Saying Goodbye

Accepting the death of a pet is never easy. Here are suggestions for working through this difficult time as a pet owner.

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Accepting the death of a pet is never easy. Here are suggestions for working through this difficult time as a pet owner.

by Martha Stewart

Many people have trouble admitting that they’re grieving a pet. They’re often embarrassed or ashamed, especially when outsiders comment that it’s only a pet or that they can get another dog or cat. “There’s a stigma in society about losing a companion animal. It’s more accepted to mourn the loss of a person than a pet,” says Diane Pomerance, author and grief-recovery specialist. She asks people to remind themselves that they are in fact “mourning the loss of a family member.”

Getting through this difficult period starts by giving yourself permission to grieve. “Designate time every day to do this,” says Claire Chew Gillenson, a life-transition coach and petloss educator. Keep a journal. Talk to a counselor or friend who understands your loss.

If you had to put your animal to sleep, try not to fixate on your pet’s last moments. “If guilt surfaces, forgive yourself and remember that you did everything you could,” Gillenson says. Try to remember the good times: long games of fetch or evenings cozied up on the sofa.

If you have kids, especially if this is their first experience with death, talk openly with them. “Children are generally curious and want to know what’s happening,” says Mac Hafen, a clinical marriage and family therapist at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State, adding that it’s best to use terms such as death and dying rather than going to sleep, which could make children scared of going to bed at night. If they’re not asking questions, find out how they’re feeling. Try engaging them in play or artwork.

Taking time to honor your pet will also bring comfort and peace to you and your family. After Katie died, I sent a note to friends and family announcing her death and sharing stories from her therapy work. One of the hospitals where we volunteered held a memorial service for her, and I spent weeks creating a scrapbook of Katie’s life. All of these activities helped me say goodbye, but there are many ways — such as planting a tree, donating money, or holding a remembrance party — to memorialize your pet. The key is doing what feels right for you.

Images of your pet around your house allows for the grieving process to feel natural, you will feel less separation and can always look into your dogs eyes.

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Easter Egg Hunts, For Dogs?

Yes! It’s a thing! Your dog can join in the Easter egg hunt! In fact, dog-friendly egg hunts are growing in popularity around the country.
Your dog can eat the boiled eggs, too. Real eggs are good for a dog’s health—including the shell, as it turns out. Cooking them reduces the risk of salmonella, though some dog owners swear by raw eggs for their dogs. Check with your vet if in doubt.

Alternatively, you can stuff plastic eggs with stinky, yummy dog treats, which provide a great opportunity for teaching scent work. (Just make sure you don’t let them crack the plastic with their jaws; instead, open the eggs for them. See more on safety considerations below.)

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Easter Egg Safety for Dogs

  • Supervise your dog carefully, as plastic eggs can crack and be dangerous if swallowed.
  • Keep your dog on leash while hunting, so you can make sure they don’t eat anything they shouldn’t—or get a little too excited when competing with a human child for treats.
  • Plastic eggs filled with dog treats should be large enough that they can’t be swallowed whole.
  • Don’t let your dog eat chocolate, of course. And while you’re at it, watch out for the little foil wrappers that might get dropped in the candy-eating frenzy.
  • Any eggshells for consumption should be dyed with non-toxic colors.

If this all seems like a bit more work than you’re up for, never fear. Give your pooch an Easter-themed dog toy, and she’ll feel included.

 

Will your dog have an Easter Egg Hunt this year? If so, Send me pictures!