Readers share memories of final moments with pets

There are many options available for end-of-life care for pets, and it’s best to make those decisions ahead of time. That way, when the time comes, you’ll know what you want to do, rather than trying to decide while going through emotional upheaval.

I asked readers how they handled the final hours or days of their pets’ lives. Here’s what they had to say:

Saw your blog on the YDR Facebook feed. This is something that really hit home for me as my husband and I had to put down our 9 year old black lab, Diva, just a short 9 days ago. Needless to say it was one of the most difficult experiences of my life.

Diva

Diva

Diva was a wonderful dog and one of the most loving dogs I’ve ever had, with a personality to match her name. She was not blessed with great health however. We nearly lost her 5 years ago when my husband got home and let her outside and she collapsed in the yard. As we soon discovered, she had Addison’s Disease, which caused her to not handle stress well. Some tablets daily helped with that. About 2-3 years ago, she developed a mass on her rear end, which ruptured and she had to have surgery. As we found out she had developed a stage 3 mass cell tumor. We were encouraged that the doctor was fairly confident they got all of it, however we were warned that this kind of cancer can come back and when it does, it will come back hard.

Things started to go downhill at the beginning of 2014. We started noticing more tumors developing on her. Most of them were relatively small, but there was one on her front leg that was pretty big, and unfortunately the one on her rear returned as well, and started growing bigger than before. On Monday August 4th I came home to discover that this one, like the last, had ruptured, this time all over our couch. My husband and I had a long talk and knew what had to happen. It wasn’t going to get any better, we didn’t want to put her through another surgery, especially when she now had many tumors popping up all over her. Along with the fact that her hips were starting to become problematic, we decided that it had to be time.

Tuesday I called Shiloh Vet and made an appointment for ending her suffering. It was the hardest phone call I ever had to make. I made an appointment for our baby at 10 am Saturday the 9th. When I got home that night, I couldn’t even look her in the eye. I felt guilty that I had basically signed her death certificate, even if it was probably the right thing to do at this point.

We spent the next 4 days choking back tears and doing everything she liked to do, and giving her extra table scraps. Wednesday while my husband was working, she and I spent the night together cuddling on the couch. She loved just being with us and cuddling with us. Those 3-4 hours we had alone together was so nice but so hard at the same time. Friday my husband took her to work with him (we own Hair Ink Salon in West York). She was able to spend the day with him, getting star treatment from clients as they came in. Later that night I brought her ice cream. She loved going on car rides and stopping at Sherry’s for her own little dish of ice cream. We took her home one last time that night and let her sleep with us and cuddle on the bed in the morning. She always felt it was her place to slip her way in between us in the bed and this time was no different.

The clock eventually hit 9:30 am and we knew we could not wait any longer. We helped her into the car for one more car ride, trying not to show how sad we were, not wanting to stress her out. We got to the vet’s office, took her on one last walk, and gave her a huge hug and kiss before walking her in. We were taken to the room immediately.

All the doubt, guilt and uncertainty if we were truly doing the right thing was quickly erased when the doctor came in to examine her. He took one look at the tumor on her rear and said that alone was reason enough to do this. This made my conscience feel a little better, but that’s about all.

I find every time I stop what I’m doing I relive the last 60 seconds of her life. Hugging and kissing her one last time, watching the tech lift her foot to insert the needle into the IV, listening to her panting suddenly slow and stop, and watch her start to slump into my husband’s lap as the tech laid her down. This not only was the first time I had been present for one of my pets final breath, but the first time I was around anyONE or anyTHING I was close to that breathed its last in my presence. Maybe that’s why I have such a hard time with it. I truly have no idea how people have the strength to do that job.

We did get a private cremation, and will be receiving the ashes at the end of this week. We are working on setting up a small memorial for her at the house. Being a photographer in my part time, I have several nice shots of her still healthy before the cancer took over, and we will be getting a nice canvas print to hang on the wall of our baby.

We miss her so much. Time heals, but it seems like every day something is there to remind us that she’s not there anymore. I still open the door slowly when I get home, expecting her to be there at the door happily wagging her tail as we walk in. I still walk gingerly around the foot of the bed because I’m afraid I will trip over her in the morning. This one will take a while to get over, but at least she is not in any more pain.

Thanks for listening.

