Our pets are among the most joyful things in our lives. They are family, they are friendship, they are unconditional love. We cherish them and spoil them and look forward to their heartfelt welcomes every time we see them. The last thing that we want to think about is when they will no longer be there to greet us, lick our faces, nuzzle their noses up against us.
After five years of talking to grieving pet owners every day, one of the most common things that I hear from people is “I wish that I would have prepared for this.” Just as devastating as losing any other family member, losing a pet can be paralyzing. I think this reference to “preparing” is both preparing emotionally, and logistically, i.e., what do you want to do with the body? One dear client of mine took a leave of absence from work and spent the last year of her dog’s life at home with her, not wanting to miss a moment of her last days. But never did she think of preparing for what she would do with her loved one’s (Coco) remains after she passed. Once Coco was gone, she realized that she didn’t believe in cremation and wanted to bury her dear pup but had no idea what kind of box or container to bury her in. She was so distraught over the loss that she couldn’t think clearly at all and wished that she had made all of these decisions before the dreaded time came – when she was able to think clearly.
While it is difficult, not fun and absolutely dreadful to think about, preparing for the loss of your animal companion(s) can prove to be the best thing that you ever do for yourself. You’ll thank yourself later because all of these difficult decisions will already be made and the logistics and motions that you have to go through will be just that – logistics and motions. You won’t be bogged down in a lot of difficult decisions that are made so much harder by your broken heart.
Decisions to give some thought to now:
1. Cremation or burial? This is a VERY personal choice. Do you believe in cremation? It’s a good question to make a decision about ahead of time.
2. If burial is the right choice for you, choose a pet cemetery now, find out the pricing and availability of plots.
3. What type of grave marker do you want to use
4. Do you want to have a ceremony? Large or small? Indoors or out?
5. Do you want to put anything else in the grave with your pet, i.e., toys, photos, pillow, blanket, a memento of yourself, etc?
On a bit of a lighter note you might want to consider making a list of all of the fun and indulgent things that you’re going to do with your furry friend in his or her last days. Now this is only useful if your pet is sick and you know the end is coming. Unfortunately, our friends sometimes suffer unexpected accidents that we don’t see coming, but if you know the end is near, spoil your pet rotten in their last days with you. Let them sleep on furniture they’re not supposed to, let them indulge in their treats (if it won’t harm them or cause them to be uncomfortable), take them for lots of car rides if they love that, take lots of walks and play all of those silly games that make them so happy.
Make every day meaningful for both you and your pet. Unfortunately they’re not with us forever, so we need to savor all of the love and friendship that they give us so generously.
Colleen Mihelich is the Founder of Peternity.com, a website dedicated to supporting the grieving pet owner. She is an expert author on the subject of Pet Loss. You can find her on her blog, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Post a free memorial to your pet on Peternity.com