your own, is a special feature. You can paint the collar and write your dog’s name on the tag, meaning you contributed to the creation of this memorial. How much more special does that make it?

Pet memorial stones – conclusion

This may not be a pleasant topic, but it’s a healing topic. Losing our four legged companion is horrific, there’s no two ways about that, but we still have to learn to cope, and adjust to life without them.

I believe creating memorials is therapeutic, and they have helped me as I looked for ways to pay tribute to beings who were important in my life.

We find the things that work for us, and pet memorial stones may be what give you comfort.   

 

Drop by my Facebook page and join a community of people who share their lives with senior dogs. Post your stories, photos, advice and questions.

If in the UK please click on the flag to shop bigger and bolder

zahara memorial urn necklace

Wearable Pet Urns

valyria-necklace-urn

Did you just say wearable pet urns?

You heard, or should I say read, correctly. I recently wrote about pet urns, and I know what a tough topic it is to think about. For those of us who like to keep our pets with us, we don’t have much choice I’m afraid.

Wearable pet urns

I wanted to highlight another way to keep your pet close and that’s with wearable pet urns – necklaces with space for a small amount of your pets’ ashes.

Have you heard of this before? Not sure what to think? It may take a bit of time to wrap your head around this concept, so keep reading and see how you feel.

From ashes to diamonds 

When I got back the cremains of my first cat I received a leaflet, offering me the chance to turn some of her ashes into a diamond. I was so stunned I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Not only did I have no idea it could be done, I was still grief stricken and thought it a bit cold. Anyway, after seeing that, a wearable pet urn didn’t surprise me. In fact, I can understand the appeal.

A lovely keepsake

When my cat Calypso died, I was beyond devastated. I couldn’t go to work for three days, I just stayed in bed and cried. The only thing that got me up was a trip we had booked, that I had to go on. When we got to our destination, everywhere I turned I saw the name Calypso, and it’s not a common name or word is it?

Because I didn’t know what to do with my grief, I thought I would engrave her name on a heart charm I had found. The mere thought of it was a comfort, and surprisingly (or not!) wearing it made me feel better, and I continued to wear it for quite some time. That’s why I can see how keeping a small amount of ashes with you can bring you comfort, and if it helps then by all means.

Enough talk, it’s time for show

 

With Me Always Urn Necklace 

wearable pet urns

Blue is one of my favourite colours, no wonder I was instantly attracted. This stunning blue etched rhinestone necklace will not only allow you to keep your pet close to you, it’s a beautiful piece of jewellery.

The screw top is secure, so you’ll have peace of mind while wearing it, and it comes with a 20” chain, funnel, pick and velvet bag. This piece measures 1 ¼” tall with screw top bail, 7/8” wide and ¼” deep.

Zahara 4 Paw Heart Pendant and Chain Urn 

Zahara pet memorial urn necklace

I’m a silver jewellery kind of girl, and with the nasty habit of turning jewellery green (something in my blood I guess), the fact that it’s 100% nickel-free stainless steel is perfect. The beautiful heart shaped pendant with paw prints is sweet and dainty. Complete with a 20” rolo chain, funnel, toothpick, full instructions, a velvet bag and condolence card, it makes a wonderful and heartfelt gift.

Minimalist Bar Urn Pendant 

minimalist bar urn pendant

This stunning and elegant urn is made entirely of stainless steel, so it will not fade, tarnish, rust or stain. A rhinestone is a beautiful added touch to this necklace that will match anything in your wardrobe.

The bar pendant is 1.75″ long, the chain 18″ and the CZ diameter is 3mm. It arrives gift wrapped in a beautiful navy velvet box.  

My Fur Angel Stainless Steel Urn Necklace

charmed craft pet paws necklace urn

This gorgeous 20” stainless steel memorial urn necklace really speaks for itself. Paw prints and a heartfelt sentiment complete the look.  

