Family & Friends

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Friends in Need

Posted by at 5:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)


cat-friend by Lisa TowellA few years ago, I took my 8-year-old cat to the vet, expecting to be told that he was just fine. Instead, I found out that his kidneys were failing. This is usually a fatal condition and is common in older cats, but we never did figure out why it happened to him so young. I was determined to cure him if I could, or at least give him the best possible care for his remaining life. I overcame my fear of needles and learned how to inject him with fluids to flush his system. I also figured out how to give him six pills a day without making him too miserable.

All of this took a huge toll on my emotions and energy. I was very busy at work, which helped distract me, but I found myself exhausted every evening. Mornings were often hurried and stressful, as I tried to care for my cat quickly so that I could get to my first meeting on time. I explained to my boss what was going on and told him that I might need to take some time off to deal with all the home care. He was kind and supportive, for which I was very grateful.

The reactions I got from friends and coworkers varied widely. People who knew me well, especially those with companion animals of their own, were sympathetic. But other people found it hard to understand the extent to which this was overshadowing my life. No one ever said to me, “He’s just a cat!” But sometimes I could see in their faces that they were baffled by my intense grief. When my cat finally died after two and a half difficult years, I dropped into an ocean of sadness, and I felt again the confusion of my friends as they tried to understand what I was going through.

Shortly after this, a friend of mine suffered a terrible tragedy. Her beautiful daughter, just 1 year old, died of a sudden illness. In all the heartbreak of the little girl’s death, I remember being awestruck by all the love and support that everyone was providing to help my friend’s family cope. I realized then how much I had needed that kind of support after saying goodbye to my cat.

People don’t always know what to say or do when confronted with serious illness or death. This is especially true when it’s a companion animal who is sick. But the simplest things can be so helpful. If someone you know has recently lost a much-loved animal, just say how sorry you are. Share a favorite memory that you have of your friend’s dog or cat. Send a condolence card. Ask if you can help by taking some food to your friend. It can be a huge comfort for you just to acknowledge the grief that your friend is experiencing.

If you are losing an animal yourself, don’t hesitate to ask for the support that you need. Your friends might not realize how much you need them, so you might need to explain to them what it’s like to lose this member of your family. Once they understand, they’ll be able to help you through the grieving process. Telling your boss and coworkers can help them realize why your job must take a back seat for a while.

Fortunately, these sad events don’t happen too often. There are lots of little ways every day that you can respect the bond that people have with their animal companions. Ask a neighbor how his cat is doing. Invite a friend to go for a walk and include her dog in the invitation. And when you go to visit your animal-loving friends, be sure to say hello to their furry family members as well as the two-legged ones.

What have others said or done that has helped you cope with grief over an animal? Share your best experiences and ideas.

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    kerry says...

    October 24th, 2008, 2:20 pm

    The best advice I ever got on how to cope with grief was that I should get off my ass and get out there and help more animals. At the time the advice sounded so rude…It made me mad at first, but it worked. I got off my ass and started trying to help even more animals A friend’s son was killed in the Iraq war, and she was able to survive her loss by getting out there and finding ways to help the other soldiers. I think its universal. We all need to be doing something to make this world a better place, its the only way to get over grief.

    Pamela says...

    October 24th, 2008, 6:04 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss, Lisa. Its true that many people, and many of those pet owners themselves, don’t acknowledge the emotional value of the pets in our lives. It is enormously gratifying — and a relief — to actually hear the words, “I’m so sorry for your loss”. There were times I couldn’t even share the knowledge that one of my cats had died with my family because it would start a huge argument.
    Helping other cats is good, but, Kerry, whoever told you that was insensitive and rude; the same sentiments could have been expressed with a lot more compassion and should be accompanied with practical suggestions. I think everyone knows that there are animals that need help and its up to each person to decide how carry that out.
    Peta helps me by giving me a information, a forum and email contacts or prewritten letters to protest outrages. I know from experience that every phone call, letter, and email does have an positive impact.

    Myshkin says...

    October 24th, 2008, 6:31 pm

    What a fabulous (and heart-wrenching) post. I had a loss a year ago and what I remember most were the messages from people who told me they cared, and they understood. That was all. Just those simple messages that let me know it was OK for my heart to break. Non-animal people, of course, didn’t “get it.” Especially if they had children. I didn’t need flowers or food, just kind messages from my animal-loving friends. Thanks so much for writing this, Lisa! Our animals break our hearts, and I wish that more non-animal people accepted that.

    Kathie says...

