Recommended Books


"The Loss of a Pet"- Wallace Sife, Howell Book House

"Animals and the Afterlife" - Kim Sheridan, Enlighthouse Publishing

"Kinship with All Life" - J. Allen Boone, Harper Collins

"Thanking the Monkey" - Karen Dawn, Harper

"Nine Steps to Eden" - Richard Deboo, Bright Pen


Articles

Why Does Losing a Pet Hurt So Much?

By Jacky Colliss Harvey on Our Very Human Grieving of Animal Companions, June 20,2019

“Where there is grief, there was love.”
–Barbara J. King,
How Animals Grieve, 2014

If by some chance you should ever find yourself driving near the village of Loxhill in the southeast of England, you may well start to suspect that you are traveling through the landscape version of a detective story. Here, for instance, is a stretch of boundary wall, just visible from the leafy road—well built, still solid with self-importance; there a run of railings, so old it has rusted a purplish dark. Now you pass what was clearly once an entrance of some importance, complete with gatehouse; and behind it trees dotted across the landscape that show the unmistakable signs of having had livestock browsing beneath them since they were planted maybe two centuries ago, and which now all branch at the same level, just a little higher than sheep or cow can comfortably reach. But where’s the mansion that would make sense of all of this, looking down on the road from one of those tree-crowned hills—and why, in that field beside the road, with nothing around it but trees and rough grass, should there be, rather creepily, a tombstone?

Toward the end of her biographybydog, Elizabeth von Arnim writes, “This story, like life, as it goes on, is becoming dotted with graves,” and I am afraid this essay is going to be the same. If you have an animal in your life, you can’t get away from the fact that in almost every case, you will outlive them. It’s as true for the tiniest as it is for the biggest and most brave—even the Earl, whose grave here in this Surrey field is now all that remains of Park Hatch and of those who lived there, who very likely had no more serious notion of their own passing from this landscape than did the Earl himself. “HERE LIES ‘THE EARL,’” the stone declares:

HE WAS CHARGER TO R.T.GODMAN IN THE 5TH DRAGOON GUARDS FOR 19 YEARS SERVED THROUGH THE RUSSIAN WAR IN TURKEY AND CRIMEA 1854–6

And here is how he met his end:

SHOT IN CONSEQUENCE OF AN ACCIDENT ON 26TH DEC. 1868 WHEN STILL IN FULL VIGOUR

There’s some comfort in that. No slow descent into decrepitude, just a tragic mishap on what sounds to have been a Boxing Day hunt, and a bullet, presumably where he lay (and where he lies still), but even so. The Earl was not simply a companion animal. Like soldiers and their service dogs in Iraq and Afghanistan, Godman and his horse were brothersinarms. They had passed together through experiences that set their relationship apart. You can imagine how much Godman must have grieved.

How indeed, we quiz ourselves, can the loss of something so small create a pain so immense?

It is quite stunning, as an owner, how much it can hurt to lose a pet. When Sir Walter Scott’s favorite, a bull terrier named Camp, died in 1809, Scott’s only comfort was that the loss was not more painful: “If we suffer so in losing a dog after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time?” According to Scott’s daughter, Sophie, at Camp’s burial the whole family stood around the grave in tears, while Scott himself smoothed the turf where Camp lay as if it were a substitute for and as close as he could now come to stroking the dog itself. It sounds like a Victorian version of the final scene in the movie Marley and Me, which in itself is saying something about the universality of the experience and how desolating it can be. The death of a pet can be agonizing to a degree where even as bereaved owner you’re asking yourself how it is possible for it to hurt quite so much. Joachim du Bellay was asking himself this very thing circa 1558, three days after the death of his cat:

I cannot speak, or write
Or even think of what
Belaud, my small grey cat,
Meant to me, tiny creature . . .

How indeed, we quiz ourselves, can the loss of something so small create a pain so immense? “Incomprehensible” was how Jane Carlyle described her sorrow, after Nero finally succumbed to his injuries in February 1860, and at once set about memorializing him in mourning jewelry, much as another woman of her age and class might have commissioned the same for a lost spouse—or child. Indeed, Jane drew the parallel herself: “My little dog is buried at the top of the garden,” she wrote to Mary Russell in February 1860, “and I grieve for him as if he had been my human child.” She was also as vicious as a woman of her age and class might ever have felt herself free to be with those who failed to comprehend the depth of her grief—which, true enough, can be as baffling to the outsider as it is to the owner. “All my other visitors,” she wrote to Lady Ashburton, “have spoken odiously on what they call my ‘little bereavement.’”

They don’t conceive what pain they give me. Three several men, the only men I am intimate with here, offered one after another to “give me another little dog.” And two women, of the sort called “full of sensibility,” inquired if I had “had him stuffed?”

“I wonder you didn’t” said one of them plaintively, “he would have looked so pretty in a glass case in your room, and still been quite a companion to you.” Merciful Heavens! If one lived in what Mr. Carlyle calls “a sincere age of the world,” wouldn’t one take such a Comforter as that by the neck and pitch her out the window?

It causes the sensation that the heart is indeed about to burst, or break, and physical pain extreme and similar enough to an actual heart attack to send one to the emergency room.

Nothing “little” about such bereavement at all. When Linky, Edith Wharton’s final Pekingese, had to be put to sleep in April 1937, her death had so great an effect upon the 75-year-old writer that it seems to have played a part in severing Wharton’s own last ties with the world as well. In her diary Wharton writes of Linky’s ghost standing at the front of all those others she had lost, human as well as canine. After that, the flow of words in the diary she had kept for decades stutters to a halt. Four months later, Wharton herself was dead.

