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The Healing Continues.....


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This is addressed to anyone who is experiencing the anguish of having recently lost a beloved pet...

7 weeks ago, I lost my best friend. Cruiser was a beautiful lab-retriever mix, with a great sense of humour and nary an aggressive bone in his body. I didn't do anything without my 4 legged friend. He was my constant companion, we worked together, trained together, played together, laughed and cried together (if dogs can do such a thing). I often felt like I didn't need anything else in my life, as long as we had each other. Tragically, he was only in my life for 2 years before he was killed by a speeding truck. I have lost friends and family before, but I suppose I'd never lost someone that I had loved with such utter and complete abandon. I have never experienced the kind of physical and emotional anguish that overwhelmed me when he died. For the first 2 weeks, I thought that maybe the physical pain would never go away. I had to go on, to keep working without him (we worked in the woods together), but I felt so alone, and as soon as I stopped working, all I could do was curl up in fetal position to try to ease the intense pain in my insides. That pain finally eased. Then, after a month of crying everyday, I wondered if I would ever function like the relatively normal human being that I felt I used to be, and if I could think of him without feeling that terrible aching right in the center of my heart. I wondered if I would laugh again and love again and really mean it. Now I can. As I came to terms with the loss, the days of the week were like being on a rollercoaster. Some days I would be fine. I would feel enlightened and reflect on all that he had taught me in life and in death. Then, the next day I would be overwhelmed with emptiness, lash out at the world and want to die too. That too has passed, and I'm feeling more even keeled.

We were so lucky to have such an amazing group of friends, family and aquaintances that expressed condolences and sympathies as if we'd lost a human child, complete with flowers and cards. In the place that I live, the age that we are, and the lifestyle that we lead, many of us have dogs instead of kids, and at least our friends could relate. It is so important to have friends, family and discussion groups like this that allow you to express your grief and have your feelings validated by other people's similar experiences. I also think that it is very important to, as soon as you can, start to embrace the hobbies, activities and other things that you loved to do before your time of grief, to remind yourself that there are many things to embrace and look forward to in life.

My point to anyone that reads this is, as terrible as it might feel right now, as much as you feel like you will never be the same, it does pass and you will get better (on your own schedule). I just wanted to share my experience and offer some hope to anyone that is still really really suffering. I am still sad, but now I am also happy and hopeful and I can think of the companion that I lost without so much pain in my heart. The healing process is slow, really slow for some, and the best analogy for it that I can think of, is that it is like having a broken bone. At first there's tremendous pain, then you feel absolutely immobilized, but all the while the healing process continues, and although it may take months or more, one day it'll occur to you how much you have healed and how much healthier you are. I hope the healing process will continue for myself and for all of you. Below this letter is a piece I found on this website (http://www.griefhealing.com/article17.htm) that I don't want you to miss. I found it very helpful.

Yours in love, health and happiness,


Bill of Rights for Grieving Animal Lovers

It is Hereby Declared that Grieving Animal Lovers have the Right:

1.To feel the pain of grief when the bonds with our pets are broken. The bonds we have with our companion animals are deep and strong; the pain we feel when those bonds are broken is real and worthy of our grief.

2.To feel shocked and overwhelmed by the intensity of our grief. Since our animals' life spans are so much shorter than our own, it is inevitable that eventually we will experience the loss of our beloved animal companions. The grief we feel at such times can be far more intense than we ever expected, no different from that of losing another special family member or cherished friend.

3.To understand our grief reactions, feelings and behaviors as normal. Grief is a natural, spontaneous response to the loss of a significant relationship.

4.To express our grief in our own unique way, within our own time frame. The course of grief is unpredictable and uneven, with no specific time frame. How we express our grief will vary among individuals, but we all get through it in personally meaningful ways.

5.To have our grief recognized by others as significant and legitimate. Since grieving over animals isn't generally accepted in our society, we may feel uneasy or embarrassed, as if we have no right to feel or express our grief because our loss is not significant enough. But we're not grieving "just an animal". Since we're the only ones who know how much our animals meant to us, when they're gone we're the only ones who can measure how very much we've lost.

