A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to
Leave the examination room and said,
‘Doctor, I am afraid to die.
Tell me what lies on the other side.’
Very quietly, the doctor said, ‘I don’t know…’
‘You don’t know? You’re, a Christian man,
and don’t know what’s on the other side?’

The doctor was holding the handle of the door;
On the other side came a sound of scratching and whining,
And as he opened the door, a dog sprang into the room
And leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.

Turning to the patient, the doctor said,
‘Did you notice my dog?
He’s never been in this room before.
He didn’t know what was inside.
He knew nothing except that his master was here,
And when the door opened, he sprang in without fear.
I know little of what is on the other side of death,
But I do know one thing…
I know my Master is there and that is enough.’

Friday, November 27, 2009
On Nov. 2, my husband and I were working in the yard. Alongside of us was Buffy, our little Yorkie. We did not realize it, but Buffy had gotten too close to the road and a car came along and hit her. The car did not stop.

A woman named Shelia saw the accident and stopped. She picked Buffy up and brought her over to us.

She continually apologized for the loss of our little Buffy.

Heartbroken, we buried Buffy. Later that evening, we had an engagement for about two hours. When we returned home there was a beautiful bouquet of flowers with a sympathy card waiting for us. The card simply read ‘Shelia.’

Shelia, your act of kindness has meant so much to us during this time of grief. It gives us comfort to know that such a caring individual took her time to show us love when we needed it so much.

Thank you for your kindness, and may God bless you.

Chester and Marie Turner, Climax

Q.  I was wondering, is it normal to grieve over the loss of a pet more than the loss of a family member? Here’s the deal I lost my cat to a seizure about a week ago. I was devastated, I mean, I’m still grieving,it’s just about as bad as when I lost my dad. Since my cat was chosen out by my dad. (Long story)

Anyways, my grandmother died today, and she lived to be 87. I haven’t really cried that much, I don’t know if I’m still in shock, but I just don’t feel sad about it. I mean, I miss her, but I don’t feel sad like I did about my cat or about my dad. Why is this? Is it also normal for me to be grieving more about my cat than my grandma or is there something abnormal about me?

A.  It makes perfect sense. Losing the cat is like losing the last living part of your father.  At the same time, a pet is dependent on you, so you were a kind of mom to the cat.

Many believe that losing a child (which is what your cat was to you) is the worst pain a parent can experience. It’s partly the strength of the parent-child bond, and partly because the child didn’t get to live a long, full life. Your grandmother did have a long (and we hope fulfilling) life, so it isn’t a case of a life cut short.

However, do NOT express this last part out loud, especially to your family. However true it may be, people don’t like hear that one death is not as big a tragedy as another.

And do not worry that your feelings aren’t normal. A lot of people react in predictable ways, which is why the funeral business is such a money-maker. If you grieve in a different way, well, don’t let anybody tell you that it isn’t right or normal. You don’t need to validate anybody else’s manner of grieving.

Some responses by readers:

  1. Just Thinking:   I think you are being to hard on yourself. Grieving is different for all people and varies in degrees depending on many different factors. I would suggest that you have been in a state of grief and this is now added and so you have gone into shock? Try to be kind to yourself, the loss of your cat after the death of your father and the connection you have with the cat from your father is going to be very strong, possibly stronger than the relationship to your grandmother, there is nothing wrong or unnatural about that, the loss of your cat is like losing your father a second time?
  2. TM:   You know I don’t think its that crazy but I would feel the same if the same thing happened to me. I hate saying that but its true. I think you might be a little in shock and if your already grieving its hard to figure out who your grieving for. Its normal to not be devastated I think over a grandparent. For one they are older so it is expected,plus unless you live with them, the older you get the less attached you are too them.
  3. xxraeofsun:   You may have been closer to your cat than your grandma or maybe you weren’t seeing your cat’s death coming
  4. Ash:    Wow,you are definitely going through a lot right now and you shouldn’t feel bad that you aren’t “grieving” per se, but maybe you are still in shock and this is just a way of your emotional self to protect yourself. All of this loss at once is sure to confuse anyone about their emotions. You seem to connect your cat (how you described it) to your dad, (since he picked it out and all) so the loss of your cat is probably bringing back the pain of loosing your father. Don’t feel abnormal about any of this, or bad about grieving for your grandmother differently. This much stress can really mess with a person. Best wishes and sorry for your losses.