The taxidermy that her visitor was rash enough to suggest to Jane Carlyle—to keep her companion with her in some way, as well as, you could argue, the cloning of pets today—is a measure of how extreme the reaction can be to their loss and how much we dread it. There is a particularly nasty (and, thankfully, rare) syndrome, an acute response to grief, known medically as takotsubo cardiomyopathy—a bulging outward of one chamber of the heart, in response to intense stress, so that the whole heart takes on the shape of a Japanese tako tsubo, or octopus pot. It causes the sensation that the heart is indeed about to burst, or break, and physical pain extreme and similar enough to an actual heart attack to send one to the emergency room. A recent case involved a 62-year-old woman in Texas. There were other stresses in her life, but it was the death of her dog that finally precipitated the physical crisis. Why is the loss of a non-human animal felt so cruelly? What is it that makes the death of such a companion being an experience this profound?

You have to begin with the living relationship to answer that question, and sometimes it is only the end of it, the severing of the bond, that reveals how exceptional it had become. It was the death of Alex, her Avian Learning Experiment, that showed Irene Pepperberg how much more he had become to her than that. She describes how “his passing taught me the true depth of our shared connection,” and most tellingly, she uses the language of human bereavement (“passing”) to do so.  When Scott spoke of Camp’s death, it was as that of a “dear old friend.”

Even Pepys, for all he might protest in his relationship with Fancy, was not immune. When in September 1668 he learned of her death “big with puppies” in a letter from his father in the country, to whom the pregnant Fancy had presumably been sent for her confinement (another parallel with the human world), he describes her in his diary as “one of my oldest acquaintances and servants”—not as a dog but as a human equal. Or possibly as even more than that. Sociological studies aplenty support the idea that in our family groups we see the animal members as being more reliable allies and steadier friends than the human ones. Never mind if they truly are or not—the baroque inner wiring of our emotions places such value on this perception that these companion animals end up being literally invaluable to us.

The very language of death where a pet is concerned is all about physical sundering—we pick them up and carry them about in life, but in their death, we “put them down.”

Sigmund Freud, whose consulting room in the 1930s smelled at least as strongly of Chow, those “stodgy teddy bears,” as it did of Freud’s own cigars, believed this was because animals offered, in his famous phrase, “affection without ambivalence . . .an intimate affinity . . . an undisputed solidarity.” So in contrast to the much more challenging and changeable (and more compromised) relationships we have with the other humans around us, there is this steady, reliable, unchanging alliance—and then with the animal’s death, all that emotional stability and security is suddenly removed as well. Even being reminded of the loss can be painful beyond bearing. “Dyed our favourite Cat, Tit,” William Stukeley writes sorrowfully in his memoirs for August 31, 1720, and then adds, revealingly, “my gardner buryd her in Rosamunds bower the pleasantest part of my garden, wh. gave me great distaste to it.” The very language of death where a pet is concerned is all about physical sundering—we pick them up and carry them about in life, but in their death, we “put them down.” Of course our mourning is going to be unambivalent and unalloyed.

But are we allowed to make it public? Perhaps this is another reason why pet death hurts so much and so disproportionately—the fact that unlike other bereavements there’s societal pressure to keep it low-key. Isabella d’Este, on the death of Aura in 1511, might make no secret among her circle of the fact that she expected fully workedup poetic elegies for her favorite dog, and receive them, including three from the scholar Carlo Agnelli alone, but this was Isabella d’Este. For the garden-variety owner, much as they might howl in anguish in private, descriptions of their grief nearly always have an apologetic coloring. Two hundred years after Isabella, Lady Wentworth felt she must beg God’s forgiveness for being “more than I ought concerned” about her dog Fub’s death, although the grieving was heartfelt and still took place.

When (an even greater blow) Pug, her monkey, died in 1712, again she wrote, “God forgive me, there is some that bears the name of Christian, that I could have rather had died.” When her son offers her a replacement, she declines on the grounds that she herself is “so great a fool” (“fool” being the term she also uses for her animals) and so “foolishly fond” that such relationships are simply too much for her in her old age. She also speaks of how she forced herself to go about in society, even as she grieved, for appearance’s sake. Walpole nursed Rosette, Tonton’s predecessor, for many weeks in 1773 and divided his friends into those with “Dogmanity,” who would understand and empathize with his distress, and those who would not. When Rosette died, he wrote his own elegy for her (“Sweetest rose of the year”) and sent it to one of the former, disclaiming any literary merit for it but saying that “it came from the heart . . . therefore your Dogmanity will not dislike it.”

Move on by another 100 years, and Grace Greenwood, who had a small necropolis coming into being in a quiet corner of her family garden, records how she had to add to it the pitiful corpse of Jack the drake, who in the course of a singularly accident- prone life had been trapped in a cistern, run into the fire, sustained a broken leg in a rattrap, and who ultimately drowned in a millrace. Grace writes shamefacedly, “It may seem very odd and ridiculous but I really grieved for my dead pet.”What’s foolish or ridiculous about it? We love, we lose, we mourn. It shouldn’t take us by surprise; it certainly shouldn’t be something we feel the need to apologize for.

And just to make the death of a pet even more agonizing, it is so often we who have to be responsible for it.

