Animal Health Foundation Blog

Archive for the ‘Pet Loss and Bereavement’ Category

Pet Cremation: Practical First Steps & Memorial Ideas (2019 Edition)

Friday, November 15th, 2019

 

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. ” – Anatole France

Introduction

I’ve noticed my little Shih Tzu is failing. She hides under my bed or stays outside in the rain. When I call for her, she turns toward me in confusion. Her eyes are blank and searching, for she is blind. In the mornings, I regretfully leave her hoping that when I return, she will greet me excitedly at the door. I dread the days when I have to hunt her down as though we are playing hide and seek. I’m never sure of what I will find, and that makes my stomach flip nervously and my heart race.

Our pets are our family, and our family is our world.

For this reason, it’s important to begin thinking about a pet’s death and how we would like to honor and memorialize our companion before our pet passes.

Suggested ReadSay A Meaningful Goodbye To Your Pet

Pet Cremation Services

Before losing my last pet, I never thought about what I would do with his remains. I regret not preplanning for my pet’s death because I put myself in a position to make a hasty decision–one I would later regret. We have options as pet owners, and it’s important to know what those options are.

If you choose to leave your pet with the veterinarian, make sure you ask your vet how he or she disposes of an animal. It could mean that your pet will be included in a mass cremation process or taken to a landfill. If this is not your desire, make sure to speak up.

Pet Cremation Cost

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, at least 17% of funeral homes in the U.S. now offer pet cremation services, and another 13% plan to do so. As of 2016, there were over 800 pet cemeteries and crematoriums in the United States, and the pet funeral industry continues to grow. 90% of pet owners choose cremation while less than 10% choose burial when their beloved pet passes.

Depending on your pet’s size and weight and the market where you reside, cremation costs can vary substantially. The price can range between $30 – $250. In addition, there are add-on services that can influence the price like memorials or funeral ceremonies. The good news is that most crematoriums have options that fit the budget of the owner.

Private or Individual Cremation

Private or individual creation is the most costly option. Your pet will be placed in the cremation chamber alone, ensuring that it will not be mixed with other animals’ remains. Some people request to view the cremation of their pet to help with closure and provide comfort that the pet’s remains were, indeed, cremated individually. There may be an added fee for this service.

Semi-Private or Partitioned Cremation

During a semi-private or partitioned cremation, pets are cremated at the same time with other animals. Even though crematoriums do their best to keep the remains separated in the chamber, there is a chance that part pf the remains could be comingled or mixed together which makes this choice less costly. Some crematoriums may refer to a partitioned cremation as individual, so be sure to ask specific questions.

Communal or Group Cremation

Communal or group cremation involves the cremation of multiple animals in the same chamber at once. The remains cannot be separated, and therefore, will not be returned.

Pet Funeral Plaque

Pet Funeral

Practical First Steps

There is no right or wrong way to announce a pet’s death. Some people turn to social media and find comfort in reading comments and responses. Others send an email or post card notification to their closest friends. Still others prefer to keep the news private and limit an announcement to family and close friends. Today, anything goes.

In fact, as I’m writing this, the news is announcing the death of a celebrity’s dog. It has become socially acceptable to acknowledge the suffering and despair that accompany the loss of a pet. It’s important that the owner do what is most comfortable for them.

If an owner chooses to write a death announcement or obituary, they have creative freedom, as there is no prescribed way to compose a pet obituary. Including a picture of a pet, sharing a fond memory, or writing about a pet’s personality is common. However, the tone of an obituary can be sad, humorous, inspiring, or serious. Every pet’s personality is unique, and this can be reflected in how one tells the story of their pet’s life.

Organizing a Funeral Service or Ceremony

Holding a pet funeral is a cathartic means to gain closure after the loss of a pet. The funeral can reflect the pet’s personality or its owner’s. Funerals can be fun, quirky, serious, elaborate, or simple. From backyard ceremonies to procuring the services of a pet funeral home and cemetery, there are many choices that can adapt to your budget and taste.

People in the pet industry understand that losing a pet can be as devastating as losing a beloved family member; therefore, they are there to assist you. Not only do pet cemeteries and funeral homes offer burial and cremation services, but they also sell caskets, urns, and grave markers specifically created for pets.