— Tony Schmitt, Dover

********************************************************************************************

Reading this article on Facebook brought tears to my eyes. It’s three weeks today that I had to make that hard decision.

Dewey

Dewey

Though my baby had been sick with something at the time he was slowing down at a rapid rate. At the time of his death we found that he had a tumor in his belly and one on his leg. After numerous tests, cancer was never found. I’m lucky enough to have a boyfriend that is home during the day and could see to his care, and also to call the vet that awful day to make “that” appointment.

I rescued Dewey when he was three years old and he lived 11 years with me. He was the joy of my life! Since I have no children these are my babies. I miss him dearly, but I also know that this will not be the last pet in my/our lives.

When we had to put him to sleep we chose to have him cremated by himself, for some reason I just didn’t feel right taking someone else’s beloved.

I also have in my possession his collar and his last scarf from the groomers. I’m looking for a stuffed cocker spaniel that fits him to put these items on. My boyfriend is also having one of his friends paint an item with his picture on it as a memorial.

Thank you for writing this article. I don’t think other people (non pet owners) understand what we go through and what our feelings amount to.

— Gail Markle, York Township

**********************************************************************************************

Maxie

Maxie

My beautiful 15 year old cat, Maxie, became sick very quick with cancer. We took her home loved her and talked to her and spent a few days thinking about it and decided it was best to let her go. The vet came to our home, so Maxie passed away in her bed. At the end and before the sedation kicked in, my husband was holding her and in a very sweet moment she gave him a kitty head rub as if to say it is okay Daddy I will miss you also.

Maxie had her own Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/maxie.baisden

— Laura Baisden, via Facebook

********************************************************************************************

Kittykitty

Kittykitty

My 19 year old Kittykitty became ill the week my husband was in the hospital for open heart surgery. I took her to the vet, but they were unable to keep her body temperature up and I asked if she could be kept comfortable until he could also say goodbye. The vet made me realize that it would be best to let her go.

I could not even be with her as she passed because of the situation with my husband, but I honor her life by volunteering at the SPCA as a foster for kittens among other things. My goal is to educate York PA on the importance of spaying and neutering both your own animals and any stray you can trap. The SPCA cannot control the overpopulation of cats in this county. The kittens are so cute, but the full grown cats get dumped and no one wants them.

People want to hate the SPCA for euthanizing animals, but it is the people of York who can change this NOT the SPCA. For every kitten you allow your pet to have, one will die at the SPCA. For every unaltered animal you allow to run free many many more will die.

Kittykitty is buried in the garden with a beautiful flower planted over her.

Kathy Buser Arnold of York, via Facebook

**********************************************************************************************

JF Richards of Fayetteville, formerly of York, held a wake for his young cat, Bobcat, to help his other cats understand what happened. Bobcat was about a year old when he died as a result of feline infectious peritonitis, and Richards has since been promoting awareness and research of the disease, in hopes of finding a cure. For more information on FIP, visit www.vet.cornell.edu/FHC/health_resources/brochure_ftp.cfm or www.facebook.com/briafundsupporters.

Richards created several videos of Bobcat’s wake, two of which can be seen below:

*****************************************************************

SUPPORT GROUPS

Peaceful Pet Passage offers a pet loss support group that can meet up to two times a month. Call 717-691-9214 for a current schedule and to register for the next meeting if you wish to attend.

Patton Veterinary Hospital, 425 E. Broadway, Red Lion, PA. Free; contact to set up a meeting. For details, call 717-246-3611, email tmain@pattonvethospital.com or visit www.pattonvethospital.com.

Celebrating the Bond: Grief Recovery Programs, 234 W. Orange St., Lancaster, PA. For details, visit , call 717-397-8255 or email philapetmemorials@gmail.com.

Healing Haven of Humane Society of Harrisburg, 7790 Grayson Road, Harrisburg, PA. Meetings are 6 to 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month. Please bring a photo of your beloved pet to share. Meeting are run on a drop-in basis. One-on-one counseling is also available by appointment. All services are free of charge. For details, call 717-564-3320, ext. 108, or email ruthr@humanesocietyhbg.org.

Pet Loss Support Page, www.pet-loss.net

********************************************************************************************

SEPTEMBER IS NATIONAL PET LOSS MEMORIAL MONTH

Sept. 14 was National Pet Memorial Day, and the whole month of September is National Pet Memorial Month. In honor of that, the third annual Pet Memorial Sunday ceremony was held Sept. 14 at Baltimore Humane Society Memorial Park, 1601 Nicodemus Road, Reisterstown, MD.

