Tag: pet bereavement

Remembering Jack, a very special Animals Asia therapy dog

animals asia staff with therapy dog golden retriever

We remember a very special golden retriever and Animals Asia therapy dog, Jack.

Animals Asia logo“Jack’s temperament and nature meant he was ideally suited to becoming a therapy dog for our/Animal Asia’s innovative Professor Paws and Dr Dog programs,” explains Grace, Jack’s human mummy,

He helped teach children to overcome their fear of dogs, learn safety around dogs, responsible pet care and compassion for all animals. He also helped patients in care homes and hospitals feel that they are special, helping to spread the message that dogs are our best friends and helpers, not food or fur.

Grace fondly remembers the time that they were out walking in the park when a little girl came over, calling ‘Jack’ as she approached them. She had met Jack at school, and she gave him a cuddle and a hug. The little girl had learning disabilities, and her family said it was unusual for her to be so responsive. She remembered Jack and felt that special bond with him.

His legacy lives on through the lives he touched

girl hugs golden retriever animals asia therapy dogJack sadly passed away in 2018 but his legacy lives on through the lives he touched, such as the little girl in the park that day. Grace subsequently went on to take in two Jack lookalikes, a beautiful 14 year old golden retriever called Pat, followed by DJ.

“I know DJ came into my life for a purpose, to continue Jack’s journey with us, and to extend Jack’s “life” with us even longer too. DJ is a perfect therapy dog for me, to help complete the deep grieving I had from losing Jack, and I believe in some way he is “Jack” continuing to give his love to me,” says Grace.

Since writing this story, we were sad to hear that DJ has passed away aged 14 years; another special soul that touched so many people’s lives. 

Are you struggling with the loss of a beloved pet? Visit our Pet Bereavement page.

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The amazing Mr Miller: we celebrate the life of a PPCT-sponsored assistance dog

Miller-PPCT sponsored assistance dog Dogs For Good

Petplan Charitable Trust has supported Dogs for Good for a number of years by sponsoring assistance dogs through their training.

Dogs for Good logoOne of these dogs was Miller, a beautiful Golden Retriever who was partnered with a lady named Susan in 2013. Everyone here at the Trust was very sad to learn that Miller passed away during lockdown due to a brain tumour. During his final few weeks he was looked after by Dogs For Good Operations Manager, Chris Muldoon. Susan was unwell and couldn’t support Miller during this time.

Chris reflects back on the lessons learned from a unique situation while providing palliative care for an assistance dog during lockdown.

“They say life is a great teacher and with that thought I think the lived experiences offered to us when they arise, as professionals and as people in our field, must be some of the greatest opportunities for us to develop skills, empathy, understanding and compassion. This opportunity for me to learn even at this narrowing end of my career was brought home to me over the past ten weeks of lockdown here in the UK.

We have a client, living alone, who injured herself one week before lockdown and due to this she could not look after her dog, an eight-year-old golden retriever with whom she had lived and worked from when he was eighteen months old. The appropriately and aptly named, amazing Mr Miller.

Miller was diagnosed with a brain tumour the day before lockdown

As we prepared to go into lockdown, I agreed to take him home with me to Scotland. I’d met him in kennels and liked him instantly, lots of personality and a playful zest for life.

He had been unwell too, and after rigorous tests for cardiac anomalies, he had experienced a number of significant seizures, and, after investigation he was diagnosed him with an aggressive terminal brain tumour. To add to the drama, all of this unfolded one day before lockdown. Despite his illness his attitude was always one of enjoying life and the sheer pleasure of being close to people. This also meant the owner said goodbyes to her dog in a rushed and unceremonious way, knowing he was unlikely to survive the time away from her. Bravery knows many faces.

Susan with Miller Dogs For Good golden retriever assistance dogHe was full of charm and character

So for the past ten weeks, the amazing Mr Miller has been my constant companion in lockdown with our one hour walk a day as reward for being cooped up together. For our walk we made for the river where he revelled in a swim and rolled in the grass. He was full of charm and character and had lots of endearments such as a huge snore and run up the stairs like a herd of elephants and working out the best place to lie was in the intersection of all the paths through the house, so the only way round him was over him. For someone who has not had a dog for a long time it has been a delight to see him become part of the fabric of the house, including slobber, fart smells and hair loss.