As noted above, some traditional funeral homes are now providing pet services. Funeralwise.com is an excellent resource to search for pet cemeteries and cremation services in your area.

Choosing a Location

If you choose to have a funeral for your pet, the first decision to make is where to hold the ceremony. It could be at a favorite park, a beach, or a cat’s favorite place to sun itself. Choose a location that reminds you of spending joyous moments with your pet.

Ideas to Include In Your Ceremony

Below are some common features to include in your ceremony:

  • Displaying photographs and videos to memorialize your pet
  • Sharing memories with the attendees
  • Reading poems and/or religious passages
  • Offering prayers and blessings
  • Holding a candle lighting ceremony
  • Concluding and saying goodbye and thank you to guests

Some popular prayers include:

Pet Loss Prayer

Dear God, we bring our grief in the loss of (pet’s name) to you and ask for the courage to move through our grief. We bring you all our thanks for (pet’s name) who we were blessed to have as our precious pet. She/he gave so freely of his/her love to all those who she’d meet. We commit our beloved pet and companion into your loving hands. Surround us with your love and give us others to support us as we mourn.

Amen

Good-bye Prayer of a Beloved Pet

We gather today joining hearts as we honor the loss of our beloved pet (pet’s name) who made our days and our lives more enjoyable. Someday we hope to meet with you again (pet’s name) in eternity with hugs, kisses and tears. We miss your daily presence and unending love in our daily lives. Death ends a life but our relationship still lives on in my heart and in my memory of times we spent together. You are now free running the fields where we will meet again. You are restored to complete health. You are in God’s loving care forever.

Amen

Prayer for a Candle Lighting Ceremony

We honor the memory of our precious pet with the warm light of this candle, sending to all our beloved pets a message of peace and love. We, as pet caregivers, bring our loss and sorrow to this place and together we ask that day by day our grief will be lessened. Each day let us continue to see how the relationship we had with our beloved pet still impacts our lives today.

Amen

Additional popular poems and prayers

Below is a further list of popular poems and prayers:

More like This: Mourning The Loss Of A Pet With A Pet Funeral

8 Pet Memorial Ideas

8 Pet Memorial Ideas

The final farewell to a pet can be simple to elaborate.

It could be a verbal, “Goodbye, my friend. You will be missed.” While other people may choose to complete the ceremony by releasing lanterns, butterflies, or even setting off fireworks. One could even choose to give away a favorite book about a dog or present a heartwarming movie like “A Dog’s Purpose” to their guests. The celebration of a pet does not have to end with the funeral. It can be everlasting with a permanent memorial.

Suggested Read: Establishing A Permanent Memorial

1. Offer Donations

A charitable way to memorialize a pet is to offer a donation to a preferred animal shelter or rescue. I love the idea of holding an annual party in your dog’s name where friends and family are asked to bring blankets, treats, or food to offer as a donation.

2. Volunteer at an Animal Shelter

Another philanthropic way to remember a pet is to offer your time at a local shelter. Volunteering can help relieve the pain that accompanies a pet’s death. It is difficult to be sad when you are bringing joy to other animals.

3. Framing The Rainbow Bridge Poem

The Rainbow Bridge poem is a beautiful reminder that your pet lives on after their earthly life. Framing it can provide comfort and reassurance that one day you will be reunited with your pet again.

4. Plant a Memorial Tree

Planting a tree or flowers to remember a pet will keep their memory alive; however, I like the idea of putting a beautiful plant or picture of a pet in their favorite indoor spot.

5. Add Memorial Stones to Your Garden

A mosaic portrait stone for the garden is another beautiful way to memorialize a pet, or commissioning an artist to paint a portrait of a beloved pet is another way to pay tribute to a loyal companion.

6. Incorporate Their Memory into Jewelry

There are many ways to incorporate jewelry into memorializing your pet. There are charms, bracelets, rings, and pendants that can hold remains, incorporate paw prints, or be imprinted with photos.

7. Create a Stuffed Animal

Companies exist that will create a stuffed animal from a picture of a pet. This is a comforting way for a child to remember a cherished pet.

8. Get a Tattoo

Finally, tattoos are becoming a popular way to memorialize both people and pets. A person can ink a pet’s paw print, name and/or date of birth and death, or a full pet portrait.

