It takes me all of June to calm down to the rhythm of summer. Then by the end of July, I’m in it. I’ve embodied summer. I love that feeling of sun on my skin, sundresses, sandals, and balmy summer nights. I feel good in my skin, like everything is right with the world.
Then something happens and everything changes.
Vito and I at a sponsored walk, where I fell into a deep puddle and got soaked!
My dearest pet Vito, who shared the last 15 years with me, had been unwell for a while, but during the past week was getting weaker, vomiting and wetting in the house, which is something he had never done. He didn’t want his breakfast on Thursday and his body was shaky, so my gut instinct was to take him to the vet. When she weighed him we discovered he had lost 2 kilos since his last appointment 5 weeks ago when he needed his yearly inoculation. The vet said he was dehydrated so she put him on a drip and took some blood tests.
At 4pm she rang to say that he was very ill with blood in his urine and scans showed what looked like white gravel in his intestines which could be calcified cancer.
She offered to run further investigations, but as he was 15 years and 4 months and critically ill, it was time to assess his quality of life and make a decision that us pet lovers avoid. I looked into his eyes and just knew that it was time. He had given us unconditional love and protection during the last 15 years and with love we made the decision to end his pain.
Euthanasia for a beloved pet is highly personal decision and usually comes after a diagnosis of a terminal illness and with the knowledge that the animal is suffering badly.
I had to consider the pain and suffering which outweigh any pleasure and enjoyment in life and that Vito was facing certain death from the illness.
We knew that ending the suffering was in our Vito’s best interest.
My daughter Jade, who Vito had been bought for on her 15th birthday, came to the Vet straight from work and gave him a cuddle. My eldest son Josh, who had named him Vito don Coleone, after the famous Godfather, called in on Facetime.
Vito was certainly the Godfather in our family, ruling the roost, and barking at me to give him his meals and take him out for walks. He yapped endlessly in the car and even when I got a dog trainer to stop this constant yapping, he was fine while the trainer was in the car, but when he left, Vito continued to yap!
I think he felt that I was his and he wanted my attention all the time. When friends chatted to me, he’d bark in my face, as if to say “What about me?”. He was a true character and just like a cat had 9 lives.
He had many “near misses” when he ran into the road and most recently ran out of my Mum’s garden last November and went out onto the main road, only to be rescued by a kind stranger and taken to the local vet hospital. My daughter and best friend discovered him a day later. I was travelling in India and sobbed with reflief that he had been found safe and well. We had him for another 8 months until now and I am feeling so grateful, yet devastated.
Me with our new addition Angel and Vito
For those of you that share an intense love and bond with our animal companions, you’ll understand why I feel devastated by feelings of grief and sadness that Vito has now crossed the Rainbow Bridge. The pain of loss is overwhelming and triggers all sorts of painful and difficult emotions.
For many of us, a pet is not “just a dog” or “just a cat,” but rather a beloved member of our family, bringing companionship, fun, and joy to our lives. A pet adds structure to our day, keeps us active and social, helps us to overcome setbacks and challenges in life, especially for me when my marriage ended, my 3 children left home and I had to move house! So, I know that it’s normal to feel a painful sense of grief and loss.
Grief comes in stages, where we experience different feelings such as denial, anger, guilt, depression, and eventually acceptance and resolution. Some people find that their grief is more cyclical, coming in waves, or a series of highs and lows. The lows are likely to be deeper and longer at the beginning and then gradually become shorter and less intense as time goes by. Still, even years after a loss, a sight, a sound, or a special anniversary can spark memories that trigger a strong sense of grief.
So if you’ve lost a pet too…..
Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either. Your grief is your own, and no one else can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.” Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgement. It’s okay to be angry, to cry or not to cry. It’s also okay to laugh, to find moments of joy, and to let go when you’re ready.
Reach out to others who have lost pets. If your own friends and family members are not sympathetic about pet loss, find someone who is. Often, another person who has also experienced the loss of a beloved pet may better understand what you’re going through.
Rituals can help healing. A funeral can help you and your family members openly express your feelings. Ignore people who think it’s inappropriate to hold a funeral for a pet, and do what feels right for you.
Create a legacy. Preparing a memorial, planting a tree in memory of your pet, compiling a photo album or scrapbook, or otherwise sharing the memories you enjoyed with your pet, can create a legacy to celebrate the life of your animal companion. Remembering the fun and love you shared with your pet can help you to eventually move on.
Look after yourself. The stress of losing a pet can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Looking after your physical and emotional needs will help you get through this difficult time. Spend time face to face with people who care about you, eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly to release endorphins and help boost your mood.
If you have other pets, try to maintain your normal routine. Surviving pets can also experience loss when a pet dies, or they may become distressed by your sorrow. Maintaining their daily routines, or even increasing exercise and play times, will not only benefit the surviving pets but can also help to elevate your mood and outlook, too.
Some parents feel they should try to shield their children from the sadness of losing a pet by either not talking about the pet’s death, or by not being honest about what’s happened. Pretending the animal ran away, or “went to sleep,” for example, can leave a child feeling even more confused, frightened, and betrayed when they finally learn the truth. I believe that it’s far better to be honest with children and allow them the opportunity to grieve in their own way.
Also, I feel it is important to let a child see us express our grief at the loss of the pet. And respect their grief and let them express their feelings openly, without making them feel ashamed or guilty. Children should feel proud that they have so much compassion and care deeply about their animal companions.
This quote says it all…..