Every few days he would have a huge seizure

Every few days he would have a huge seizure but within 20 minutes he would recover and be back to being Miller. His most regular times for seizures was 2 and 4am which meant we watched a lot of late night shopping channels as I lay on the floor to keep him company as he recovered. He was being medicated for these episodes and if there were two or three in a day his medication would be increased resulting in a return to a state of calm for him. Every day was a revaluation of the quality of life left to him.

I text messaged Susan (above right) every second or third day with updates on his health and life with me. I had picked up quickly that if I rang directly, the mere sound of the phone ringing created such a sense of fear that there was a panic in her voice. I surmised that she was waiting for the inevitable phone call, so we agreed texts meant business as usual.

It was Miller’s ninth birthday on Tuesday, May 26 and he started the day with a birthday cake along with a long walk and swim. I had just texted his owner to tell her he was in full birthday mode and was enjoying his big day.

At 8pm he had a long, protracted seizure, leaving him confused and dazed. This was followed by three more and a call to the vet. The advice was to increase his anticonvulsants to beyond prescribed dosage, I did so nervously but it had the desired effect of stopping the ravages of the seizures and giving him a semi peaceful night. By 5 am he was pacing and trying to find a place to find some respite from the trauma he was experiencing. I had texted the owner in order not to alarm her saying that he was unwell, and I didn’t want to say more until I had taken him to the vet in the morning.

Miller as a puppy Dogs For GoodAs the morning progressed it became clear he was not going to recover from this last bout of seizures and that the options were all but exhausted.

The decision was right, I said goodbye

With a real sense of sadness but confidence that the decision was right I said goodbye to the amazing Mr Miller at 6pm on Wednesday, May 27. One day after his 9th birthday, he went to sleep forever.

I made the inevitable phone call. As you can imagine his owner was inconsolable on so many levels. The death of her dog, the end of her partnership, not being with him and a sense of helplessness and isolation due to the lockdown. I can only imagine.

We can only show empathy based on that imagination or draw on similar experiences that we try to align to the experience of the client to the best of our abilities.

Honouring the bravery, resilience and compassion of Miller’s owner

My experience with the amazing Mr Miller has taken my imagination, all too briefly but all too painfully to the lived experience and reminded me why we, when working with our clients, need to go beyond imagination and empathy into the lived experience. I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose your independence and the companionship of a dog you lived alone with for seven years. I can’t imagine what it’s like to not be able to have any influence over what happens to him when he is ill and the guilt that not being with him creates when he passes. However, I can, where possible, share their lived experience.

I want to pay respect to the owner of this dog, her bravery, resilience, compassion and caring for the dog she loved even to the point of giving him up. I also want to acknowledge the service of the amazing Mr Miller, a wonderful Dogs for Good assistance dog, and thank him for the final gift of allowing me to learn from his journey. They say life is a great teacher.”

Main image courtesy Dogs For Good

Find out how PPCT is helping Dogs For Good

Are you facing the loss of a pet? Our Pet Loss Blog has some straightforward vet-led advice to help support your decision-making.

If you are struggling to come to terms with the loss of your pet, you may find our Pet Bereavement resource helpful.

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A farewell poem to ‘Major’ by his homeless owner

major the akita streetvet

StreetVet is a charity that brings veterinary support to dogs owned by the homeless. The Trust has been a long-term supporter of their vital work.

portrait of akita dog majorRecently, StreetVet was there for a homeless man, Alex, when his beloved akita, Major, came to the end of his life.

‘Whenever one of our patients passes away, we offer to have their ashes returned to their owner in a scatter tube,’ explains Gabriel from StreetVet. ‘We also have a pet portrait drawn, which we can laminate if the owner cannot hang it in a frame.’

Below is a special poem that Alex rote for his akita, Major. We are extremely grateful to him for sharing it with us.

 

A few words for “Major” in his Loving Memory, 1-8-2007 – 6-17-2019.

‘Loving you always Little Bear’

 

Major

Only the “Good” Die Young
You were so special
My majestic friend
Your eyes so special
Many characters they had
It was a privilege and
Honour to know you!

You were the candy
Of my eyes
Your heart so pure
My “Gentle Giant”
It filled me with
Sweetness and Love.

Missing your snuggles and kisses
Miss everything about you,
Our walks and even your pisses 🙂
You meant the world to me,
Your spirit is in my soul.

