All About Marie

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Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at www.blogtalkradio.com/petplace; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 18 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of one baby boy, and pet parent of three cats, two dogs, and a cockatoo.

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dealing with the Death of a Beloved Pet

Dear Marie:

Last month, after making a very painful decision, I had my wonderful friend, “Annie”, a miniature poodle,  put to sleep.  She was fifteen years old and had been losing a long, difficult fight to cancer.  I could not allow her to continue suffering, nor could I watch her lose her remaining dignity.  I was with her in the veterinarian’s office as she was  put down and I cried like a baby when  I saw her breathe her last breath.  Now, almost one month later, I feel as though I still not have been able to deal the loss.  Every time I think of her, I cry.  My friends and my family don’t really understand.  They say things like, “She’s just a dog.  Get another one!”  Well, to me, she wasn't just a dog.  She was part of my family and had been my best friend since I was nine years old.  Am I over reacting?  How am I supposed to forget her?

Janice,
Tustin

Dear Janice,

You are NOT over reacting.  For many people, myself included, pets are definitely part of the family and the loss of a pet is as difficult as the loss of any loved one.  Unfortunately, the reactions you’re getting from family and friends are typical.  They think they are trying to help you by downplaying the significance of Annie in your life, when in fact, they should be offering you support and acknowledging her importance.

Annie played a vital role in your life.  She was with you since you were in grade school. Her loss may symbolize the loss of your childhood and bring to the foreground all the changes occurring in your life.  Take time to think about all the changes, how Annie fit in, and how she may have helped you  get through those changes.

Perhaps, you are feeling some guilt too.  Maybe, as you grew older, you think did not spend as much time with Annie as you feel you should have.   You're probably just being too hard on yourself.  Annie loved her life with you.  Pets never judge their people harshly.  They live in the moment and her moments with you were no doubt wonderful.

Take some time to make your peace with Annie.  Even though she is gone, say “Good-bye”  in your own way.  The Animal Health Foundation of Southern California suggests that pet owners who are suffering from pet loss should hold one of their pet’s favorite toys or look at photos to make this important “farewell.” 

Your choice to euthanize Annie was a difficult one.   Annie did not want to suffer.  You relieved her of her pain and suffering.  You had the courage to make the responsible and loving decision. 

It is important, now, to remember Annie in a special way.  Have your family or friends join you an informal memorial service.  Talk about your favorite memories - make a donation or volunteer time to an animal welfare organization in Annie’s name - you can even create a permanent place to remember Annie in a virtual pet cemetery (http://www.virtualpetcemetery.org/pet/index.html).  But most important, know that in time, you will be able to resolve your feelings and remember Annie with a smile.

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