The loss of a pet
How does one grieve the loss of a pet? Is it even socially acceptable, after all they are only animals, right?
Not only is it natural to grieve the passing of a pet, it is not something one should feel embarrassed or ashamed about. After all, you have formed a bond with another living creature, cared for it, and grown in many instances to love it. Therefore when a pet passes, whether suddenly or expected, the loss can be overwhelming.
This has been the recent experience of Tamita Griffith, when her beloved Rottweiler Cross Max passed aged 13 after experiencing heart problems.
Tamita had been told by her Veterinarian a few years prior to his passing, that Max would only live for a few months due to his condition.
However, Max surprised the vet, and a delighted Tamita and her family, when two years after that prognosis, he was still alive and doing well.
He was on medication and Tamita made sure Max had regular visits to the vet to ensure he was not suffering.
On the day of his passing, Tamita’s mom noticed that he had become lethargic and his back legs seemed weaker than usual. She also recognised that his breathing was also laboured.
Max passed away peacefully in his favourite spot in the family’s backyard at their home in St Lucy.
The Griffiths included Max in many family activities, including their annual kite flying at Easter. He was also a part of Tamita’s conversations, so many of her friends were quite familiar with her “baby”.
Each year Max had a big birthday celebration, themed party and all.
Tamita recalls that on his 11th birthday in 2012, he had a water themed party with swimming pool and other pool items like balls and swim rings. At Christmas time, Max even had his own Christmas tree.
As a tribute to Max, Tamita and her mother are planting a special plant in his favourite spot in the backyard. They also had a plaque done to keep the Max’s memory alive in their hearts.
Tamita also created a video with the song You Decorated My Life by Kenny Rogers, and a photo album which she shared on Facebook. She also created a special place in her home with all of Max’s special toys and other belongings.
“This keeps him close to me”, she said.
She said while she misses her Max every day, she was happy she had 13 long years with him, and cherished those memories.
Carol Martindale also lost her dog Durban, an American Cocker Spaniel last year June. While it is true that “time heals” Carol still remembers Durban almost daily.
Durban died at 12 years old after battling a heart condition.
“This experience was new to me but it was my friend and groomer Lisa Bryan who helped me through the grieving process as well as the vets and staff at Central Veterinary Clinic. “Lisa told me Durban was family and therefore suggested that I ‘keep him close’.
She told me to choose a spot in my back garden which I did. I picked out a cosy shaded corner with flowers overhanging, and I put a lovely water lily stone and mummy set up a nice little white picket fence and another friend gave me a beautiful tall standing solar light that changes colour. That’s Durban’s corner and to this day, mummy still puts orchids to remember Durban”.
Veterinarian Dr Laura Hutchinson has first-hand experience of the grief people feel when a family pet passes.
Hutchinson says whether a person had a pet for two weeks or ten years makes no difference to the grief they may experience.
If an animal is terminally ill, she said she would usually suggest euthanasia. She said she has found this gives the owner peace of mind that their pet is no longer suffering.
Here are just some of the loving ways people remember their pets after they have passed.
• Express their feelings to family and friends.
• Plant a special flower or plant.
• Create a memorial.
• Make a video.
• Write down how you are feeling.
•Anything special that helps you with the loss.
The Humane Society of the United States explains that children may be greatly affected as they have little or no experience of death. They state that “The loss of a pet may be a child’s first experience with death. The child may blame himself, his parents, or the veterinarian for not saving the pet. And he may feel guilty, depressed, and frightened that others he loves may be taken from him.” You can help your child express their grief, by reassuring them it is alright to feel sad, and sharing your own sadness with them.
The elderly and those living alone will also benefit from a kind word and support at this time.