Poppy, brick found in our flower bed, April 2009,
photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.
From a comment this morning, QM writes:
I am heading over to two of our friends’ house to be there when they put their cat Kaia down. She’s been under the weather for a few months. And after the last trip to the vet last week, they have made the hard decision that it’s time. Kaia, bless her heart, is just tired. They think she may have cancer and she can’t be operated on because she’s too frail and has a weak heart.
We stopped by to visit them last night and spend a little time with Kaia. They got her as a kitten (her sister was Emigre, there were two of them) in about 1992 so I think that makes her about 17 years old. Send prayers this morning as it’s the last day that Kaia will roam the Earth in bodily form. Something about the unconditional love that pets give to humans always makes it so sad to let them go.
I only knew Kaia from QM’s writing; QM and Liz often cared for the cat when their friends were out of town. And QM and Liz not too long ago had to contemplate similar decisions when their cat Chaco became seriously ill. Fortunately, Chaco had a near-miraculous recovery.
Jim and I had to put our dog Roger down after he got cancer and the tumors affected his breathing. A good friend who happens to be a vet came and euthanized Roger out in the grass one mild fall morning while Jim and I held him. Later, Jim said he would never go through that heartache again, and when Rudy died not long after, we were able to let him die naturally with all four of us surrounding him. (I incorporated that experience into a short story, which I included in a blog post in 2007, when QM’s Mr. Stripeypants got seriously ill. Fortunately, Pants also recovered.)
It’s rare, I think, that natural causes finally take a pet’s life. Often the sufferring becomes unbearable, and the humane thing to do is to help move them from the physical world onto the other side.
QM and Liz are by their nature compassionate and emphathetic people. That’s why, I’m certain, they were asked to be with their friends while they put Kaia to sleep.
But not everyone knows how to deal with the death of a friend’s pet. I know that even having gone through my own pets’ deaths, I can find myself at a loss for the right words or deeds that might help ease the pain.
Larry Kaufman, a pet loss counselor, offers this advice to people who want to support those who are mourning the loss of a pet:
- Take the distressing experience of the mourner seriously. Listen and speak with empathy, understanding, support, sensitivity, and compassion.
- Ask the mourner about the circumstances of the pet’s death.
- Encourage the mourner to talk about the pet, to tell stories of the pet’s life in the family.
- Don’t ask if the mourner is planning to get another pet or suggest where such a pet might be bought.
- Avoid the use of clichés such as telling the mourner that time heals all wounds, or reassuring them that they will soon “get over it.”
- Send a condolence card specifically made for pet loss.
- Remember dates that are important to the bereaved pet owner, like the date of the pet’s death. Consider sending a follow-up note, e-mail, or card, or making a telephone in remembrance of the day.
- Send a donation in honor of the deceased pet to an animal-related organization (such as a humane society, animal shelter, or one devoted to improving the health of animals through medical research).
- After a few weeks or months, follow up by asking how the bereaved individual is doing. (Use the pet’s name and correct gender.)
- Don’t assume that you know how the mourner might be feeling and reacting. The mourning process can be multi-layered and complex. Everyone is unique, with her/his own needs and preferences. Good judgment is essential in dealing with people in such a vulnerable state.
Just as my prayers go to Kaia, my thoughts go out to you, QM and Liz. You are special people and the dearest of friends.