Barking Blondes: Dealing with the death of a pet
We received an email into our radio show this week from a distraught listener. “Betsy, my 18 year old Jack Russell has been laid to rest. The time had come for me to end her brave fight for life and to have her spared from any more pain. I was with her at the end. Thing is, I can’t remember a world without her. “
We dedicated that show to Betsy knowing that every dog lover felt this owner’s agony. It’s a cruel act of nature that most of us outlive our pets.
The day we introduced Matilda, our bulldog puppy, to the vet for her first injections we were brimming with excitement. It was all new and ahead of us. In the same waiting room were a couple wrapped around each other in obvious distress. They were leaving their dog behind in the surgery for the last time. They held the empty lead. “That,” commented the receptionist, “is the flipside.”
On a recent visit to The Mayhew, a London rescue centre for dogs, we were surprised to find an animal graveyard. What does it say about human emotion that we can walk through church cemetries and enjoy the scenery and the atmosphere but when confronted with handmade tributes to man’s best friend, we become mush? The photographs lovingly pinned to wooden crosses along with favorite toys was too much. It would take a hard heart, whatever you feel about dogs, not be moved. But how brilliant that this piece of land exists right in the heart of urbania!
The Blue Cross (formerly known as Our Dumb Friends League) offers a bereavement hotline. We would rather tarmac the M25 in bare hands than volunteer for that job. Commiserating with a friend over a family passing is one thing. Hearing of the death of an unknown dog is almost unbearable.
Burial or cremation? If it’s the latter what do you do with the ashes? An inspiring online company has taken the burden from you. They offer a facility to turn your pet’s ashes into decorative paper weights or faux diamonds. Imagine the joy in knowing that your canine phobic fiancé is wearing Fido’s ashes around her finger!
Unsurprisingly, it’s the United States that lead the way in immortalizing pets.
A firm in Salt Lake City will, for a modest fee, mummify your pooch. It takes five to ten months and if you are really well organized, you can be mummified alongside, later. The Egyptians mummified cats and dogs, believing we would meet up with them on the otherside. What joy! A pair of St Bernard’s slobbering with anticipation at the pearly gates.
Animal communication is a thriving business. Last summer we attended a workshop in a local village hall, where owners were encouraged to get in touch with past pets. Molly, our bull terrier, was invited to act as a teacher. Baffling. We have yet to be persuaded that they really are looking down on us from above. Molly appeared unconvinced and focused all her heavenly powers on hunting out a sausage from behind the tea urn.
Dealing with the death of your pet leaves you with two choices. Byron traumatised by his dog’s death acknowledged the pain of losing a dog can only be healed by another. The void is too great. What would be an insensitive suggestion in human terms “get another” is often the “hair of the dog” solution.
Or you could agree with the actress Lorraine Chase. At a recent Dogs Trust dinner, she confided that it took her seventeen years to grieve for her dog. She feels that maybe now she is just about ready to go shopping for feeding bowls.
Listen to Barking at the Moon on Thursdays 10pm-midnight on BBC London 94.9fmTagged in: Animal communication, death, dog, put down pets, rescue dogs, The Blue Cross, The Mayhew
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