Pet Cremation

Conclusion

Pets greet us with enthusiasm, love us unconditionally, and are able to overlook our greatest flaws. Even when we are irritable and cranky, they still want to snuggle up next to us. I think this is why we mourn these loyal companions so deeply when they pass. The bond we share with a pet is the one relationship we can count on day in and day out. When our world falls apart and human challenges befall us, our pets are right there to provide comfort.

Our human relationships can be complicated and difficult while the relationship we have with a pet is seemingly simple and easy. For these reasons, it is important that we allow ourselves to mourn these beautiful creatures. In fact, grieving the loss of a pet in a way that makes sense to us is an act of kindness we can do for ourselves during this very difficult time.

Everdays sends important service details and updates, finds support in private condolences with family and friends, and celebrates the life of your loved one (including pets 🐾) with a dedicated tribute of shared photos with keepsake video. To learn more, visit our website or download our app, available on both iOS and Android. 

I’ll Wait for You

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

Old Dogs Don’t Die; They Can’t

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

From:  K9 Companion Dog Training
September 3, 2018 at 8:06 PM

Old dogs don’t die; they can’t.

They’ve merely run up ahead; they’re waiting for us just out of sight. Close your eyes late at night and you may smell his musky odor, or perhaps hear his snuffle from the next room. Pay attention and you may feel his nose on your hand or the back of your calf. When your final day comes, you can go on to meet him; he’s never left you and never will, and when you close your eyes for the last time, you’ll open them again to be met with his Bright eyes and wagging tail.

Old dogs don’t die, at least, not those dogs who take the biggest chunks of our hearts with them when they leave us. Those dogs are inextricably part of our souls, and they go with us wherever we are. Though we may not see them, we know they’re there because our heart is still beating; we still breathe, and those of us who have been truly touched by a good dog know our lives really started the day we met them.
Magnificent dogs don’t die. They shepherd our dreams and only allow the good ones through the gates of our consciousness. They watch over us much as they did in life, and that moment when we step just barely outside of death or disaster, it’s because they moved our feet or they stopped short in front of us as they did in life.

You see, a good dog is something only given to a few people. They are a gift from the universe and, though they’re with us only a short time, they never really leave us. They are loyalty and love perfected, and once we are graced with that sort of love we can never lose it. We merely lose sight of it for a time, and that is our fault; for how can love like that ever go away?

It can’t. It can’t, and it never will. For these brave souls trade their hearts for ours, and they beat together beyond sickness, beyond death. They are ours, and we are theirs, for every sunrise and every sunset, until the sun blazes its last and we once again join the stars.

By Leigh Hester,
K9 Companion Dog Training
Port Jervis, NY

When Is the Right Time for Euthanasia?

Monday, August 19th, 2019

Beau

My sister and her husband have a really old Schnauzer-mix named Beau. He might even be a real Schnauzer. He’s so old, it’s hard to tell! They took in Beau when a friend in distress couldn’t keep him. The friend had gotten Beau as a puppy when her son was 10 years old, and that son is in his late twenties now, so… Beau is old. He has limited vision, limited hearing, has had several strokes and can’t walk a straight line, and is growing increasingly incontinent. On his bad days, it seems almost cruel that he is being kept alive. He may stagger or not be able to get up, he acts like he doesn’t know where he is and is anxious, and he may just suddenly completely empty his bladder on the carpet while standing still, seemingly unaware he is doing so.

But on his good days, he runs up the hall with the rest of his housemates, eats with gusto, goes outside through the dog door and potties without assistance or a reminder to do so, and enjoys his time on the sofa and in bed with his human and canine housemates. So they are very much afraid that if they call the vet to make a euthanasia appointment on one of his bad days, and he’s having a good day on the day of the appointment, the vet may decline to euthanize, or the staff may make them feel like creeps! In fact, they feel sort of pre-emptively guilty about even just talking about “Beau’s time.” My sister and brother-in-law love Beau and want him to have a good end. But when is the right time?

Chaco and Lena

There is Chaco, one of my former foster dogs. She’s younger than Otto, but has two failing knees and severe arthritis, and her owner lacks the health insurance or budget to pay for two knee surgeries. Her declining mobility has contributed, it seems, to weight gain, which compounds her problems.

