How would you celebrate the life of your pet?
It might sound like a strange question, but it’s one Michael O’Donaghue, founder of grief support group Pets and People, is clear on when he talks about the grieving process for losing a pet.
In many cases, he says, we start to turn a corner in our grief when we can look at celebrating the life of our pet, rather than mourning their loss.
We’d like to thank our ARH clients and team members who have shared their personal stories of how they celebrated the life of their pet.
Joe and Danielle Cook, and Mia, oncology patients of Dr Liz’s
Mia’s passing broke our hearts. To us, Mia was a one in a million dog. Whatever you needed Mia to be, she became. If you wanted a dog to cuddle she would cuddle, if you wanted a dog to go for a run, she would, for a little bit anyway.
Mia was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive version of lymphoma. During her treatment we saw Mia’s true spirit and while we didn’t know it at the time, it became the inspiration for us to endure the emptiness we felt after her passing. Mia never protested her treatments and every time she saw her vet and vet nurses she would put on her best little wobble.
On Mia’s last day her rear legs suffered paralysis but despite this, when we arrived to see her, her eyes lit up and her tail still wagged. We draw on Mia’s strength in her passing to endure the pain her passing has caused. After we lost Mia we had her cremated and placed our favourite photos on a wall at home that we walk past every day and in doing so we still feel she is with us.
We experienced random and unpredictable fits of crying after Mia’s passing which was to be expected but we felt to remain sad would be to dishonour her memory. Time does heal the wounds of losing a loved one, life does return to normal, that doesn’t mean we forget Mia rather we draw on her strength and are inspired by her courage.
Lisa Love and Molly, surgery patient of Dr Lance’s
Our Molly was the most beautiful pup, like she just stepped out of a catalogue. A cavalier cross Maltese with the most beautiful dark lined eyes. She was a quiet timid pup, but played fiercely, and loved deeply. We moved house three times, we holidayed, we had a baby, we all grew together.
We farewelled our Molly after a year or so of degrading health and a tumour on the back of her brain pressing on her spine. It was tough watching her get worse, but still so very hard to make that call to the vet. We were so fortunate that the vet came to our house for the goodbye – so many tears. We chose a service that placed her ashes in a timber box, and she now lives in pride of place in the centre of our lounge on a picture rail above the TV. But where she really lives is in our hearts and our memories. A series of fridge magnet photos keep her best of times and her last joys alive in our hearts. We will miss her always.
Cindy Hung, ARH emergency veterinarian
The loss of a pet is one of the toughest experiences. I see myself as one of the luckier people who had some time to prepare for it. Tally was diagnosed with cancer soon after I adopted her. Knowing that the end was not far down the road, I decided to focus on making her lasting moments a positive experience for both of us.
Tally had a special last day in the sun eating soft serve ice cream and was spoiled until she took her last breath in my arms. After her passing, the feelings of grief and sadness I felt were immense and overwhelming. I learned to understand and accept the emotions and started to find things to help with my healing process.
Taking the time to go though and organise the memories she left behind and also making some keepsake items to help me treasure and celebrate her life helped. I went through thousands of photos and put all of Tally’s special moments on a special USB. I also have a diamond necklace that was made from a small tuft of her fur.
Tally was a very special cat and she really helped me grow as a person and also as a vet. I wanted to ensure the influence she had on me continued, so I made the decision that I have always been too scared to make: to continue further studies and travel abroad.
Peter Healy and Pippin, surgery patient of Dr Lance’s
Pippin passed this year at the age of 15 and after a long and full life. I found making a photo book was very cathartic and by doing specific examples for family and friends this broadened their engagement. Scrap-booking is also very helpful and allows you to include some physical momentos. Also having a special picture framed. All these processes help to move your focus from the last days to an appreciation of your life with your pet.
Fiona Salmon, ARH Facebook member
I lost my dachshund at only 3 years of age and went into a kind of shock. I couldn’t leave the house for two weeks – I just couldn’t deal with pretending I was ok in front of people.
I did a few things to celebrate his memory. I got him cremated, planted a plant in his memory, stuck a little memorial plaque on a stone in his favourite park and I also got his footprint tattooed on my foot, as he was always standing on my feet following me around. I also got a necklace with his name and the verse “if my love could of saved you, you would have loved forever”.
Kirsten Wilson, wife to Dr Lance and Mum to Fatty and Jitters
We had our Guinea Pigs, Fatty and Jitters, in our life for only a short time but they made a big impact, especially on our five year old daughter. When they passed, Abby’s wave of emotions was very unexpected and took me a little by surprise. I remember feeling rather unprepared to help her through this crisis but went with my instincts which were to let her talk and cry as much as she wanted to.
Months later we are still talking about death, why people and animals die, where they go, when we are going to die. It’s exhausting as a parent but I think for her, and our wide eyed three year old, Charlie, it’s been helpful to speak as much as they want and to have their questions answered – as best one can! I have recently started trying to direct the talk to the lovely memories we have of Fatty and Jitters which seems to help with the tears.