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Friday, May 20, 2016

Dealing With the Loss of a Pet

By LaDonna Kennedy

It was a tough year for my family. We lost our 12-year-old dog in February, and my son Ian endured a two-week hospitalization a few months later. Almost a year later, we decided to get a new dog to give us some much needed cheering up. We brought home the cutest 8-week-old puppy, Koby. He cheered my son up in a way that I couldn’t. We were all just in love with Koby.

When Koby was eight months old, we received horrible news that he had a neurological defect that was causing his rapid decline. We had only four days to receive and process this news and to decide what was best not only for Koby, but for our family. After consulting with vets and specialists, we determined that euthanizing Koby would be the most humane path. Once we decided that we would say goodbye, I reached out to a friend, Heather Satterfield, a certified grief recovery specialist. She gave me these suggestions to help Ian to deal with the impending loss of Koby:

• Keep him informed as much as possible.

• Allow Ian to be a part of the decision-making process, for he would need to have some “control.”

• Allow Ian to see us grieving and moving forward.

We followed her advice and kept Ian informed and allowed him to visit Koby in the veterinary hospital. When the time came, we let him know that Koby had taken a turn for the worse. We wanted Ian to have only happy memories of Koby, and he agreed. We decided that Ian could say goodbye by writing Koby a letter that I read to him. On the day that we put Koby to rest, we chose not to tell Ian until he returned from a day at camp.

We all stayed home the next day, as a family. We prayed about Koby. We even agreed that we were mad at God, and that was ok. “God can handle it,” a friend said to me. We allowed ourselves to be engulfed in the grieving process that day. We gave Ian full control over what to do with all of Koby’s’ belongings. My husband and I made sure not to hide our emotions. We wanted Ian to know that being sad and upset and even angry was all part of the process. We also wanted him to see us laugh and understand that it’s ok to start to heal and move forward, without forgetting.

This was difficult on our family, but it did strengthen us. We were able to lean on each other and grieve with one another. We now have another family dog, named Leo, that has helped us to heal. For us, we needed to fill the hole that was left by losing a pet so early in its life. We will forever miss Koby, but we have great memories of him, and we are a little bit closer, as a family. Grief comes in unexpected waves. When we are sad we can count on Leo, such a goofball, to cheer us up and remind us of happy times with all of our pets that are gone.

How has your family dealt with the loss of a beloved pet?


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