Pet Memorial Jewelry Paw Print Urn Pendant 

pet memorial jewelry urn

This stainless steel pendant and chain (available in 6 different styles by the way), is perfect for keeping a loved one close. The secure screw on top means the contents are safe, and should you choose to permanently close it, a drop of glue is all you need. Leave as is, or engrave the name or initials of your pet for an even more personal keepsake.

Zahara Aquamarine Angel Heart Memorial Urn Necklace 

zahara memorial urn necklace

This stunning Aquamarine urn pendant and chain, are 100% nickel-free stainless steel. Included are a 20” rolo chain, funnel, toothpick, instructions, velvet bag and condolence card. It’s engravable which is a nice added touch.

Celtic Tree of Life Urn Necklace 

celtric tree of life memorial urn necklace

A beautiful piece of memorial jewellery, combined with the symbolism of the tree of life. The versatility of the design means it will look great with any ensemble, you never have to take it off! Made of stainless steel, it comes with a 20” snake chain and funnel fill kit. Just unscrew the top, fill it, and screw it back on and your ashes are safe. Seal permanently with a drop of glue.

Wearable pet urns – conclusion

You may have been a bit stunned when you first landed here, but now that you’ve reached this point, what do you think?

After the loss of a pet, we each find our own way of coping. If wearable pet urns sounds like something that will give you comfort, then isn’t it worth a try?  

 

pet urns

Pet Urns

pet urns

I know any conversation relating to the loss of a pet is a tough one to have, and talking about pet urns doesn’t make it any easier.

I will never forget the first time I had to say goodbye to a pet. Her name was Calypso, and she was 3 weeks old when I found her in a pile of garbage on my way home from work. I had her until her kidneys failed at the age of 17.

When the vet came in after taking tests, and told me there was nothing to be done, I went hysterical. Seeing that piece of paper you have to sign, giving them permission to end your beloved pet’s life is almost unbearable.

I was overwhelmed when asked what I wanted to do (cremation, did I want the ashes back…), my head was spinning. I had never been faced with anything like this and I was totally unprepared.

Of course I knew I would want her back with me, and then I was given a sheet with pictures of urns. I had no clue what I was looking at, how much anything costs (it’s surreal talking money), or what to choose. I pointed to something and that was that.

It turned out to be a lovely cherry wood coloured wicker box, and it was nice enough to sit on my bedroom dresser.

How to choose

When I looked around at what was available (years later when I wasn’t in the depths of despair), I couldn’t get over how many styles and design options there were. How in the world do you choose?

Will you keep them with you?

If you’re having your pet cremated with the intention of burying or scattering ashes, there doesn’t seem to be much point in spending a lot of money. It’s up to you, obviously, but I wouldn’t.

There is something called a “scatter canister” (I don’t know if that’s the universal term for it) which are round tube shaped sturdy containers that you can use to scatter the ashes when you’re ready, or keep them forever. The ones I have are of a forest scene and they are quite nice.

I used to keep them on the bottom shelf of my tv stand, so they weren’t “in your face” or obvious to visitors what they were, but I could always see them so I felt like they were included.

Pride of place

If you’ll be holding on to the ashes, and you want them displayed in a prominent place, I’m guessing you’ll want the container to blend in with the room it will be kept in. Our tastes differ, but there is bound to be an urn you’ll love, that will look good wherever you’re intending to keep it.

Dogs and cats

I will obviously be highlighting urns for dogs, but all (except for one I believe) are also suited for cats. I will, however, feature a couple of cat-specific urns.

Pet urns

The Living Urn Planting System

living urn planting system for pets cremains

I find this fascinating, and certainly the first time I’ve ever seen or heard of such a thing.

It is a biodegradable urn and planting system, that transforms the cremated remains of your beloved pet into a beautiful enduring tree, plant or flowers.

You get the biodegradable urn and planting system, then you go to your local garden centre and choose the tree seedling, plant or flowers you’d like. Simply follow the instructions, and then watch the beautiful living memory grow from your pet’s cremated remains. Lovely!