There is evidence of a change in the general attitude toward pet death, which seems to back up the emergent status of pets being publicly accepted as overt members of the family, as opposed to their being so for their owners alone. In 2016, a number of newspaper reports appeared, listing those companies that elected to give employees time off to mourn an animal’s death. Many owners still feel diffident about asking for such leave, which is understandable—this has been a private grief for centuries—but the fact that now it needn’t be so reflects an increased general acceptance of what for the owner, I believe, has always been the case: losing an animal hurts, and the way you deal with that hurt, as with any other loss, is to grieve and to have that grief recognized. This change in attitude might also be an inevitable result of the increased numbers of pets we are supposed, now, to have living with us. If indeed many more of us encounter this situation, many more of us will know how excruciating it can be.

And just to make the death of a pet even more agonizing, it is so often we who have to be responsible for it. That’s bad enough now, but consider how much more difficult and horrible it would have been to euthanize a pet before the lethal injection from the vet was available. As if Jack the drake’s loss had not been enough, Grace also records how she lost her cat, Kitty, who had her back broken in a bit of roughhousing by Grace’s beloved older brother, and for whom there was no other means to hand to put her out of her agony than beheading by the straw-cutter in the barn. Kitty’s owner hides in her closet and stops her ears (that vivid little detail) “until it is all over.”

Far better, if you had to, if you could, to find a coup de grâce for a pet via a local farmer with a shotgun. This was the fate of Luath, “not ill, only grown old and worn out,” as Mary Ansell offhandedly describes him. Mary had by this time left J. M. Barrie and was living with the poet Gilbert Cannan in a converted mill, where Cannan and their two dogs were painted by Mark Gertler. Luath is on the right; the other dog is Sammy, who according to Mary sat every day on Luath’s grave until he too died, thus displaying, you may well think, rather more distress than Mary herself. And a bullet was all very well if the person holding the gun knew what they were doing, but many did not—thus the American Humane Education Association’s edition of Black Beauty of 1904, which, with the sort of horrid benumbed pragmatism that has to characterize this area of our dealings with our animals, included instructions for shooting both horses and dogs.

The questions of human and animal death brush up against each other, with the death of a pet animal being both a rehearsal for and a lesson in our own.

Otherwise the only quick, sure death was by poison. Louis Wain’s Peter encounters a neighbor who has nine cats, plus the tombstones of five more in his garden, all of them finished off with prussic acid, which would be cyanide to you and me. Nero’s death, in her maid Charlotte’s arms (Jane could not stand to witness it, any more than Ackerley could with Queenie), came about in this way, thanks to the intervention of Jane’s own doctor. Prussic acid or chloroform remained the agents of choice until the 1880s, when a lethal gas chamber using carbonic acid was created at Battersea by Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson (1828–96). Richardson did much to advance human anesthesiology, too, which does at least suggest his heart was in the right place when it came to sparing living creatures pain.

Luath’s predecessor, Porthos, was sent to Battersea Dogs Home once “it became impossible to have him any longer about the house,” as Mary euphemistically puts it, “and in that lethal chamber he was peacefully put to sleep,” or at least so one hopes, but as Mary could hardly have entered the chamber with the poor dog, you have to ask, how would she know? It took just twenty years before the suggestion was made that the same means might remove “defectives” from among the human population. It’s as heartening as it is heartbreaking, after all that, to read Jessica Pierce’s 2012 account in The Last Walk of her struggles with her aging dog, Ody, to find him “a good end”; to put herself, with him, through all the indignities and infirmities of old age for as long as he has enough quality of life left for there to be good moments among the bad—and then when she senses that this balance has been lost, to acknowledge that the good end has been reached, that to extend Ody’s life would not be good any longer, not at all, and to act, at once.

Of course what that “good end” might be, our animals cannot articulate for us—but then many of us will be unable to do so, either, when the time comes. The questions of human and animal death brush up against each other, with the death of a pet animal being both a rehearsal for and a lesson in our own. My father, at 90, and increasingly incapacitated by a series of microstrokes, could not have said what he wanted his death to be, either, but our inability to describe what our own “good end” might be doesn’t mean we won’t know it when we reach it. The difference is that with an animal, the decision so often must be ours, not theirs. And that’s a terrible place for an owner to be. As Ackerley put it, writing of Queenie’s final trip to the vet, “She knew nothing that happened to her; it is I who knows too much.”

The original article may be found online here<https://lithub.com/why-does-losing-a-pet-hurt-so-much/?fbclid=IwAR0IX3YxrRZPmtoUYn9tRZgLYF-v7NQb0EYL1-HSBjtp3F-NrxQ82OFdWII>

Why The Death of a Pet Can Be Even More Painful Than The Death Of A Relative
By Justin Palmer, June 24, 2018, I Heart Dogs


Has a friend ever confided in you that the loss of their pet caused more grief than the death of a close relative? Have you ever felt this way yourself?

Society has conditioned us to feel ashamed of such emotions, but research suggests we are more than justified when we deeply mourn the loss of a furry friend.


When our first family dog, Spike passed away, my father suffered terribly. He would come home from work and just sit in his car, unable to face walking through the door without our little Poodle mix to greet him. He took long walks and visited online pet loss support groups. He woke up crying in the night.

This was the same man who years later would practically carry me out of a family funeral when my own grief buckled my knees. At the time I was confused by his varying reactions, but a recent article from Business Insider sheds light on the subject. Turns out it’s actually quite normal for humans to experience more intense pain at the loss of a pet than that of a close friend or even a relative.

