Every pet owner will go through the loss of their pet at some point or the other, and this loss isn't less than devastating for most people. Pets are part of our family and can be one’s best friend. Dealing with the loss of a pet can be excruciatingly painful and you may find it very difficult to get through the day as you usually would. It can take weeks and even months to get over this loss and feel a semblance of normalcy in your life.
There is no need to be embarrassed by the grief and sadness that you feel and the need to mourn the death of your loved pet. This process is a very natural one and in most cases, the only way to deal with what you are experiencing is to go through the motions and let the feeling fade on its own.
How to deal with the grief
Understanding exactly what you are going through is one of the best ways to deal with your pain and grief and you have to learn how to cope with it. Grief has many stages and you may go through feelings ranging from shock and frustration as well as anger and deep sadness. It’s important to understand that all these feelings are part of the healing process and that you don’t try to suppress them. Every person grieves differently; regardless of the level of hurt, the grief still takes its toll.
Overcoming the guilt
Some pet parents have to make the decision to put their pets to sleep (euthanasia) and this can cause them to feel a significant amount of guilt. But there is another angle to the situation that you should look at when you feel this type of guilt. You should consider yourself fortunate that you were able to offer this to your beloved pet to spare them from any pain or suffering. This thought will help you get through that feeling of guilt, allowing you to accept that what you did was right for your pet.
Look for support
You may also sometimes find that people around you don’t share the deep sorrow you are feeling and aren’t as understanding or supportive. Some may even go to the extent of stating that you are overreacting to the situation and say things like “It was nothing more than a pet “ or “ Isn’t it time you got over this by now?”. However, your pet was a significant part of your life; most people, especially ones that haven’t had pets, won’t be able to comprehend or appreciate the depth of feelings you harbour.
One of the best ways to deal with this loss is to connect with others that have suffered a similar loss at some point in their lives; they would be able to understand the grief you are feeling and will offer some empathy as well. It's also important that you look after yourself in this period as the sadness and stress can make you feel tired and drained of energy, affecting the way you function. Maintain a good diet, sleep and exercise as this will help you get stronger each day.
If you have some other pet/s, it’s even more crucial that you maintain a normal routine around them as the situation can take its toll on them too. Pets can feel your emotions so the stronger you are for them the better they and you will be. They too may be suffering from grief if they have also lost their friend. Remember the good times you spent with your beloved pet and do something in their memory.
Here’s a lovely poem by Suzanne Taylor:
My Forever Pet
Pet Loss Counselling
If you are struggling with losing your pet there are Pet Loss Counsellors that you can go and talk with to help you along this journey. I met a very nice lady a few weeks ago called Vicky Nonas who is a qualified counsellor providing support for people of all ages, both young and older, who are dealing with expected or unexpected pet loss, or with a pet’s terminal diagnosis.
Vicky has also experienced her own grief when losing her beloved pets, which motivates her passion.
“Losing a pet can be catastrophic and deeply painful. Talk therapy can be very helpful whilst navigating through this unpredictable time. And one of the things I like to highlight with clients is their ever-lasting relationship with the loving memory of their beloved pet. Therapy may include a client bringing a part of the memory of their pet such as, a blanket, collar, toy, photos etc. to assist with the healing process.
The Cottage I work from is warm and welcoming. I provide a safe space for people to express their feelings of grief and loss. We provide tea and coffee and if a client prefers, we have the luxury of having a counselling session under the shade of a beautiful oak tree with blankets and pillows provided. I also offer general counselling services. Visit my website for more details or to book an appointment.”
Vicky Nonas, Prof. Counsellor, M.A.C.A, M.P.C.A
By My Side – Counselling and Pet Loss Support www.bymyside.net.au
Our pets live forever in our hearts
Fudge first came to us in January with Coonhound disease which is a neurological disorder that effects and inflames the peripheral and multiple roots of the nerves-mainly the spinal nerves — causing the body to malfunction, have paralysis to all limbs and severe muscle wastage. Over the past 6 months we have experienced the highs and lows of Fudge and his loving and patient mum, Liz. Just when we thought the going was getting tough Fudge turned a corner and has not looked back. This is a story written by Fudges mum Liz that gives you an insight into the day of the life and progress of Fudges’ recovery. If it wasn’t for the patience, persistence and the love Liz has for this gorgeous boy he would not be here today. It is important for dogs with this acute polyneuropathy to have physio, hydrotherapy and dedicated owners to get them through. This was well worth the battle.
