Monday, August 17, 2020

Coping with the Loss of Your Pet--Till We Meet Again, Remy LeBeau

Not everyone is an animal lover but I certainly am, as is most of my family.  Bonding with an animal is a heartfelt and emotional experience.  I have had a variety of animals in my life--rabbits, chickens, cockatiels, cats, lizards, fish, and of course, dogs.  Having a furry (or feathered companion) is something that is almost always present in our home  Yes, at times things can be frustrating (my floor needs swept a LOT) and it can be expensive if you take the proper care of your pets (I have quite a bit of disdain for those who don't care for their animals or neglect or abuse them).  The rewards, however, are exponential.  

However, with any loving relationship, once one member of the relationship has passed on, it is painful and emotional.  If it is sudden, traumatic, or if the pet was young, it can be even harder to process and move thru the grieving process.  I have been through this several times during my life and each time is a bit different but still hurtful.

Our boy last Christmas

Recently, six weeks ago today as I write this, our sweet pomapoo, Remy LeBeau, passed away.  It was sudden and not something we expected at all.  I had just had him to the vet a few weeks before because his eating was off and he just didn't act "right".  Even with normal lab results and normal chest x-ray (CXR--I'm a nurse, I have to write it that way) and a normal abdominal (ABD) x-ray, 3 weeks later he was gone.  He was treated for an periapical abscess (tooth) with antibiotics and seemed to be doing well.  He had an upcoming dental cleaning and the vet felt that he would be fine until then.  Then he was attacked by a much larger dog on a walk one evening (Remy was on a leash, of course).  Suffice it to say, cascading health events took place and on July 6th, even though we felt Remy was going to overcome all, we ended up at the emergency vet and we lost him.  

Remy relaxing

It's been hard.  I've been in disbelief, I've been mad, I've been overcome with grief, I've sobbed, I've felt guilty (I felt I failed him).  I am one of those people who takes their pets to the vet for annual exams and vaccines, yearly for a dental cleaning, and more often if the need arises.  Remy was 11.5 years old and I expected him to live for several more years. 

Remy still relaxing
I have called our other dogs "Remy" several times, I still try to step over him when I get up from my desk (he always laid on the floor by my feet), and I miss how, when one of us would come home, he would walk in a "C" shape, looking back at us and wagging his short little tail.  
Remy as a puppy with Staci

I know that I am not the only one to feel the pain that comes with losing a pet.  I would like to share some tips to help navigate when such a sad event occurs.  Many tips are from the American Veterinary Medical Association but I have added some of my own (not necessarily in order).

1. It's okay to FEEL.  You may feel shocked.  You may feel numb.  Maybe you will be overcome with grief and tears immediately after realizing what has (or will) happen.  We all process grief differently.

2.  Don't let anyone tell you "it's just a dog" or "it's just a rabbit".  It was YOUR dog or YOUR pet.  You had a unique relationship with that animal and not everyone will understand that.  Maybe distance yourself for a time from people who won't acknowledge your pain, if doable.

3.  Ask questions.  This could be at the vet's office if the death occurred there.  Ask the vet or the vet tech if they will call someone to be with you (if no one is there at the moment).  Ask questions BEFORE euthanasia (if that is the case) occurs; ask what you and your pet can expect during the administration of the drug.  Please, please, please, be there for your pet!  If you can handle it at all, please be with your animal as they leave this Earth.  You were their entire life.  I know that isn't easy for everyone; I am one of those people who want to be there when a loved one passes.  It gave me some comfort that I was there when both of my parents passed away, as well as my infant son.

4.  Ask about after-care.  Do you want to take your pet home and have him or her in a final resting place on your property?  Cremation is an option that we have gone with for many years now--I hate to sell a house and move, knowing that a pet is buried in the backyard.  I guess in the grand scheme of things it all gets "worked out in the end" but still, it bothers me.  We choose private cremation and choose an urn so we can bring our pet home with us.  Others may not want to bury their pets or have private cremation--another option is to have your pet cremated with other animals and then those cremains are disposed of.  For us, we choose to have our pets with us.  MAKE SURE THAT YOU ASK FOR YOUR ANIMAL'S COLLAR AND TAGS!  Once you leave the vet clinic or crematorium, those will be cremated with the animal if you don't take them.  We also had a small amount of Remy's black and white fur shaved off before he passed.   Another common item is to have a paw print made of your pet.

