Pet Grief Counseling: Saying Goodbye to an Old FriendOne of the hardest things to accept for a pet owner is when to say goodbye to an old friend who is suffering. It saddens one to see a pet they raised become crippled and suffering in their old age. As the pet grows older and gray hairs emerge, the anxiety arises that one is a day closer to “putting down” one’s pet. Memories of the young pup or kitten that used to jump and down are far gone and replaced with the imagery of an old man who would rather sleep. These signs help prepare us for the inevitable day our pet becomes so old or sick that we must euthanize him. Pet grief counseling can help one become stronger to face that day, but no matter the pet or the day, noone forgets the moment they walk into the vet’s office for the last time with their friend. Yet, we all know when suffering becomes the norm for our friend, we have little choice but to make the ultimate and humane decision; a decision that is done out of love.
Jennifer Melvin, who instructs in the Pet Grief Program at AIHCP offers this advice on when to know it is time to say ‘goodbye’.
One of the most challenging decisions a pet owner faces is when they have to determine how far to take treatment and when to euthanize the pet. For most people a pet is part of the family and you want to fight to the end to keep them with you. A good rule of thumb is to focus on the quality of life the pet has. When a pet has a terminal illness and you find them not enjoying their favorite foods, doing their favorite things or being comfortable it is then time to clarify with the vet that the pet’s body is changing to the point it is not going to get better. If that is the case it is your time to ask yourself who you would be keeping the pet alive for and what it is living for. When you reach the answer that it is not in their best interest to keep them alive, you have your answer of when it’s time. At that point you make sure to prepare yourself and your family the best you can do and say all you need to have your goodbye.
Melvin’s advice helps one understand when. She also emphasizes in the end that one find time to say that final goodbye. Some families prepare a date in advance and spend a quality day with their pet. They take the day off from work, give the pet special treats and shower him with love.
While some would rather walk away the moment, one drops off old “boxer” or “rex”, I have always from experience walked back with our dogs and held their paw, reassured them, kissed them, and allowed them to hear my voice as the pain all went away.
If you are interested in taking courses in pet grief counseling, please review the program.
Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C