Sharon, K9 SWiM
Liz's story "Fudge My Wonder Dog"
Coonhound Disease - Idiopathic Polyradiculoneuritis (ACIP)
Poly - like Polio
Radiculo - ridiculous (as in 'bloody ridiculous')
Neuritis - neurological
Thankfully this time we could care for him at home and his symptoms didn't increase as drastically as had previously, he could hold his head up and he could eat, drink and wee and poop!
A typical day in the life of caring for a 33-kilo paralysed adorable choc lab
Make a slurry of water and try everything you have to get him to drink, milk, ice cream, vegemite, stock, meat.... anything! It's a similar procedure with food, chicken, mince beef, fresh veggies ...... Anything ....please eat!
You're very tired as you did this regime at 3am, midnight and probably about 9 or 10pm the previous night. Then there is getting on the floor and doing the physiotherapy, massage and cuddles! It's a test of endurance, this regime changes over time, it does get easier as Fudge gets better as he has more control over his bodily functions and as he is able to wriggle / roll the nights become a lot easier. After many Kurrajong Vet visits with loads of encouragement and support from all the team there a month had passed by with not much change in Fudge.
Then we were introduced to K9 SWiM and we haven't looked back!
These helped and Fudge started to get a bit more movement and strength. (although the side effects were a problem especially with his muscle tone)
We were at the vet regularly with 'he won't wee' or 'he won't poop', or 'he won't drink or eat' one time he had to have his bladder seen to and 2 litres came out!!
He was off the steroids by the time May came around and we persisted, Fudge loved his swims and he loved all the attention and love given to him by all the girls. Not much change happened over the next few weeks except that we were encouraged as his swimming improved with him being able to swim the length of the pool without too much help, which was exciting.
Our Homemade Canine Treadmill
Fudge’s Amazing Progress
The problem with this disease is that not many people have heard about it, most vets have possibly seen it once or twice in their time and rarely have they seen a dog healed from it. It’s hard when you don’t really know the future, you don’t know if your dog will recover, you don’t know the ‘odds’. It’s full time care, you can’t work, can’t go out for more than a few hours at a time, it’s really a choice to put your life on hold and you don’t know for how long.
If you were to ask what has helped the most with Fudge’s recovery, I would have to say it’s been a combined effort of lots of praying, a very kind and caring regular vet, the unbelievable support and kindness from K9 SWiM and having the chance for treatment from Rob Willis with some miraculous results, we have been truly blessed!!
Fudge has started to walk, he has not completely recovered but it's just a matter of a little more time and he will be back to his old self. We could not have persisted this second time with this disease without the help and support of Sharon and all the girls, they have been so encouraging and they genuinely love Fudge and he loves them. If you met Fudge you would love him too!
Recently we celebrated Anzac Day, remembering the Australian and New Zealand Corps Soldiers who fought and died for our countries. Over the centuries, man’s best friend has assisted our soldiers in wars in the capacity of trackers, scent detectors for mines and explosives, guard dogs, companions and most importantly, to boost the morale of our troops.
Dogs were often used to carry messages in battle through the trenches and from point A to Point B. Some messenger dogs also performed other communication tasks, such as pulling telephone lines from one location to another.
In World War I, the Australian Military forces enlisted German Shepherds to watch over their valuable equipment. In Vietnam, our Australian Task Force had dogs as part of their combat tracking teams; they would search the thick and dense jungle to locate the enemy and were successful in saving the lives of their handlers and team mates.
What Makes a Good Combat Dog?
There are a number of attributes that go into making a combat dog, such as:
Interesting fact- Did you know that in World War II, special gas masks were designed for the dogs in combat?
However, it must be understood that not all dogs are cut out for combat; they must have the right personality, drive and assertion to be successful in these settings.
Popular War Dog Breeds
We love our 4-legged friends because they are extremely smart and intelligent creatures, and are loyal and devoted family members. It is these very same qualities that make some dog breeds useful in a war zone. They are highly dedicated to their handler and tend to develop very strong bonds with them. The most popular dog breeds for the armed forces include:
Dogs of these breeds that eventually do go on to becoming military dogs must be in great physical shape, reward-motivated, athletic and should have the right level of excitability and aggression. Aside from this, they should also be free of any physical maladies such as hip or elbow dysplasia.