Daily Bible Study with SEEDS OF THE KINGDOM
Updated: Saturday, 19 December 2009, 8:26 (GMT)

17 December 2009 | Expressing Grief

Jesus wept. John 11:35, NIV

Our young grandson has just experienced his first loss of a pet.This nearly three-year old hamster died over the weekend and he was heartbroken. His parents handled it well. His dad asked him if he wanted to hold it, which he didn’t, but together they went and buried it in the garden. He spent a tearful evening with both of them and the next morning said to his mum,”I don’t know how I am supposed to feel”, possibly thinking that it was “only” a hamster and should he be feeling so upset. Her reply was that it was quite all right for him to feel sad and that it was natural to miss the little creature for a time. I have prayed with many people who experienced the loss of a close relative, sometimes a parent, when they were very young and were never able to grieve. Now, as adults, they have discovered a well of untapped grief which they have never expressed. Probably the adults around them at the time wanted to spare them the pain of loss and so from the best of motives they didn’t encourage the expression of grief. But now the buried feelings have either come to the surface or else all emotions have become trapped under a layer of concrete. Jesus freely expressed His emotions. On two occasions we read that He wept, once when He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus back to life and once over Jerusalem. He was not ashamed of His tears, nor of people seeing Him crying. Children should be encouraged to grieve, to know that people, and creatures, that they love are going to die sometime,and that they should not bury their feelings.


Heavenly Father, Thank You that You have given me emotions through which I can experience the fullness of life. Please help me to express them all in a right way and not bury the uncomfortable ones. Amen.

Today’s Writer

Angela Weir has been associated with Ellel Ministries from the very beginning, first as an associate member of the ministry team and later as an associate teacher. She trained as an actress and after her marriage and move to Cumbria, taught drama in a girls’ school.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pet Loss: Good-bye Dear Jake

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.

It was hard to watch him lose the strength to get in the car, the ability to manage stairs, the comfort of being around other animals.  As his senses faded his anxiety escalated.

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.

Posted by Klara Lynn Dannar at 7:44 AM


What caught her eye drawing her to the road that spring day on May 3, 1979?

One would never know. But she never heard the sound of an automobile thundering down the road toward her. In a split second laden with sounds of screeching tires and a dull thud, it was all over.

Alice Mowat Whitney was dead.

The tragic news ricocheted through the hallways and classrooms of Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf in Belleville as teachers and students busied themselves in the day’s routine. Shock and grief gripped them as they found out the details of the fate of their dear pet who had lit up their days with a wag of her black tail and a glance from her warm, friendly eyes.

Donna Fano was a teacher at SJW at the time of the tragedy. She was in her classroom that morning when news of Alice’s death was announced over the school PA system. While she heard the details of the news from another teacher, she recalled that the students from different residences heard of the accident at breakfast time in the main school cafeteria.

A crossbreed of Newfoundland water dog, which originated in ancient times before the Europeans arrived in Canada, and Labrador, Alice first came into the lives of the staff and students at SJW when she was donated to the school by Farley Mowat in 1972. In the following years, she became the school’s live-in mascot dog.

Delving into Alice’s family history, Fano found an interesting lineage that made the SJW mascot even more special.

Alice’s father, Albert, was born in the Newfoundland out port of La Poille, noted Fano.

“He was one of the last of the ancient Newfoundland water dog stock. His mate was Victoria, a mostly Labrador lady; and the pair gave birth to Alice and the rest of the pups in 1971, where she (Alice) was petted by Pierre and Margaret Trudeau during a visit and perhaps would have become their dog if she had not been afflicted with loss of hearing.”

Instead, her brother, Farley Trudeau, went on to live as a member of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s family for several years.

“Another brother travelled across the ocean as the companion of Premier Kosygin of the USSR. A third went to live with Canadian author Scott Symons, and another brother spent his adult life with Dr. Joe McGinnis, author and underwater expert and explorer,” noted Fano.

At the time of her death, Alice had become a familiar and beloved part of the school and was especially dear to all at the school for the deaf because she, too, was deaf.

Fano thought that Alice might have been the only deaf dog in North America to have been owned by a deaf school.

“The deaf students all thought it was so cool to have a deaf pet. Not very often would they be permitted pets in the residences,” recalled Fano. “She was very loving and affectionate, friendly and so agreeable.”

In an article published in The Intelligence in February 1976, a Mrs. Ryer, a counselor with whom Alice lived during the holidays,was noted to have observed:

“She learns more quickly than other dogs who hear,” she said. “Alice understands and obeys sign language to sit down, come here, lie down and let’s go for a walk.”