Those big brown eyes that
Sparkled like the stars above
I shall see again, when
We meet on the other side,
When forever, together,
We will finally be.

 

Are you struggling to cope with the loss of an animal companion? Our Pet Bereavement page aims to help you through this difficult time by providing useful resources including helplines and website links.

For an expert view on pet ownership, pet loss, euthanasia decision-making and much more, take a look at The Pet Loss Blog by Caroline Hewson MRCVS

Read more personal pet loss stories, here

My Harry: remembering a much-loved Cocker Spaniel

harry cocker spaniel

On 14th November 2003, a beautiful orange and white Cocker Spaniel came into this world.

By Miranda Green

I first held my boy, my first ever dog, in my arms at 10 days old. He had not even opened his little eyes and sat in my hand. I cuddled him for an hour that first time and he fell asleep in my arms. The Cocker Spaniel breeder said to me, are you sure you want this little one; he is the dominant one of the puppy pack and is very ‘vocal.’ I said, “I am sure! He is ‘The One for me!!’.

miranda green with her dog harryAt 9 weeks old, I took my boy home. His Kennel Club name was Bartonian Dyramid Boy and apparently his Grandad and Great Grandad had been show champions at Crufts. I called my boy ‘Harry.’ He just looked like a Harry.

I did not get much sleep for 2 weeks as he howled all night long. I gave him a hot water bottle for comfort in his crate and a ticking clock like his Mummy’s heartbeat and played a relaxing CD to calm him, but, he really was not happy.

A few months later, he slept with me in my room. He was happy then. Over the years, of course, he slept on my bed! I couldn’t help it, I adored him and he adored me! It was only me and him and Bertie the budgie, Bobby the bunny and two goldfish, Jilly and Derek. So, he really did get quite spoilt!

His favourite toy was a latex chicken

I took him to puppy classes and he was such a clever boy and picked all the commands up really quickly and he adored agility and ‘going through the big hoop’ game.

harry the spaniel with his stickHe even had some rosettes for being a good boy, although he was a stubborn and feisty fella and would not have his teeth cleaned or coat brushed and sometimes he only came back to me when we were out walkies if I had a treat for him!

We spent 5-6 years happily together and had such an amazing and strong bond. We were unbreakable! Team Green!! Then Rob came along, my partner. Harry was unsure for a while, but, soon learnt to love him. He now had a Daddy as well as a Mummy! Happy Harry!!!

We moved to a new home and Harry seemed unsettled for a while and became aloof with other doggies on walks. He was a funny fella though, as he loved playing with other Cocker Spaniels but not other breeds.

His favourite toy was a latex chicken (he destroyed everything else!) plus, he loved a game of ‘throw the stick’ on walks. He also loved food and would wait for things to drop from the kitchen work top. He would love sleeping between us, snoring loudly, and in the morning we would both be hanging off the sides of the bed with no duvet!

A typical Cocker Spaniel, Harry even smelt water he’s soon be in it

A typical cocker spaniel, Harry adored water; if he even smelt water he would find it and be in it. He also resembled a hippo at times as he loved playing in the wet mud, too. Lots of grumpy bath times, as a result! He wasn’t keen on the sea though, as once, a big wave smacked him in the head! He also loved his countryside walks.

dog running on the beachHe really enjoyed cuddles but only when he wanted them and at night he would be like a sleepy raggy doll and would lie in your lap. He enjoyed hiding under a cuddly blanket, too. He went everywhere with us. We were an inseparable family unit. He was our baby.

When he was 8 years old he developed a prolapsed disc. He lost the feeling in both back legs and literally dragged them, and, unfortunately, steroids were ineffective. He had an operation at the Animal Health Trust. He had the most amazing Neurology Surgeon, Fabio. This man was just amazing in so many ways and I cannot thank him enough for the care and love he gave Harry and us during this difficult time.

After the operation we had to teach Harry to walk again

Fabio, would sit on the floor with him and kiss him all over and talk so kindly to him. After the operation, we had to help teach him how to walk again and needed a back halter to help him to go to the toilet and to walk. We had to hold his back end up as he walked. He walked with a hunched back for some time after. But, eventually his gait and mobility improved and he just had a little wobble.

He also had hydrotherapy for 2 years afterwards. He was a determined little fella and you could see that he would never give up! It brought such a glow to my heart, watching him enjoy life once more.