5. Understand you now have a new "normal", especially at home.  If you have other pets, expect them to grieve, too.  Some are pack animals, especially dogs, but even pets of other species may notice their friend is no longer there so consider their feelings as well.  When our poodle Smores died in 2016, Remy ate little and was lethargic.  After a few weeks, I took him to the vet and he diagnosed Remy with depression--the vet said that is more common than people think.  
 You may call for your pet to come to dinner, or call your other pets by the departed pet's name.  You may think you "saw" your pet in your peripheral vision or heard them bark or meow.  Those are normal occurrences--please be patient with yourself.

6.  Find a good friend or understanding family member who will let you share your feelings.  It is healthy for one to vent, cry, remember, and share memories.  If you need, find a counselor, therapist, or clergy member to speak with.

A sweet friend asked her friend to make this digital artwork
The list above is by no means inclusive or individualized.  As an RN (heck, as a human being), I know that grief affects people differently and the stages aren't necessarily in order for anyone.  Some may be able to move on after a short time, only to find themselves tearing up when they see a dog that looked like their's or a bird with the same coloring as their departed African Grey.  I had to stop once and let myself cry while composing this and am teary-eyed right now.  
My son had this image created by The LMT Family on Etsy.  We are having it framed and matted.
One thing we did do when it was determined Remy would not survive was to Facetime our kids so everyone had a chance to tell him goodbye.  Given the COVID-19 situation, we couldn't all be with him when he passed and some of our kids live elsewhere.  The vet tech brought him back out to our vehicle, where my husband and I, our youngest son, his girlfriend and our 10 year old granddaughter were all able to hold him and make sure he knew how loved he was.  All but one of our 7 kids were able to talk to him and most of our grandkids, too.  Technology was a plus in this instance.  My husband and I did get to spend alone time with Remy in the clinic prior to his euthanasia.  We stayed with our boy during his final moments and then some.

A friend painted this lovely river rock for us
Share memories, photos and feelings with others.  Make a scrapbook for your pet or pets who have passed on.  Take photos and videos of your pets while they are here--you will be glad you did.  Pet remembrance journals are another way for you to deal with your grief.  Amazon has several for order, such as this one: PET REMEMBRANCE JOURNAL (we are not affiliated with Amazon at this time).
Remy LeBeau is home
In closing, for more information, please check out the AMERICAN VETERINARY MEDICAL ASSOCIATION for further info regarding pet loss.  
As much as we mourn, the reason for our grief is loss and love.  Without love, we wouldn't feel the sting of death or the grief that comes with it.  Celebrate the love you had with your pet.

Goodbye for now, sweet boy--see you on the Other Side


  1. Found you through Party in your PJs. I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet pup. For we dog lovers, our pups aren't just pets...they are truly members of our family, and it breaks our hearts to say goodbye to them.

    We lost our 15-year old beagle 7 years ago, and we still miss her. Our other beagles are 11 and 4, and we dread the day we lose one of them. So, I fully understand the heartbreak you are experiencing right now. May your memories of your precious Remy bring you comfort.

    Patti @ Empty Nest Homemaker

    1. Hi Patti. Thank you so much for commenting and your condolences. It is so hard and you never stop missing them, do you? I guess with all the love and memories comes the grief. It's great that your girl had 15 years with you-I truly believe we will be with our "fur family" members again someday. Thank you again for your comment--it does help me, too.

  2. I am so sorry for your loss...We lost our sweet Savanna 10 years ago and still remain pet free because of the heartache we felt over her passing...
    Thanks for stopping by and for your kind comment!!

    1. Hi Debbie. I totally understand not getting another since it hurts so when they pass. I appreciate your comment and visiting our blog 😊

  3. We don't have any pets but I understand the bond an owner has with their pet. I am so sorry for your loss. Sending love and hugs x

    1. Thank you so much. Yes, there is a definite bond and then pain once they leave. Thank you for stopping by, Kim.

  4. So sorry to hear this. Being a dog lover myself I know just how heart breaking it is to lose your furry friend. I had my Staffordshire bull terrier boy for almost 16 years. Still miss him like crazy.
    Sending hugs across the pond!

    Thanks so much for sharing with #MMBC

    1. Hi. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Sorry it took a while to respond--we were out of town. Yep, it sure is hard to say goodbye....

  5. This information is incredibly helpful. Thank you for sharing about the end-of-life vet near me services available.


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