When Animal Friends Die


They say cats have nine lives. I wish that were true, but the facts contradict such myths. Everything dies, including the felines, dogs and other creatures we choose to care for and have in our lives. Most animals tend to have a shorter life span than humans, thereby increasing the chances that our beloved friend will stop breathing long before we leave our mortal bodies behind.

To add insult to injury; is the often callous or dismissive attitude and comments of others when we’ve lost a non-human friend. People don’t always understand the emotional impact losing a pet can have. They disregard our pain when we try to talk about the cat or dog we’ve had for fifteen years getting sick and needing constant attention. They scoff at our tears, when our affectionate tabby is lost or killed by a car. They belittle our sense of shock and disbelief when the dog we loved and cared for tenderly for the last eight years suddenly dies.

catYet, for some, pets, animals, and companions (which ever you prefer to use as a label for non-human creatures) are some of the closest and endearing connections we experience in life. Being responsible for any of the varied creatures placed in our care takes time, attention and devotion. And, just like people, such continued time and attention creates attachment, bonding and lasting imprints.

The love and commitment we give and receive from our animal friends, in some respects, are quite unique from that of other relationships. Sometimes, they are the only living beings that love us unconditionally and don’t argue, judge or hurt us in any way. They also provide forms of communication beyond words. There desire to be touched, patted, combed, and talked to provide warmth, softness, connection, meaning and continual reminders of enjoying the present moment.

A lady I recently met was shocked when told by her veterinarian that their beloved kitten had cancer and should be euthanized. She refused and is currently seeking a vet that will give Hospice-type services for her cat and provide whatever is needed to make sure her family friend dies comfortably at home enjoying as many precious moments that remain. Like human beings, there should be an alternative for animals beyond that of further treatments or mercy killing.

Losing a pet also reawakens other losses we’ve experienced; whether recent or long ago. When a cat of ours, named Sushi, was killed by a dog a couple years ago, I unexpectedly found myself remembering my childhood collie, named Pinky and the grandmother I used to visit when Pinky was still alive.

The loss of your animal friend should be treated the same as that of a human.
Talk about the loss; share your pictures, memories, tears and grief. Walk, run, swim, workout, hike, bicycle, dance, play or listen to music a couple of times a week by yourself or with a friend.

Breathing exercises, visualizations, relaxation, stretching, meditation, affirmations and yoga have all been shown to relieve stress, anxiety and positive endorphins to help the body heal.

Relax in a hot tub, hot bath, shower, sauna or sweat lodge and let the emotions seep from your pores and evaporate with the steam.

Put together a collage, altar, memory book, picture frame, treasure box, video or CD of your cat, dog, bird, horse or rabbit.

Have a service or gathering. Memorials and/or funerals; provide validation of your relationship with that being; acknowledgment that their life was of value; and societal affirmation that all living creatures are to be honored and respected.

If you’ve lost an animal friend, at any time in your life and would like some additional support (outside your circle of family and friends) contact the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals), an empathetic therapist or your local grief-counseling center.

  1. Avatar of Jack Eason
    Jack Eason says

    As a fellow animal lover , in my case dogs, I share your compassion and love for our four footed friends. When our fellow humans don’t want to know us, our furry friends always do. When you get home, they’re standing at the window waiting to greet us. When I was a lot younger, I had a black Labrador who always knew when I was on my way home. My mother told me that five minutes before I arrived, Blackie suddenly sat up and went to the door to wait for me.

    Unless you are an animal lover, and most aren’t unfortunately, no one else can possibly imagine the grief of loosing a much loved and cherished best friend with a wagging tail. 🙂

  2. Avatar of Gabriel Constans
    Gabriel Constans says

    Blackie sounds like a great companion. We had a half collie dog growing up named “Pinkie” who did a very similar thing when we were about to come in the door.

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. Avatar of Paula Shene
    Paula Shene says

    We had four rescued dogs when a fifteen year old came into our lives because someone wanted him put down – ‘he was too old.’ The dog is a joy and is no longer a ‘faded dog’ {his color was gone}. After he was in our life over six months, one of our older dogs passed on. All the dogs and family went into mourning including the newer member of the pack. Snoopy is still missed and my husband {who has alzheimer’s} was the closest to the dog. We rescued another older beagle last week who has the same disposition as Snoopy and he was accepted by the others and has already bonded with my husband. We didn’t know what breed we were going to rescue – the only requisite was “Nobody else wants it” – again Banjo was considered too old and was overlooked. People who do not understand and experience the dynamics of humans and pets are missing an emotional treasure.

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