When he was 13, he went deaf and also was rather arthritic in his joints. He developed a cough which made him hoarse and it became quite frequent. The vet gave him antibiotics which did not clear it. But, he was a stubborn, strong-willed chap and ploughed on and carried on enjoying his walks. His cough continued so the Vet performed a chest X-ray. It was not good news.

cocker spaniel close upHarry looked deeply into my eyes – I knew he was ready to go

He had a shadow on his lung and because of his age, the vet feared the worst. We were offered other exploratory options, but, we did not want to put our old boy through that. We filled our weekends with days to the beach and trips around the park and his favourite ponds and rivers, too. We enjoyed every day with him. He became breathless, so the Vet put him on steroids and pain-killers. He reached his 14th birthday and I bought him his favourite Tripe sticks and took him on his favourite walks. Then, he was on the strongest dose of steroids but these were proving ineffective as he was panting at rest.

I remember vividly, he was panting in his bed and looked up to the ceiling and followed something around the room. He then looked at me deeply into my eyes. I knew it was a sign that he was ready to go and that the Angels were waiting to take him to be at peace.

cocker spaniel and rabbit lying

I have never felt such a feeling of loss in all my life

I feel very sad as I write this; we did the bravest, most selfless and kindest thing I think we have ever done. We held his paw and cuddled him and talked to him and kissed him as he went to sleep. Rob and I hugged each other so tight for the next few days. We did not sleep at all and I just felt so lost, like I had lost my child. I have never felt such a feeling of loss in all my life. I felt like I had been punched in the chest with something really hard. My heart was shattered into tiny pieces. I just did not know how I would go on living.

I spoke with my GP and she suggested I contact The Samaritans, which was helpful. I also saw a counsellor who was actually experiencing the same grief as me at losing her beloved whippet. We shared our grief which was comforting.

My partner and I were grieving differently and it tore us apart

man cuddles harry on sofaWe had our Haz cremated. When I got his ashes back, I emailed the crematorium for advice on where I could find further support as my partner and I were not sharing our grief together. We were grieving differently and this tore us apart. The dynamics in our relationship seemed to have changed somehow, too. The Pet Crematorium put me in touch with a charity called Our Special Friends who help folk by providing emotional support when they lose a special friend. I spoke with a beautiful lady called, Belinda ‘Bin’ Johnston. She was amazing and I have kept in touch with her ever since Harry died, just over 2 years ago.

I learnt to reach out to others instead of keeping my feelings to myself and got support from so many lovely people. The house was so lonely without him, though. He would greet me at the door when I came home, he would sit on my lap, he would sit with me when I was in the bath, he would follow me everywhere and, yes; he was very vocal! He was a cheeky, strong-willed, feisty, stubborn and very determined boy with a beautiful heart. We even received a ‘With Sympathy’ card from our beautiful Vet Helen at Swayne and Partners in Bury St Edmunds, and her words encapsulated his personality perfectly. She just ‘got’ him!

We scattered his ashes in his favourite woodland

cross stich picture of cocker spanielI enjoy cross-stitch and decided to create a cross-stitch of my boy. It took me a while to finish it. It now sits proudly in my bedroom and I blow him a kiss at night and smile at him in the morning when I wake up.

On 23rd November 2019, I was ready to scatter some of his ashes. Rob was respectful in waiting until I was ready. He wanted to scatter them a long time ago. I guess we all grieve differently? I have kept some in an urn and have scattered some in the garden which is a place that he loved. Harry had a favourite spot over the heath in the back of the woodland. He would just ‘come alive’ through those woods and would have a big, vibrant grin on his face as he ran through there. So, it was respectful for us to scatter his ashes and set him free in his favourite place.

Rob and I created a video on my phone in remembrance of our beautiful boy and each, in turn, scattered his ashes. We secured a photo of him on a tree, too. It was a sad, but, also joyous experience. I felt liberated. He can fly now, and in his favourite spot, too!

I missed him ‘clip-clopping’ along behind me

Our home was so quiet without The Pops. We have wooden flooring and I missed him ‘clip-clopping’ along, behind me. So, 18 months ago, we re-homed a beautiful chocolate-sable Cocker Spaniel Bitch called Maddie. She is 3 years old. She has a genetic condition called PRA, which means that she will lose her sight at some point. She is the most beautiful, kind and loving soul. I think Harry would be pleased that we have given another Cocker Spaniel a good, loving home.

