Author Archives: petsremembered

Our Birthday Boy

Next week our yellow lab, Legend, turns nine years old. Legend came into our home when he was 5 1/2, so we never knew him as a pup. At this point, he often acts like a grumpy old man, with a lowly growl and frown upon his face, although he warms up with treats and a belly run, once you can convince him to roll over.

Our last lab, Boots, was ten (six weeks shy of his 11th birthday) when he died, so even though Legend doesn’t have any obvious health issues, apart from some arthritis that slows him down, it is unlikely that he will be with us for too many more years. That is one of the big drawbacks, as all pet lovers know – our pets have a short life span, at least in comparison to ours. That means we just have to make every day count and make the most of the time we have. For our dogs, a good day is one that includes a walk (or two), play time, nap time, being with their humans, and of course, meal and treat time. And because our dogs come with us to Pets Remembered, every day is a good day for them!

Legend will get a few extra belly rubs, a leisurely walk, and maybe an extra special treat on his birthday, but for him it will be pretty much like every other day. And for us, we will give thanks that he became part of our family when he needed a forever home! As frustrating as he can be at times, it’s hard to imagine our family without him, so Happy Birthday Legend!


Pets & Halloween!

As we anticipate an evening of trick or treaters at our door for Halloween this Saturday, I have to smile as memories of our black lab, Boots, come to mind. Halloween was Boots’ favorite holiday because he loved all of those cute little kids coming to our door. For a few years we tried dressing him as a bumble bee. He wasn’t too keen on the outfit but Boots was an obedient and mellow dog so he didn’t put up a fuss and he looked so darn cute/funny. I miss Boots, even though he’s been gone for almost three years. I will especially miss his mild and calm presence on Saturday night when our two current dogs (Legend & Kona) bark their heads off every time trick or treaters ring our doorbell.

Of course, I love Legend and Kona, too, but given my memories of Boots on Halloween, it’s a good reminder that every pet is special, and every pet has his or her particular quirks – some more lovable than others! We still have the bumble bee outfit. Legend is too big for it, but maybe if we can coax Kona into wearing it she will channel a little bit of Boots and enjoy the visitors as much as he did.

Happy Halloween to all pets and people!

Difficult choices

Both the national and international news these days are full of stories of people having to flee their homes, whether due to fires consuming much of California or due to war and conflict in Syria, Afganistan, and other parts of the world. Although folks in California and migrants on the other side of the globe have very different stories, a common thread for many of them is leaving pets and livestock behind, not out of choice but necessity.

For many of us not in their shoes, it is difficult to imagine having to make the choice and walking away from animals – whether pets and/or livestock – in order to save our own lives. I hope that is a choice I am never faced with. My heart aches for those people dealing with a myriad of losses – their home, for many their country, their way of life, and their pets. Recently, as we have remembered the anniversary of the destruction of New Orleans, I remember the many stories of pets being saved in the aftermath of the flooding. Some folks were able to have wonderful reunions with their pets and some pets found new homes. I hope that is the case, once again, for many of those families in California.

Love up your pets today – and if you don’t have one, there’s one waiting for you in a shelter!!




How do I know when it’s the right time to say goodbye?

It’s never easy to say goodbye to a pet, especially when they are such a big part of our lives and family. The question every pet owner dreads is “is it time to say goodbye?” There are usually no easy answers.

As a veterinary technician and pet owner I have frequently been asked by clients, “if it was your pet, what would you do?” As a technician this is not my decision to be making for a client, in fact no one can make that decision but you. The Veterinarian team is there to guide you with medical decisions for your pet especially in cases of trauma or severe debilitating illness where a pet may be suffering. But no matter how clear cut the medical decision is to humanely euthanize a pet, there will still remain those conflicting thoughts and emotions, making such decisions for pets is often a very agonizing and personal one.

As pet owners, what is the first thing that we generally see when we enter our home? At my house I am always greeted at the door by my five yorkies with all kinds of barking, jumping, and dancing around, as if to say “we missed you and are soooooo glad you’re home.” I can’t imagine coming home and not being greeted in this manner. I have had to ask the dreaded question and make the difficult decision for my pets in the past and I will have to make it in the future again and again, I will and have relied on my pets to let me know just when that time comes.

