204-283-7928 or 204-333-5138 ripleesranchwpg@gmail.com

The loss of your companion and the process of healing

Three weeks ago we lost our precious Ginger after a short illness. Ginger and her sister Peachy have been such a big part of our family. Our world is forever changed as we adapt to the loss of Ginger.

September 13 is National Pet Memorial Day. Most of us have dealt with the loss of a pet. For some, there have many pets that have come and gone in their lifetime. Some folks will tell you of a timeline of different pets that have come and gone in their lifetime. Having a childhood pet, getting a first pet while living on our own, having a family pet in which their own children have bonded closely together. Each of these pets would have been special in their own way and their passing would have affected them differently given each situation.

For many pet owners, when that pet dies it can be as painful and traumatic as loosing anyone in your family. Our pets are beloved members of our family and our level of grief regarding their passing can be influenced by many different factors; your age and the age of your pet, the circumstances regarding their passing and the support you feel from the people around you.

The role that the pet played in the person’s life can also affect the grieving process that they experience. For example, if the pet was a companion, a friend, possibly a best friend, then the animals passing leaves a painful void that can be just as traumatic as loosing a human companion.

If the animal was service provider for the individual, then the grieving process extends to loosing a co-worker and to the loss of whatever service was provided by the service animal. Replacing a service animal can take time and may require more training. If the person lived alone and relied on the animal such as a dog guide, the individual’s independence may now be compromised.

To replace such an animal may be awfully expensive and beyond what the individual can afford.

If the animal was ill and the owner did not or could not afford veterinarian assistance, they may be also feeling a sense of guilt that would further complicate the grieving process.

Everyone grieves differently, dealing with the loss of life of a pet or a person is different for everyone and each loss is different for that person. Some people grieve in stages where they go through feelings of, denial, anger, guilt, depression, acceptance, and resolution. Some people go through highs and low feelings that can be short or drag on for longer periods of time. There can be memory triggers that can evoke the grieving pain long after the animal has passed, such as finding an old toy or looking at old photos.

One of the most hurtful things that can happen when you are going through the grieving process of your pet, is when someone says, “what is the big deal, it was only a pet?” This may have come from someone who doesn’t have a pet, or they just don’t understand the bond that you had with your pet. Do not argue with them about how you are feeling. Accept the fact that they do not feel the same about animals as you do and seek out your friends and family that do understand what you are going through and are supportive.

 As we age, we go through many changes and experience many losses such as family or friends. A death of a pet can be extremely devastating for a senior especially if their spouse has passed as well. The animal may have been their only companion and caring for that pet gave them purpose and a reason to look after themselves.

It is important to find another purpose to maintain activity and social contact. This may be an opportunity to get involved with community groups, taking classes, exercise groups, volunteering, family activities or maybe consider getting another pet when the time is right.

Here are 9 tips to help you get through this grieving process.

 Some of these ideas may help you while others will not, just take what works for you.

  • Do not feel ashamed about being sad, frightened, lonely, or upset as those are normal feelings with the grieving process.
  • Do not let other people tell you how to feel, this is your grieving process and how you deal with it is part of your own healing process.
  • Connect with others who have dealt with loosing a pet as they can empathize with what you are going through, and they may be willing to listen to your story.
  • If you do find that this grieving process is difficult and you are becoming overwhelmed with your emotions, you may want to seek out professional help within your community.
  • You may want to have a small funeral service, possibly just you and a couple friends. This may give you closure to this grieving process and let you move on.
  • Look after yourself, while dealing with loss it may become easier to not eat properly or maybe stop doing your normal routine. It is important for your own well-being to get back into your normal lifestyle as soon as possible.
  • Grieving does not give you permission to ignore your other responsibilities, in fact by refocusing your efforts towards someone or something that could use your help, you may help yourself to move on and deal with the grieving process.
  • If you have other pets, you may also notice that they too may be going through their own type of grieving as they are missing their companion.
  • You may want to create a legacy so that you and others can remember your pet in a way that is positive and may have benefits for other animals and the community. That was the case for Jo and Lloyd Camire.

Shadow’s Mission

Jo and Lloyd have always had a love for animals, especially dogs. The animals that have come into the lives of this couple are shown compassion, patience, love and understanding as if the animals were their children.