    October 24th, 2008, 8:10 pm

    I just found out my beloved pitbull-boxer mix who is 12 and a half has osteosarcoma. My personal decision to not amputate and do chemo to allow him 4 more months (possibly) is hard but the fact that I am going to lose him so suddenly, within a month or two, is killing me. I do rescue work and have 6 other dogs and many cats. I have put to sleep many animals. This is taking a toll on me as I am waiting for a time bomb and he is unaware of his future. I know people say that’s the magic of living- to be like animals and live for each day but I am not quite so enlightened yet.

    Gaum says...

    October 25th, 2008, 7:53 am

    Thanks for the great article Lisa. I’m so sorry for your loss – I hope the pain diminishes a little each day, although I know you’ll miss your beloved cat forever. I know that if I lost one of mine, it would leave a hole in my heart forever. And I know that many people wouldn’t begin to understand the grief. Have you had any pet bereavement counselling? I know that some of the animal charities here (in the UK) offer it. Some of the websites (e.g. Blue Cross) also let you post a memorial to your pet, to remember them by. I have a current situation, where one of my beloved Bengal boys has been ‘diagnosed’ with kidney disease at 6 years old. During sedation for a biopsy the needle broke off inside him. The vet opened him up but couldn’t find the needle, although it shows up on x-rays. The needle could migrate and, at worst, prove fatal. The vet is now refusing to pay for another operation (with different equipment and a different vet) to try again – he maintains it wasn’t neglect and isn’t covered by his indemnity insurance. It costs £3000 (about $5-6000?) and I lost my job months again due to the ‘credit crunch’ here. I can’t pay for the op until I get a job, but I’m still going to fight it. The worst thing is, the second vet I took him to said there was nothing wrong with his kidneys, so it looks like it may have all been in vain. The test results need to be done again to be absolutely sure. The interesting thing is that a couple of my cat loving friends have shown little interest, whereas a good friend, who wouldn’t allow a cat or any other animal in her house, has been incredibly supportive and has even offered to lend me what she can towards the operation – and she doesn’t have much. You just never know where you’ll find kindness in this world – sometimes it’s in the unlikeliest places and it restores your faith in humankind. When I do get a job, I’m going to buy that friend the biggest bunch of flowers I can find.

    Alice says...

    October 25th, 2008, 12:12 pm

    Hi Lisa,

    I can relate. Losing a best furry friend is debilitating for many of us. A human friend once told me that my animal companion had the best life she could have ever had with me, that I made a difference in her life, and I should think about that, instead of feeling sorry for myself that she was gone. That is the best advice anyone ever gave me, because even though a few more animal companions have passed on from my life, I know I was always there for them, and we shared wonderful times together, and that helps to ease the sadness.

    Merilyn says...

    October 25th, 2008, 12:25 pm

    I have never completely gotten over the death of my beloved Ninja, a nanday conure, who was more human that bird! What a loving and intelligent little creature she was. She died from what I believe was diabetes, after a very short life. She was my first bird. My first pet. She went everywhere with me. She’s been gone for about 18 years now, but I find tears in my eyes whenever I think of her, as I find them now.
    I presently have 5 birds, all cage free, but there will never be another Ninja.

    Helen says...

    October 25th, 2008, 11:21 pm

    I found this after joining prime peta. It has been only weeks since I have had to euthanize my kitty, who was going on 13 yrs. old. She was so beautiful; totally black and green eyes. She had developed diabetes and lost all of her body mass. It seemed to be something that happened over night. It tore my heart out of my chest. I still expect to see her come around the corner of the door. She will always be a part of me and in my heart.

    Mary-Kay Bono, SFC (Ret.), NJ Army National Guard says...

    October 26th, 2008, 4:58 am

    Loss of a loved one (human or animal) is always devestating. I lost my beloved Smokey about a year ago. He had kidney problems of which I was unaware. I tried to get him to the vet as soon as I realized; however, he was in hiding, and nowhere to be found. I found him the following day and took him directly over. The next day when I called to find out how he was, I was told by the vet that he had bad news. Smokey had passed away during the night. The vet did say that he had drained his kidneys as much as he could and thereby making him as comfortable as possible. I still stood there and cried when I went to pick him up. He was my husband’s favorite cat–we’ve had many. I have still not told my husband that Smokey is gone. My husband had a stroke and has many other medical problems. He is residing in a nursing home at present, and I just could not deliver any more bad news to him. Smokey was like a dog actually. When my husband and I were outside and walking around the yard, Smokey would follow us all the way. If we sat down, he’d lie down at our feet. When I worked at my computer, he’d lie across the whole front of the desk between me and the monitor. Sometimes he’d type his own message on the screen. Once I sent one of his messages to my cousin. She loved it.

