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Dealing with the loss of a pet can prove difficult

January 13, 2019

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” -Will Rogers

Recently I had a death in the family and it has been a large loss in many lives. This has got me thinking about the end of it all. We all grieve differently and for different things. It does not matter if it is an aunt, a grandparent, a child, a parent or even a pet; people grieve differently. Many times a pet is all someone has as family. The pet’s death is no different from a human family member.

Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross developed a theory of the five stages of grief.

1. Denial – This is the point where a person feels numb. You might find yourself saying that it was only a dream. People may even withdraw and isolate themselves during this time.

2. Anger – This is when you start to feel angry towards a number of things. You can become angry with the deceased, yourself, the doctors, the situation, or any number of different options.

3. Bargaining – This is when we fill our mine with “only ifs” and “what ifs.” This is when we start to pray to higher powers to change the situation.

4. Depression – You will feel an overwhelming sense of sadness and emptiness. Daily activities will seem mundane and pointless.

5. Acceptance – After time you start to feel that things will be all right. You slowly move on to your old self. This by no means says you will not get over missing the deceased but you are just ready to move on.

Granted the model was made with grieving humans but it still fits for when out pets die. They are a major part of our lives just like a human family member. There are some tips for helping you cope with the loss of a pet.

Allow yourself time to grieve over their death. We all experience loss differently and this could take day or even years. Reach out to family members, friends or anyone else that will lend an ear. Talking about the death can help in the end and lead to acceptance. You should create a ceremony for the pet. Whether you are burying them or cremating them, you can have a funeral for them. This can also help children with the loss.

Sometimes a grieving pet owner just needs to take a break. Do not run out and buy a new pet to replace the deceased one. Take care of yourself and those around you suffering from the loss prior to bringing a new life into your home. Going too fast is not fair to the new pet nor is it fair to the deceased one.

Lastly, you would need to tie up the loose ends. Contact your vet clinic, if they do not know, to advise them of the pet’s death. Contact Animal Control so we will not send you a licensing reminder, which can bring back sad memories later on. I know that each year after I send out the reminder cards I will get someone calling me and yelling at me that their animal passed away months prior. Sometimes they are understanding and realize that we did not know. There are times where people are still grieving and get upset by the reminder.

Death of a pet is one reason that we try to get all of Columbus into compliance with licensing. Throughout the year many dogs and cats are found deceased on the roads or town. If they are not microchipped and licensed we do not know who the owner is. We cannot notify the owner what happened. The owner will go on hoping to find their pet again but never quite knowing the truth.

I do not want this to happen, so please license your dogs and cats.

Shawn Flowers is lead officer for Columbus Animal Control.

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