For many people, the death of a pet is comparable in almost every way to the loss of a loved one. There is even research to back this up, yet there are virtually no cultural rituals to help us cope. When a human passes away there are obituaries, eulogies, religious ceremonies, and gatherings of family and friends. We are given time off work – some employers even offer bereavement pay. There are so many ways in which we are encouraged to mourn and express our emotions.

When a pet dies, we often have none of these traditions or sympathetic supporters to turn to. Most people are expected to return to all of life’s responsibilities right away, with little or no closure. The house is strangely quiet and filled with bittersweet memories. We have lost a best friend and faithful companion, but the depth of that pain goes almost unacknowledged.

Pet owners are made to feel that their grief is dramatic, excessive, or even shameful. After all, “it was just a dog.” The incredible human-animal bond we have formed with dogs is overlooked. Our pups provide us with constant positive feedback. They adore us simply for being “us.” They lower our blood pressure and elevate our mood. How could we not be devastated when that is lost?

There is also the matter of the sudden life changes that occur when a pet passes away. There are no more 6 AM wet-nosed wake-up calls, daily walks, or warm greetings after a long day at the office. For many people, their pets give them a sense of purpose – even a reason for being. When that suddenly vanishes, it is understandably life-altering.

Another interesting factor pointed out by Business Insider is a phenomenon known as “misnaming.” It describes our tendency to accidentally refer to a child, partner or loved one by our pets’ names. This indicates that we place our dogs in the same mental category as our closest family members. When they die that is essentially what we have lost. A cherished family member.

The death of a pet means the loss of a source of unconditional love, a devoted companion, and a provider of security and comfort. Our dogs are sewn into the very fabric of our day to day lives. So yes, it hurts. Sometimes even more than the death of a friend or family member. And there is absolutely no reason to feel ashamed of that.

The original article may be found online here<https://iheartdogs.com/why-the-death-of-a-pet-can-be-even-more-painful-than-the-death-of-a-relative/?fbclid=IwAR2InuYs_CEluaDuXvNuVMyPd0m1AUvnEcZgm3M9ExJzvZ5pxxG7g9n1YBo>


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If Climate Change Is Causing You Anxiety or Even Grief,
Experts Say You Are Not Alone

Patricia Garcia for Vogue, October 19, 2018

We only have 22 years to get our affairs in order. At least, that’s the message many of us understood after reading the alarming report released this month by the United Nations’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which predicted that the human population could witness a major environmental catastrophe as early as 2040—think: massive famine, droughts, coral reefs dying off, wildfires, and other cataclysmic conditions.

It’s a harsh reality that brings our worst fears to a very, very near future, leaving many of us feeling rattled, hopeless, even depressed. Susan Clayton, a professor of psychology and environmental studies at the College of Wooster and coauthor of a 2017 report titled “Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance,” says there’s evidence that mental health issues tied to the precarious future of our planet are on the rise. “We can say that a significant proportion of people are experiencing stress and worry about the potential impacts of climate change, and that the level of worry is almost certainly increasing.” And while there is not a specific name for this type of preoccupation, several studies have coined it “eco-anxiety,” “climate change distress,” and “ecological grief.” “How it will affect people’s mental health in the long run will depend on how society responds to it,” Clayton adds.

For many people, eco-anxiety is already a part of everyday life. Last week, as the country watched Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 storm making its way across the Florida Panhandle, I had already been obsessively tracking its path and likely cone of impact for days. Only a year after moving to Miami from New York City, I had become a full-blown hurricane obsessive, following expert storm trackers and climate specialists on Twitter as diligently as people were tracking Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande’s whirlwind relationship.

My newfound weather obsession was a direct result of last year’s Hurricane Irma and the massive state evacuation that preceded it. For five days, my husband, 2-year-old daughter, and my mother-in-law’s three dogs (it’s a long story) drove for hours on end, running away from the hurricane by jumping from Orlando to Jacksonville until we finally made our way to Atlanta, where the house we stayed in eventually lost power and forced us to hit the road once again. Thankfully, once we returned more than a week later, our eighth-floor apartment was unscathed. But the scene at my in-law’s home was entirely different, the neighborhood looked like it had been pillaged by giants who ripped out century-old oak trees from their roots and carelessly tossed them around; some landing on roofs, others blocking entire streets.

While we were incredibly lucky—nobody was injured and no major property damage happened—the stressful and scary evacuation road trip left me rattled and anxious. (Don’t doubt the impact a weeklong road trip with a toddler can leave on your psyche.) Research on the psychological effects of extreme weather events estimate that “between 25 and 50 percent of all people exposed to an extreme weather disaster may have some adverse mental health effects,” according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Acute symptoms can include depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and the severity of these depends on several factors including a “person’s age, coping capacity, and proximity to the devastation.”

For those of us who live in areas that are prone to natural disasters—Californians must worry about wildfires and earthquakes, while Southerners are on constant hurricane watch—the first line of defense against eco-anxiety is to have a plan. “For people who can anticipate a high possibility of facing a climate disaster, they are likely to feel better if they inform themselves about what the future might hold,” says Clayton. “Think about the likely threats in the area and actively make plans for how to cope.” For example, have a first-aid kit, non-perishable food, and water always on hand. Write down and practice an emergency plan with your family. Find out if you live in a flood zone and how your local government plans to inform you of a potential disaster. The idea is to eliminate as much uncertainty as possible in an already uncertain scenario.

