Losing a pet is one of the most difficult times you’ll ever go through. It’s like losing a member of the family. I lost my dog when I was young and still miss her. I’ve mentioned Brody, my cousin’s beagle, from time to time on this blog and his fear of fireworks and adorable personality.
Sadly, Brody’s kidneys started to fail him and he had to be put to sleep recently. It’s a decision that has affected my entire family. Everyone loves Brody. His owner, my cousin Jen, wanted to share a list of things all pet owners should think about before it’s too late.
Checklist For Pet Owners Before It’s Too Late
by Jennifer Walsh
My recommendation is to think about these things now, while your pet is healthy and you are not overly emotional, as I was. Maybe it’s a good idea to write them down and keep them in a safe place so that when the time comes & you need this list you have all your decisions in writing. I am sure that this will not make these decisions any easier or that you will not change your mind, but maybe you will feel better prepared. When my dog passed, it was a very difficult time. I found myself looking for distractions everywhere and ended up getting a pit border collie mix to keep me company. Getting her really saved me a lot of sadness. I know not all dog owners want to get a new dog straight away but for me, it really helped. A pit and collie mix require a lot of exercise so I was constantly going on walks and it really did take my mind off the situation. Everyone’s situation is different and you have to do what feels right for you, there are no right or wrong decisions.
Think about how you may want to proceed should your vet bring up the topic of euthanasia. For us, we felt that the decision should be left up to the vet, who we trust only wanted the best for Brody and was making a level-headed decision. We didn’t want to let Brody go, but we also didn’t want him to suffer for our selfish reasons.
If you do think you would move forward with euthanizing your pet, think about whether you would want this done in the vet’s office or at home. I had initially thought that I would want it to be done at home, where Brody was most comfortable, but it turned out that our vet did not offer this option. It had never occurred to me sooner to ask. Looking back now, I am happy that they wouldn’t do it at home.
Think about what you will do with the remains. Just before Brody was laid to rest, the nurse asked us what we would like to do with the remains. Brody could either be cremated with a group of other dogs or he could be cremated alone. With the group cremation, you do not get the ashes. When cremated alone you do get the ashes, but it costs double the money.
Once your pet is gone, before you leave the hospital, request any of his or her personal items. We did not think of this which led to a phone call from the vet later that night asking if we wanted his collar, leash and one of his blankets we brought to the hospital to comfort him while he was there. I told them that we did not want them, since I couldn’t imagine going back to pick them up. I am not sure that I made the right decision. I chose what was easiest for that moment, but I find myself wondering if we should have gone back to get these items to keep.
Try to prepare yourself for other’s reactions. So often when you lose a loved one someone will say to you, “are you okay?” For many who are grieving, the initial reaction to this question may be, “what the hell do you think?” However, having made this mistake myself in the past, I know that people are only asking this because they want to let you know that they care, but they don’t know what else to day. Some may also ask, “what happened?” which may seem insensitive. However, I again believe that people sometimes say this because either they don’t know what else to say or that they just do not realize how painful this question can be for someone who has just lost a pet.
Be prepared for the guilt you will feel. It is the guilt I feel that is driving me to share our story and to write this list. Also, I am finding out that there is not only guilt over the thought that you may have been able to prevent or delay your pet’s passing, but there is also guilt when you are starting to heal.
As I go through my day and laugh at something funny, I feel guilt for that few minutes that I am not still grieving Brody’s passing. As I type these words and feel comfort that maybe I can help others by writing this, I feel guilt that this is coming from Brody’s passing. I feel guilty for moving on, even though I know that I have to. Right now it seems like there is endless guilt. I think in some sense it will be endless, but I hope someday I will be able to remember Brody with less pain and more happiness for the wonderful companion that he was.
Try to remember what your pet taught you. Brody taught me so much in his twelve years. Among so many other life lessons, he taught me patience, how to be forgiving and most importantly, he taught me unconditional love. For me, the thought that Brody has made me a better person is helping me to heal.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope that this list will help others. I know there is nothing I can say that will take the pain away, but if this list helps even the tiniest bit, or even if someone who already lost a pet reads it and it puts their mind at ease, then I will consider it a success.