A Death in the Family: Coping with the loss of a pet
By: Nanci Breegle
The hardest part of being a pet owner is knowing when to say goodbye. Pets become a huge part of our lives and are members of our families. The difference between losing a human family member and pet is that with a pet we are able to make the choice to end their suffering. How do we make the choice to end a life? We have to look at their quality of life and keep their happiness in mind. I’m going to share my story with you and hopefully it helps ease someone’s pain and helps them make an informed decision.
This was my best friend, Rocky. Rocky was with me through some very hard times in my life: the loss of my father, my bitter divorce, and several moving experiences. We were nomads for a little while! When my father was alive, he would always come over and pick up Rocky, and they would go on adventures together. Rocky mourned the loss of my father and his friend with me. Whenever I was upset or sad, Rock would come up behind me and wrap his paws over my shoulders to comfort me. Rock was never a pet to me. He was my support system when everyone else had left me. As I watched Rock age, I came to fear the day that he would leave me. He was my shadow. What would my life be like without him in it? Doing the stairs became increasingly difficult for him and got to the point where he couldn’t do them without falling down them. There were times where he would become disoriented and scared. After talking with Dr.Owen one day, we decided that it was time to let Rocky go. We were fairly certain that he had brain cancer (my father passed away from brain cancer). After watching my father suffer through radiation and chemotherapy and slowly fade away, I made the decision to say “Goodbye” before Rocky became as bad as my dad had been. We as human beings understand what is happening to our bodies when we are sick. Animals don’t. They just know that they are in pain. I stayed with him when he was euthanized and thanked him for being my friend and thanked God for allowing me to know and love this amazing creature. Rocky’s ashes are on my mantle along with a picture of us taken on our last day together. Although he has been gone for 5 years, not a day goes by that I don’t miss him. We have 3 dogs now that I love to pieces, but in a different way. I wouldn’t trade my new fur-kids for anything, but the relationship I have with each of them is different. I can see pieces of my Rock-Man in all of them, and for that, I am grateful. His passing allowed me to open my door to the 3 maniacs that now run rampant in my house!
If you are struggling with the loss of a pet, talk with someone who has gone through it. You’ll find that the best advice and help comes from those who have lost a pet too. I hope my story has helped those of you considering making this choice. I have never regretted my decision to end his suffering.