Anyone who has ever owned a pet knows that there comes a time when you must say goodbye. And, that time is difficult regardless of the age. Well, for us, the time to say goodbye came on Monday, July 10th. It was a sad day for our whole family, but our son was the saddest of all.
Sagwa was given to us by her previous owner who couldn’t keep her anymore. Sagwa joined us in June of 2004. We even made a website of her for her previous owner. She had her first round of kidney failure in 2006 but she survived. She then watched our son enter our family. She tolerated him for the first 4 years but then she really warmed up to him. She partook in our bedtime story routine and she expected morning brushes. When we switched to homeschooling, Sagwa benefited too. She would sit by my son and me during our lessons. And, if our son was being slow at the breakfast table she would meow as if to tell him to hurry up because she wanted her attention down by his laptop. We knew Sagwa was getting old as she was slowing down. Sagwa started being really funky on Friday, July 7th but by Sunday she was completely refusing all food, including food with catnip, catnip alone, milk, and chicken. We knew this was bad as she never refuses these. We were hoping it was just a teeth issue, but I knew it could be her kidneys failing for good. We took her to the vet on Monday and sadly her kidneys had failed again. The bloodwork found kidney failure and liver failure. She made it to 15 and half years with 11 of them as a kidney special cat. Sadly, the kidney failure this time was much faster than 11 years ago. Lake Olympia Animal Hospital was wonderful with us. They gave her the medicine and let us hold her until she went. And they gave us plenty of time for saying goodbyes! My son and I greatly appreciated being able to hold, pet, and talk to her while she crossed the rainbow bridge. Now, she is no longer suffering and is pain-free.
Within hours of sending our closest family and friends our announcement of Sagwa’s death, we received the sweetest note from a dear friend, Dr. Amanda, who was Sagwa’s former vet before moving to New Mexico. I found her note to be extremely helpful because it was loaded with resources. And, it was her letter that inspired me to write this blog. Her resources could be helpful to others. And, after going through saying goodbye with Sagwa at our vet’s office, I love that she offers services in the family home through her mobile clinic http://www.chamisavet.com/ Chamisa.
Dr. Amanda Mouradian, DVM sent us the following (sharing with permission):
“Please accept my deepest sympathies and sorrows as you grieve the loss of Sagwa. My heart goes out to you as you walk down this path of grief and sadness, there is no way to skip it, only to pass through it. Sagwa will be with you always, even if it is just in memories. Please know that your feelings are normal, that your sorrow is normal, that depression and anger are normal after losing someone so close.
I have compiled some resources surrounding the grieving process and loss of a beloved pet in hopes that it makes your journey a little less painful and maybe a little transformative:
Things to do at home:
-Create a memorial for your pet
-Rest and acknowledge that grief is exhausting and that it takes time to adapt to the new world you live in
-Visit some on-line support groups with folks who are traveling through grief as well
-Care for yourself- drink enough water, eat healthful foods, rest, and exercise
- Save a clay paw print impression or fur clipping in a cellophane bag, ribbon or shadow box.
- Make a photo album. Frame a poem. Write a love note. Keep a journal. Keep tags on your keychain.
- Plant a tree/flower (PetTree.com and MyEternalFamilyTree.com). Create a garden stone/mosaic.
- Light a candle each day as a tribute. Display children’s memorial artwork, collar, photos, toys.
- Commission a work of art from a photo (PetPortraitsByBethany.com and ThePetSketcher.com).
- Hold a bit of the pet’s ashes or fur in a necklace pendant (EternallyWithMe.com).
On-Line Support Groups:
If you need support outside of your home:
Private Grief Counseling in Santa Fe:
Grief Support Groups/Facilities in Northern New Mexico:
Support Via Phone:
ASPCA National Pet Loss Hotline – 877-GRIEF-10 (1-877-474-3310). This is a 24-hr direct line to the ASPCA’s psychologist and grief counselor, Dr. Stephanie LaFarge, Ph.D. www.aspca.org.
Iams Pet Loss Support Hotline – 1-888-332-7738 – M-F 9am-5pm Eastern
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine – 607-253-3932. 6 pm – 9 pm, EST, Tues-Thurs. www.vetcornell.edu/org/petloss/
Argus Institute at CSU Veterinary Medical Center – 970-297-1242. www.argusinstitute.colostate.edu
Pet Loss Books for Adults:
When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering and Healing – Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.
Grieving The Death of a Pet – Betty J. Carmack
Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet – Moira Anderson Allen, M.Ed.
Pet Loss and Human Bereavement – William Kay
Animals as Teachers and Healers – Susan Chernak McElroy
A Final Act of Caring: Ending the Life of an Animal Friend – Herb and Mary Montgomery
Pet Loss: A Thoughtful Guide for Adults and Children – Herbert A. Neiburg, Ph.D.
It’s Okay To Cry – Maria Luz Quintana
Pet Loss Books for Children:
“When a Pet Dies” – Fred Rogers
“Dog Heaven” – Cynthia Rylant
“Cat Heaven” – Cynthia Rylant
I hope all of this information helps you and your family.
Seriously, when I received this email, I cried. First, Dr. Amanda is a dear friend and was Sagwa’s former vet before she moved. Second, I was moved by the thoroughness of the resources and thoughtfulness she put into compiling this list! And, finally, I knew she cared about our pet and our family to take the time during her vacation to send us the note. She went above and beyond both friend and vet duties. We greatly appreciate it! And, due to her letter my son and I picked out our favorite pictures for hubby to photoshop and make frameable. We took pictures of the paw print her current vet sent us and we are keeping her brush (it has been cleaned) as a memento because it was Sagwa’s favorite activity and one she even let our son do to her!
The first couple story times at night without Sagwa were hard as were the first couple of mornings of homeschooling. Sagwa is missed, but we have some amazing memories and we know she lived a long life with us! Grief takes time. We hope that if you have to experience pet grief with your child, you’ll use some of the resources and suggestions from our friend, Dr. Amanda.