Another friend is in a similar position with Lena, Otto’s very first playmate and friend. She has had one ACL surgically repaired, and underwent “conservative management” when the second one tore; her veterinarian says her hips, too, are quite dysplastic, and would have benefitted from surgery. Both hips and both knees, too? Her very devoted owner, my friend, could not have possibly paid for four surgeries – nor could she have gotten or afforded insurance after the first knee injury and x-rays showed the hip problems. Lena is maintained on daily pain medication and various joint supplements, and my friend takes her for frequent drives to places where she can take short, gentle walks. My friend has also been shopping for some sort of wagon or cart she could use to take the 70-pound dog on walks, so she at least can enjoy the changing scenery and odors. Lena, like Chaco, is getting fairly crippled, but is in otherwise good health and appetite. How long can my friends maintain them in this condition?

How to know when to let them go

Super dedicated owners can provide hospice care for dogs, if they are physically and emotionally able and have an appropriate home and time to do so. We ran a great article about this in 2010; it holds up well today. But not everyone has a schedule and home that would permit, as just one example, helping a large non-ambulatory dog outside to potty several times a day.

Not unrelated: Between all my dog-loving friends, I am aware of exactly ONE DOG who died peacefully in his sleep.

I just went looking; here are some links for information on how to know when “the time” is right for euthanasia:

https://www/americanhumane.org/fact-sheet/euthanasia-making-the-decision/

https://www.petmd.com/blogs/fullyvetted/2009/march/ten-ways-you-know-its-time-euthanize-your-pet-6745

https://www.lapoflove.com/Quality-of-Life/How-Will-I-Know-It-Is-Time

When it is getting close to time to make an appointment for euthanasia, we have some other helpful articles to read. This one is by a long-time contributor to WDJ, trainer Lisa Rodier.

Also, trainer Jill Breitner’s article on what to ask before making an appointment for euthanasia and the companion piece to that article by Dr. Sally J. Foote are excellent sources of information about what you should know in advance.

When You Miss Your Furry Friend

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

How To Camp With Your Dog

Monday, April 15th, 2019

How To Camp With Your Dog

 

 

Yes, You Did

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

Saying Goodbye; How to Deal with the Death of a Dog

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Dealing with the death of a pet can be the hardest thing many of us will ever do.

The link below helps you with how you can say goodbye.

 

Saying Goodbye: How To Deal With The Loss Of A Dog

Hospice Care For Dogs

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

From iheartdogs.org

Animal Health Foundation Board Member, Dr. Alice Villalobos, is quoted in this article!

Hospice Care For Dogs: Is It The Right Choice For You & Your Pooch?

Hospice care for dogs is a relatively new concept. Sadly, the word hospice often carries a negative stigma. It reminds us of lonely, sterile rooms and the fear of impending death. In reality, hospice care can be a wonderful gift for terminally ill people and pets. Rather than focusing on invasive medical procedures, hospice provides physical and emotional comfort to end-of-life patients and their families.

hospice care for dogs

What is hospice care for dogs?

Hospice care is based on the philosophy that people and pets deserve to die with dignity. When a dog is suffering from a serious illness and a cure is not possible, hospice care provides a temporary alternative to euthanasia. The goal is to make their remaining days comfortable with pain medications, dietary strategies and human interaction.

Dr. Alice Villalobos is a world-renowned veterinary oncologist. She coined the term “pawspice,” which she describes as supportive care in evaluating and managing quality of life in the time leading up to a pet’s death.

“In-home ‘pawspice’ care is a wonderful next step,” Dr. Villalobos says. “It should be introduced as an interval between the thought and the final act of euthanasia, if the owner really feels that their pet still has a quality of life.”

Hospice care for dogs also allows families to come to terms with the impending loss of a beloved friend. In keeping a terminal pet comfortable, the human family members have time to come to terms with the situation. Hospice allows them to plan special moments with their dog, take family photos, and seek emotional and spiritual support.

8 Things Every Dog Owner Should Know When Their Pet Crosses The Rainbow Bridge

Sunday, January 21st, 2018
For WWW.LITTLETHINGS.COM by REBECCA ENDICOTT
artwork by Laura Caseley for Little Things

Unfortunately, it’s the nature of pet ownership to lose your beloved fluff ball. The average human will live eight decades, but a dog’s lifespan is much shorter.