    Lise, as bad as life may seem now, don’t let it pull into depression. Just keep in the back of your mind that you gave your beloved animals the best life thet could possibly have had and that they were very happy to be with you. They were blessed. You, also were blessed with their companionship. Cherish the memories in your heart. When the Good Lord calls us all home, I have a very strong feeling we’ll meet up again with ALL of our loved ones–human and animals alike. Take heart that one day you’ll be with them all again. Until then, treasure the memories and never forget them. I wish you the best.

    kerry says...

    October 27th, 2008, 11:07 am

    all these comments are so sad and touching. Its a good reminder for all of us to take our doggies for more walks and give our kitties more loving. If we do that, we will all be able to say that we gave them the best life we possibly could. Lisa’s and all the commenter’s animals are the lucky ones because they were all loved so much. The saddest thing is all the wonderful animals in the shelters who dont have people who love them so much.

    KT says...

    October 27th, 2008, 12:44 pm

    One of my dogs is older and I wonder what I can do to prepare myself for his passing. I don’t want to sit around and worry about him, but I also want to make sure I have who and what I need for when he decides to move on. I will definitely miss him and know I am going to need a lot of support when it happens.

    Claudia Fernández says...

    October 27th, 2008, 12:57 pm

    My kitten also dead by an evil of your kidneys, is something terrible to see the progression of disease and finally say goodbye, and its true that many people do not understand the pain, they are part of our family and the grief is too intense, always is a good bit of support. Just say im sorry its so good for who lost a friend-animal.

    Nini Sanchez says...

    October 27th, 2008, 1:23 pm

    I KNOW you will be re-united again! Take this to your heart and mind and know this to be true! God gave these children to us, took them home with Him and He will give them back again to us in Eternity! This knowledge is the only thing that keeps me going as my babies go on to Heaven! Talk to them as you fall asleep… feel them with you! God bless you and yours!

    Margo Raprager says...

    October 30th, 2008, 6:00 pm

    Lisa, I know exactly what you went thru as my calico “Miss Callie Cat” suffered kidney failure and I tried desperately to save her. True, she was 13 yrs. old but somedays acted like a kitten. She never complained as I
    injected her with fluids and gave her pills. The last day of her life, she jumped up into my lap and gave my hand a couple of little licks and I knew then she was trying to say good-bye. I realized with great pain that she had been a good and faithful little friend and now it was time for me to let her go up to animal heaven where she would no longer have to suffer.
    We went to our wonderful vet and I held her close as he put her to sleep.
    It was almost as hard for him as it was for me because he knew how we
    treated all out pets friends. He wrapped her up in her pink blanket and walked out to the car with me. As he laid her down in the little casket we
    had made for he gave her one last pat and turned around to me. One look
    at my face told him my feelings and he gave me a huge hug telling me I
    could call him anytime I felt I needed to relive her life.
    Miss Callie Cat is buried in our flower bed which runs along the edge of
    forest behind us. Many of our other furry friends are also buried there
    and we visit each of them whenever we are pulling weeds or just feel
    the need to say that we miss them and loved them.
    Some of my very close friends and neighbors didn’t understand my grief
    either………..a few, however, have since fallen in love with a great dog
    or a funny cat or a silly bird. The day will come when they will have to
    face what we did but I’m ready for them with a long hug and time to
    relive their little friends’ life!
    God bless you Lisa for being a caring person and for loving animals. The world needs more people like you.

    Sarah says...

    October 31st, 2008, 3:38 pm

    How very heartbreaking. I know some people do not comprehend the deep love we have for our pets. My dog is a miracle who came into my life a few days after the loss of my true love. She has been my guardian, lying by my bed when I was ill, welcoming me home each day. I believe a pet is the epitome of perfect love. Ever giving, never judging and loving us no matter what. My present husband tells me to start looking for another pet to replace my Baby as she is getting old. I know he means well as he knows the loss of this dog will devastate me. I lost many loved ones in my life and I know the horrible pain. I just pray my sweet little midnight black dog will stay a few more years. I know our pets go to Heaven. Such perfect love can never die. May this give you a measure of peace Lisa.

    Debra Jones says...

    October 31st, 2008, 3:40 pm

    When I lost my dog after 14 years of love, affection, and fun, with her, as well as all the hard times we had been through together, I was in such deep pain and I wasn’t getting what I needed from people in my life. My sister found “Ilovedmypet.com” for me, and through that websight I found “therainbowbridge.com. At rainbow I found lots of compassion, sympathy, encouragement from others who had sick, dyeing or passed on pets. Dogs, horses, cats, and birds and other animals were being mourned. There is a chat room and it was such a great help at that time, I don’t know how well I would have done without this chat line. Try it. You’ll be blessed.

    angela gunn says...

    October 31st, 2008, 5:30 pm

    Thankyou for all of your comments I also have loved and lost two cats through kidney failure and was totally devistated my oldest cat was my first cat he was ninteen years old and had loved him for all of those years my animals mean the world to me they show unconditional love and you never forget them now matter what happens in your life it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all even though they have four legs

    wendy says...