Research has also found that people with strong social connections and networks during, and in the wake, of a natural disaster tend to have lower rates of psychological distress and a higher capacity to withstand traumatic experiences. “For everyone, strengthening social connections can be a powerful source of resilience,” says Clayton. Lean on your family, friends, and neighbors, but don’t forget to offer them a helping hand, too. Getting involved in community activities is also beneficial. “Even book groups or exercise groups can be helpful,” Clayton adds. “The social bonds and the opportunity to have informal, unplanned conversation with people about issues you care about will contribute to mental, and even physical, health.”

Even if you think you can do little to change our environmental outcome, small changes in your carbon footprint can also create a huge difference in your mental state. Studies show that walking or biking to work (or taking public transportation, if those aren’t doable) can reduce overall stress levels and have a positive effect on a person’s emotional and physical well-being.

As for those who are tempted to ignore all the bad news in an effort to stay sane, it’s important to confront the issue of climate change directly. “The best way to fight feelings of helplessness is to increase feelings of empowerment by getting informed and getting involved,” explains Clayton. “Joining together with others to address the issue not only enables people to enhance their impact, but also provides social support that can help with the negative emotions.” You can get involved by joining a grassroots initiative focused on battling climate change or by donating to politicians who support action against climate change. (GiveGreen provides an easy way to do this.)

The point is, there is plenty to do instead of hiding out under the covers. In the case of my family, our plan in the eventuality of another hurricane is already in place. (Let’s just say, we won’t hesitate on buying plane tickets next time around.) And for now, we’ve scrapped the idea of buying a house anytime soon. Getting a mortgage on a home in a city vulnerable to sea-level rise and that will more than likely be hit by several superstorms seemed like too much of a risk. “Fear feeds on itself. When we refuse to confront the thing we’re afraid of, it seems even more scary and powerful—like the monster under the bed,” adds Clayton. At least we’ve started looking under the bed.


The original article may be found online here: <https://www.vogue.com/article/eco-anxiety-grief-mental-health-climate-change>
Photo credit: Mikael Jansson, Vogue, June 2017

JUST A DOG

From time to time, people tell me, “lighten up, it’s just a dog,”
or “that’s a lot of money for just a dog.”

They don’t understand the distance travelled, the time spent,
or the costs involved for “just a dog.”

Some of my proudest moments have come about with “just a dog.”

Many hours have passed and my only company was “just a dog,”
but I did not once feel slighted.

Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by
“just a dog,” and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch
of “just a dog” gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.

If you, too, think it’s “just a dog,” then you probably understand
phrases like “just a friend,” “just a sunrise,” or “just a promise.”

“Just a dog” brings into my life the very essence of friendship,
trust, and pure unbridled joy.

“Just a dog” brings out the compassion and patience
that make me a better person.

Because of “just a dog” I will rise early, take long walks and look
longingly to the future.

So for me and folks like me, it’s not “just a dog”
but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future,
the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.

“Just a dog” brings out what’s good in me and diverts my thoughts
away from myself and the worries of the day.

I hope that someday they can understand that its’ not “just a dog”
but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being
“just a man” or “just a woman.”

So the next time you hear the phrase “just a dog,”
just smile, because they “just don’t understand.”

~Unknown Author~

 

Why We Need to Take Pet Loss Seriously

How to handle grief after a pet’s death—and why we all need to change our attitudes about it
Guy Winch, May 22, 2018 
Scientific American

Doug’s amateur soccer team had just lost its playoff game, and Doug needed a pick-me-up. He decided to stop by the local animal shelter on his way home because puppies always put a smile on his face. He was by no means looking to adopt an animal, but Delia, a five-month-old mutt, changed his mind. “I had her for 17 years,” Doug said, wiping away tears in our psychotherapy session. “I knew it would be rough when she died, but I had no idea... I was a total wreck. I cried for days. I couldn’t get any work done. And worst of all, I was too embarrassed about it to tell anyone. I spent days at work crying in private and muttering ‘allergies’ whenever someone glanced at my puffy eyes.”

Losing a beloved pet is often an emotionally devastating experience. Yet as a society, we do not recognize how painful pet loss can be and how much it can impair our emotional and physical health. Symptoms of acute grief after the loss of a pet can last from one to two months, with symptoms of grief persisting up to a full year (on average). The New England Journal of Medicine reported in October 2017 that after her dog died, a woman experienced “broken heart syndrome”—a condition in which the response to grief is so severe the person exhibits symptoms that mimic a heart attack, including elevated hormone levels that can be 30 times greater than normal.

Although grief over the loss of a cherished pet may be as intense and even as lengthy as when a significant person in our life dies, our process of mourning is quite different. Many of the societal mechanisms of social and community support are absent when a pet dies. Few of us ask our employers for time off to grieve a beloved cat or dog because we fear doing so would paint us as overly sentimental, lacking in maturity or emotionally weak. Studies have found that social support is a crucial ingredient in recovering from grief of all kinds. Thus, we are not only robbed of invaluable support systems when our pet dies, but our own perceptions of our emotional responses are likely to add an extra layer of distress. We may feel embarrassed and even ashamed about the severity of the heartbreak we feel and, consequently, hesitate to disclose our feelings to our loved ones. That additional shame complicates the process of recovery by making it more lengthy and complex than it should be.