Alice was buried in Hodgson Woods located behind the present Sagonaska School.

“Students and staff grieved at the death of their school pet. The now-deceased Dr. J. Demeza gave the tribute at the dog’s funeral at the woods then the students and staff lined up to sprinkle soil on the grave,” recalled Fano.

A new tombstone was unveiled at the site of Alice’s grave on Oct. 20, 2009 at SJW.

“The first tombstone, made of cement, was made by Bruce Gomes, a student in the vocational shop in 1979 and was set up on Alice’s grave.” said Fano. “The tombstone lasted almost 20 years before it broke into sections from the weathering and was moved to the school archives and kept there until 2006. The current Manufacturing Technology teacher Norbert Irion had plans to replace the tombstone with a metal cage housing a slab of marble with sandblasted lettering on it but the school birthday committee decided to replace it with granite for more durability.”

The project, she noted, was made possible with support from the OSD/SJW Alumni Association, Belleville Association for the Deaf, SJW Student Parliament, Bert ‘N Ernie’s Café (staff lounge snack bar), and SJW students and staff. The ceremonial event was the highlight of the 139th birthday anniversary celebrations of the Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf.

Pet-Owner Bereavement Requires Passage of Time

by Mirko Petricevic/Record staff
August 05, 2010

WATERLOO — Until late last year Dr. Jennifer Heick spent her lunches strolling along Waterloo trails with a couple of her best friends – a malemute named Meesha and retriever mutt called Bear. Then cancer crept into their lives and separated the threesome. To spare her a prolonged and painful death, Meesha was euthanized around Christmas time. In April, Bear was also diagnosed with cancer and suffered the same fate.

“You really didn’t have time to finish grieving the first one,” said Heick, a Waterloo chiropractor. “They’re part of your life every day . . . and then they’re not there.” Gone were the long walks and encounters that regularly brought a smile to her face. “You just don’t have that wagging tail as you walk in the door,” she said. Heick talked about her loss with some of her patients. One of them, Brien Thurston, listened longer than most. As they talked over several lunches he never told her to “just get over it.” Instead, Heick said, Thurston gave her permission to still feel sad. A longtime chaplain and counselor, Thurston knew the importance of acknowledging Heick’s grief. Besides, he knew how she felt. Thurston’s all-time favorite cat, Tobias, was also euthanized in April.

“He was the most wonderful little barn cat you ever saw in your life,” Thurston recalled. Soon after, he realized he was experiencing some of the same grief symptoms he saw in many of his clients. “You can’t stifle these things,” Thurston said. He started to think that he’s probably not the only person who ever despaired over the death of a pet. Elderly widows and widowers whose pets die can undergo tremendous amounts of grief, Thurston noted.

But many people underestimate the value of pets, so they don’t acknowledge the grief some pet owners experience by the death of a pet, he said. “People need to see . . . that this grief can go on for a long time,” Thurston said. “It’s not just a simple matter of going and buying a new canary.” A 2007 an Ipsos-Reid poll suggested 35 per cent of Canadian households were home to a dog and about 38 per cent households included a cat. Eventually, all of them die. And for most pet owners, the time will come when they’re going to have to decide on euthanizing the pet that, for many of them, has become a part of the family.

The region is home to many grief counselors. But, Thurston said, few specialize in giving emotional support to bereaved pet owners. So he pounced on the problem like a dog on a new bone. Enter Dr. Robert Close, a veterinarian for more than 30 years who opened a new practice in Kitchener about a year ago. After seeing one of Close’s flyers this spring, Thurston called Close and talked about the depth of grief some people feel after losing a pet. As a longtime veterinarian who has euthanized thousands of patients, Close knew the emotional toll each case takes on pet owners – and on veterinarians. “When I was younger I always thought it might be easier, that you would get used to it (euthanizing animals),” Close said. “But you don’t. “Honestly, sometimes I think my heart is going to shatter into a thousand pieces,” he said. But Close said he knows he’s “doing the right thing” by sparing his patients great pain before they die.

So Close and Thurston developed a support program they feel would help bereaved pet owners, veterinarians and others who care for animals. In addition to addressing a person’s grief over the death of a pet, the program addresses the grief people experience in making decisions about euthanasia and, eventually, obtaining another pet. Thurston plans to start delivering the first classes next week . Bonnie Deekon, executive director of the Cambridge & District Humane society, welcomes the thought of having specific programs, or counselors, available for bereaved pet owners.

