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The Sound of Ideas

When Our Beloved Pets Die

Posted Thursday, April 11, 2013

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When Our Beloved Pets Die Everyone who has ever come to love a pet knows the pain and grief that accompanies illness and death. Sometimes, people just don't understand the pain. Thursday on The Sound of Ideas, we'll discuss how pet owners make decisions about sometimes expensive and involved medical care for their beloved pets and how they handle grief after death. Plus, we'll look at the extreme ways some people memorialize their pets. Did you know Fido could be freeze dried? Join host Mike McIntyre at 9:00 a.m.


Community/Human Interest


Amy Finkel, producer, ‘Furever’
Neal Sivula,DVM, Dancing Paws Animal Wellness Center, Richfield
Joelle Nielsen, MSW, social worker and grief counselor, OSU Veterinary Medical Center

Additional Information

Honoring the Bond
Pet Loss Resources

Pet lovers respond to Mike’s Facebook post about today’s show

Jill: Pets tend to live long lives after my husband and I adopt them. For me, the saddest goodbye was to our golden retriever Brandy, who at 15 1/2 stopped eating or drinking or standing up from his comfortable dog bed. Then we took him to the vet to be put down, and he rallied! He started eating dog biscuits we and the vet gave him, but we knew the responsible thing was to go through with euthanizing him. We cried like babies! He was such a good dog.

Brian: Our Dalmatian of 13 years was reaching a crisis point with her hip dysplasia. We could not afford the price of total hip replacement. Working with my Vet (Dr. Kathy @ Parma Animal Hosp) we enjoyed an extra 6 months over the predicted eventual decision. Coming home to see her with legs spread in four different directions, I knew the time had come. The call was made and the time set. On my way home from work, I stopped by and picked up a few steaks. Grilled them with potatoes and salad, we had our dinner. Went to sleep in from of the fire with the TV on watching the movie Narnia. When time came to go to the office, Dr Kathy had noticed my name on the schedule and decided to come in to administer the forever sleep aid. As I assisted her and held my beloved Sydney, she drifted off. I heard Kathy’s voice say “her heart has stopped” I looked up and replied “mine too”. We smiled and both shed a tear knowing we ended her suffering. For weeks, it was the same as with all the pet passings. Every noise in the house, every shadow that crossed a window, every day coming home; looking to see nothing. Offers of puppies were declined and for good reason. I couldn’t keep up. Perhaps some day an older shelter dog will be companion to my years. For your opinion and advice column; don’t get grandma a new puppy after her dog of 15 years has died. If you can afford the treatments, by all means but certain conditions are bound to return and produce the same decision making moment. It won’t be any easier then. Surgeries for animals are painful and recoveries vary. Choose your vet wisely but your family vet is always your best bet And your best friend.

Connie Schultz, syndicated columnist:  We’ve lost two beloved pets in the last year-and-a-half.

Our pug, Gracie, was my parents’ gift to my daughter in 1997, when she was 10. Cait grew up and moved away, but Gracie found an additional doting family member in Sherrod, who made fun of her when he first met her—“That is not a dog. I don’t know what that is, but that is not a dog”—but took to carrying her around like a football in her last years. By age 12, she was virtually blind and totally deaf, but she still ran to the door when we came home and wanted to be on the nearest lap, always. Until the last two months of her life. She started to withdraw from us, preferring a corner of the couch to our laps, the farthest point in our bed, instead of wedged next to Sherrod. In her last weeks, she started to stumble a lot when she walked, but it took our son-in-law, Matt, to make me see that we were extending her suffering, not her life. He’d worked years ago for a shelter and loves animals, and after watching Gracie fall down twice in as many minutes, he turned to me with the gentlest smile and said, “I’m sorry, but it’s time. I’ll take her if you can’t.” Sherrod and I cried all the way to the vet’s on that August morning in 2011. “No more dogs,” I told him. “I can’t go through this again.” The tin with her ashes sits next to a picture of her from Christmas 1998.

For weeks after we lost Gracie, I was on-and-off weepy. One afternoon, I was reading aloud my column, which I always do before filing, and said, “I don’t know, Gracie, what’s that word I’m looking for?” I looked down at the empty spot by my feet and burst into tears. I called Sherrod and wailed, “I don’t think I’m ever going to get over losing her unless we get a puppy.” That’s how we came to adopt Franklin, a rescue puppy born to a 45-pound lab-husky mother and a 14-pound Shih Tsu, the gymnast.
This past January, we lost our 18-year-old cat, Winnie. She was the first pet my daughter and I adopted after I became a single mother. About two years ago, she stopped grooming herself, so the vet recommended a “lion’s cut,” which made her look hilarious. Shaved body, fluffy legs and head. It worked miracles, and she grew much livelier for nearly 18 months. Last fall, Winnie was diagnosed with liver cancer. It was slow growing, and we opted for monthly cortisone shots to ease her pain, but no chemo. On January 27, she stopped eating. The following morning, we found her sprawled on the basement floor, awake but unable to walk. It was a snowy Sunday, and the vet’s office was closed. I decided to hold her throughout the day, promising her and myself that I’d take her into the vet’s in the morning if she were still alive. I bundled her in one of Caitlin’s old baby blankets, fed her a little water through a dropper and rocked her in my arms for nearly 10 hours. She closed her eyes and died right around dinner time. Sherrod buried her in our back yard during a snowstorm because I couldn’t bear the thought of her lying alone in a box in the cold, cold garage.

