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Category Archives: Blog

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!


When our pets outlive us

A few days after actress Lauren Bacall died, I saw a sensationalized headline referencing the fact that Bacall left $10,000 for the care of her dog. For those of us who share our homes with pets, we know that is not an unreasonable amount, depending on a variety of factors. What is most important in this story is that Bacall made plans in the event that she would die before her dog. In addition to the money, she also had someone who would care for her dog.

We know of many pets who end up in a shelter following the death of their human because no plans have been made. We also know of pets who are euthanized within days of their human’s death, because there is no one to care for the pet and it may seem like the best option for family members who are dealing with a multitude of issues.

It would be helpful if more people with pets, especially those persons whose health is failing and the chance of their pets outliving them seems likely, would plan ahead, as Bacall did. The amount of money is not necessarily as significant as thinking ahead and making plans so pets are not completely abandoned because their human dies first.

 


Dreaming of Vacation!

Today I changed the picture on my computer to a lovely landscape scene of a national park in Utah. I’m wishing I were out west on vacation, but that is not going to happen so I have to settle for a picture and my imagination. One advantage of not going on vacation is knowing we don’t have to make plans for our dogs while we are gone. Boarding facilities for dogs have come a long way, though, which is great for pets and their people.

I remember some years ago feeling terrible for leaving Max at a kennel that, up close, did not look at all as I had imagined after reading about it and saving a spot for him over the phone. Every day we were gone I felt guilty for leaving him there, yet hoped it was better than it looked when I dropped him off. Max was an easy going lab and he was fine when I picked him up, but I knew I would be much more careful after that to check out whatever kennel we would use in the future.

Pet boarding facilities have taken on a whole new look since then, so now it is possible to get about anything (and more!) for your dog/s when you need to leave them someplace. I don’t know if there are as many options for other types of pets, but clearly, people love their pets and are willing to do whatever necessary to see that they are well cared for.

One other thought about pets and vacations – I think every day is a vacation day for pets who have a loving home and people to be with. They get to eat (that’s the first priority), play, and sleep, and the cycle goes on and on, regardless of the scenery. So, since I can’t go on a vacation right now, I will look to Kona and Legend for a lesson on how to make the most of each day.


Good Press for Pit Bulls!

I was happy to see a positive story about a Pit Bull in the newspaper this morning. The story even included a picture of Ace, the dog who is being credited with saving the life of his human pal, Nick, who is 13 years old and deaf. Nick and Ace were the only two at home when the house was on fire. Nick was sleeping without his hearing aids in, so Ace started licking Nick’s face until he woke up and realized the house was full of smoke. Nick and Ace made a hasty exit from the burning house, thanks to Ace’s actions!

Since we started Pets Remembered Cremation, we have met many loving owners of dogs who have some of the pit bull breed in them, and often the dogs have a tough time making friends with people who are certain they’re up to no good. Of course there are dogs who are dangerous, but they come in all shapes, sizes and breeds. A few years ago I was bit (and it was an ugly bite that meant a trip to the clinic for me) by a miniature schnauzer. The owner took off running around the corner with her dog when she realized my leg was bleeding.

Years ago I read No Bad Dogs, a book which pretty much states that when a dog is “bad” it’s the owner to blame. There is a lot of truth to the idea that when there is a dog who is badly misbehaving, which includes being dangerous to others, the people are as much to blame (if not moreso) than the dog. But I also know, from personal experience, some dogs are really stubborn and have a mind of their own at times!!

Anyway, back to my original point – my day started out on a happy note because Ace’s story made the paper!

 


Universal Grief

A recent program on public television, “Great Zebra Exodus” featured a herd of zebras in Africa. It was a fascinating look at the behavior of zebras, but I was also highly impressed thinking about all that humans know about zebras. A lot of people have spent a lot of time researching zebra behavior and documenting it to share with the rest of us. The footage was amazing and spanned the course of a year or more to capture the movement of the herd through the seasons and their movement from one grazing area to another, with careful attention to watering holes.

To summarize, zebras live in families or harems, and multiple families make up a herd. Each family/harem consists of one stallion, many mares, and many foals. The bonds that the members of a family share seem to be quite strong and I admit that while watching the program I was close to tears! One such moment was when a mare stood over her dying foal, not wanting to leave the little guy. The foal had the misfortune of being the product of the mare and a stallion who had died shortly after mating with the mare.( The mares are pregnant for twelve long months, and they’re constantly on the move seeking food and water.)

After the stallion of this particular harem died, a new stallion took over the harem and knew, once the foal was born, that it was not his. He proceeded to attack the foal – with the mare doing her best to protect her baby – until it was fatally wounded. The stallion ran off and the mare stood over her dying foal until it breathed its last and the vultures flew in. Reluctantly, she walked away. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say the mother zebra was grieving over the loss of her baby.

The announcer explained that, although this seems very cruel, the stallion was merely following his instinct and it’s for the good of the harem. Well, maybe from a zebra’s perspective, but it was a very sad scene to watch. It reminds me, though, that human beings are not the only beings who grieve. Many of us who have pets know this from watching our pets in a variety of situations. In a sense, it makes me think we are all in this together, whether we walk on two legs or four.