    October 31st, 2008, 8:41 pm

    Hi Lisa:

    I am very sorry for your loss and I really do understand what you are going
    through. My beloved russian blue companion was also diagnosed with renal failure and having had to get over my fear of needles as well, I began the journey of twice weekly sub q fluid replacement. It broke my heart every time I stuck the needle into his skin. I wanted the stiutaion to reverse itself somehow because I just couldn’t handle my emotions at first and so much did not want him to suffer. He had a good quality of life for a year and then took gravely ill for a week before making his transistion.

    Noone understood really. Even people who had companion animals would say, “Why don’t you get another cat?”. Finally, I just stopped telling people and then I began to just say, I am fine when asked.

    If I could have helped another animal right away, I would have but it was too painful for me to even appraoch another animal, go into a pet store or go down the grocery isle where pet food was located. It took two years before the grief began to unwind itself from my heart and I was able to pet another cat. Shortly after that I adopted a resuce and then 4 months after that, I adopted another russian blue.

    BUT IT TAKES THE TIME IT TAKES. I learned to surround myself with loving and nurturing supporters of my process. I also contacted an animal communicator which helped enormously. I re-named my consulting business after him and the logo was a picture of him as well. I found a background picture for my computer that soothed me when I looked at it. It was a russian blue with an angel next to it. I had a ceremony for him afterwards and also created an alter with things of his that moved me and he liked. It all helped me get through it and process the loss. You would never expect someone who lost a child to suffer alone, but sometimes it’s hard for others to understand the depth of the loss.

    You will love again and it sounds like you gave your beloved cat all the love you had and I know it was felt.

    Lots of loving wishes,
    wendy

    Mary Ann says...

    November 17th, 2008, 10:23 am

    Dear Lisa,
    My sorrow to you for this loss, for the pain you feel. Reading your story opens my own wounds of losing my beloved little Donald 6 years ago. No one understood that this cat was more than a companion to me – he was my buddy, my baby, part of my soul. I have not had, before or since, a companion so close to me. Despite his years of abuse and neglect before rescue, he was a happy character, a clown and a cat of such sensitivity and perception that once, when a small child was visiting my home and grabbing for his tail, Donald patiently wove himself around the child, allowing only the softest contact – he was, in other words, teaching the child how to interact with him. It was so moving!

    When I learned of his renal failure, I really did not know where to turn, because he fought the needle and the flushing so desperately that I realize now that I might have done him harm. In the end, I stopped the flushing and within 18 hours he died, but before he climbed into the little heated cozy box that I had built for him, he came into my bed for one final kiss and cuddle. He woke me to thank me and to say goodbye.

    I console myself today with the fact that he was a gift to me, that our time together was a gift and that I was enriched by his love and his special qualities, and I knew instantly when he was gone that I had to find another to give this love to – another animal who needed me. I still dream of him, and I always know that I never lost him. I still ache to see his little face, but I know that he is with me still and he made me another kind of person, a better one for having known him.

    Teresa says...

    April 10th, 2009, 3:48 pm

    On March 12 of this year the vet came to the house to take my Huskey Malamute and best friend Maxx of almost 16 years to heaven. I know in my head that his bad day’s were starting to outnumber his good ones but my heart say’s otherwise.Maxx was my life. He’d never seen the inside of a kennal. People would alway’s bug me because I’d never go anywhere after work. I just wanted to come home to my dog.I’m not coping very well, I’ve been having bad dreams the last 2 nights, I bawl everyday, everywhere I look I see him in all his favorite places. I’ts like the heart and soul have gone from my life and home. Where I live all I hear is that he was just a dog get over it. I’m trying but I’m finding it very hard.

    Amrit Singh says...

    September 24th, 2009, 2:38 pm

    Last Thursday, 9/17, I had to say goodbye to my beloved beagle after 14 years together. It was, without a doubt, one of the most difficult choices I’ve had to make. Wanting just a few more days with her meant prolonging her agony and pain. I realized it wasn’t a fair trade-off. I have a 4 year-old son who never seemed particularly fond of Kelsey, but he was very angry when I told him that she was very sick and was not coming home. I have found varying degrees of support from my friends and family. Its been very disappointing in many ways. What a shame because when I most need to release these feelings, I am inhibited by the fear of other’s lack of empathy. Although we still have 2 more canine companions at home, this has not lessened the blow of losing Kelsey. She was an individual – a sassy, spunky, food-loving, challenging being that I will miss forever.
    So, my advice to myself has been to find the support that I need, whether it is from a counselor or a pet bereavement group. I hope others can follow this path, too.

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