Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pet Loss Is Real

People & Their Pets

Rosie The Cat: What might seem easier when presented as an abstract idea often becomes harder when it becomes more real, more immediate; such is the case with our pets, Silver says: "Anyway, as I noted, I thought it would be very easy to say, 'I am tired of cleaning up cat urine, so let's euthanize Rosie.' But somehow I couldn't. Maybe it was because Rosie seemed to be enjoying life as best she could. "
Photo Credit:  Marc Silver, 2013

An article ("It's Hard to Send a Pet to Heaven"), by Marc Silver, in National Geographic gives a wonderful first-person account of the difficulty that people face when they have to "put down their pet." Saying good-bye to a living being is never easy, especially if the relationship has been a good, loving and long-lasting one; this is often the case with people and their pets. Pets are for many individuals and their families an important—call it an essential—familiar, soft furry member who provides not only companionship but also unconditional love and happiness.

Silver writes:
Why is it so hard to send a cat to kitty heaven? It's not like Rosie left in the prime of her life. She had 20 years—20 good years. She was the daughter of a feral cat. We intended her to live an indoor life, but her instincts demanded that she bust out into the great outdoors. So she turned herself into an indoor-outdoor cat and took great pleasure in prowling our yard, terrorizing other cats, and sunning herself on the patio. (Read "Animal Domestication: Taming the Wild.")
Over time, she became such a part of our family life that she was just Rosie Silver, our cat, with her own style and her own Facebook page. She was a devoted friend to our two daughters, even when they stretched her out like she was on a rack. She was also part of our family crises, like the time she got into a fight with some animal outside that resulted in a puncture wound just when Marsha was undergoing breast-cancer treatment.
"Your cat might need a port for her medicine," the vet told us then. I wanted to say, "Now wait a sec, there, we already have a port in the house," because that was part of Marsha's treatment—the implanting of a port for chemo infusions.
I guess what I'm saying now is that I'm stunned by how deep the bond with an animal can be—even an animal that treated me like an ogre for over a decade. And how hard it is to say goodbye, even when you know it's time.
So long, Rosie. You were a cool cat, and our house is empty without you. And I know this sounds hokey, but my heart is a bit emptier too.
Humans have a need to mourn loss; it's a natural and necessary process to recovery. It's not only OK to cry; it's good and healthy for you; it's not only OK to feel sadness; it's good and human for you. I have had pets (chiefly cats), both as a child and as an adult, and to have one enliven your household is to have a loving presence. That people need to go through a grieving process when they lose their pets is being better understood today. It's especially hard on children, but adults, too. There is often a need for closure, which might explain why people turn to pet funerals, often simple and dignified, as a means to say good-bye to a loved pet in a more formal way [see here].

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You can read the rest of the article at [National Geographic]