Dan was devastated he wasn’t able to be beside his beloved cat Pom’s side when Pom was euthanased.
One thing that helped Dan was conducting a ritual farewell for his pet of 20 years. It was something he found cathartic, and that was encouraged by the grief counsellor we spoke to for our story on farewelling pets when you can’t be present at their death.
After sharing Dan’s story, we heard from many other people who could relate to the importance of doing something to mark their pet’s death, and who shared what has meant to them.
These are three of the stories we received.
‘Our rabbit died at the pet sitters’
Peter and Jessica, Umina Beach, NSW.
I’d never had a rabbit until I got with Jessica, my partner, she had had rabbits as a kid.
Our rabbit was called Milan, but we called her Millie.
Millie was a big beast, dominant over our other rabbits. She used to sit and stare a lot and even rock a little bit.
We had her in boarding when she died, but she was staying with someone very animal savvy.
We believe she must have got bitten by a mosquito and got calicivirus.
We got the body first thing the next morning and I remember it was pouring rain that day.
We were trying to work out the best thing to do, we wanted to do something.
After we collected the body, we went to the nursery and looked in the native section and liked the uniqueness of the flame tree leaf.
It looked like a paw shape.
My parents have five acres and we buried her there.
We held a little memorial service after planting her into the earth, we were out there in the rain.
It was very emotional and now we can “visit” — it is very helpful.
‘Zac was my best friend’
Jacqui, Noosa, QLD.
He was the odd one of the litter, chocolate coloured and the rest were red, even though he was technically a Red Cloud kelpie.
We got him when I was in grade five, and he was my best friend.
My grandfather suggested we call him Anzac — very patriotic.
I thought we could drop the start of the name and just have Zac.
Years later, when I was 19, I was on a working holiday in Darwin and my dad called.
Zac had passed away. He had a heart attack and fell down a spiral staircase.
It was devastating, it’s not just a pet — you know that old cliche, we had a spiritual connection.
I felt powerless because I wasn’t there with him.
This was the second time I had experienced non-closure with a pet. The first time was when, as a child, a tactless vet nurse told me on the phone that our other dog had to be put down.
I was completely unprepared for it and not emotionally ready for such a shock.
I didn’t do an actual ceremony as such but I thought about him all the time, and I talked to him in my own way.
‘Choose people who can honour your pet’s life with you’
Jennifer, Sydney, NSW.
Most of my life I have had dogs, at one stage I had a cat, and all the usual childhood things like goldfish.
I have a greyhound called Kelly Rose now and I had Missy, a greyhound, for 10 years.
The main thing that has helped me with the loss of several dogs and a cat over my life is bringing them home.
I couldn’t bear the thought of despatching them in a bag to landfill like waste. Home is where they lived and enjoyed their lives.
Two of my animals have been buried at home, one with a hand-etched copper plaque on a garden rock, another’s ashes are still in her ceramic container in the garden.
More recently, two have been cremated and scattered around trees in my garden and those trees are their memorials.
I have also learnt to be selective about the people with whom I share my grief.
Now I choose only those who I know understand the grief of losing a beloved animal.
If your animal is being euthanased, make sure you choose someone to accompany you who shares your feelings for animals, understands your grief and can honour your animal’s life with you.
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