bond created when people open their hearts and homes to
non-human animals is a complex one, and the strength of
the emotional attachment can vary quite a bit from person
to person. If illness, death, or loss by some other means
severs that bond, most people find themselves somewhere
on the bereavement roller coaster.
a pet dies, youve lost an integral member of your
households daily life. You may feel sadness, grief,
a sense of anger, betrayal, and all of the other feelings
that accompany a great loss. There are no right or wrong
ways to grieve and the experience of grief is different
for each individual.
It may comfort you to consider that maybe your pet left that huge whole in your heart so there will be plenty of room for the next furperson who needs you.
your feelings of loss with someone who values animals similarly,
or with someone you trust can be helpful. If the person you talk
with doesnt understand, find someone else.
Loss Support Resources
State University operates a toll-free Pet
Loss Support Hotline at 888-ISU-PLSH (888-478-7574). This is a great resource for support and information
about the loss of a pet and the grieving process. There are
a several other organizations that also staff grief support
of California/Davis Pet
Loss Support: 916-752-4200 (5:30-9:30pm);
State University (Argus
Institute): 970-297-1242 for educational
State University Pet
Support Hotline: 517-432-2696 (6:30-9:30pm
of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Veterinary Medicine
Pet Loss Helpline: 877-394-CARE (2273)
You can also
contact us for information about the grieving
process, what happens when an animal dies, the euthanasia process,
or what to do with your companion animals remains.
to 3 years
to 2 years
to 4 years
to 3.5 years
Pigs—4 to 5 years
to 6 years
to 8 years
to 10 years
to 17 years
to 13 years
Pigs—20 to 25 years
to 30 years
from Goodbye, Friend by Gary Kowalski.
fears of the unknown cause an incredible amount of avoidable grief.
There is much we can do proactively that will make our inevitable
parting easier. When our pets face life-threatening problems,
we face four options:
everything possible to treat the problem;
everything possible up to a certain limit, then terminate treatment
if the response doesnt meet our needs or expectations;
any care on making the animal comfortable or ensuring her safety
(and others safety too, if necessary) rather than treating
the problem; or
the following ten questions will help you formulate advance directives
for your pet. Putting your thoughts on paper while your pet is
still alive will help you when the time comes that healthcare
decisions need to be made about her future.
do you believe your pet values the most about his life?
2. How do
you feel about death and dying?
3. Do you
believe you should do everything in your power to preserve your
pets life as long as possible?
4. If you
dont believe in prolonging your pets life as long
as possible, what physical, behavioral, or bond conditions would
cause you to either initiate or to terminate treatment?
conditions might cause you to at least temporarily treat the
conditions listed in question 4?
How much pain and risk would you be willing to put yourself, your
pet, and others through if recovery seemed likely?
7. What if
the chance of recovery were poor?
8. Would your
pets age affect your choice to treat or not treat her?
9. Would any
religious or personal views affect your treatment of your pet
if he developed serious problems?
10. Will financial
considerations affect if and how you treat your pet?
Preparing for the Loss of Your Pet, by Myrna
When an animal
has a health problem that seriously compromises his quality of
life or has a significant behavior problem that cannot, after
genuine effort, be overcome, euthanasia is often the most humane
decision. (Some behavior problems can be resolved by a change
in address, so there may be a chance your animal can be placed
in another home that would better meet his needs.)
of health problems, rely on your veterinarians advice, but
please dont be afraid to seek a second opinion. Many questions
should be taken into consideration before acting, including:
are the treatment options, their efficacy, and cost?
would the animal die if she received no further treatment?
much more pain or discomfort is the animal likely to experience?
You may need some time to
decide what to do about your pets remains. Don’t rush
into anything. Until decisions can be made, find the coldest part
of your dwelling (e.g., basement floor, garage floor, floor of
enclosed porch) or in cold weather, the trunk of your car.
Lay a piece
of plastic out first, then spread newspaper layers on top. You
may lay your pets body directly on top of the newspapers
and cover her with a towel or a sheet.
veterinary clinic may be able to store your pets body in
their freezer until your decision has been made.
a number of options available for dealing with the remains, although
the topic is a conversation taboo for many. Some people are very
concerned about the body (its the only thing left of Fluffy),
others view dead bodies as cast-off shells (this is no longer
have an ordinance prohibiting the burial of animals in yards,
however, enforcement does not seem to be a high priority. Remember
that burial should be deep enough to discourage predators. Dont
bury an animal sealed in a plastic bag.
special cemeteries/scattering gardens just for animals. Local services (caskets, urns, plots, grave markers, scattering gardens, rmembrance items, etc.) are available at:
• Faithful Companions (reached through Lensing’s Oak Hill): 319-351-9362
Gardens Pet CemeteryIowa
Funeral Home & CemeteryTipton: 1-877-822-7387
burn bodies (individually or in groups) using high heat until
whats left turns to ash and bones (which are sometimes ground
up). The resulting grit is referred to as cremains.
In the case of individual cremation, the cremains can be returned
for those who want a keepsake.
A number of
companies offer urns, vases, or boxes specially designed for pet
cremains. You may choose to scatter the cremains outside in an
area that was familiar to your pet.
services are available through or at:
Hill (reached through the Coralville Animal Clinic):
• Faithful Companions (reached through Lensing’s Oak Hill): 319-351-9362
Valley Humane Society: 319-356-8270
Animal Clinic: 319-366-7146
Medical Center: 319-668-1111
a Diamond from Cremains
is possible to create a diamond using the carbon from your companion’s
cremains. The process takes about five months. Diamonds can even
be made from previous cremains already in your possession. The
ashes not used in the diamond-making process can be returned to
you. The resulting gem can be put in a setting of your choice.
Prices begin under $3,000. Google “cremation jewelry”
for more information.
Options for the Remains
skin bodies and stretch the hide over forms to resemble the original
inhabitant. Animals can also be freeze dried in recumbent positions
for display. Bodies left at most vet clinics are turned over to
a renderer and usually end up in animal feed.
people use rituals to help with the grieving process. It can help
some time off workafterall,
one of your best friends just died
candles, burn incense
a letter to your pet, keep a copy, and bury or cremate the original
up a miniature shrine in your home in remembrance of your pet
a wake, funeral, religious death ceremony, or a memorial service
(Pet Memorial Day is the second Sunday in September)
an animal communication consultation. We are fortunate that one
of our members, Sondy Kaska, is an animal communicator. She can
be reached by phone at: 319-354-7428. To learn more about animal
communication and how to schedule an appointment, download her brochure.
brochure is a PDF file. If you don’t already have Adobe’s
Acrobat Reader (the application necessary to read PDF files),
you can download it free by clicking the button below:
a list of all the things your pet did that made you smile or
a memorial donation to your state veterinary teaching hospitalmost
have a companion animal fund used to purchase new
equipment(it was this fund
at Iowa State University that covered the cost to treat the
three cats who survived the Noahs Ark bludgeonings)
herbs and flowers and prepare your pets body at home for
burial or cremationa cardboard
envelope box makes a good coffin for small animals
a special tree or an ornamental shrub in your yard
something you use or wear everyday to your pets name and
establishing new daily routines, and
that your other companion animals may be comforted by the opportunity
to sniff or touch the deceased’s body.
& Bereavement Links
Ahead for Your Animal’s Care
Far too many
beloved companion animals become instantly homeless upon the death
of their caregivers. Please take time now to discuss options with
your lawyer and make provisions for the care of your animals in