According to the American Kennel Club, dogs live for an average of 10 to 13 years, depending on the breed.

That means that every human who welcomes a sweet pup into the family will have to eventually face the tricky proposition of losing a furry best friend.

There are lots of beautiful ways to memorialize your dog after he crosses the rainbow bridge, but that isn’t necessarily comforting in the days immediately before and after a pooch passes on.

In fact, it can be really hard to prepare for that moment.

That’s why we put together a list of important things all pooch-owners should know for the day their beloved dog dies.

#1: The Grief Will Hit Hard

#1: The Grief Will Hit Hard

You might be surprised by how hard you are hit by grief.

It’s easy to think that you will be able to cope with the death of your pet, but people often discover that they are just as devastated by the loss of their dog as they would be by any death.

Even though humans know intellectually that they’ll have to say goodbye to their beloved dogs eventually, it doesn’t make it any easier to face the reality.

#2: You Might Feel Guilty

#2: You Might Feel Guilty

Guilt is a totally normal emotion to experience as you’re processing your loss and grief, but people are sometimes taken aback by how strongly they blame themselves.

People worry that perhaps there was something more they could have done early, they worry that they made the wrong decision, or that they missed a sign that their pup was in pain or unwell.

These worries are totally normal, but try not to let them take you over. At some point, you have to trust that you did everything you could for your sweet pup, and he loved you for it.

#3: Your Vet Will Be More Of A Comfort Than You Expect

#3: Your Vet Will Be More Of A Comfort Than You Expect

During your dog’s lifetime, the veterinarian is just the person who gives your pup shots and diagnoses infections.

After you pup dies, the veterinarian might become your best friend for a while.

That’s because vets see this kind of loss every day, and they often know exactly how to support and comfort a grieving pet parent.

Vets can also help you with details like figuring out how to lay your dog to rest; many vets offer cremation services and memorial boxes.

#4: Grief Can Spike Unexpectedly

#4: Grief Can Spike Unexpectedly

Laura Caseley for LittleThings

After you lose your dog, you’ll probably spend a few days mourning before slowly starting to feel better.

When that happens, it’s easy to think that the worst of your grief is behind you, though that often isn’t the case.

Sometimes, grief will reemerge as fresh and painful as the day your dog died. Know that the grieving process is long and complex, and let it take its natural course.

#5: You Might Have To Make The Choice

#5: You Might Have To Make The Choice

Laura Caseley for LittleThings

For many dog owners, the most difficult part of losing their pet actually comes before the pet passes on.

Many owners find themselves in the painful position of choosing to end the dog’s life, and having him put to sleep.

When you adopt a dog, you have to be prepared for the possibility of making this choice.

If your dog is elderly, in pain, and unable to comprehend what’s happening, it might be your responsibility to help him avoid unnecessary pain and suffering.

#6: It’s Worth Asking For Paw Prints

#6: It's Worth Asking For Paw Prints

Laura Caseley for LittleThings

After your dog passes away, your vet will usually offer to help with the remains, often by cremation.

Before that happens, you might want to ask the vet to take your dog’s paw prints for you.

Many vets are happy to help you through your goodbye by giving you one last memento of your beloved pup.

Even as you move on, having his paw prints is a lovely way to remember a loyal and beloved friend.

#7: If Possible, Be There

#7: If Possible, Be There

Laura Caseley for LittleThings

We don’t always have a choice in how our dogs pass on.

If it’s an accident or completely unexpected, you might not be with your dog at the end.

However, if you can choose to be with your dog, definitely do it, though it might be painful for you.

What’s important is that your dog will feel loved and unafraid with you by his side holding his paw.

#8: Remember, You Gave Your Pup The Best Life

#8: Remember, You Gave Your Pup The Best Life

Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Eventually, as the weeks and months pass, you’ll find yourself healing. You’ll never stop loving and missing your dog, but you’ll know that your pup is in a better place now.

Most important of all, you will know that, while he was here with you, you gave him the best life ever.

He loved you to pieces, and we bet he wouldn’t have traded one second of the life the two of you had together.