Losing a pet can leave significant voids in our life that we need to fill: it can change our daily routines, causing ripple effects that go far beyond the loss of the actual animal. Caring for our pet creates responsibilities and a schedule around which we often craft our days. We get exercise by walking our dog, and we socialize with other owners at the dog runs. We awake early every day to feed our cat (or we are woken by a pet if we forget!), but we get a lot more done because of it.

Losing a pet disrupts these routines. Cats, dogs, horses and other cherished pets provide companionship, reduce loneliness and depression, and can ease anxiety. They support our emotional well-being and imbue our actions with meaning. This is why, in addition to emotional pain, we feel aimless and lost in the days and weeks after our pet dies.

Recovering from pet loss, as in all forms of grief, requires us to recognize these changes and find ways to deal with them. We need to seek social support from people we know will understand and sympathize with our emotions and not judge us for them. Many animal clinics offer bereavement groups for pet owners. 

We might need to reorganize our routines and daily activities so we do not lose the secondary benefits we derived from having our pet. For example, if our exercise came from walking our dog we need to find alternative ways to reach our daily “step goals.” If we spent most Saturday mornings with our fellow pet owners, we need to find other outlets through which we can socialize and enjoy the outdoors.

It is time we gave grieving pet owners the recognition, support and consideration they need. Yes, it is up to us to identify and address our emotional wounds when our pet dies, but the more validation we receive from those around us, the quicker and the more complete our psychological recovery will be.

The original article may be found here: <https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-we-need-to-take-pet-loss-seriously/?fbclid=IwAR3pFwd9Zlz_Rag3-HUa_dRWGn3vX2Gq4Fz5f_yrOl6nUA0ZBtmiVeN40Ww>

Photo credit: Christin Lola, Getty Images
Guy Winch Guy Winch is a psychologist, speaker and author. His new book, How to Fix a Broken Heart(TED Books/Simon & Schuster, 2018), covers both pet loss and romantic heartbreak.

 


"Pigs are still property – but animal farming is a serious matter for ethical consideration"-
Anna Pippus, May 4, 2017, The Globe & Mail 

Anna Pippus is a Vancouver-based lawyer and director of farmed animal advocacy at Animal Justice.

It’s official: Giving water to panting pigs on their way to slaughter isn’t a crime.

Actually, it was never a crime. It’s only criminal mischief to “obstruct, interrupt, or interfere” with the “lawful use, enjoyment, or operation of property.”

The exact words matter. Our criminal laws ban actual – not speculative, not approximate, not theoretically possible – behaviour.

When Anita Krajnc offered water to pigs on a transport truck on a hot summer day near an Ontario slaughterhouse, she wasn’t interfering with the lawful “use” of the pigs. When the red light turned green, the pigs were taken to the slaughterhouse and killed for food. Business continued as usual. Related: Judge acquits woman who gave water to pigs headed to slaughter

The intense international attention on the trial suggests that perhaps business as usual offends us more than the supposed crime of offering water to a thirsty animal. The public was more interested in why pigs were panting on a transport truck in the first place, and why prosecutors felt it was worth a significant chunk of the public purse to try to punish a Good Samaritan from providing momentary reprieve to a doomed animal in his or her last few minutes of life.

Laws and their enforcement typically track social norms, not the other way around. For a long time the social norm has been that animals are farmed as the property of humans. Their rights and interests didn’t really factor into the equation.

Now, we’re starting to understand that sentience matters and that yummy, cheap bacon isn’t a good enough reason to turn away from animal suffering. We’re starting to understand the farming of animals – the hows and even the whys of it – to be a serious matter for ethical consideration.

Our laws are excellent when it comes to protecting the rights of property owners. Protecting animals, not so much.

In acquitting Ms. Krajnc, the judge found that the pigs were being used lawfully. In other words, nothing about the panting pig aboard the unventilated metal truck on a hot summer’s day violated animal-protection laws. Maybe.
But transport laws prohibit exposing animals to suffering from weather exposure. The industry’s own code of practice states, “all species will pant when overheated, animals standing with neck extended with open mouthed breathing is a dangerous situation.” Footage and photos clearly show pigs in just this position on the hot summer’s day in question. The truck driver testified that he didn’t even check on the condition of the pigs when he got out of his truck to confront Ms. Krajnc.

Though the industry hasn’t updated its trucks to better comply with regulations, it should. In a case dealing with farmed animals suffering to death from weather exposure in transport, the Federal Court of Appeal recently made the common-sense observation that regulations can require regulated parties to improve their operations and practices.

Ms. Krajnc’s trial may be a catalyst for change. Increased scrutiny on the animal-agriculture system will result in enhanced law enforcement, because as our social norms change, so will our expectations – and as our expectations change, so too will law enforcement.

Ms. Krajnc was acquitted only for the technical reason that her giving water to the pigs didn’t amount to an interference. Pigs continue to be property, transported on inadequate trucks for us to mindlessly consume endless quantities of cheap bacon. But this trial may shift the tide.

The next time someone offers water to panting pigs, let’s hope prosecutors pursue those responsible for causing those pigs to suffer in the first place.

The original article may be found here.
<https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/pigs-are-still-propertybut-animal-farming-is-a-serious-matter-for-ethical-consideration/article34902322/>


How A Vegan Lifestyle Can Help Balance the Chakras

What we eat can have varying effects on our energy system (our chakras). It's no surprise that some foods are better for us than others and we can certainly tell from how we feel. Foods which have a low life-force energy, heavy foods such as meat, tend to close our chakras, while foods with higher life-force energy, lighter foods such as fruits and vegetables, tend to open them.