 


The amazing bond between partners

One picture is worth a thousand words, as well as an overwhelming feeling of sadness that cannot be put into words. I’m referring to a picture I just saw of a German Shepherd named Danny who was a K9 partner to Constable David Rose of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Rose was killed last week in the line of duty, and the picture I’m referring to includes Rose’s flag-draped casket with Danny sitting in front of it. Another picture shows Danny on his hind legs nuzzling Rose’s hat as it is held by a fellow member of the RCMP.

The accompanying article states that Danny could be  heard whimpering throughout the funeral service. Doesn’t that just pull at your heart strings??

Pet lovers have experienced the powerful bond between one’s pet and oneself, so that scenario isn’t necessarily surprising, but it shows the depth of the bond and indicates an amazing relationship between Constable Rose and Danny. It makes me very sad to think of Rose’s death and Danny without his partner (to say nothing of Rose’s human family and their overwhelming loss), but it is also heartwarming to know that such a bond can exist. It also reminds me that we are all in this together, whether we walk on two legs or four.

 


Pets In The News

I hope you’ve seen the great video clip of the family cat chasing the neighbor’s dog who was attacking the little boy on his bike. It really shakes up some stereotypes of cats, as well as stereotypes of dogs (that a cat could scare and chase away a dog that was significantly larger than the cat!). Sadly, the little boy had to get something like ten stitches in his leg, but thankfully, the cat saved him from further harm. Sad, too, for the dog who was loose and not being watched as closely as he needed to be.

The episode is a reminder of the human-animal bond, in this case, the bond between the little boy and his cat. Most of us who have pets have experienced this bond and know how special it is. It’s a bond made, not from verbal conversations or the exchange of ideas, but from eye contact, touch, hugs, purring, tail-wagging, playing, and cuddling. There are times when we feel alone and misunderstood by people, but accepted and comforted by our pets.

I hope that video has encouraged some folks to go to their local shelter and consider making a cat or dog or rabbit or any other kind of homeless pet part of their family. Pets really do enrich our lives, in so many ways.

 

 


What a difference a year makes!

Today is Kona’s 1st birthday. We brought Kona into our home and lives last June when she was 8 weeks old and life hasn’t been the same since! Kona is the most entertaining and curious dog we have ever had and we love her dearly; she makes us laugh a lot. Yet, while we wouldn’t trade the last year for anything, Kona may also be the last puppy – not dog, but puppy – we ever bring home. :)

Our other dog, Legend, was five when we brought him into our home and while Legend definitely has his issues, they are different from the high-energy puppy issues. And so, while we will always have one or two dogs as part of our family, Skip and I are thinking some of those great older dogs waiting to be adopted are in our future, even though those adorable puppies are hard to resist.

Regardless of the age or energy level of a pet, though, we can’t imagine not having a pet. They add so much joy and fun to our lives, and help to make our house a home. That is why it is so difficult to say goodbye to them when the time comes, but with great joy comes great sorrow and we’re not willing to give up on the great joy.

Kona and Legend don’t seem to grasp the significance of this day, but to them, every day is a fun day filled with treats, bones, tummy rubs, tail wags, walks and naps. They help  us to celebrate every day of life. Happy Birthday to our wonderful Kona!

 


As I was driving to Pets Remembered this morning, I was listening to a news report on the radio. The announcer acknowledged that folk singer/activist Pete Seeger “passed”, then went on to the next story about a piece of legislation that ”passed”. Hmmm . . .   I find it rather curious that the term “passed/passing” has become synonymous with death, dying, and died. This seems to be a recent phenomenon and it speaks to me of our aversion to accepting the reality of death.

Although Skip and I have been dealing directly with death for decades - Skip as a funeral director and myself as a pastor and then hospice chaplain – now as the creators and owners of Pets Remembered Cremation Service, the death of beloved family pets is what we encounter numerous times a day. Therefore, my curiosity about the prevalence of the term passed rather than death comes about because it’s a constant theme for us.

I can only speculate, but I believe it’s easier for us to think of those we love, both humans and pets, as passing on to another dimension rather than dying and ceasing to exist. Over thirty years ago I read Ernest Becker’s Denial of Death, which is definitely a sobering book, but it’s true that many of us do everything we can do to deny the reality of death. Even when I was working within a hospice program, it was surprising to me how many patients, family, and friends had still not accepted the fact that treatment could not cure or extend the patient’s life.

There’s no way around it, though, whether we prefer the term passed or died, saying goodbye to those we love is painful.

 


Two weeks into the new year and 2014 still feels very new, although two weeks is long enough for me to write 2014 on my checks. As much time as humans (some more than others) spend reflecting over the past and pondering what the future holds, particularly at the end/beginning of each year, our pets show no sign of those practices whatsoever.

As is frequently mentioned with respect to our pets, they live in the moment. All of my pets have been dogs, so they are the pets I am most familiar with. In all of the dog books I have read and the obedience classes I have either watched or participated in, the reminder that dogs live in the moment is frequently stated. That means that if you scold them for something that happened earlier in the day it doesn’t work; they can’t make the association between whatever they did earlier that was “naughty” and the current punishment.

Beyond the punishment theme, it tells me that dogs/cats/rabbits/other pets are not likely to lament a past decision or event, nor are they able to anticipate or ponder a future event. I imagine that we humans would have less stress and anxiety in our lives if we were able to fully live in the moment as our pets do. Because that is pretty much impossible, at least maybe we can practice  living in the moment more than we currently do. Here’s to the lessons our pets can teach us today!

 


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