Owners will question themselves. Am I doing the right thing? Should I get a second opinion? Is he/she in pain? Can I do more? You may even think that your pet is having a good day, so now isn’t the time. We don’t want to put the cart before the horse so to speak, and end life too soon. However, I think we would be upset if we made our beloved pet suffer needlessly and unnecessarily for even an extra day. How do we make that final decision?

Unfortunately there are no rules for something like this. Everyone has unique and personal experiences with their pets and also with death and dying. From never having to euthanize a pet, to having to go through the experience many times over the years. As a pet owner it may be the most difficult decision you will ever have to make. I know it is always difficult for me. We know when they aren’t feeling their best, and we know when something isn’t right. I know that I don’t want any of my pets to be in pain or to go through any unnecessary suffering, and I feel that as pet owners we are pretty in tuned to our pets. When clients would ask “how do I know when it’s time?” I would ask the client to think of three to five things, (activities) that come to mind that their pet really finds pleasure and enjoyment in doing. Maybe it’s a ride in the car, or a favorite toy, walks, swimming, playing fetch, chasing squirrels, hearing is it time to eat or something as simple as lying at your feet when you’re sitting at the table or in your easy chair. Amazingly it is our pets that will be the ones letting us know how they are doing and they will help us in making this difficult decision. As those activities they so enjoyed begin to diminish then perhaps it is getting to be time to say good-bye, I believe our pets are best at telling us these things.

Where is the best place for saying good-bye?

We have more options today allowing a better end-of-life experience for our pets and for ourselves by offering in-home euthanasia services. For those that may be suffering from medical issues and find it to be stressful on both the pet as well as ourselves, this is an option where your beloved companion can stay in the comfort of his/her bed surrounded by family and things familiar to them, and not laying on a stainless steel table in a sterile environment with strange sounds and smells that make them anxious and uncomfortable. This is also a better way for you to take the time you need with your beloved pet/friend not feel rushed because there is a room of strangers waiting for their turn in the room you are occupying. Also you may only have one way to exit the clinic, and it’s a room of people with dogs and cats, and puppies and kittens waiting to be seen. Or if you are uncomfortable euthanizing your pet at home, you may have a hard time seeing the area everyday where your pet passed, or you will never be able to go back to that clinic due to euthanizing them there. Pets Remembered offers the use of their Comfort Center as an alternative location for your convenience.

Just remember that when the time comes, and you euthanize a pet, allow yourself to grieve your loss, and take time to heal. For dealing with grief we have some resources listed on our website.

Melanie Dittmann

To Get a Pet!

I have yet to see the recently released Dr. Seuss book, What Pet Should I Get? I have read a couple of reviews on the book, and one reviewer stated that the book was clearly a draft that was never completed by the famed author. What I like – without even reading the book – is the topic: getting a pet. While there have been a few times in my life when a pet was not part of my life, those times have been few and far between. In my experience, pets have greatly enriched my life, despite the fact that my dogs have sometimes been inconvenient and even maddening!! (Currently, mud serves as a magnet for Kona – need I say more?)

In the big picture, as I see it, life is short and whatever brings joy to us is worth doing and worth pursuing. Of course, whatever brings joy also brings pain (ouch), but that is true for all relationships, human and pet. I love the idea of looking at one’s life and considering what type of pet is best for each person. There are so many types of pets and so many types of people and lifestyles, so something for everyone. Which pet is right for you?


Wild Animals!

Skip and I recently watched a fascinating program on public television that featured Wild Life Vets. I missed the introduction, so I can’t tell you specifically about the group (how they are funded, how and where they operate, etc), but they are amazing people who care deeply about the quality of life animals in the wild are living. The group includes not only veterinarians, but also assistants who are able to tranquilize animals when necessary, chase them down and secure them for the safety of both the animal and those working on him or her.

We watched as they helped to heal a giraffe who had damaged her hoof in a wire trap; went to the aid of a rhinocerous whose face had been badly damaged by poachers who cut off her horn; conducted surgery on a blind orangutang to restore sight in one eye so she and her daughter could return to the wild. The program also featured care of a seal living in a zoo, so not every animal featured had to be found, tranquilized and contained for treatment.

I was struck by the compassion of all of the vets and assistants, risking their own safety for the benefit of the animals. There is always plenty of bad news in the world, so how refreshing to watch people doing some really great work.