The society’s office installed a bulletin board to commemorate pets that have been euthanized. It’s a place where some pet owners linger for a long time. “They can stand in front of the board and look at it for half an hour,” Deekon said. “We never ever turn people away.” Deekon said she would also like to be able to refer some of her staff members who, from time to time, feel the emotional weight of euthanizing animals at the shelter. Kathy Innocente, fundraising and community development manager at the Kitchener-Waterloo Humane Society, said she occasionally steers bereaved pet owners to humane society volunteers who work at local funeral homes. But she doesn’t know of anyone in the region who specializes in supporting bereaved pet owners. “It would be a very nice thing for us to offer people,” she said, noting that the society hasn’t yet checked into Thurston or his program, so it isn’t referring clients to him at this point.

Leslie Josling, executive director of K-W Counselling Services, said people can get very attached to their pets. “When there’s a loss, that can be a significant trauma,” she said. But if someone is seeking therapy for complex grief over the loss of a pet, there are probably other underlying issues, she added. There might be some unique issues therapists might need to keep in mind when supporting someone with pet bereavement, she said. But any trained therapist should be able to support bereaved pet owners, Josling said. “It seems that you would be able to generalize what you know about loss and grief and death and dying . . . and help somebody through bereavement when it comes to a pet,” she said.

THE LEGACY OF BEEZER AND BOOMER: Lessons on Living and Dying

“What a fabulous, heartfelt and enjoyable read (assuming you don’t mind some crying). Doug adeptly describes his transition from skillful attorney, who takes pride in controlling the world around him, to a soul-searching student who, under the tutelage of his beloved four-legged mentors, strives to live in the moment. In the genre of ‘dog vignettes,’ it’s mighty refreshing to read a journey of feelings rather than simply a comical description of life with a dog.” ~ Dr. Nancy Kay, author of Speaking for Spot.

Nearly 80 percent of companion animal owners consider their pets as family members. Most of them will outlive their “children” and will face the difficult journey of caring for and saying goodbye to them.

Grief after a loved one passes, including a pet, is common and many resources exist to help. Just as common but less well-known is the anticipatory grief many individuals feel before their pet passes, which can cause fear, guilt, hopelessness, anger, denial, and depression.

PictureThe Legacy of Beezer and Boomer: Lessons on Living and Dying from My Canine Brothers by Doug Koktavy explores the author’s overwhelming anticipatory grief when his beloved sibling Labradors, first one and then the other, were diagnosed with terminal illnesses. He comments, “This harrowing, sometimes humorous, and ultimately enlightening journey describes how I ultimately found peace, strength, and acceptance by learning to listen to my dogs.” He adds, “If I can learn this, anyone can.”

All told, this first-place recipient of the CIPA Evvy Book Award in the Self-Help category illustrates how one man – and by extension the rest of us – can earn “The Daily Point” and learn to stay present, cope with emotions, and ultimately find peace even in the most difficult situations.

Doug Koktavy is a self-employed creditor’s attorney in Denver, Colorado, who has played ice hockey for years and competed in triathlons. He enjoys volunteering for pet organizations, biking, running, and taking walks with his new Labrador, Dory.

Posted by JoAnn Turnbull at May 4, 2010 9:26 a.m.
Category: Pets & People


Last update: March 10, 2010 – 3:18 PM

Amy Dickinson

Dear Amy:

I euthanized my beloved cat less than a week ago.

Aside from the grief of losing my pet of 15 years, I feel a tremendous guilt at having made the decision to have her put to sleep.

She was 17 or 18 years old (I got her from a shelter) and was recently diagnosed with an illness that was affecting her ability to breathe. Because of additional age-related, underlying health conditions, we were not able to use the medicine that was most likely to help her.

After several days of agonizing over whether she was suffering, I made an appointment to have her euthanized.

Ever since she died, I have been reliving that conversation and wishing I had not made the call — or wishing that when it came time for the actual procedure that I had said, “No, wait, let’s try another medicine. Let’s do anything to help her live longer.”

Instead, I made the decision to kill a sweet animal that had done nothing but love me for 15 years. I am absolutely beside myself with guilt.

The vet said the illness would cause a horrible natural death, but I feel like I ended her life prematurely, whether by a few weeks or a month. I feel like I deprived her of my love when she needed it most. I feel like I “bailed” on her. Amy, how do I forgive myself? I loved my cat dearly and miss her more than anything.


Amy says: Those of us who love our companion animals have to love them all the way — and that means we have to be responsible stewards all the way to the end of their lives.

