Pet Bereavement hits as hard as the loss of a loved one. This is how I coped with the loss of my Border Terrier and the lasting keepsake I had made. I have been married for 30 years and for 29 of those years I have owned dogs. Firstly a lovable Westie, Paddy, who lived until he was 15. And until a month ago a beautiful Border Terrier called Murphy who died aged 14.
On both occasions we had to make the agonising decision to ‘put them to sleep’ or euthanasia. With Paddy, we had to make the decision in an emergency and the end of his life was fraught, a crisis. I remember just standing sobbing, I never held him in his final moments. Following his death and whilst preparing for my next puppy I read a chapter on Pet Bereavement in a breed book which said that when it came to the final goodbye, it was better a day too soon than a day too late. Those words have always stuck with me.
Murphy was a ‘people’dog – this term was described to me by one of the Vets we saw through his lifetime. He developed digestive problems around the age of one and used to have attacks of severe abdominal pain and then blood in his stools. This was finally diagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), after a history was taken about his habits and personality. Where, Paddy would happily play and roam around the garden on his own for hours, Murphy just wanted to be with me or my husband and attacks were brought on by separation anxiety or by some stressful occurrence. He was scared of cats! and one attack followed a cat hissing and scratching him when out walking. He could be a real drama queen! He always had to eat a prescription diet and occasional steroid treatment. I never though for a while that he would live to an old age, but he did! Once myself and my husband were at home a lot more due to changes in jobs, this settled down. The relationship between you and your dog is priceless. Sue has written a piece about how dogs communicate with us which is a really good read.
However,in the past 12 months he started to decline gradually with lack of mobility and change of habits -he began to slowly lose his spark. I took him for regular Veterinary check up’s and I chose to take him to the same vet in the practice, a wonderful caring lady called Lynne. In June when it seemed clear to me that time really was catching up with him, we had a chat and came to a mutual agreement that once he was not able to manage the stairs and was living mostly in one room of the house e.g. he had no quality in his life we would say goodbye. Murphy always followed us everywhere and slept with us,if he couldn’t do any of these things he was just existing.
Finally at the end of September we knew the time had come – he was looking unhappy and his bones and joints looked to be really troubling him.
Leading up to this I knew I wanted a keepsake to remember him by. I didn’t have anything like that from Paddy, I wasn’t an internet user when he passed over so had no awareness of what was available, if anything in 2001. I searched for Pet Bereavement keepsakes as well as consider his sensitive disposal. Paddy was buried in our garden by my husband, as I have said earlier, somewhere he loved. This time around this was not going to be an option, aside from the fact he didn’t like to be alone outside, we are in the process of selling our home and moving.
The particular company I used does not appear to still be trading but this one is very similar and provides the same service. I had a silver charm made of Murphy’s paw print which I now have attached by a jump ring to a Links of London bracelet. You are sent a kit which comprises of a special cloth and paper, with which you take a paw print. Once you return it a rubber stamp is made that then stamps into the charm. I had this made in advance once I knew he was ailing as I didn’t want to have to do this in a crisis.
My finished charm is beautiful – the print looks so like Murphy’s paw -I know those pads anywhere! I received the original stamp back in case I should lose the charm and need to have a new one made. Now that he has gone, I am so glad I had this done. I treasure it.
Rossendale Pet Crematorium
As Murphy’s condition was declining I planned what I would do with his body. I rang the Crematorium office and discussed options. Again, I received great understanding and advice, when my voice was cracking with emotion, they were very empathetic. My husband and myself decided we would have him cremated and have his ashes to return to us to take to our new home. I was informed that collection days at our vets were early on a Tuesday and a Friday morning. This then meant if I was planning the end of his life I wanted it to be on a Monday or a Thursday afternoon, so that he would not be lying alone in the Vets for too long.
When the fateful day came, it was on a Monday, in fact our 30th Wedding Anniversary! Not the way we planned to spend the day, but on that day it was all about his needs not ours. I won’t go in to too much detail, apart from the fact that this time I hugged and kissed him till the end, as it’s still very painful to us. I still shed a tear every day. However, the service from my Veterinary practice, particularly Lynne and Rossendale Pet Crematorium was excellent. His ashes were delivered back to the surgery on Friday and I brought his remains back home. Inside the box was a printed copy of a beautiful and apt poem that is displayed on their website.
If it should be
If it should be I grow frail and weak,
And pain should wake me from my sleep,
Then you must do what must be done,
For this last battle can’t be won.
You will be sad, I understand,
Don’t let your grief then stay your hand,
For this day more than all the rest
Your love and friendship stand the test.
We’ve had so many happy years,
What is to come will hold no fears,
You’ll not want me to suffer, so,
When the time comes, please let me go,
I know in time you too will see,
It is kindness you do to me,
Although my tail it’s last has waved,
From pain and suffering I’ve been saved,
Do not grieve that it should be you,
Who has to decide this thing to do,
We’ve been so close, we two, these years,
Don’t let your heart hold any tears.
Anyone who has been through the loss of a much loved pet knows how raw and painful this is. It’s losing a member of the family, in fact I lost my best, most loyal friend.
Also if you wish to contact me about anything in this post or share memories of your beloved pet I would love to hear from you