The Story of Sarbi- The Australian Canine Hero
When there is talk about war dogs, Sarbi, the Australian canine hero cannot go without a mention. She was a black a Labrador - Newfoundland Cross that went missing when the Taliban ambushed our Australian Special Forces. Her handler, Corporal David Simpson was injured in this raging nine-hour battle. In all the commotion that ensued, the corporal lost Sarbi when the clip of the harness (that attached her to her handler), was shot off. The startled Sarbi fled in fright; and once the wounded soldiers had been transported away from the site, the soldiers searched high and low for Sarbi, in vain. After having gone missing for 3 weeks, they eventually declared her missing in action.
Thirteen months after this incident, a soldier spotted a dog in an Afghan village that had an uncanny resemblance to Sarbi. He used various military commands to test her and she responded to them which affirmed the fact that she was Sarbi. Fortunately, she had been well cared for; the village Chief who had grown very fond of her, was also very reluctant to let her go.
After a great deal of negotiations, they eventually let Sarbi go and she was brought back to base. After months of quarantine in Afghanistan as well as Australia, she was finally reunited with her beloved handler Corporal David Simpson- that’s where she spent her retirement as the Simpson family’s pet. Later in 2015, Sarbi succumbed to brain tumour and breathed her last at the age of 12.
The Army Honours Sarbi
Canberra’s Australian War Memorial has catalogued numerous stories of our brave war dogs, along with many other records of animal acts of bravery.
This month one of our regular K9 Swim member’s, Madalin Bell shares her story about her dog Chloe. How love, support and Hydrotherapy is giving quality and fun to Chloe’s life as a paraplegic dog.
Chloe Wasn’t Always a Paraplegic
Born on the 9th of July 2008 Chloe recently celebrated her 8th birthday last month.
Chloe became part of our family when I received her as a late 11th birthday present and reward for doing well in school and behaving myself. My mum had gone to the shops to get some groceries and came back about an hour later with something moving around in her jacket. Much to my delight it was Chloe, the puppy I had been nagging for! She was so small that she could fit in my hand and looked like a little ball of black and white fluff with a fat bottom bigger than the rest of her. That fat bottom would sway from side to side when she walked. It looked so cute!
It didn’t take her long to become part of our family. She has always been social, curious and full of energy. She would follow everyone around and always wanted to know what everyone was doing. Chloe is so small, only ever weighing 3.5kg but it’s the size of her personality that makes her boss of our house. I’m sure she will always be the boss here.
Chloe Paralysed Through an Injury
In September 2014, my little sister Ruby was born and our house flipped upside down with a change in sleeping patterns. Chloe had to sleep in my room due to her midnight barking habits.
On November 4th 2014, Chloe was let out the back to go to the toilet and I was running late for school. Things were so hectic with a new baby and we all just rushed out of the house that day, forgetting Chloe was still out the backyard. All day I had a strange, sick feeling that something was wrong, so I went home early. When I arrived home Chloe was not there to greet me as she had always done. I searched the house for Chloe but I couldn’t find her anywhere. It was then I remembered that I had left her out the backyard. I quickly ran out the back and whistled but only our two other dogs Ammo and Xena came running. Still no Chloe, I started a perimeter check for any escape routes. It was then that Chloe came running out from underneath our caravan dragging her back legs. I freaked out, I didn’t know what to do or how to react. I just picked her up and ran inside to call my mum. After getting no answer I just wrapped Chloe in a towel and ran to my local vet, which is luckily only a five minute drive from our house.
I was a mess when I arrived at the vet. I had been crying and was puffed from all the running and I didn’t even know what to tell them. The vets were fantastic and took us in straight away, I called my mum and finally got an answer and she came right down. The vet said it could have been either one of two things, a ruptured spinal disk from a fall or she was hit with something or by someone. The tests to give proper diagnosis would cost far too much for us. She was paralysed and tests would not change that. Chloe was admitted to hospital for the next few days on pain medication.
The Decision is Life
On the 7th of November,2014 the vet recommended to have Chloe put to sleep because of the quality of life she would have as a paraplegic dog. We chose against their decision and brought Chloe home because we felt she was the same dog and although she was a paraplegic now she was not in any pain. It was up to us to commit to her quality of life.