Trying to extend the life of a pet with painful or invasive medical treatment can be an act of human selfishness. Any vet will tell you that when it comes time to euthanize an animal, many people delay beyond the point of mercy, revealing their inability to let go.

Many animal lovers face guilt along with their loss; talking with others will help you to face the inevitability of your choice. Your vet’s office should help you connect with a bereavement group.

Honor your memory of this important animal and, when you are ready, visit your local shelter to offer another cat the joy of a nice, long and loving life with you.

Reader’s Response

Dear Full of Regret,

I’m in the same boat. I put down my cat of 16 years down on New Year’s Eve. I’m 99% sure it was the right thing to do but still feel 75% guilt over it. Though the first month I was convinced she wasn’t sick and could live another 15 years. Now I’m back in reality, knowing I gave her a great life where we both loved each other a lot, and I did the right thing. Time will likely heal this wound for you.

posted by Mellers on Mar 10, 10 at 6:25 pm |

Carlos Sluzki’s cat died a while ago now, but he still sometimes visits. Now more of a shadow cat, the former pet seems to lurk at the edges of Sluzki’s vision, as a misinterpreted movement amid the everyday chaos of domestic life. All the same, the shadow cat is beginning to slink away and Sluzki notes that as the grief fades his erstwhile friend is erasing himself from the world of the present and receding into the bittersweet world of the memories of the loved ones. The dead stay with us, that much is clear. They remain in our hearts and minds, of course, but for many people they also linger in our senses as sights, sounds, smells, touches or presences.

Grief hallucinations are a normal reaction to bereavement but are rarely discussed, because people fear they might be considered insane or mentally destabilized by their loss. As a society we tend to associate hallucinations with things like drugs and mental illness, but we now know that hallucinations are common in sober healthy people and that they are more likely during times of stress. A Common Hallucination Mourning seems to be a time when hallucinations are particularly common, to the point where feeling the presence of the deceased is the norm rather than the exception. One study, by the researcher Agneta Grimby at the University of Goteborg, found that over 80 percent of elderly people experience hallucinations associated with their dead partner one month after bereavement, as if their perception had yet to catch up with the knowledge of their beloved’s passing.

As a marker of how vivid such visions can seem, almost a third of the people reported that they spoke in response to their experiences. In other words, these weren’t just peripheral illusions: they could evoke the very essence of the deceased. Occasionally, these hallucinations are heart-rending. A 2002 case report by German researchers described how a middle aged woman, grieving her daughter’s death from a heroin overdose, regularly saw the young girl and sometimes heard her say “Mamma, Mamma!” and “It’s so cold.”  Thankfully, these distressing experiences tend to be rare, and most people who experience hallucinations during bereavement find them comforting, as if they were re-connecting with something of the positive from the person’s life. Perhaps this reconnecting is reflected in the fact that the intensity of grief has been found to predict the number of pleasant hallucinations, as has the happiness of the marriage to the person who passed away.

There are hints that the type of grief hallucinations might also differ across cultures. Anthropologists have told us a great deal about how the ceremonies, beliefs and the social rituals of death differ greatly across the world, but we have few clues about how these different approaches affect how people experience the dead after they have gone. Carlos Sluzki, the owner of the shadow cat and across-cultural researcher at George Mason University, suggests that in cultures of non-European origin the distinction between “in here” and “out there” experiences is less strictly defined, and so grief hallucinations may not be considered so personally worrying.

In a recent article, he discussed the case of an elderly Hispanic lady who was frequently “visited” by two of her children who died in adulthood and were a comforting and valued part of her social network. Other case reports have suggested that such hallucinations may be looked on more favorably among the Hopi Indians, or the Mu Ghayeb people from Oman, but little systematic work has been done. And there, our knowledge ends. Despite the fact that hallucinations are one of the most common reactions to loss, they have barely been investigated and we know little more about them. Like sorrow itself, we seem a little uncomfortable with it, unwilling to approach the subject and preferring to dwell on the practicalities… The “Call me if I can do anything,” the “Let’s take your mind off it,” the “Are you looking after yourself?”

Only a minority of people reading this article are likely to experience grief without re-experiencing the dead. We often fall back on the cultural catch all of the “ghost” while the reality is, in many ways, more profound. Our perception is so tuned to their presence that when they are not there to fill that gap, we unconsciously try to mold the world into what we have lived with for so long and so badly long for. Even reality is no match for our love.

Written by Javier Ortega javier@ghosttheory.com