Anyone who has ever owned and loved a pet knows all too well the extremely painful loss that they know is inevitable. Let’s take a look at a few things that we can do, to make that hardest goodbye a little easier on everyone involved.
1. Stay In The ‘Now’
When faced with a situation like this, it is easy to get overwhelmed by regrets about the past and worries about what’s to come. But doing that takes you away from countless opportunities of being in the ‘Now’ with your pet. Dogs experience each moment of life with all they’ve got, and we can follow their lead and make the most of the moments that we have left with them. When you’re with your pet and your mind wanders off to the ‘what ifs’, bring yourself back to the present moment and appreciate what’s happening ‘now’ so that you can connect on an emotional level with your pet, every single moment that he has left.
2. Believe That You’ve Done Your Best
Blaming yourself for your dog’s condition and second guessing your every decision is quite a possibility when you are caring for a terminally ill pet. That is because our pets are one hundred percent dependent on us and are impacted by every decision that we take for them. But self-loathing just doesn’t help. It helps to think back about all the caring actions you’ve taken for him – every time you gave him not just good food, but plenty of playtime, exercise, good medical care, special treats and boundless love.
Positive affirmations can help you further strengthen and internalize this thought. Affirmations like:
‘I am doing the best I can for my baby.’
‘I have always prioritized him and I am a loving pet-parent.’
‘I am making every remaining moment the best it can be.’
Repeating these affirmations 10 times every day will strengthen your belief in yourself and your actions and soften your own judgments against yourself.
3. Take Time Out To Meditate
Taking care of a dying pet while dealing with your own emotions around it, can be quite overwhelming. It may help to keep aside some time every day for yourself. This is your time when you do ‘nothing’. Palliative care can be tough on the body and mind alike and your hospice duties can leave you stressed out and tired. Taking time out for yourself each day and practicing deep breathing exercises and meditation, can go a long way in bringing you back in touch with yourself. These days, there are guided meditation apps that you can use and customize them as per your needs as to how long you would like to meditate for, the kind of music would you like etc.
4. Seek Help
Tons of resources and help are available today, as more and more people are becoming aware of the role that pets play in our lives, and the immense grief that pet-parents feel when faced with a dying pet. These resources are veterinary hospice articles, books and support groups especially formed for pet-parents who’ve been through or are going through this. It’s a good idea to reach out and seek help during this tough situation, rather than dealing with it on your own and feeling isolated.
5. Don’t Keep It Bottled Up
Trying to deal with the strong emotions of sadness and anxiety all by yourself can result in significant emotional distress. Which is why it becomes important to know that there are people who’ve been there and understand what you’re feeling and can help you cope with it. It may help to write down the painful thoughts and feelings in a journal or share them with someone who understands. Seeking the help of a professional counselor can help as well.
6. Prepare Yourself For What Lies Ahead
Planning ahead for your pet’s death is unthinkable for most of us. We feel that thinking about it and planning ahead will make it happen or that if we don’t think about the worst possibility, it’ll probably just go away. But we need to understand that we cannot change what’s destined, whichever way we think. And a little bit of planning ahead will help you both deal with things better. When your pet is ailing, you are already grieving about it and about what lies ahead. This is called anticipatory grieving. It is important that you allow yourself the time and space to accept things as they are and be prepared for what lies ahead.
Speaking to family, friends, and your veterinarian about your pet’s impending death will help you come to terms with it and not just think of it as a remote possibility. You can also use this time to express your feelings of grief and seeking support from your family and friends. It may also help to think of and sort out your thoughts about death and afterlife. You will also need to plan the logistics of what to do with your pet’s remains and what rituals and ceremony would you like to memorialize your pet. Talking to your vet about your fears and apprehensions will help you face facts and do what’s best for your pet.
7. Consider The Stress On Your Pet
Having to take the decision of whether or not to have your pet euthanized is possibly the hardest one you’ll take. When his systems start failing, and if you see him in a lot of pain, it’s probably best to let him go without having to suffer any longer. Euthanizing a pet at a vet’s involves giving the animal an overdose of a drug that slows breathing and gradually stops the heart. The medicine is given by means of an IV needle and the animal feels no pain during the procedure. He just slips into a deep sleep, never to wake up. Although it is painful to see your baby die in front of you, it is a good idea to be with your pet until the end, as your presence will reassure him during the procedure. If your pet is scared of car rides, and if your vet doesn’t make house calls, it may be best to let your pet breathe his last at home, in an environment that he feels safe in.
8. Spend Extra Time With Him
Spending extra time with your pet doing things with him that he enjoys doing is a great idea in the little time he has left. Take him to his favorite places and let him sniff around if he enjoys doing that. Give him his favorite treats. Little at a time. Also, keep his vet posted on the treats you are giving him as they shouldn’t interfere with his medication and health.
9. Start Saying Goodbye
When your vet tells you that your pet has a limited time left, make the most of it. You can take pictures, celebrate their presence, write about your memories and create more memories with them. Some pet-parents have been known to make a bucket list of their pet’s favorite things and do those things to make the pet feel happy and loved before he moves on.
10. Soothe Your Dying Pet
It’s natural to want our fur-babies to last forever. But there comes a time when we need to take a step back and see if we want the pet with us to just fulfill our emotional needs or if it is time to end his suffering and let him cross the rainbow bridge. It’s heart-breaking to see our pet suffering. But if you’ve decided not to interfere with nature and let the end come on its own, you will need to be supportive and brave as death nears. The process of dying is as scary for your pet as it is for you. A soothing, reassuring voice asking him to go to sleep and move on, will help.
You can sit next to him or lay next to him with a towel or a blanket under him as the bowels will empty, once the heart stops. You will need to be brave for the two of you, during possibly one of the toughest times in your life. Some pets may want to be left alone and may try to find a solitary corner. In such a case, you can let him be alone in a quiet room and check on him intermittently. Others may want you to be right beside them petting them and reassuring them. Dealing with a terminal illness is especially difficult because, even if you are to accept that your pet is to die, you have no way of knowing how long he has left. It could be hours or days or months. It’s important to find ways to stay sane, and spoil your pet as you both come to terms with what lies ahead.