Shadow Bear was one of these fortunate dogs who was awfully close to being put down when she was rescued by Jo. On a visit to a local pet store Jo found herself looking through a glass enclosure at several dogs that were for sale. Jo had not attended the store that day with the purpose of purchasing a dog but was drawn to peek at what animals were up for sale. From behind the other bigger, more excited dogs, a small black pup squeezed its way under and around all the other dogs up to the glass where Jo was standing. Jo put the palm of her hand on the glass and the frail little puppy reached up with his paw and touched Jo’s hand through the glass.

Jo knew at that moment that she had to take this little pup home. Suddenly a hand reached in from the back door of the enclosure and grabbed this dog.

Jo made her way back to the “staff only” area and found the person with the dog. “I would like this dog”, Jo announced to the staff.

 “I am sorry, this dog is not for sale”, replied the staff.

“Why not, is someone else taking her?” asked Jo.

“No, this dog is not well, failure to thrive and is being put down” acknowledged the staff.

Jo could not believe what she had just heard and now she was more determined than ever.

“I want to purchase that dog!” insisted Jo.

So, after several discussions with managers and staff, Jo paid full price, with no discount and no guarantees, this puppy had a new home.

Shadow did have a lot of health problems and not being able to eat was the main concern. Jo and Lloyd cared for this dog on a 24/7 basis and came up with many different methods to get food and nutrients into this little body. Shadow was also plagued with allergies to almost everything she ate. This would result in nonstop itchy skin. To take shadow’s mind off her problems the couple taught her tricks and within a noticeably short time Shadow understood more than thirty commands and loved the attention that she received when she performed her tricks.

Jo and Lloyd live close to a senior’s personal care home that allows animals to come in for visits. Shadow loved going for visits to the personal care home and made many different friends who adored her. One of the residents, Mrs. H. who had dementia, when she first saw Shadow would flail her arms around angrily, “get that animal out of here!” Slowly Shadow was presented to Mrs. H. until one day Shadow was set on the tray of Mrs. H’s wheelchair and they became friends. The bond between the two grew and when Mrs. H. was having issues the staff would call Jo to bring Shadow in for a visit and this dog could calm Mrs. H. and make her happy. Shadow made many friends over the eight years of visiting at the personal care home.

When Shadow became, sick and died Jo and Lloyd knew that this dog had come into their lives for a special purpose and they were not going to let it end here.

Shadow Bear was a wonderful dog who loved long and hard, making it her mission to enjoy life to its fullest and bring joy to those lucky enough to share in her life. She now does her loving from the rainbow bridge and continues to inspire those she left behind.

Shadow’s Dad, Lloyd, decided that a good way to honor her memory was to build dog houses to help shelter the dogs up in the northern communities who do not have warm homes to return to each night.

Lloyd started building dog houses, and, with the help of local dog rescues and many friends Lloyd succeeded in providing more than 292 houses at last count, for those northern dogs. Lloyd uses recycled, reclaimed materials and building products which are collected or that have been donated to him for Shadow’s Mission. This way the costs can be kept down, and he can provide the finished houses without charge for the dogs with no homes.

Out of building that houses, more projects grew. Lloyd began building dog beds which he donated to local dog rescues further fundraising efforts. The beds have proven so popular that Lloyd has begun to sell them, using the profits to enable him to continue building houses for dogs in need, and beds to aid in further fundraising for dog rescue as well as making donation to help rescues pay down their vet bills. Lloyd also started receiving requests to make Pet Steps. These are made-to-measure stairs for tiny, older, or injured dogs. These stairs enable the dog to safely get on and off beds and couches by themselves especially when they are alone in the house.

                                                                                  -Shared by Jo and Lloyd Camire

As we age, we go through many changes and experience many losses such as family or friends. A death of a pet can be extremely devastating for a senior especially if their spouse has passed as well. The animal may have been their only companion and caring for that pet gave them purpose and a reason to look after themselves.

It is important to find another purpose to maintain activity and social contact. This may be an opportunity to get involved with community groups, taking classes, exercise groups, volunteering, family activities or maybe consider getting another pet when the time is right.

If you would like to contact us: ripleesranchwpg@gmail.com

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