Terry: I guess I’ve always kept my pets in a different compartment in my heart than the one where people reside. What I mean is that I’ve been saddened by the loss of my pets, but not anywhere near the grief of losing family or friends. My first dog got hit by a car and died in my arms when I was 10 and I remember crying but I got over it pretty quickly. But I’m afraid that’s going to change when I lose my Mikey. But I don’t think I’d stuff him or make him into a diamond. I think I’ll bury him in my backyard and plant a tree next to him.

Susan: So...when we rescued our senior boxer girl Ivory we didn’t know how sick she had been. Her cancer returned, we put her in chemo which gave her probably about an extra year. (drove to Akron to see a specialist...fantastic hospital there). It was worth every penny and believe me there were MANY of them. Ivory’s ashes are in a pink (of course) cloisonné urn on my dresser. It’s also the first thing I’m grabbing if we have to evacuate. That and our current two rescue dogs. Oh yes, and the husband.

Karen: I learned early on in life that dogs are the only non-judgmental family members or friends one has, and have always been extremely close to them. My parents did not feel the same. Lived in a small town (750) in northwest OH, and the Sheltie we’d had for years had to be put down.

Lindy: never liked riding in cars and always hugged the floor. But the day I got picked to ride with my dad to the vet’s to put her down, she seemed to know this was it and was perky and looking out the window. When we got there (another small town; no vet in our town), my dad just put her in a cage and we drove home. She looked so forlorn—I can still see her confused face. I could never understand how you could abandon your dog like that, and lost tons of respect for him.

Our next dog, another Sheltie, had seizures, the result of too much inbreeding. We were a one-car family, again in the little town, and my dad was working. No car, no vet, had to watch her die from a seizure. As tough as those were—and there were other dogs over the years—losing my first big dogs—Ben, a husky/Samoyed, and George, a husky/Shepherd—within 8 months of each other was the worst.

Ben was in renal failure and had to be put down at 10. Lots of tears, and George was inconsolable for six months. Two months later came the horrible decision to have to put him down because he was almost 14 and failing. Sat in my car weeping like crazy before I could manage to drive home.

I vowed I would never have another dog because it was just too painful to lose them.

I got Bruce three weeks later. I don’t do well without dogs. Need their unconditional love and unbridled happiness of living in the moment; great antidote from my job, where I deal with the depravity of people. Had George and Ben cremated, and spread some of their ashes in their favorite spot beside the bridle trail in the Metropark. Didn’t want to bury them in the yard in case I ever move.

Won’t make jewelry, but my son has instructions that when I die, I am to be cremated, and the ashes of any dogs I had are to be mixed with mine, put in fireworks, and shot over Lake Erie. (There’s a company in CA that does that. Or did; haven’t checked lately to make sure they’re still around. If not, then plant a tree and sprinkle us in the earth to feed it.) Some people think that’s really sick, but I’ve never been particularly conventional.

Ted Diadiun, The Plain Dealer: You learn early that the trouble with loving a dog is that you know—if you’re lucky—you’ve going to outlive him, and will have to suffer the grief of putting him down. Of course we’ve had to part with several that way, and each one puts a different kind of stamp on your heart. I’ve always had to give it a year before I can bring myself to get another dog, but I never resent people suggesting I do it sooner, because I know they do it out of love.

So now I’m at an age when I think about the inevitable day my six-year-old mastiff Gunnar goes ... what will happen? Lord willing, I’ll be about 70, and while I hate to think of life without a dog, would it make sense to bring home a puppy who will live until I’m 80 or more? Grim thoughts, but that’s what happens when you start staring down your mortality ...

Two memories stand out:

Our only dog who was KIA was our bloodhound, Hank Anne (don’t ask), who was hit by a car when she was five. My girls were little, and I asked a psychologist friend if it would be better to have them help us bury her in the backyard, or would it be too traumatic. He responded that we should keep them involved, that farm kids experience life and death every day, and they grow up to be some of the most well-adjusted people in the world. He said his only worry for my girls was their having a right-wing whacko for a father.

The other was our first mastiff, Casimir. He lived to be 11, a ripe old age for a big breed. I cried like a child when I held him in my arms as he got the shot, but in a strange way the grief helped to prepare me for my father’s death about five months later. That seems strange to read; only a real dog lover could truly understand ...

Kara: The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was agonize and make that decision for my dear Shadow, my 14 year old shepherd and constant companion. Not only do you experience the grief of a loss of a family member, but you experience guilt having to make the ultimate decision for a little being who can’t convey their needs....add a little spiritual ambivalence… Stir well, and you get a real mess that winds up seeing a grief counselor for Pete’s sake!!

Emily: Mike, thanks a lot for the post. We are all seeing the movie on Sunday. My dad is very very obsessed with my dachshund. It’s borderline weird. He likes him better than my kids, his grandchildren. Anyways, I didn’t even know about the movie until I read this. Thanks so much!

Susie: Lisa Ryan was so moved by my cat’s passing she created a card with a photo collage of pics of my dear Meechie. A year later, it remains the single most touching piece I’ve ever received, and it sits on my desk where I can look at it every day. Dang, now I’m crying again.

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