People don't always realise that the dietary choices they are making may largely be out of habit, through our life-long conditioning, and being led to believe that certain foods are good for us when in reality they are not. I encourage you to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet and see what a positive effect this may have on your health and energy. Not only is this better for you, but you will be helping the environment and animals too. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, meat-eating is listed as the "second-biggest environmental hazard facing the earth", and furthermore, it is calculated that nearly 51% of greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture. Over 56 billion animals are used in food production worldwide every year. Every year! These sentient beings want to live and are just as worthy of compassion as the dogs, cats and other companion animals who we open our homes and hearts to. 


For more information about how you can bring higher-energy foods into your diet, and lead a more compassionate lifestyle, please check out Vegan.com and why not try the 7-day vegan challenge!


"How The Reducetarian Diet Could Help Solve Our Climate Change Problem" -
Julie R. Thompson, 27 April 2017, Huffingtonpost

There is scientific-backed research that proves the detrimental impact our meat-eating ways have on the environment. In fact, it’s been found that a widespread switch to vegetarianism would cut carbon emissions by nearly two-thirds. It’s why the United Nations has been urging people to eat less meat for roughly 9 years now, but still, here we are. The only problem is, not everyone is ready to give up meat.

For those of you who aren’t ready to take the meat-free plunge, Brian Kateman has a suggestion: become a reducetarian.

Kateman, who has a masters in conservation biology, has made it his goal to encourage others to simply eat fewer animal products, and less of them. That’s why he established the Reducetarian Foundation (RF) and edited the recently published the new book, The Reducetarian Solution. He says that by simply setting actionable goals to reduce our animal product intake we can increase the wellbeing of our animals, improve human health and protect our planet

Those actionable goals can be as small or as big as what works for you. It can mean joining in on Meatless Monday. It can be trying out Mark Bittman’s Vegan before 6. Or it can simply mean skipping the bacon on your burger. The goal is to “mindfully and gradually reduce [one’s consumption of meat with respect to their own diet,” as the RF outlines on their website.

The problem with the reducetarian diet is the same one that disillusioned voters face on Election Day: what difference is my small action (or vote) going to make? According to RF, a whole lot. Watch their video below for more details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLzjIKAmm_A&feature=youtu.be

The reducetarian diet might not cut our meat consumption enough to make a 2/3 decrease in emissions, but it at least it provides what feels like a feasible goal in the right direction.


Julie Thompson is Senior Editor of Taste, HuffPost.
The original article may be found here.


An interesting and poignant article on pet loss and bereavement, featured in the New York Times 

"Things I Wish I Had Known When My Dog Died" -  Jen A. Miller, 23 March 2017

On Jan. 4, 11 years and 26 days after I walked out of an animal shelter in New Jersey with a little white and brown dog attached to the end of a brand-new leash, she died. On this day, an undiagnosed tumor pressed down on Emily’s brain and told her that she needed to escape, which made her usually soft, cuddly and often napping body go wild, endangering herself and me. The humane thing to do was put her down.

I don’t think anything could have prepared me for that moment, or the searing grief that followed. But if I could go back in time to console myself, I would tell myself these six things:

Most people will say the wrong thing. They will talk about dogs they knew and loved and put down, too, or, if they haven’t walked through this long, lonely tunnel yet, about how they can’t possibly imagine losing their very alive pet, which reminds you that yours is dead. They will also ask how old she was, and when you say 15, they will say, “Well, it was a good long life,” as if the ending of it would be less painful because of how long you were together.

They may tell you other dog death stories, too, like the one about the dog who was so excited to be home from vacation that he bolted out of the car and was immediately run over while the whole family watched — stories that imply it could have been worse. They will shove shelter listings for other Jack Russell terriers at you, as if another dog could slip into that perfect little spot left by your beloved one-of-a-kind pet.

Guilt overwhelms. I still tell myself that I killed Emily, despite the veterinarian telling me, after her body had been taken away, while I gripped both a counter and a vet tech to keep from collapsing, that all four of her paws had been bloodied as she had clawed at the floor, the door and the ground during her manic and desperate attempt to get away from my home. There is guilt, too, over the relief of no longer having to take care of a dog who was on multiple medications and who had arthritis, two defective heart valves and pulmonary hypertension.

You will become unmoored. I adopted Emily soon after I became a freelance writer, and I wrote three books with her by my side. She was the metronome to my life. With her gone, I floated through a space she no longer occupied but haunted with every little white hair found on my blankets, on the floor, in my shoes. Once, in the first week following her death, I came up from the basement and looked at the spot where she would usually be waiting. I called for her with the foolish notion that she’d appear at the top of the stairs. But of course, no: just another sledgehammer reminder that she was really gone.

Grief is exhausting. Last fall, I ran two marathons and an ultramarathon. After Emily died, I couldn’t drag myself through three miles, not to mention find the energy to get out of bed, put on clothes that were not my pajamas and shower at regular intervals. I pushed off assignments because the idea of putting my fingers to the keyboard was inconceivable when Emily wasn’t sleeping on her bed in the corner of my office. These were wretched, grief-stained days, surrounded by a deafening silence.

I went back into therapy after she died and was told I was depressed, which wasn’t surprising, as I had started to slip into bed at 8:30 p.m. and not get up until half a day later. Losing a companion and your routine all at once, especially if you’re single like me, could throw anyone into a tailspin.

