We all LOVE our pets and want them to be as healthy as possible for as long as possible. What happens when it is time to say goodbye? I recently experienced a great loss in my life when my sweet bulldog, Bonnie, suddenly passed away at home. She was only five years old when she passed away. She had the typical airway issues that bulldogs experience. I had surgery performed to correct these issues and she was doing great. However, during the past several weeks I had begun to notice certain behaviors that did not add up. She was having urinary accidents in the bed and her behavior was just off. I took her to multiple specialists for another set of eyes to take a look at her, but they could pinpoint what was wrong with Bonnie. I was heartbroken and in shock when I found her passed away on a Sunday morning at home. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. She was my heart dog! Anyone who knew me, knew Bonnie!
Everyone has a different experience when they lose a pet. I fully understand this because I’m on the other side of that exam table saying goodbye. I see family members struggle as they try to do best by their pet. This is a difficult time, often heartbreaking for the family. Clients will often say that they will never have another pet because saying goodbye was too hard. Clients will often ask us for advice as to when it is “time”. “Am I allowing my pet to suffer?” In many of our patients, we have watched them grow and become senior pets. We have the ability to serve as the patient’s advocate. When the time comes to make what appears to be an almost impossible decision, we are there to help guide our clients. We do not take this responsibility lightly, and it always weighs heavy on our soul when this decision is reached by the family. Our highest oath is to do what is right by the pet and to not let them suffer.
Losing a beloved pet is also a great time to reflect. When I lost Bonnie, I spent time remembering her birth (I did her mom’s c-section so I held her first!) and her as my co-pilot every day to and from work. I miss her in bed sleeping with me, but I know that she had a great life, and I did everything I could for her. This experience is what I can pass on to my clients who are faced with the hard decision of saying goodbye.
I am convinced that pets are a gift to show us what unconditional love is all about. Humans can fail us because…well, they are human. Pets are always forgiving, render no judgment, and ready to meet us when we come home at night. My cat, Chubb, greets me at home every night, which brings a smile to my face every day I return home from work. He is just waiting for me to get home. It may have been a rough day at the hospital, but that moves to the back of my mind when I see Chubb waiting for me to get through the door. This is the kind of moment that I share with my clients when they say they will not get another pet after losing their furkid. We need to remember the joy and love they bring into our lives. This is their purpose! Once the hurt lessens from saying goodbye, we always encourage our clients to entertain the idea of adopting a new pet. Many times it begins with you adopting and saving= pet, but in the end they can save you. Saying goodbye to a pet is one of the most difficult things we have as both a pet parent and veterinarian. I suggest that you do not let that be the end of their story. Instead, start a new story. One that will honor the pet you lost and continue a story that allows another furkid to have a purpose in your life. I just started a new chapter in my life and adopted another bulldog. Bonnie will forever have a piece of my heart, but I have more heart to go around and a story to continue. If you come by the office, ask to say hi to Charley. Then you can become part of her story.
Dianne Dawkins DVM