The death of someone close to you is never an easy thing to accept, but the fact is that few pets outlive their owners, and the loss of a pet is something most of us have to face at some point in life. It’s important to learn how to deal with it, especially if you have children or other pets who will need your support when it happens. By learning to accept that pets get old and can contract fatal illnesses, you can give them better care when they need you most; and by saying goodbye to them in the right way, you can move on to focus on all the happy times that you had together and all the ways in which they remain part of your life.
Age and illness
Though individuals vary a lot, most cats live from 12 to 18 years, and most dogs from 10 to 13. When they reach old age, they develop many of the same kinds of problems that humans do, with declining energy, stiff joints, and difficulty getting around. Old age doesn’t have to be an unhappy time, however, and though routines may have to be altered to account for their changing needs, many pets still enjoy life right up until its natural end. Similarly, pets who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses can often enjoy their last few weeks or months if you have a good vet who provides the right advice and pain management. Pets in these circumstances won’t be able to enjoy as much independent play, so they’ll need more attention and affection, but that can also help you to get more out of the remaining time that you have with them.
Quality of life
If you’re faced with a decision about whether or not you should end the life of an ailing pet, you’ll need to think not just about how long it may be able to live for, but also about the quality of that life. Vets can give a lot of useful advice, but ultimately the choice will come down to you, because you know your pet best. Some individual animals adjust better than others to coping with pain or the symptoms of illness. You will need to think about what you can do to make life more enjoyable for them. Sometimes, the kindest thing to do is to say goodbye, and that’s very difficult, but with support from your vet, you can make the process a peaceful one.
Dealing with the sudden death of a pet
Losing a pet to age or illness is hard, but at least you have time to say goodbye. It can be much harder to deal with a sudden death caused, for instance, by a car accident. If you are able to see the body, it can often help to do so, because what the imagination conjures up is often worse, and simply being able to touch or hold your pet for a while can help you come to terms with what has happened. It can also help to look at pictures or watch videos of your pet and spend a few days thinking about the times that you had together. Friends and family members who also knew your pet can help with this process.
Having a funeral for your pet is a good way to pay tribute to those years of friendship, and it also provides a sense of closure. In places such as North Carolina, pet burial and pet cremation services are getting easier and easier to find. Cremation is a good option if you move around a lot, because it means that you will have the option of keeping your pet’s ashes with you. Alternatively, you could bury your pet in your yard or in a pet cemetery.
When to think about a new pet
If you’re thinking of getting a new pet, it’s important not to rush into it. It isn’t fair for a new pet to have to deal with your grief, or with disappointing you each time that it fails to live up to the memory of its predecessor. You can use this time to reassess your life circumstances and think about what you will realistically be able to take on. If you subsequently decide that the time is right to get a new pet, remember that this pet will have a different personality and different needs, but will have a lot of love to give. A new pet can never replace the one that you’ve lost, but you could be at the start of a beautiful new friendship.