AngelStar Pet Urn for Dogs

AngelStar pet urn for dogs

I think this cream coloured urn is gorgeous, with the touching words on the front, and paw prints on the top. It measures 5” high, with a 2”x3” area for a photograph of your pet. It has a very versatile design, and would fit in to most decors.  

Pet Memorial Box Urn 

pet memorial box urn

I love this because it’s more than just an urn. You can display a photograph of your pet, and also make a paw impression that can be added to the outside of the memorial box, next to the picture.  Everything you need to make the clay print is included, as well as a lovely poem and teal coloured paw print necklace. Your pet’s collar or ID tag can be added as a keepsake.

Engraved Series Pet Urn 

engraved pet urns

When I saw this I couldn’t help but think I Dream of Jeannie and Arabia, and personally I think it’s stunning. Beautifully etched and constructed of solid brass, it’s perfect for dogs, cats and other pets. Available in 5 colours and 3 sizes to accommodate pets up to 70lbs. 

Near & Dear Pet Memorials Box Pet Urn

memorial box pet urn

If you’re looking for something simple yet stunning, with a purpose that isn’t “obvious,” then have a closer look at this memorial box. Available in cherry or natural, it is made of medium density fibre board, and has a bottom sliding panel. It is perfect for pets to 15lbs.

Odyssey Series Pet Cremation Urns

odyssey series pet cremation urns

This beautiful brass urn is solid and heavy, with a lid that screws on easily. The pad at the bottom is a nice touch, protecting any surface from scratches. The edge of the lid can be engraved, as a tribute to your beloved companion. What I like about this is how unobtrusive it is sitting on a shelf. Nothing “in your face” about it. Suitable for pets up to 70lbs, it comes in 3 sizes and 5 different colours.

Photo Pet Memorial Urn

photo pet memorial box urn

If you love the look of wood, then this is for you. Simple but beautiful, it is available in oak or walnut, and horizontal or vertical styles. Being able to display a photo is important to many, which is another wonderful feature of this urn. The acrylic window slides out of the bottom so it’s easy to add a favourite photograph. I like the fact that it isn’t obvious that it’s an urn. Available in sizes medium and large, they can hold pets up to 120lbs.

Granite Garden Rock Urn

granite garden rock urn

Urns don’t only have to go inside the home do they? This granite garden rock, made of stone particles mixed with poly-resin, will protect your pet’s ashes while outside. If you spend more time outdoors than in, how beautiful to sit outside in the garden, and know your beloved pet is with you. It has an attached name plaque, with 2 lines of engraving and 20 characters per line included in the price. This urn holds pets up to 100lbs.

Onyx Pet Urn 

onyx pet urn

This onyx pet urn is stunning! Handcrafted, each urn blends natural banded Onyx shades of green, brown, honey and burgundy tones. These gemstone Onyx pet urns are richly polished, with the lid expertly handcrafted to allow the option to seal.

Perfect for cats, small dogs and other pets up to 14lbs, although other sizes by this manufacturer are offered. This rectangular urn is 5″L x 4″W x 2″H

Cat in Basket Pet Cremation Urn

cat in basket urn

While all (except one) of the above highlighted urns are suitable for cats, you may prefer something cat specific. I would. This hand painted cat in a basket in is crafted from cold cast resin, and I think there’s something very peaceful about this design. The urn opens by a bottom panel covered in felt to protect the surface of your furniture.

Hand-Engraved Egyptian Brass Cat Urn 

urn for cats

I love the Egyptian feel of this 100% brass, hand engraved and painted cat urn. It closes securely with a threaded lid and has a felt-lined base to protect surfaces from scratches. Appropriate for a cat weighing up to 25lbs.

Pet urns – conclusion

This really is a depressing topic, I know, but when we invite a pet into our home, we know this is part of the deal. Sad, but true nevertheless. I like to have my pets’ ashes with me, it makes me feel like they’re still part of the family.

Whether you choose to display your pets’ ashes in a prominent place or not, with the selection of pet urns available, I’m sure you’ll find something that will honour the memory of your pet and keep him or her resting comfortably.