Respect for Veterinarians: Dealing with Pet Loss
I was sitting in the lobby with Winston waiting for his appointment. As I was sitting there a vet tech came out and spoke to the man sitting across from me. She said his dog’s heart was enlarged and she was having pulmonary heart failure. She said they were performing CPR right now but she came out to see if he wanted them to stop. He obviously was in shock and the information didn’t register as he asked “will we need to euthanize her? I am crying right now just remembering the words and knowing that “Angel”, someone’s beloved pet, was in the other room dying.
Last month, when I visited the vet, a woman passed me with an empty carrier and we ran into each other. She apologized saying “she was out of it as she had to just put her cat down”. I witnessed so much loss and pain on just two visits to the vet clinic and was reminded of why I couldn’t become a vet as much as I loved animals. I have so much respect for veterinarians. Not only do you have to be smart and compassionate but you must be able to handle the daily emotional sadness of losing animals and more importantly having to tell their owners.
For many people, losing a pet is a real and sincere loss of a family member and nothing prepares you for the loss or the grieving process. There are lots of resources available to help support people who need help coping with the loss of a pet. There are also lots of helpful articles that give advice on how to make tough end of life decisions and what to tell your children. Below are some helpful websites and articles.
A part of the healing process is honoring your pet. There are lots of great ways to do that including: having a memorial service, writing a poem, song or letter, planting a tree, making a charitable donation in their honor, buying a memorial stone or paver, or creating a photo album or keepsake. The ideas are endless and you should do what best fits your pet. Straymagnet offers a free memorial section to post photos/videos and stories. The memories of your pets do live on and will inspire others!
Support Groups and Counseling Resources in TN:
Knoxville: Pet Loss Support Group at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine For clients they also offer individual, couple or family sessions in person or by phone.
Nashville: Pet Bereavement Support
Individual, Group and Pet Hospice Counseling for Middle Tennessee
Peg Beehan, LCSW
Nashville: Family & Children’s Service -Sheba Pet Loss Hotline (615)724-0228, http://www.fcsnashville.org/sheba.html
Pet Loss Hotlines: Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, offers a pet loss support hotline and has a list of other hotlines.
Pet Loss Section(FAQ, end of life care, helping children cope etc.) on ASPCA
“Healing After the Loss of Your Pet” Linda R. Harper, Ph. D on Best Friends Animal Society
“Surviving the Hollow Days After a Pet Has Died” Kitty Walker, LMSW-ACP on Nashville Pet Emergency Clinic
“Coping With the Death of Your Pet” The Humane Society of the United States
“Ten Tips on Coping with Pet Loss” Moira Anderson Allen, M.Ed. on Pet Loss
“Grief & the Loss of a Pet” Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith