Tag Archives: pet loss

Buddhism for Pet Lovers

Within the last seven weeks, I have seen several dogs in my practice reach end of life. This is never an easy time, as I work in the energy field of a dog that is leaving while supporting their parents who often do not recognise that their dog is failing. Eventually, the family acknowledges the reality that they will soon face a decision about euthanasia.

For Christmas 2019, I was given the book Buddhism for Pet Lovers by David Michie and it has been a wonderful resource for my practice. This book, subtitled Supporting Our Closest Companions Through Life and Death, explains our partnership with our animals through life and death using Tibetan Buddhist philosophy.

When discussing end of life, the book explains the process of dying from physical dissolution to mental dissolution and it emphasises the need for us to put our pets first by being supportive and staying calm and loving. The importance of pain management is also discussed because our dogs do not show pain in the same way we do – so we need to be keen observers and use our intuition. At this stage of life, I am focused on keeping the dog comfortable and sharing my observations with my human clients. At this point, as in any point along our journey together, I am focused on the dog’s health and needs. I often find myself being an advocate for the dog at this critical point in time.

Although the Buddhist philosophy does not support the concept of euthanasia, particularly for convenience reasons, the book endorses practices such as at-home euthanasia because if the aim is a peaceful passing, then an at-home passing is greatly preferable. (This is the same reason why I choose to practice massage and rehabilitation at home – because our dogs are most comfortable there).

And for those of you who have experienced the decision to euthanise, the book explains those feelings often put into words such as ‘he told me he was ready’ or ‘I get the feeling she isn’t ready to go.’

What many dog parents may not realise is the importance of the seven weeks following physical death, a time known as the Bardo state. This is a transition period where Buddhists believe the process of re-birth takes place. Although I have not had clients who have identified themselves as Buddhists, for example, I do know that many dog parents instinctively leave the dog’s bowls and bed in place for some time as they grieve their loss. The book explains what you can do in the seven weeks following your pet’s passing to help ease the transition, as their spirit may re-visit the home as part of their journey to re-birth.

In this post, I’ve focused solely on the ninth chapter of the book. But the entire book offers some useful insights and perspectives on our lives with our pet companions. Well worth a read.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Grieving for a pet

Don't weep for me gravestone

Today I have been thinking a lot about pet loss and grief.

It’s just been one of those weeks – a few older dogs who are clearly reaching the end of their lives and one client in particular who seems to be on the verge of needing to make an end-of-life decision for their aging dog….

Most pet owners have experienced grief at the loss of a beloved animal.  I know I have.  And even when you know that your dog is reaching the end of its life, the loss is still shocking when the end finally arrives.

And then I read this Wall Street Journal article, decidedly focused on US employment and employers, about the decisions employees face when grieving for a lost animal.  It’s a little shocking (but not surprising) to know that employers have asked employees who are euthanising their pets to report to work before/after the event.

When I used to be employed in a large public sector organisation as a senior manager, I commented on a proposed bereavement policy.  I suggested that managers should be able to use their discretion and grant a day of bereavement leave based on the loss of a pet.  Managers would know the circumstances of their employee and the role of their pet in their lives because they were expected to know their staff well.

I also saw it as a leadership issue – large employers have the ability to support staff with benefits that smaller firms may not.

The CEO declined (actually, he never declined he just ignored the submission). I found out later from someone in HR (because I asked) that the CEO felt he ‘had to draw the line somewhere.’

Despite the growing research-based evidence of the role our dogs play in our emotional and physical health, owners are not supported through the inevitable grieving process that follows their life-long commitment.

It’s sad.

I’m very proud that I support my clients in assessing quality of life and I follow up with them after their dog passes; many have stayed in touch as colleagues and friends long after their dog has gone.

My only hope is that our workplaces and their policies catch up on what it means to be truly family-friendly.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Mourning a pet isn’t what it used to be

The role of pets has changed a lot in the last 20 or so years.  This change is also reflected in how people mourn when a pet dies.  This column, by Monica Collins of The Boston Globe, discusses how mourning for a lost pet is recognized as genuine grief.  Well worth reading (just click on the link below)

Mourning a pet isn’t what it used to be – Lifestyle – The Boston Globe

Continue reading

Another pack member

Today, I had a consult with a new client who also suddenly suffered the loss of her younger dog just a few days ago.  Since I’ve been through my own loss of Daisy in July and I am now co-sponsoring a pet loss support group in my area, I think I was able to provide her with the understanding she needed at this painful time.

We also discussed when it is ‘right’ to bring another dog into the household.  There is no single ‘right’ answer to this question.

For me, I was not doing well in a dog-less household.  I missed the companionship and unconditional love that Daisy gave me willingly for over 10 years.  But, I knew that replacing Daisy was never going to happen – she was unique.   And I don’t believe we ever replace a dog that has passed; we only open our hearts to a new relationship.

I had to find a dog that needed me as much as I needed them.

This is my way of announcing the adoption of Izzy, a greyhound, from the Greyhounds as Pets adoption scheme.

Izzy, with a selection of her toys

Izzy, with a selection of her toys

Initially withdrawn and a bit overwhelmed at being in a pet home after over 5 1/2 years in a kennel environment, Izzy is now experiencing her second puppyhood.  I have had a few household items destroyed (including a tv remote) and I’m learning to schedule play time for us at least twice daily (in addition to our twice-daily walks).

I am finding great joy in giving a home to a dog who didn’t have one.  The time was right for a new pack member;  I think Daisy loved me enough that she would approve.

In the months and years to come, I’ll be sharing stories about Izzy and our adventures together…but I have no plans to change the banner on this blog.  Daisy was my heart dog and soul mate and it is a fitting tribute to keep her image on the advertising for DoggyMom.com.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Goodbye, friend

Goodbye, friend
With Daisy’s passing, it is probably not surprising that I reached for a book on grief and – more specifically – a book about grief over the loss of a pet.

I purchased this book in 2013, but when I started to read it then, it didn’t feel right.  Although aging, Daisy was still in good health and I felt like I was somehow ‘jumping the gun.’  The book went to the bottom of my ‘to read’ pile until last week when I found myself at loose ends in my empty house.

One of the biggest things about loss of a pet is, although deep down we know that our dog has a short lifespan, there is nothing that can prepare you for the emotional tidal wave that comes on the day of your dog’s death.  So, having a book to turn to for guidance is useful.

This book is written in simple terms, with some historic references to cultures and how they view death, dying and the role of pets.  It discusses the decision we face when euthanizing a sick pet, how to deal with children’s grief, understanding the need to care for yourself when grieving, and deciding when it is right to take steps that allow you to move on.

Since Kowalski is a clergyman, he has used his background to prepare a section on readings and poems that can be used in a memorial service for a lost pet.

I’m glad I had this book handy for when I had to suddenly face the loss of Daisy and, based on my experience, I would recommend to all my readers to have a book about pet grief in your ‘tool box’ for when you have to face the sad occasion of saying goodbye.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

For a beloved member of the family

This column, For a beloved member of the family in memoriam, was written by Bella English, a columnist for The Boston Globe newspaper.

It touches on that special relationship we have with our dogs, and the grief and mourning we experience when they pass.

I hope this item resonates with you as much as it does with me.