6.To feel supported by others in our grief. When our companion animals die, there are no formal, public rituals where we can express and share our sorrow, talk about our loss and obtain the sympathy and support of others. At the very time when we need to be with others who understand, we feel isolated and alone. We need to find someone with whom we can openly acknowledge our feelings, express and work through our pain, and come to terms with our loss.

7.To honor the memory of our pets in whatever way we see fit. To memorialize our beloved companion animals is to honor and acknowledge the important role they played in our lives, to bring comfort to ourselves and to help us keep their love and presence in our hearts. Among other things, we can memorialize our pets by writing about them, making an album or a scrapbook, planting a living memorial in our garden, having a meaningful memorial service, funeral or ritual, or making a donation to a charitable animal organization in our pet's name.

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I am experiencing anticipatory grief. My babygirl doggie is very ill. We have been together for almost eleven years. She was diagnosed with cancer in september 2005. I am very grateful that she has lived to see the holidays and her birthday is in a little over a week from now. She had a very bad spell two days ago and I feel the end is very near. I have lain down with her and held her and talked to her and expressed my love for her. I told her I understand she can't be with me forever. Sad to say life is fatal. I don't want her to be in pain, and yet I am really not ready to let her go. I feel grateful for the extra time we have had and I can honestly say that my husband and I have done everything possible for her and have spared no expense or time. I have been blessed to be able to spend most of my days and nights with her. I do not work right now.

The post from ange was very reassuring.That I am not going crazy and that I will survive this. This is the most traumatic expierence ever. Some days I feel I will die with her. My husband and I do not have children. We do have another beautiful canine baby however. I know I have to be strong for my other dog. I have put alot of energy into caring for my babygirl these past 10 months. I have been dreading the day she doesn't bounce back and this day I believe is here. I don't want to give up on her, and yet I want her to know that if she is tired of fighting that I understand.

Thank God for websites and discussion groups such as this. I don't have to feel so alone. I too have understanding friends and family. People that will grieve along with us, however the void her absence will leave will be too huge to bear. I loved the analogy about the broken bone. Thank you for reassuring me that I will be able to go on. I will always have my special relationship with my baby and feel her spirit. Please pray for this fellow traveler with a breaking heart. I need all the help I can get. God Bless and my condolences to ange and to whomever else is out there in pain.

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Thank you for sharing your story and the Bill of Rights for everyone here. ( I've read it before, but it's always worth a reread! ) You're very fortunate to have had so much support around you during the early parts of your loss and I'm sure that must have helped your grief proceed at a faster pace than mine did....took me about 3 yrs for the worst of it, then another 3 to finally progress in the horrible guilt I carried about how our furboy finally died....<sigh>....he gave me his immensely loving gifts right up until his final, few moments, though, as a testament to the communion I'd always had with him, bless his fuzzy heart. We were soulmates and always will be.


I'm in a similar boat myself, with our last remaining furgirl who has many serious conditions, although she isn't quite ready to give it all up yet.....but I dread the day, more than any day I've ever experienced before, as she's our last 'child'. It was she who got me through her brother's passing, and I can barely even imagine how insane I'll feel when SHE isn't here to get me through her own! Like you, we don't have human children, either and have always considered our furkids to BE our children. I would have had it no other way. But it also means we suffer almost all of the same aspects of grieving that someone who loses their human child does, whether society wants to grant us that fact or not. It's a terrible extra burden to have to carry when we're already devastated, so finding all the animal-related support you can when the time comes is paramount to your healing.

It is SOOO good, though, to hear everything you've given to your girl, and it's so important to tell them how they've impacted, improved and added to our lives. They definitely deserve that and much more than we can even provide.

Part of you probably will die with her, I'm sorry to say, but that is just the nature of major loss. However, you will still also BE a part of her, and she of you, and you will carry that with you forever, too. I mean this also in an energetic sense, not just a 'romantic' one. I'm sure, given the closeness you've had with her, that you will sense her around you afterwards, and then know this to be true.

I also fully understand and concur with your ambiguous feelings about her suffering versus upholding her for as long as possible and reasonable. This is one call that many never have to make, unless they have a terminally ill child or a non-human being they love as if they'd born them themselves. I'm going through much the same thing right now, always weighing everything I can possibly think of, trying to make sure I'm not acting selfishly and in nothing but fear of loss. If humans had the right to euthanasia, more people would understand what an onerous yet potentially-loving position we are placed in regarding our beloveds....similar, of course, to taking someone off life support, but more deliberate than just that. It's no wonder we suffer so much, before and after. I really believe we are a sort of 'special' lot....who don't get nearly enough credit for what we go through!

