Walking the dog at the beach

IT’S the day every pet owner dreads. The one where we have to say a permanent goodbye to a four-legged family member.

For some, that day will come unexpectedly, perhaps as the result of an accident. For others, the years, months, weeks and days will count down way too fast as D-Day approaches. There is never enough time before the physical realities of disease or old age take hold.

It’s hard to let a much-loved pet go. To make that vet appointment. To bring to an end the life of one we love so dearly. Keeping our focus on what is best for the animal can help. Not on how we feel.

I had to say goodbye to a horse in January of this year, and a dog the following month.

Making the decision to end their lives was gutting, but necessary. Their deaths were very quick. The vets who administered the injections were professional and compassionate, and

I’m grateful to them for making a difficult situation as easy as it could possibly have been.
Being with your pet as they take their last breath is difficult, but it makes it easier for them. Knowing that you did your very best for your pet right to the end will hopefully be a comfort to you afterwards.

When we lose a pet, we lose a source of comfort and unconditional love. That’s why it hurts so much and why we need to grieve. A life-enhancing relationship has come to an end, and it is a life-changing event.

Everyone grieves differently, and for different lengths of time. For some people, mourning a pet is just as intense and upsetting as losing a human family member, and research confirms this.

No one should ever say, “get over it, it was just a dog, or cat, or horse.” Judgement is not helpful. Mourning the loss of a pet is not an over-reaction. It’s okay to have a broken heart.

In time it will mend and you will feel so much better. In the meantime, be kind to yourself and do what you need to do to grieve in a healthy way.

If a bereavement situation was reversed, and a human owner passed away while their pet remained living, I think most people would want their animal to get over the shock as quickly as possible, regain their zest for life and love again.

I think it’s what our pets would want for us too.

By Carey Conn