It is good to be back in Michigan! In December Peter and I loaded Jake, our 15 yr old Lab/Shepard mix, in the car and drove to our new winter home: Tucson, AZ.
We were concerned about Jake's comfort and ability to make the trip, but he tolerated it well and seemed revived soaking up the sun in our new yard.
Our vet helped us assess his condition and needs. We had hoped he could make it back to Michigan, but by April we knew it was time to euthanize him.
We have had other pets euthanized--it is never an easy decision.
The reason I decided to write about Jake's death here is this: Reactions to the loss of a beloved pet is as multi-faceted as any other loss. Everyone is entitled to view their animals, and the loss of them, however they want. I caution you though to not make assumptions about what that loss is like for others.
Some of the comments people made when Jake died offended me. Really, really offended me. Some of them were made by the professionals who were assisting us with the process, some by friends.
Here are some examples:
---Referring to Jake as my "child". NO...he was my loved and valued pet. He did not come close to being in the same category as my child.
--Questioning our decision to euthanize--some thought we waited too long, others thought we were too hasty. It is not their business, unless their opinion has been requested.
--Telling us their personal stories of pet loss (often the re-telling proved traumatic for the person and they would then need comforting). In the midst of trying to make the right decision no one needs to have things complicated by a tearful story.
Pet loss, like other grief, is a personal journey. Let the person take the lead in conversations. Listen. Listen well.
We were lucky to have many, many people do just that. Let us guide the conversations.
I especially want to thank Dr. Lee Fike (Tucson) http://www.leefike.com/ : thank you for your compassion, wisdom, guidance and patience. Your method of euthanizing in stages allowed us the opportunity to see Jake at peace to be able say good-bye in our home, as we listened to music that comforted us. Thanks also to our dear friend Helen Costa (Ann Arbor) who was always just an email away, willing to answer questions and help us explore options. And, many others who said just the right thing, at the right time.
Today we will spread Jake's ashes in Michigan and celebrate his awesome, sweet spirit.
I am glad he is home.