Your beloved Border Collie, Dexter, has cancer. The tumour has grown and is pushing on his lungs. His laboured breathing, lack of appetite and the light in his eye that you know so well, are just not there. Your Veterinarian has suggested euthanasia.

You recently adopted a beautiful little kitten and named her Sophie. She and your 5-year old daughter, Vanessa, have become inseparable since you picked her out together at the shelter, just after your divorce was finalized 6 months earlier. Sophie has been diagnosed with an illness that is untreatable.

As a police officer with the Canine Unit, you have trained Duke from the time that he arrived at the station. He has been a dedicated “professional’, committed to getting the job done; but more than that, you two have strongly bonded. Yesterday, he was shot in the line of duty, and died instantly.

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning and you and your husband have decided to take your 3-year-old Golden Retriever to a new coffee shop across town for breakfast. You tie Sadie up outside, as you have done countless times before, and go in to place your order. When you return a few minutes later, she is gone. She has been missing for 5 days.

Summer’s Rose (Rosie Girl to you), a Grand Prix champion you’ve had since she was a filly, has been in a tragic trailering accident after the last show of the season. Your Veterinarian has arrived at the accident scene and has called to let you know that the kindest and only decision possible is euthanasia and asks for your consent. You are 20 minutes away and can’t make it in time to say good-bye.

These are everyday occurrences with our animal companions that can leave us reeling in shock, disbelief, denial, anger, isolation and even severe depression. Guilt often adds another layer of pain to the trauma.

Help is available to assist you through these tragedies and accompanying stages of grief for pet loss.

Whether it is assistance with the decision to euthanize (together with your Veterinarian), a pre-euthanasia appointment to prepare you for what will happen when the time comes, attendance at the euthanasia, bereavement assistance at a one-on-one appointment or a Pet Loss Support Group post-euthanasia, Pet Bereavement Services can help you.

Stages of Bereavement

The grief process and stages are normal transitional phases that the human mind experiences when processing a traumatic loss. Each stage is marked by very real, highly emotional feelings. The five stages, as outlined by the pioneer in Pet Loss Grief Counselling, Dr. Wallace Sife of the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, are not necessarily experienced sequentially, and at times, you can feel like you are on an emotional roller-coaster; one moment unable to accept your loss, and the next moment, crying uncontrollably over the death of your dear animal companion. These are all completely normal feelings.

Help is available to assist you through your grief. Grief needs to be mentally and emotionally processed – there is no way around it. It is essential that you work through it, in order to reach a place of acceptance and resolution.

Pet Bereavement Services provides you with a safe place to express what you are feeling and offer compassionate support. We provide effective tools and techniques to help you through this difficult time.

A few words about Pet Loss

Would you be surprised to learn that in many cases people mourn the loss of a beloved animal companion more than a human being?

So what of bereavement and how do we move through this grief? Perhaps Dr. Sife in the “The Loss of a Pet: A Guide to Coping with the Grieving Process When a Pet Dies,” says it best when he states,

“For all pet lovers, bereavement is actually the onset to our permanent celebration of the joyous life and very special love we had together”

Current US figures indicate that there are over 78 million dogs and 86 million cats, as well as a large number of birds, horses and other types of animals providing love and companionship to their owners. In Canada, the numbers are smaller, but just as significant.

This means that millions of people experience the death of a pet and that loss hurts. Thousands of people, emotionally bonded with their pets, experience a very unique type of bereavement. Previously, pet loss grief was little understood, or even acknowledged; people had to grieve their loss in isolation for fear of being shamed or ridiculed for their emotional reaction because after all … “Jack was just a dog and you can get another one”. Today, pet loss grief is more recognized and accepted as a normal social experience.

Our animal companions fulfil various, and vastly different, roles in our society today than of yesteryear. Today, for the single child, a faithful dog may be the longed-for sibling and ever-adoring confidante; for the young couple who has decided not to have a family, a beloved surrogate child; for the newly widowed senior, the last connection to a dear husband or wife and much-needed company in the golden years; for the children of a newly divorced couple, a stabilizing force in a world turned upside down; for a single woman, a faithful companion; and for most of us, that other side which represents our best self.

We enjoy the unique and unconditional love provided by the human-pet bond. Whatever the role, when they leave our lives, there is a huge gaping hole, an aching wound that needs healing.

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