Understanding Pet Loss:
The relationship between humans and pets dates back to 12,000 years, so our bond with our pets often defines who we are.
The impact of pet loss, according to a survey by insurance company surveys states pet owners take 8 million days off due to grief at the death of a pet. One in four pet owners were too upset to go into work after their pet died. 79% of people responding to the survey said they didn’t think their boss would be sympathetic, and the only way they could get time off work was by pretending to be ill. This proves the scale of suffering pet people face when their beloved friend passes.
Points to Ponder:
- Your grief is a reflection of the love you had for your pet.
- Respect your feelings and your tears.
- Loss is a violent emotional upheaval.
- Take time and patience for yourself.
- Don’t isolate yourself, but take care of your grieving needs.
- Reach out to friends for support but ask them to give you time and respect your pain, but be aware, there will be those friends and co-workers who just don’t understand.
- Sensationalizing your loss can be more painful.
- Just be with yourself and be sure to nurture other pets in the home. They, too, will grieve in their own ways, so be patient and loving. Pets don’t understand. They miss the other pet and cannot express their confusion. The shock we feel from the loss of a pet is one of the most profound emotional traumas a human can experience and is nothing to be embarrassed about. Your suffering will upset the other pets, so be present for all involved. Mostly, there’s no expiration date on pet loss or any loss. Things will trigger emotions. Honor the emotions, deal with it with quietness and memories, and move on. Our pets are put on this earth make us happy…remember those happy times.
Humans are creatures of habit, structure, routine. Your routine of having Fred greet you every morning has been altered. Let go of the guilt of your decisions. We are so lucky to have the choice and the gift to let them go. Remember, they have a higher tolerance for pain than we do and probably were suffering longer than you realize. So we cry a bit, but don’t say I’ll never adopt again. Your pet would want you to rescue another pet who needs the love you offer. We think pet parenting should be second nature, but none of know all the answers. Take a Behavioral or Dog & Cat First Aid class to become a more Prepared Pet Parent! xoxo
RewCrew Advice: Another way to process is to give yourself credit for giving your pet the best life ever while you were together. As an adopter of senior dogs, we cherish them…every day, every walk, every earned cookie, every cuddle…because we never know how long we have with our furry friends. We give them a safe, warm home for as long they want and they give us wisdom and love!
WAYS Pets Can Improve Your Health
A pet can certainly be a great friend and after a difficult day, we pet owners literally feel the love when we get home. Research shows that living with pets provides certain health benefits. Pets help lower blood pressure and lessen anxiety. They boost our immunity. They get you moving. They can even help you get dates or at the least, make new friends.FURRY Date Magnets: Dogs are great for making connections including love connections. Forget Internet matchmaking…your dog, cat or chinchilla can be a natural conversation starter. This especially helps people are socially isolated or are shy. At the park or sitting at your veterinarian’s office, people often ask about breeds or admire a pet’s tricks or behavior. The conversation may stay at the ‘pet level,’ but sometimes it becomes a human social interchange. Bundle up, leash up, and get out and meet some new friends.
ALLERGY Fighters: “The old thinking was if your family had a pet, the children were more likely to become allergic to the pet. Or if you came from an allergy-prone family, pets should be avoided,” says a researcher from University of Wisconsin-Madison. However, a growing number of studies have suggested that kids growing up in a home with furred animals, whether it’s a cat, dog, or farm animal, people will have less risk of developing allergies and asthma, he tells WebMD.
In one study, blood of babies immediately after birth and one year later was analyzed. They were looking for evidence of an allergic reaction, immunity changes, and for reactions to bacteria in the environment. If a dog lived in the home, infants were less likely to show evidence of pet allergies: 19% vs. 33% and proved to be less likely to have eczema. In addition, they had higher levels of some immune system chemicals, a sign of stronger immune system activation.
PETS as age keep us Young at Heart: Studies have shown that Alzheimer’s patients have fewer anxious outbursts if there is an animal close by. Caregivers feel less burden when there is a pet, particularly a cat, which generally requires less care than a dog. Petting an animal releases empathic dopamine. Just walking a dog to the mailbox or caring for a pet can provide exercise and companionship and the use of senses we sometimes forget as we age and become less mobile. Caress soft fur, enjoy the wagging of a happy tail, listen to a content snore or a purr! These simple actions can fill a home with love and life. One insurance company, Midland Life Insurance Company of Columbus, Ohio, asks clients over age 75 if they have a pet as part of their medical screening which often helps tip the scales in their favor. There are more than enough homeless pets who could use a companion as much as elderly people could use a lap warmer!
GOOD for the Heart: Heart attack patients who have pets survive longer than those without. Male pet owners have less sign of heart disease, lowering triglyceride and cholesterol levels, than non-owners, so what’s stopping you?
BETTER for Mind & Soul as well as your Body: Pet owners with MS, Fibromyalgia, AIDS and chronic pain are far less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. It is so true that the benefit is especially pronounced when people are strongly attached to their pets. In one study, stockbrokers with high blood pressure who adopted a cat or dog had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than did people without pets. People in stress mode get into a “state of dis-ease,” in which harmful chemicals like cortisol and nor-epinephrine can negatively affect the immune system.
Studies show a link between these chemicals and plaque buildup in arteries, the red flag for heart disease. Like any enjoyable activity, playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties, he tells WebMD.
“People take drugs like heroin and cocaine to raise serotonin and dopamine, but the healthier option is to pet your dog, hug your spouse, watch sunsets or enjoy something else nature has to offer,” says Dr. Blair Justice, who recently hiked the Colorado Rockies with his wife and two dogs. His book is Who Gets Sick: How Beliefs, Moods, and Thoughts Affect Your Health.