Our planet of creatures

I was happy to hear the Shrine Circus will no longer be using elephants in their shows. I only wish the elephants could go to a sanctuary now rather than waiting for a couple of years. It is unclear to me, though, why the Circus will continue to use other animals. If it is not good for the elephants, what makes it okay for the others? In similar headlines, Sea World has come under criticism for their treatment of the whales under their care. Many folks also question the keeping of animals in zoos.

All of these story lines raise good questions and concerns about the way humans use, and often abuse, animals who are meant to live in the wild. But even if we decide against including these beautiful animals for human entertainment, the solution is not easy. We can’t just send them back into the wild where they have never lived. And even if we could, they would face many dangers - including poachers - they are not prepared for.

At least the conversation has begun, and hopefully, some day this conversation will lead to greater respect and understanding for all of the creatures w share this planet with.


Grieving animals

Recently I watched a television documentary about penguins. I admit that I was not watching closely, since I was busy in the kitchen at the time, so I missed a lot of the details. One segment was really heartbreaking, though, and it brought me to tears. A young, curious penguin wandered off and ended up in the territory of a neighboring group of penguins who battered and pecked the young guy to death. Shortly thereafter, as the penguin gasped it’s final breath, the penguin’s sibling came upon him, stood over him and then sprawled out over his body. The announcer said something about how the scene indicated that penguins grieve over the loss of family members.

Nature programs are often difficult to watch because they show the brutality of animals in the wild. Of course, the brutality of humans is well documented also, and we are – supposedly - civilized, whatever that means.

Watching the grieving penguin reminded me of the many stories we hear, at Pets Remembered, of how pets in the home react to the death of another pet. People often talk about a change of behavior, sometimes referring to a change in the pecking order, but often referring to an apparent sense of loss by the pet or pets who remain.

It’s another reminder that loss is loss, and whatever loss we or those around us have experienced, life is never quite the same again, and we need some time and space to adjust to our new reality.

Lost and Found

There is a great story in the news this week about a German Shepherd from South Dakota who was lost a couple of months ago, but - thanks to social media – was recently found in Minnesota and is now back home with his family. With so much bad news in the world, it is refreshing to hear good news, but beyond that, the story brought me to back to Sheba, the Husky-Shepherd-Wolf mix I brought home 31 years ago (!) from the Sioux Falls, SD Humane Society. Sheba was with me for two years until I went on vacation and left Sheba with friends for the week. When I returned from my vacation my friends told me that Sheba ran away from them the day after I left.

For months I was hopeful that Sheba would find her way back home. The first thing I did every morning was go to the front step, hopeful that she had returned in the night and was waiting for me to open the front door and let her in. She never did return, which was difficult not only because I missed her so much but because I didn’t know what happed to her. Was she hit by a car and killed? Did she die alone somewhere in the woods, starving? Did someone take her in and give her a good home? Of course, I hoped for the last option, but never knew.

Anyway, here’s to heart-warming stories about lost pets who are reunited with their families. And thanks to social media and ID chips, may the numbers of lost pets who are never found and returned home become fewer and fewer.

Endings matter

Endings matter. That is one of my key beliefs. The manner in which the significant people and pets in our lives die, and how we come to terms with their deaths, plays a huge role in determining if we will be able to accept their death and move forward, or not. Our experience at Pets Remembered has reinforced my belief time and time again, and that is one reason why we are in the process of promoting and facilitating a team approach to hospice with our pets.

Many folks are familiar with hospice due to family members or friends being part of a hospice program in the final days of their life. Hospice provides terminally ill people with some control over the final months, weeks, or days of their life in terms of pain control, comfort, and the setting where they will close out their life. We know that this can also be a helpful approach for our pets and ourselves once our pets have been diagnosed with a terminal or debilitating condition for which there is no viable solution.

We are working with Dr. Raeyna Longtin of True Companions Vet Van, as well as other pet businesses who can provide a host of services to people who are exploring ways to keep their pets comfortable and cared for in their final days. We are excited about the possibilities because we know how important our relationships with our pets are and we know that providing the best possible care for as long as possible is helpful as we prepare to say a final goodbye. Endings matter.

Stay tuned!

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