Andrew Mazan, Baltimore Humane Society Memorial Park Director and certified bereavement counselor, led the ceremony and spoke on the “The Spiritual and Physical Bond Connection.” “Grief Response to Pet Loss” was addressed by Carol Williamson Jenkins, Bereavement Counselor from The Counseling Center at Stella Maris, Inc. Dr. Mary Zink, DVM, Baltimore Humane Society Veterinary Director, discussed “Letting Go Without Guilt.”

Members from Dulaney Flute Ensemble will play during the flower ceremony. Portrait artist Joanna Barnum was there, creating quick pencil sketches of pets from their photos for a nominal fee that will be shared with Baltimore Humane Society. Anyone attending was asked to bring a photo of their pet to put on display during the ceremony and a flower to place in their honor.

For a list of other events or more information, visit www.petmemorialmonth.com.

********************************************************************************************

IS IT LEGAL TO BURY A PET IN YOUR BACKYARD?

In rural areas and small towns, generally, the rule of thumb is that you may bury a pet in whatever manner you see fit on private property, so long as you have the owner’s permission. That same rule applies in some larger cities, as well. But be warned: that is just a rule of thumb. The legalities of burying a pet vary greatly from place to place.

Here are some issues that you will likely encounter if you search for the answer to this question in your own case:

First, there is the consideration of whether you own the property on which you intend to bury your pet. If you do not own the property (for example if you are a renter), then the chances are slim that you will be within your legal rights to bury your pet without the property owner’s permission.

Next, you must consider environmental factors. Many municipalities that allow burial have rules intended to protect the environment. These rules include regulations on the depth of the grave, the materials in which the pet is buried, the manner in which the grave is marked and the vicinity of the grave to water sources.

In general, the rules are intended to assure that graves are deep enough to protect humans and other animals from disease while shallow enough to avoid underground utility lines.( In some cities, graves for pets must be between two and three feet deep.) The rules also help to assure that toxic materials are not used in the making of the burial containers. They also assure that the graves are properly marked so that future landscapers will not stumble upon remains unexpectedly, thereby exposing themselves to potential disease. And, finally, the rules aim to protect public drinking water sources from contamination caused by the biological breakdown of a pet’s body.

Veterinarians, attorneys, activists and other experts tend to agree that rules regarding the burial of pets are often vague and enforcement is usually lax.

— Source: Memorials.com

********************************************************************************************

CEMETERIES AND CREMATORIES

Brookside Pet Cemetery, 1502 Mount Rose Ave., York, PA, 717-845-6618

Noah’s Garden Pet Cemetery (Susquehanna Memorial Gardens), Chestnut Hill Road, York, PA, 717-244-7674

Lake View Pet Haven, 1380 Chambersburg Road, Gettysburg, PA, 717-334-3412

Lancaster Pet Cemetery, Second Lock Road, Lancaster, PA, 717-291-1929

State Pet Memorial Gardens, 210 Andersontown Road, Mechanicsburg, PA (Fairview Township/Monaghan Township), 717-691-0880. www.peacefulpetpassage.com/memorial-wall-burial

Loyal Companion Pet Cremation and Memorial Center, 43 Amy Way, Hanover, PA, 717-698-1970, www.loyalcompanionpetcremation.com or www.panebakerfuneralhome.com

Lancaster Pet Memorials(crematory), 234 W. Orange St., Lancaster, PA, 610-585-0324, www.PhiladelphiaPetMemorials.com

CR Cremations (specializes in horses and large animals), 690 Strasburg Road, Paradise, PA, 717-687-6940 or 717-314-4756,
equineprotectionnetwork.com

Hollinger Pet Crematory, 411 Zion Road, Carlisle, PA, 717-486-8986

Allied Veterinary Cremation, 717-665-1730, www.alliedvc.com

Beloved Community Pet Ministry, www.belovedcommunitypetministry.com/local-cemeteries.html

PetLoss.net, www.pet-loss.net/resources/PA.shtml

For more on what you need to know to make decisions regarding your pet’s final moments, check out www.iccfa.com.

This entry was posted in Columns. Bookmark the permalink.