It will get better. You won’t want to hear it, or believe it, because the pain is so suffocating. It does ease, though, almost without you noticing it.

But still, it slaps back. This may happen at predictable moments, such as when you decide to sell her crate, and sometimes not. Soon after Emily died, I got on a plane and went to Florida to bake out the pain with all-day poolside sessions punctuated by midday drinks. It worked, somewhat, but on my last night there, my face cracked open at the World of Disney store when I saw a mug with the character Stitch that said “brave” on one side and “loyal” on the other. Only the cashier noticed that I paid with tears and snot running down my face. I then ran out of the store to stare at a lake.

These days, I get up, I brush my teeth, I write, I run. I smile now and laugh sometimes. The pain still catches me, though, and I can now more clearly see why: I loved that dog, and in giving a scared, abused, imperfect Emily a home, she loved me back, and together our lives both bloomed. The loss of that joy is why the pain is so acute — and why, at some point in the maybe not so distant future, I’ll go back to that animal shelter with a brand-new leash, and do it all over again.

Jen A. Miller is the author of “Running: A Love Story
Photo credit: Heidi Younger

The original article may be found here.


An article I wrote on holiday hazards and foods to keep away from pets. I contributed this article to Trusted HouseSitters, a global pet-sitting company. There are many foods and items which can pose a danger to our pets, not only during the holidays, but all year round. It's always good to keep the above list handy.


"Holiday Hazards for Pets"-
Juli Wild, 09 December 2016



The festive season is upon us again; our homes are beautifully decorated and our tables laden with wonderful holiday foods, and while we all lose ourselves in the hustle and bustle of the season it’s important to be aware of possible threats (such as anxiety due to fireworks) to our pets’ safety and wellbeing. It’s easy to keep pets safe over the holidays. Whatever plans you might have over the next few weeks you’ll want to make sure they have a safe, quiet space to retreat to, and remember to keep the following holiday hazards for pets in mind:


  • Holiday eats - it’s best to keep pets away from the table as most of our holiday favourites can be harmful to them
  • Food items wrapped as presents - don’t forget that dogs and cats can sniff these out so if you plan to wrap anything edible make sure you leave it out of reach
  • Alcohol - Under no circumstances should your pet be given any alcohol as it can cause them severe discomfort and can be fatal
  • Chocolate decorations - all chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical that can affect the heart, kidneys and central nervous system of many animals. Dark chocolate and baker's chocolate contain higher concentrations of theobromine and are even more toxic than similar amounts of milk chocolate
  • Coffee and caffeine - contain methylxanthines which when ingested can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, panting, excessive thirst, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, seizures and even death
  • Sweets, gum and hard candies (including ‘sugar free’ variety and Xylitol)
  • Xylitol- used in many products - Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination and can progress to seizures and liver failure 
  • Macadamia nuts, almonds, pecans and walnuts - macadamia nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. The high fats in nuts fats can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, and potentially pancreatitis in pets
  • Avocado - particularly harmful for birds, rabbits, donkeys, horses, and ruminants including sheep and goats.
  • Raw/undercooked meat, eggs and bones and make sure not to give your pet any turkey or chicken bones
  • Bread/yeast dough - if eaten before baking, can expand rapidly and cause ethanol poisoning
  • Grapes, raisins and sultanas 
  • Onions, garlic and chives
  • Coconut Water - should not be given to pets
  • Aspirin, Acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories
  • Prescription medications and illegal drugs
  • Plants - Poinsettias, holly and mistletoe. Think carefully before placing mistletoe or holly in low-lying areas. Holly and mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems when ingested
  • Lilies - Lilies are one of the most poisonous houseplants that exist. Lily toxicity in cats can reach critical levels almost immediately after ingestion or even from contact with the flowers and leaves. If a cat licks or eats any part of the plant, seek treatment immediately
  • Tinsel - Aside from being a choking hazard, ingested tinsel can cause severe vomiting, obstruct the digestive tract, cause dehydration and could require surgery
  • Electrical wires and cords - keep them tucked away safely to prevent pets from chewing through a live wire
  • Glass and plastic ornaments - are very tempting to play with! Keep them out of reach
  • Candles - a long tail or curious pet can knock over a candle and potentially start a fire or may seriously burn themselves
  • Christmas trees and pine water - Be sure to keep your tree tightly secured to prevent it tipping or falling over. Keep tree water covered and inaccessible as the water that stands at the base of the tree may contain fertiliser and other harmful chemicals. Bacteria in the water may also cause nausea, diarrhoea or stomach upset
  • Noisemakers - loud noises, noisemakers and celebratory poppers can be very scary to pets. Create a quiet haven for them where they can feel safe
  • Anti-freeze for automobiles - antifreeze can taste sweet but is very deadly

In the event an animal has ingested a toxic substance or object, or has sustained an injury, do not wait. Seek immediate veterinary advice and be prepared to get the animal to the nearest veterinary clinic.  Do not try to diagnose the issue yourself using the internet or by calling a human poison control centre as the treatment for poisoning in humans can be very different from that for animals.  Getting appropriate background information about the animal is critical to a veterinarian preparing a treatment plan for a particular toxin. Remember that every case and every animal is different. Remember, it’s easy to include your pets in the festivities and keep them happy and safe by being mindful of potential risks and planning ahead.


The original article may be found here. Keep all your special occasions, entertaining and holidays safe for everyone.