July will mark the anniversary of our cat, Bailey’s passing. After nearly 21 years of knocking objects off my nightstand and giving me side-eye when his dinner wasn’t served promptly, he passed over the rainbow bridge in the comfort of our home, in his favorite spot at the foot of the bed.
He was quite old, so for a few years before his passing, I thought I would be emotionally prepared when the day finally came. Afterall, he outlived his life expectancy by several years at that point, so every day was a gift.
But when the time finally came, I felt gut punched. He had been part of my every day for so long, I guess I just figured he always would — as silly as that sounds.
Now I find that I’m in the same place emotionally with my two dogs, Maddie and Ollie. They’ve been a part of my life in the same way as Bailey, and for nearly as long. So I know that when the time comes to say goodbye, I don’t want to get to that moment with any regrets; and I want to make the most of the time I have left with them.
It’s been on my mind lately because we’ve been talking to our friends at PetLoss Partners about hosting a webinar this Wednesday on how to prepare for the loss of a pet. Cofounder and pet loss specialist, Sandra Grossman, Ph.D, will be leading the presentation and will provide guidelines to keep in mind as your pet ages or deals with terminal illness.
Research has confirmed that for most people, the loss of a pet is, in almost every way, comparable to the loss of a human loved one. Our pets are a huge part of our hearts and enrich our lives in many ways, so it is important to prepare a peaceful path to their passing.
Dr. Grossman’s point of view and style for managing this sensitive issue is outstanding, so I hope you’ll have a chance to check it out. In the meantime though, I wanted to share some of my own suggestions with you on how to make the most of the time you have left with your pet if they are nearing the end of their life.
I’ve already started taking my own advice – so I hope you find it helpful too.
Say ‘thank you’ often
Whether you have days, weeks or months with your pet, take time to sit in a quiet place with them to thank them for everything you appreciate about them.
You’ll find that it will help jog your memory for moments you forgot or that you are grateful to your dog for things you had never considered before. They’ll enjoy the quiet time with you, and you’ll be reminded of why telling another living being how you feel can be so healing.
Give your pet a massage
This is a great exercise to do with a dog or cat of any age, and can actually help determine abnormalities or lumps that you might not otherwise notice.
In addition to serving as a regular wellness check, massage helps your dog relax, accelerate healing after an injury or surgery, helps circulate blood flow, cleans the lymphatic system and more.
Have one last awesome day!
It’s not always possible to know when your pet is nearing the end of her life, but in times when you are aware, give her one last awesome day or weekend.
Take the day off from work if you can and spend it doing everything your dog loves to do. Dedicate the entire day to spending time with her. Try not to think about their looming death or that these will be your final days together. Just make it one last great day together.
Make paw print art
A friend sent me the art she made with her dogs and I made note to do this with each of my pets before it’s too late. She said she simply used acrylic paint and a canvas and then had them walk over the canvas or pressed their paws on it. Simple and memorable.
Organize a virtual ‘fur’neral
The week Bailey died, I organized a virtual “fur”neral by simply posting a few photos of him with some kind words about what he meant to me, and invited my friends who knew him to say something in the comments. My extended family and friends all shared in the celebration of his life. It was such a healing experience for me.
I know this is not the most uplifting topic, but it is an important one. If you have the time, I invite you to join our free webinar this Wednesday, June 17 from noon to 1 p.m. Dr. Grossman’s presentation will be so informative, and she’s even saving time for your questions. You can register for the webinar here.