Hug your dog, walk your dog or have a deep philosophical conversation with your cat or find a family who would be willing to share a pet. I have many clients who do that. Just do something.
The Art of Walking Your Dog and Being the Alpha!
1. Walking our dogs should a simple task! Be the Alpha. You are in control, not the dogs. You are the one responsible for behavior, so be a prepared pet parent.
2. My city of Sparks does have a leash law, so be on a leash.
3. Ensure you have proper equipment: a strong, short leash plus a good collar or harness. Be sure the collar or harness fits correctly to avoid injury to you or the dog. PLEASE avoid retractable leashes. They don’t provide adequate control especially in an emergency situation. Numerous reports exist of human injury such as hands or legs being sliced by the thin lead, being tripped as dogs get entangled, getting tangled in brush or tree branches, breakage resulting in stray animals, and failed operational locking mechanisms. A short leash puts you in control.
4. If walking at dusk or in the dark, use reflective material for you and your dog. So many options and no excuses not to make drivers see you. Safety, safety, safety.
5. Use common sense. If your dog is sick or in heat, don’t walk them. Same for dogs with a history of aggression. Just because you don’t see other walkers, doesn’t guarantee a peaceful walk.
Work with trainers or behaviorists, so it can become a good citizen. We have great local trainers.
6. Keep your identification, vaccine records and license tags with you or attach to the leash or collar. Even if your dog has a microchip, ID tags are a good back-up. Tag keepers can help keep them attached. Plus, if there is a scuffle, information can be exchanged. Washoe County Regional Animal Services continues to provide FREE microchips. Does your county offer them?
7. MYTH: Poop Fairies don’t exist. This is not something your tax dollars or HOA dues covers. It’s your dog. It’s your dog’s POOP! Pick up your dog’s excrement and dispose in a proper container. We live in a wonderful area, but walkers who ignore this tip only invite wild animals to our neighborhoods. Animals are scent-driven. If your pet’s scent is followed, they could come to your yard. Plus, it’s distracting and unhealthy for those who value city sidewalks for the enjoyment of walking with or without their dogs. Poop bags, Poop bags, Poop bags. The Rew Crew will buy them if you’ll use and dispose of them.
8. Vaccines? Get them and stay current!
A Voice for the Voiceless
Preparedness isn’t usually on the fore-front of humans’ minds, but maybe we can change that mindset in Northern Nevada. National Dog Bite Prevention Week is celebrated in April, but as pet advocate, I feel it should be promoted every day and encourage all of us: Don’t Be Scared, Be Prepared!
My educational coloring book, Dog Bite Prevention, was published with hope that humans learn to understand how dogs think, look at the world, and use their senses to be aware and alert.
Dogs are often misunderstood because they communicate with their senses and most humans haven’t cracked the secret code. ‘Dog speak’ includes using their ears, eyes, noses and tongues to introduce and defend themselves.
Just like humans, all dogs are different. Any dog, big or small, can be a biter. Give dogs the choice to be your friend because not all dogs want to be friends. Adequate socialization and training can be lacking, though dog trainers are abundant. Some dogs have been trained to guard and some dogs are just moody. Loud noises, high pitch sounds and weather changes can bother dogs and change their mood. Don’t be scared, be prepared!
Since most dog bites are caused by human error, being cautious and educated makes life better for humans and dogs. Children and seniors are the most common victims. One simple bite example: if you’ve had food in/on your hands, excitable dogs can mistake fingers for treats especially with kids.
Boundaries are big issue for our canine friends. Ear pulling, tail tugging or allowing kids to lay on top of a dog pushes those limits.
Pets also have a high tolerance for pain, so can be sick or injured without us knowing. If they are hurting, they may nip or bite. It’s their way to say, “it hurts” or “don’t touch me.” Most of the time, dogs are scolded for this, but prepared and alert pet parents can make life easier for all.
If you find an injured stray dog, leave it alone and call Washoe County Regional Animal Services at 775.322.3647 (DOGS) for assistance.
On a positive note, I will present to local Civic Groups, HOAs and WCSD classrooms about dog bite prevention and responsible pet care, plus tips on nutrition and how to make Washoe County a safer community.
For more information, please contact me. As a Sparks-based Dog & Cat First Aid & CPR Instructor, Pet rescuer/advocate, Pet Nanny and Wordsmith, I dedicated my book to all dogs who’ve been misunderstood because they appear or sound scarier than they really are.
What more can I say?
To be the one who gets licked, pawed, or leaned against is an amazing gesture of faith given to those of us who rescue…especially dogs.
Dogs respond to affection.
Dogs respond to a warm, cozy home with mismatched dog beds accenting every room, with dog toys scattered about, with available nourishing food and water.
Dogs need love, but also need to give love. They love us unconditionally.
What does unconditionally mean?
Well, it covers if you come home later than planned; it means they love if you had a bad day at work or forgot to pay the bills; it means they will get up early with you or sleep late. Dogs love because that’s how they are built and being a pet rescue liaison has taught me the meaning of unconditional over and over.
A rescued pet, dog or cat, really appreciates you. You are now a hero which doesn’t happen often in our lives. Plus you just gave them a reason to trust again. Many come from scary situations, so you, their new safety net, needs to understand if they slow to warm up to all of your habits. Give them time.
If you can’t adopt, think about being a foster family. If you can’t foster, donate monetarily or buy items on a Rescue Group’s wish list.