Chloe Comes Home
Chloe was back home and needed care around the clock. I also had my HSC to study for, so it took some time to work out a routine. Chloe now had to wear a nappy which through the night would often come off and so I would be up bright and early to start cleaning the mess. After washing Chloe, changing her nappy, give her food and water, washing her blanket, mopping my bedroom floor, it was time to get ready for school. Then when I arrived home from school I would have to do this all over again. It was an exhausting cycle. It took us some time to work out what size nappies would stay on Chloe all day. Just recently, we tried newborn suits which work an absolute charm!
Love and Support Gives Chloe Quality of Life
Our family was not in the best financial position and we were so worried about how we could provide what she needed. We decided to post an ad on Gumtree asking for people for help with supplies such as extra blankets, nappies, puppy pads, etc. Amazing people came forward to help, donate and support us and a special thanks to Kath and Chrissy Schultz from Queensland who have been incredible with sending Chloe beautiful care packages of coats, collars and even a doggy pram and wheels! All these donations have been a life saver for Chloe. Before Chloe had her wheels we couldn’t take her outside and the few times we did, she grazed her back legs on the cement so she couldn’t go anywhere with us. Her wheels gave her mobility again and it didn’t take long to get use to them as she now powers along.
We started a Facebook page for Chloe- Chloe the Paraplegic Pup , as we had so many people wanting to help and messaging us and supporting our decision to not put her to sleep. We are all so thankful to everyone that has supported and helped Chloe and our family to get through this and give Chloe a good quality of life.
Hydrotherapy so Beneficial for Chloe
Recently Chloe rapidly lost a lot of weight, from 3.5kg down to 2.5kg. I met Sharon Osmond at TAFE when I was studying for my Certificate II in Animal Studies. She was my TAFE teacher and I asked her about K9 Swim and if there was anything that she could recommend for Chloe. After visiting with our vet and deciding that it would be beneficial for Chloe to swim and after taking some blood tests and ruling out any other underlying conditions, we changed Chloe’s food to higher protein and fat content and started swimming with Sharon at K9 Swim. Sharon was absolutely fantastic with Chloe and showed me how to swim her myself. Although Chloe wasn’t a big fan of swimming at first, she now loves her weekly swims at K9 Swim. She is already benefiting from the Hydrotherapy and I hope in a couple more weeks we may see some movement in her back legs. I wish we had known about K9 Swim earlier as we had only known of more expensive Hydrotherapy options, out of our budget and area.
Chloe is gaining weight and looking healthier than ever. She has more energy and is really enjoying herself. I hope that we can spend many more years with our little Chloe and one day even see her stand on her own again, thanks to swimming.
Thank you Madalin for your story on Chloe. It is very encouraging to others that may be in the same situation. When I met Madalin in my class at TAFE we talked about Chloe and then she brought Chloe to class one day. After I assessed Chloe and discussed her history with Madalin we agreed that Chloe would benefit from Hydrotherapy. Madalin talked to her vet and got the all clear. Chloe wasn’t a great fan of swimming at first, but since she has been coming weekly. I feel she looks forward to it.
Hydrotherapy to a paraplegic dog feels good. They are buoyant in the water and for that time they can let their limbs relax and the spine becomes neutral. Chloe can stretch out in the warm water of our pool which promotes blood circulation throughout the muscles and body. I have seen improvement with Chloe in that she appears happier, has more energy and her muscle tone is improving. The other important aspect of Hydrotherapy is that it is a great mental stimuli. We enjoy Madalin and Chloe’s visits and we are moved by Madalin’s commitment to this wonderful little dog.
This month I thought I would share my dog Annie’s story with you all as she has been battling Cancer for the last five months. Finding out your dog has Cancer is devastating. Our pets give us their unconditional love, so when they are sick we want to do everything in our power to help them. My dogs are like my children and I hope Annie’s story will raise awareness of canine cancer.
Annie came into this world one quiet evening back in March 2008. She was the only female pup in a litter of 8 and right from the start she was an athlete. She would run and play with her brothers, boss the boys around and loved to cuddle up and fall asleep on your lap. She was an adventurous pup and was always getting into mischief! But apart from that she was loving and totally focused, intelligent and followed me everywhere and still does. She is my shadow.
Annie has always been a healthy, athletic dog with no injury or sickness until November 2015 when I discovered her lymph nodes were enlarged all over her body. Annie showed no other signs of feeling unwell, she had a good appetite, hadn’t lost weight and was as active as usual.
