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Saying Goodbye to a Pet - My Journey

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On March 4th, 2016, we had to say goodbye to our best friend and family member, Sasha.  She was a cross breed of Perinese/husky, which made her a winter lover, and for Ontario, Canada, is a good thing.

As with all pets, we get used to them in our family and quite often forget that they age much faster than we do.  Her breed had an estimated life span of 10 years, but she managed to get to 12.5 years quite happy and healthy.  In the last year we used senior dog aids to help with some activities which I feel enhanced her life and gave her those extra few years with us.

saying goodbye to a pet

But just how do you say goodbye?  How do you know when it is time?  You don’t want them to suffer, but at the same time, you want to be able to say goodbye.  Not all pets just simply die in their sleep, which would be the most peaceful.  Many become very ill or have accidents and the decision has to be made quickly to reduce suffering.  But how old is old before it is time to go? 

I always wondered if I would know when the right time was, and you do.  That particular day, she did not rouse to her normal routines.  She had got slower so we allowed extra time for her normal morning routines.  But one thing that had suddenly changed was her tail.  Sasha was always a tail wagger and her eyes shone.  But that day her eyes were very dull, confused and her tail stopped wagging and simply dragged.

In that moment, I knew.  I just knew it was time.  She wanted to spend her day sleeping outside in the snow, which bothered my hubby who went out and put a blanket on her.  She is a winter dog, and perhaps felt more comfy out there.  We made an appointment to see the Veterinarian and called our adult children.  Later that day we gently took her in, we had hoped during the afternoon she might suddenly rebound, but it was not to be.  My son carried her in as she was not walking well and at 65 pounds it was too difficult for us to lift her.  Normally she would do everything she could to get out of that office, she despised going to the Veterinarian, but today she didn’t care and put one paw on me. 

After an examination, the Doctor felt she had had a mild stroke and we could do lots of tests or we could say goodbye as there were likely more strokes to come at her age.

We all held her and she slipped away peacefully.  It was one of the hardest things we had to do as a family.  

Celebrate Their Life

As a family we celebrated her life and we talked about the funny times as a puppy and all the good times after that.  It felt good to talk about her as a family and laugh at many of the moments but also cry.

saying goodbye to a pet

Once we were home, I knew in my brain that she was gone, but my heart kept looking for her.  I work from home so I saw her and played with her every day.  You never expect them to be gone.  We packed up her things and donated them to the local Humane Society.  As I looked outside I saw her footprints in the snow beginning to melt as the snow melted for spring.  I didn’t want her “erased” so I decided to create a few things in her memory.

Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet
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Create a Memorial This Will Help with Grief

I decided to create a simple frame with a few of her puppy pictures and then a good one of her as an adult.  I added her tag and dates, and she is now on the wall where I can see her. 

Non Pet Owners Don't Understand This Grief - But It is Real

Don’t let non pet owners judged you.  They don’t understand.  I had someone say to me, “she is only a dog, get another one”  Find others who have lost pets and talk to them.

In the spring we will plant a shrub in her honour, so that she is remembered.  Many people without pets don’t understand the grief of losing a pet, but other pet owners do.  As with any kind of grief, you need to go through it on your own terms.  There are no set rules.  You may not want to pack up their things right away; maybe you need to keep them for a while.  For me I wanted them packed up as it was too hard to look at them.  But also for me I found going through the photo albums to make this frame and place it on the wall helped.  I can look at her happy face every day.

saying goodbye to a pet

Creating something that will remind you of happy times is a great way to help with saying goodbye to a pet.  You don’t have to spend lots of money.  We chose not to have her personally cremated or buried as the ground was frozen here.  We felt her spirit had moved on and we didn’t need her ashes.  But that might be the best way for others.

A friend of mine has a pet urn of her pets ashes in her house, and that brings her comfort.  So, there are no set rules.  You will know what you want.  The Veterinarian’s office will offer you choices.

It is all a personal choice.  But you will get through it, and we try to remember that we gave her 12.5 years of a happy and healthy fun life with our family and in return she gave us unconditional love.  That is a priceless memory.

So create a memory board, a frame, a special craft, or something to celebrate their life, and help you with your grief journey.  The act of creating something in their memory will help you in those first few weeks.

Remember, you gave your pet a good life and a forever home; they will always be with you in spirit.

The Rainbow Bridge: A Visit to Pet Paradise
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Rainbow Bridge

Many people believe, that when a beloved pet dies it goes to Rainbow Bridge and will be reunited with you one day.  We have had many pets over the years, and we did joke that we would fall over from the amount of pets that would come running to meet us one day!

Take comfort in whatever you believe.

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Comments

Mar 15, 2016 11:34pm
shar-On
I know exactly what you have suffered. We did it with our siamese cat which we had 16 wonderful years of happy memories. Now our blue heeler is getting close to that stage and I dread it every day as we know that time is coming closer. He is nearly 15 and has been a beautiful faithful companion, protector and friend. We will do the right thing if and when we know to avoid him from suffering. Great article, still cried as I read it.
Mar 16, 2016 6:44am
Sookie
Thanks so much for reading it. Take comfort in knowing you gave them the best home and life ever, but I know it will still be hard. :(
Mar 17, 2016 2:28am
LeighGoessl
Sookie, I'm so sorry for your loss :(. I know what you mean, didn't before that day, but our pup gave us a "look" to tell us she was ready. It was in her eyes. She was adopted as a stray, so we never knew her real age, but we figure she was about 13 (she was with us for almost 12 years)
We did have her cremated to be buried with my brother's dog, they were great pals during the years we all lived in the same area.
Mar 17, 2016 1:44pm
Sookie
You gave her a great forever home, especially if she was a stray. I just wish their lifespans were closer to ours. Thanks so much for reading and understanding.
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