Coping with the death of a beloved pet

April 27, 2008 7:22:46 AM PDT
Americans take their pets seriously - 7 out of 10 homes have at least one. When a beloved pet reaches the end of their life, what do you do?

All pets have a special place in Susan McVie's life. But Andrew - a devoted black lab - really stole her heart.

She remembers, "Everywhere I went, he was behind me. If I walked from one room to the other and I had to stop because I forgot something, he would bang into the back of my legs."

Sadly, Andrew developed an incurable cancer, and Susan had to put him to sleep.

She says, "I promised him when I first knew this was gonna happen that I wouldn't let him have a bad day."

A pet's death can be heartbreaking. and fill you with guilt.

But there are places to turn for help - starting with your veterinarian.

Dr. Nancy Soares, of Macungie Animal Hospital, says, "We can provide people with pet support groups online or live telephone."

There's also plenty of books on the topic. or you might find comfort putting your own thoughts down on paper.

Dr. Soares says, "Everyone accepts it a little bit differently, but everyone has to go through it differently."

For kids, it can be especially difficult. depending on their age.

"Some children can act out and grieve about it. Other children don't cry about it, but you'll find out weeks later something might happen on the playground and that's bring about their emotions of the loss of their pet," says Dr. Soares.

So encourage kids to talk about their feelings. It will be tough for everyone, even other 4-legged family-members. but over time, everyone's sadness should subside.

Susan says, "You know you're never gonna forget them, you just learn to go on."

Mourning deeply for a pet is normal.

But if the feelings last more than a few weeks, it could be a sign of a bigger problem that needs a doctor's help.