Harry the cocker spaniel pet bereavement

Harry the Cocker Spaniel

Thank you for sharing 14 wonderful years with me, Haz. Gone to Spirit, but, NEVER forgotten. Until me meet again one day, Your Mummy, Miranda (and Daddy, Rob) XXXXXX

Read more personal bereavement stories

Are you struggling to cope with the loss of a beloved companion? You can find helpline number and links to useful websites on our bereavement page.

Pet bereavement: PPCT creates new online resource

barney pet bereavement

Whatever the circumstances, the loss of a beloved pet can be devastating.

Sometimes, even well-meaning friends can struggle to understand just how profound that grief can be. And, it can be hard to know who to turn to for support.

That’s why Petplan Charitable Trust has created a new resource on our website dedicated to pet loss. Here you’ll find a wealth of useful helplines as well as links to support organisations and other services. Some pet owners have also been kind enough to share their pet bereavement stories in the hope that you may find them helpful.

One such pet owner is Linda. Within the space of a few days, she lost both her mother and her beloved dog, Barney (main image). Here, she shares her moving story.

Barney had been a wonderful dog to me for 16.5 years

“I lost Barney, my 17- year-old rescue border collie/Jack Russell terrier cross (ex Wood Green), Barney, in December, 2011. He had been with me for 16.5 years since he was 6 months old.

Adopted border terrier meg volunteers for Our Special Friends

Linda with her adopted border terrier, Meg

He was suddenly taken seriously ill whilst I was up in Derbyshire with my sister for Christmas. We had to go to the emergency vets in Derby on Boxing Day and waited several hours, as they were understandably very busy. Barney kept collapsing and could not breathe properly. When we were finally seen by the vet, he was found to have fluid on his lungs. There was no hope of saving him, so I had to have him put to sleep. I cannot tell you how upset I was. He had been a wonderful dog to me over all those years. He had seen me through a severe head injury accident and was even allowed to visit me in hospital. Barney was my sole reason for getting better; I had to look after him.

In the space of 10 days I lost my dear dog and my dear mother

“To make matters worse, my elderly Mother was in hospital at the time. I went from the vets to visit her and tell her the news. She was naturally very upset, as she knew Barney very well, too. I left Barney to be cremated and I still have his ashes and collar. My Mother died several days later. She had been due to come home in the first week of January after her 88th birthday on the 2nd Jan but she took a turn for the worse. So, in the space of about 10 days, I lost my dear dog and my dear Mother…

“I had kept a leaflet from Our Special Friends, which I had picked up at a local pet service. I noticed that they provided “Pet Bereavement Services”. At that time, I had no knowledge of Elderly lady with border terrier on lapthis. I didn’t know OSF existed. I rang the lady, Belinda Johnston and she came round to see me. She talked me through things over a couple of hours and was definitely instrumental in helping me come to terms with (not ‘get over’) these losses.”

Volunteering with my dog Meg for Our Special Friends

“After this, I asked if there was anything I could do and she said the charity was looking for volunteers. So, in 2012, I started volunteering, walking a lady’s dog and have carried on since then. What’s more, I also work in the office doing admin on the animal side. I was so grateful for the help I was given and would highly recommend their services to anyone who loses a pet.

“I have since lost a dog and a cat. Now, I only have one dog, Meg, who is also a volunteer for OSF. This is how I met her. I had rung my friend in Yorkshire, who has kennels. We had become great friends during my time living in the same village. I told her about losing Barney and Mother. She advised me she had had an abandoned Border terrier found just before Christmas. She said she was a sweet dog and it was unusual to find an abandoned Border. So, the day after Mother’s funeral, I drove to Yorkshire and collected Meg.”

elderly lady holds border terrier meg on leadMeg has repaid my adoption of her a thousand fold

“I called her Nutmeg, Meg for short. Since then,  she has become a great friend and has been a volunteer for Our Special Friends since 2013. She visited a sick, elderly lady in a care home for 3.5 years. When she died last year, Meg and I visit another elderly lady and take her for a walk. These walks have improved this lady’s mobility hugely . We are still walking round the local park weekly.

“So, following the loss of Barney and Mother, I found Meg and she found me. Meg is doing a lot of good in society and has repaid my adoption of her thousand fold. I have now had her nearly 8 years and she is doing well.”

All images courtesy L Sadler

Are you struggling to cope with pet bereavement? Visit our online resource