Anticipatory grief is yet another type of grief that doesn't get talked about, or acknowledged, the way it ought to. But you will do whatever you consider best for your gal at the time and until then, you can come back here and share your journey and feelings.

Prayers to your furgirl, and for you and your husband during this heavy-hearted and oh-so-difficult time. :wub:

Edited by Maylissa
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Hi Maylissa,

Thank you so very much for your kind and heartfelt words. It is so nice to commune with others that love their furbabies as if they gave birth to them. Trust me, when I first got my babygirl I was off work injured for 9months. When I went back to work I cried like a woman that leaves her baby for the 1st time.

I am happy to say that my strong girl bounced back from this last episode. She had a vaccination that she reacted poorly to. I have read a book since then that said never vaccinate a dog fighting cancer, due to their weakend immune system. Thank goodness I picked something fairly benign. Bordetella. From now on I will only vaccinate her for the only required vaccination in the state. Rabies. I won't have to cross that bridge until next year.

Meanwhile she celebrated her 11th birthday last night. We had her split a steak with her brother and had a small sliver of white cake. We showered her with love ,kisses and toys. She really enjoyed it. We feel so blessed that she saw her birthday and we will be leaving on a vacation to visit family for a week. I am grateful she dodged this bullet. I still get weepy, but I am learning to enjoy every extra minute and experience with her.

I pray for you fellow traveler. We love these wonderful spiritual beings with full abandon, that is why we are so heartbroken when they leave us so soon. May God be with you in your journey with your baby. It will be very hard for you because she is the last. Hang on and love that ball of fur everyday! Much oxoxoxo to your furbaby. You are a very loving and compassionate pet parent and the reason we are hurting so badly is because we love them so strongly. A double edged sword for sure. I wouldn't have it any other way, however. The gifts and love she has shown us has been worth all the heartache and grief. Even though our hearts are heavy and breaking at the impending passing of our kids the love and joy will be worth it. Loving them has been the most precious gift of a lifetime.

Best wishes to you and hang in there. God Bless, Wyo.

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wyo....or is it wVo? ( I just realized....sorry and oops, if I've gotten it wrong! )

Well, that's just wonderful news! I'm so happy for you to have gotten over one hump and being able to spend more quality time ( and just more time, period! ) with your girl. I'm also glad to hear you won't be vaccinating any more than you have to from now on. No ill animal should receive vaccinations, and in fact, I don't believe in using them more than maybe once in an animal's lifetime anymore ( lots of reading on same, 2 vets of ours who believe in using homeopathic nosodes instead, etc. ).

I've been reading up more on anticipatory grief of late and how difficult and straining it is to watch and go through the ups and downs of chronic, terminal illnesses in our beloveds. I've been at this for all of 6 years already, but since this last spring, our girl's condition has taken quite a noticeable down-turn overall...even though she's doing not too badly, given her age and numerous ailments....but I can see the end coming and this will be a 'first' for me to witness, as her brother had cancer that metastasized incredibly quickly by comparison, so his passing was experienced as much more sudden. It's strange, though....I've always called her my Sturdy Girl, even though it was she who was more sickly when young, while her brother was always roaring through his illnesses with total impatience to be better and get ON with fierce determination. Yet, he left first, and she's still hanging in there....

I had to chuckle in empathy about your feeling so torn up about returning to work....I was a total basket-case, years ago, when each ( separately, in their turn ) of our cats had to go back to the humane society from whence they came in order to get fixed and I was stuck at work! In fact, I even made my husband ( then boyfriend ) do the dirty work of dropping them off, then picking them up with me in tow, to 'rescue' them again ( so I could play 'hero' ), because I didn't think I'd even be able to leave them there w/o me! :lol: Couldn't think or work effectively ALL day, I was so worried! So....I UNDERSTAND!!!