I took Annie to the Vets the very next day to have her bloods taken so we could see what was going on. Her glands were still enlarged and I started to fear for the worse. I knew I had to stay positive for Annie’s sake as dogs have such a strong sense for what we are feeling and I didn’t want her to stress.
It took a few days to get the results. Sometimes being a Vet Nurse can be a bad thing as we know too much and we can jump to conclusions when it’s your precious dog involved. It was the longest few days of my life but Annie didn’t have a clue on what was going on and continued as normal, showing no other symptoms other than her enlarged lymph nodes.
The day the results were due I woke up with a sinking feeling in my heart and my stomach tied in knots waiting for the results that came later that afternoon. The vet rang with the news that I was dreading to hear, Annie had Lymphoma- Canine Cancer. I suddenly went out of Vet Nurse mode and stopped thinking about all the things I should be doing and became the distraught owner. The first few days I just cried and cried. It felt as if the tears would not stop. But Annie didn’t show any signs of feeling sick she was still running around and had a healthy appetite. She didn’t know she had cancer. She would look at me with those gorgeous amber eyes when I was crying and was wondering what was going on.
So I wiped my tears away and took a deep breath and started to get my head around it all.
Chemotherapy was started straight away. At first Annie felt nauseated and I was given some medication to help her through that. One of the drugs that she started on didn’t agree with her so it was changed and from then on she coped with chemo exceptionally well. Then came another shock. As good as she looked and acted she had T cell Lymphoma which is the less common cancer which is harder to treat.
Annie was put on a 6 month protocol, some of the chemotherapy is intravenously administered and the rest of the chemotherapy is taken orally. From the first treatment Annie responded really well and by the next visit her Oncologist said she was in remission.
Annie has still been having chemo since November 2015 and has been living life as normal. Dogs don’t react like humans do to chemotherapy. Some of the side effects they can suffer from are diarrohea , vomiting and lethargy, Annie has had minimal side effects. Her diet has been changed and herbs added to help her fight the cancer and to keep her immune system strong. Some herbs can help with protecting the liver, strengthening the immune system, giving gastro intestinal support and helping with the blood.
Once Annie’s chemo protocol is finished she will still have regular blood and health checks to make sure the cancer has not returned.
Last month we took Annie out to my farm. Little did we know that this weekend would be another test of Annie’s resilience. She had a great weekend with us and the other dogs, going for walks, laying in the sun and helping us check the horses and supervising our gardening and mowing! Just as we were packing the car to go home. Annie got into a battle with a brown snake that had come into the yard. Before I knew it the battle was over and Annie had been bitten. Brown snake bites can be lethal and we were an hour away from any vets. We acted quickly and got her to the vets in good time.
In normal Annie fashion she jumped out of the car and was showing no clinical signs of snake bite. The blood test and snake detection kit showed positive- she had definitely been bitten. She stayed 2 days in hospital and came home as if nothing had happened! She is one amazing and lucky dog.
The snake battle is over but the battle with cancer continues and we take each day as it comes, Annie loves life and always has. I hope we have many more years with our dear Annie.
Animal Massage To Detect Symptoms Early
As an animal massage therapist I am always giving my dog’s a massage . You notice when something is different in your own body so by getting to know your dog’s body, this will help you identify any problems sooner rather than later.
Wipe Your Tears Away And Take A Deep Breath
We all need our time to deal with the sadness we feel but we need to wipe away our tears and take a deep breath so we can be there for our pets in their time of need. Dogs have a strong sense of what you are feeling so it’s important to keep a positive attitude. You also need to be calm and collected so you can fully understand the treatment options and so you can have our questions answered by your medical professionals. You will be given a lot of information which you will need to process in order to make the right decisions for your dog’s health.
Diet And Natural Therapies and Canine Cancer
If your dog is diagnosed with cancer there is a lot of information out there for diet and nutrition which is exceptionally important to strengthen their immune system. To prevent cancer always feed a healthy diet, stay clear of preservatives and artificial colourings and flavourings and feed good quality food for dogs. Keep them fit and healthy and this will benefit them in dealing with diseases like this and give them every opportunity to deal with it and stay strong through treatment like our Annie.
Hi I'm Sharon Osmond the owner and founder of K9 Swim. The Splash Blog is where I share tips and information on dog's health and safety and some fun facts and stories.