A Very Happy Birthday to your precious one! I know with every birthday of our gal's since the passing of her brother, I've been so grateful that we've been able to add another year to her time with us. Your girl's party sounded lovely! Would that we could ever have shared a piece of cake with our own, but neither of our kidlets ever liked the stuff! :P

You're oh, so right when you say that "loving them has been the most precious gift of a lifetime" but that, of course, is what hurts so bad when we have to allow them to return to spirit. Who ever wants to give up such preciousness and a life filled with so much fuzzy and humongous love?!

Thank you so much for sharing your kindred-spiritedness with me here. It upholds me to meet others who truly recognize and appreciate how much these furred and feathered souls are worth, not just to ourselves, but intrinsically, just because they ARE.

I hope you will revisit here as needed and share with us your story as it unfolds. We all need so much to support each other, just by the sharing and caring. I sincerely wish for you and yours for your baby to enjoy her life to the fullest, safe and secure in yours and your husband's great love for her. And thank-you for your warm thoughts for me and mine.



Edited by Maylissa
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Hi All,

I am sorry for all your losses and I can not imagine losing my dog Chelsea. My dog Chelsea is a yellow lab. She is seven years old. My brother recently lost his parrot Shamrock and eventhough it was his bird I felt extremely upset about it dying. I used to pet sit for him and his many beloved pets. Shamrock was ten years old. If I had to deal with the death of my dog Chelsea it would probably rip me apart inside little by litte. So I can not comment about everyone else sorry I hope this did help a little bit Take Care and know that where your beloved pets are they will know that you all loved them and their memories will be apart of you all for the rest of your lives. Take Care and God Bless you all Shelley

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you your words of comfort and of hope. Today I had to put down my dear dog, Tawny, who wasn't even quite two years old. I am now in such intense pain and find the only comfort I get at all is coming to sites like yours. We still have her littermate, Tanner, and he is also a great comfort to me. But I also worry about him because he does not understand where his constant companion of almost 2 years is and of course we cannot explain it to him. Tawny's kidneys failed and although the vet tried, there was nothing that he could do for her. He was able to give her one more wonderful week with us so that we were able to shower her with love and all the doggie fun she wanted and she could also shower us with the kind of love that can only come these amazing animals. And we were able to say goodby. But she started to weaken and show the signs that her kidneys were shutting down completely and we knew it was time. At least we were able to give her this last gift-to put her down before she began to really suffer. Last summer I lost both of my parents-only 7 weeks apart. In fact tomorrow will be the first year aniversary of my dad's death. But I also find this pain more intense, as some others mentioned. And also as others said, I have no human children, although I lost a child many years ago in pregnancy, so these sweet furbabies were our children. And now we have lost one. Anyway I will probably be visiting this site for awhile. And I want to extend my sympathy to all those who have also lost a dear furbaby.

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As you already know, I extend my sincere condolences in the passing of Tawny. I didn't realize, though, that dad's anniversary was following so closely upon this other, terrible loss! You poor woman! I'm sure this is going to be an incredibly difficult period for you...you have all my sympathies.

As for Tanner not understanding....I know it does help when a surviving companion can be actually shown the body of their pal ( or littermate ), but I wouldn't underestimate the degree with which they can understand what has happened. While animals may be more accepting of crossing over than we are, I believe they still understand the concept in their own ways. So it might be worth explaining, yes, in plain English, to Tanner what happened to Tawny and why she never came home. Animals often grieve almost as much, and some just as much, as we humans, depending on their relationship to each other or to their people, so this may help Tanner 'come to grips' with this loss. You can also send mental images of what transpired, as they often communicate this way themselves and this is a tried and true method of communicating with them. I feel for this poor, little guy, too. I know our Nissa became anorexic for a few months after she lost her own brother, but did come out of it sooner than I did.

So yes, come back as often as you need and we will try our best to lend you support during your devastation. God bless.

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Thank you again, Maylissa. Yes, unfortunately this has been a very tough year or 14 months to be exact-that is when my mom died. Thanks for your suggestions for Tanner. I did exactly what you said-I tried to tell him in simple terms what happened to his sister. I couldn't really explain it, cuz I don't understand it myself-except in a medical way. As for becoming anorexic-I can't imagine Tanner having that problem!! In fact, the vet put him on a diet several months ago, and he has actually lost a few pounds. Of course it wasn't his fault, it was cuz I was overfeeding him. But I will be watching for any signs of depression on his part and am showering him with all the love and attention I can, and DH is doing the same thing.

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